Tag Archives: Celebration

Celebration IS the way through.

Gratitude for the Ability to Celebrate

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After a whirlwind year of celebratory projects, webchats, and blogs, I wanted to take some time on this Thanksgiving Day here in the US to reflect on why it is so important to me to do this work. (Then I got sidetracked by one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving – the baking! And then again by an impromptu pop-in by my daughter as I was trying to write this morning with a thank you gift for me. Seven year old kids are the best!)

Back to the topic at hand, this is a time for gratitude and celebration of the abundance I have in my life with wonderful family, friends, and the gifts that I continue to garner through conversations about diverse sexuality and gender with everyone I meet through my work with Censored2Celebrated, The Human Empathy Project, and PFLAG. As I know, not everyone has the privilege to celebrate as openly as I am able.

As you may know, or surmise, two of my primary values are authenticity and empathy. You can imagine how much joy it brings to my life to be able to have authentic and empathic conversations about topics that are so close to my heart. And yet, even in 2015, I know that this is not a universal gift.

Indeed, you may be a person who is challenged in finding ways to have authentic, empathic conversations about sexuality and gender with the people in your life. And you may have lost people in your life because of who you, or your child, is in the world.

In the spirit of this day of thanksgiving, and in the spirit of honoring those of us who may not have family celebrating us today, I wanted to share some of my own personal journey about why I fiercely dedicate myself to move beyond tolerance and acceptance to full-on celebrate diverse sexuality and gender.

Not only is celebration a tool of empowerment, but I believe that it is a matter of life and death. And while I am able to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender in my own life, this has not always been the case. Everyday I try to do something that helps me – and others – be more brave in the world.

In that spirit, here is my story. I shared it at the Transgender Day of Remembrance / Transgender Day of Resilience on the steps of Austin’s City Hall on November 21, 2015. And now I share it with you. I hope it helps you be more brave to speak with authenticity and empathy to celebrate all the people in your life.


Celebration as a Tool of Empowerment
by Melita Inara Noël, MA
Presented at Austin’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event

Last November, my daughters and I sat where you now sit – perhaps a little uncomfortably – on the concrete steps of Austin City Hall. As you may remember, one year ago, befitting the mood, it was raining. As we listened to the challenges and heard the names of the dead read, I remember looking at my girls, and worrying about what these words might be teaching them about what it means to be different – whether that difference is language, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, or sexuality and gender identity – or any intersection of these differences.

Mostly, I remember feeling grateful that I had the forethought to tell my girls that this event dares to speak out loud about the challenges that many transgender people experience in their lifetime. Challenges stemming from cultural censorship, such as the basic right to “pee in peace” – more on that later – or the internalized self-censorship where a trans person might feel that they must “pass” in order to be fully known as their authentic self.

Some say that I am an unusual mother in the world of people who parent transgender children. After all, I have a Master’s degree in Sexuality, and I have a long history of exploring gender identity. I have also walked through my own internal and external censorship as a single woman who identifies as queer, femme, and pansexual. And I am delighted to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender as the CEO and Founder of my business From Censored to Celebrated, and as the Vice President on the Board of The Human Empathy Project, and a proud member of PFLAG Austin (and hopefully, soon, a Board member!).  

My 7 year old daughter has been self-identifying as a transgender girl for 18 months. I celebrated her right to explore and speak her truth long before that. For the most part, I have been able to shield her from overt expressions of censorship and hate. As we know, differences are sometimes feared, sometimes tolerated, and sometimes even accepted. However, in my experience, differences are very rarely celebrated.

Sitting on these steps, trying to keep dry from the rain, we had our first in depth conversation about the challenges that so many transgender people feel everyday. I was grateful my girls witnessed this powerful event that speaks hard truths about these difficult experiences. Even though it can be so painful, I am grateful that this community – and many others internationally – takes this time in November to share these stories.

Given who I am in the world – inhabiting the space of a sexuality and gender educator, parent of a transgender youth, and identifying as queer – I want to focus now on how I use celebration as a tool of empowerment. I have three tools to share with you that any one of you can use to celebrate a person who is “different.”

Create Safe Space_Tool of Empowerment 1_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

TOOL 1: CREATE SAFE SPACE
Let me start by admitting: I am a feminist. So to have my “assigned male at birth” child racing home from preschool everyday to put on a skirt, or a dress, thrilled me. I celebrated that my child felt comfortable exploring gender roles and gender expression. A child who lives authentically, with the fullest range of options before them, doesn’t consider the adult labels of gender important. And, most importantly, I had a child who was expressively, undeniably, happy.

But the language of adults can be tricky, so I chose to use my fancy “adult language” to make space for my child to just BE. I talked openly to anyone who would listen – including my child – about how it is critical for healthy self development to be able to express one’s authentic self fully.

If I don’t celebrate my child.

If you don’t celebrate your child, WHO WILL?

 

 

Through these conversations, and my celebratory support, I created space for my child to play in the safety of our home, friend’s and family’s homes, as well as at dance and music classes, birthday parties, and our church.

I am aware of the privilege I hold in knowing the language of diverse sexuality and gender. I am also aware that anyone can celebrate their child. I think that the most important path to celebrating your child – or anyone in your life – is to witness and engage them, as well as the world around them, and create the space for their most authentic selves to develop.

Change the conversation. _Tool of Empowerment 2_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

TOOL 2:  CHANGE THE CONVERSATION
When we go to bat to celebrate our children – or anyone who feels the weight of having their identities suppressed in whole or in part – we make the statement to the world that the hate stops with us. Sometimes you have the privilege to be private about a difference, and to walk in the world in “stealth” mode, as it were. Other times, differences are seen the first moment you walk in the door and no option of privacy is available. In either case, you can make the choice to celebrate differences everywhere.

For those who have transgender family members who are living in the closet for a period of time, consider whether you can celebrate diverse sexuality and gender on social media feeds, or by calling out subtle microaggressions in conversations with coworkers, or at the grocery store. For those of us who can be loud and proud, we can march in parades, attend events, give speeches, write a blog, lobby our government, and listen mindfully before outwardly celebrating the stories of those of us who need to be in the shadows for now.

The goal is to seek small and large ways to change the conversation, give space for the evolutionary process, and approach tough talks with a empathy-filled heart.

Celebrate everywhere_Tool of Empowerment 3_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

TOOL 3: CELEBRATE EVERYWHERE & IN THE EVERYDAY
These days, with the creation of safe space in my home and community, and by being so aware of censorship, it has become easier and easier to change the conversation. As a result, — please, listen closely here — in this moment, right this second…this is the first time I have been given permission to publically celebrate my daughter’s transgender identity.

It makes me more proud than I can convey in words, and I am so honored she has trusted me with this opportunity. I take this moment for her, for myself, and for everyone here and at home who don’t have the same freedom – to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender in all their beautiful and complex prisms, and I want you to do the same where you can.

Here are two examples of what celebration looks like in my everyday life:

First, through my work with From Censored to Celebrated this summer, I was able to travel with my daughters to 24 states and Ontario where we spoke with librarians and donated children’s books celebrating diverse sexuality and gender. The celebration was two-fold in that we had the honor of receiving these books from families who celebrate their own transgender child’s journey while allowing me to recognize their celebration by having me gift these books on their behalf.

Secondly, this past March at Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church in South Austin, we were preparing for our 9 month old daughter for her child dedication. Simultaneously, I invited my older daughter to be recognized for her transition to identifying as a transgender girl, to which she agreed, and her ceremony became one of the most powerful and celebratory moments I have experienced at our church. I was grateful to hear that many in our church community also experienced her celebration in a very powerful way.

During the child dedication ceremony the minister, Reverend Brian Ferguson – who is here with us tonight – said:

Six years ago we dedicated you as [a boy]. Since that time, you have realized that you are a girl and seek to honor yourself as such. While this is often referred to as a transition and we are referring to part of our ceremony as a transition celebration, in many ways it is an act of recognition within you of who you most authentically are.

Consequently, we wish to honor and celebrate this recognition for you. You said to me that you are a transgender girl. For you, it is an act of honest recognition. For those of us around you, it is an act of transition as we commit to recognize and celebrate you as a girl. This is a courageous path you have chosen to find your wholeness when much of society is forcing you to conform in a different way than feels right and authentic to you. Today, we honor you as the girl you are and admire you as you undertake this journey to make your spirit whole.

These words alone took my breath away.

Then the minister continued:

May your journey of recognition, and your parents example as loving, committed parents, be a gift to this community. May you all be an example of what it means to live with honesty, courage, and integrity.

Whether you claim your child with pride in a public forum such as this one, partake of a sacred ceremony with your inner circle, or simply champion co-workers as allies – do what you can, where you can, to lift up and affirm diversity wherever it occurs.

FINAL WORDS

Having shared all of this, I imagine that many of you here tonight knew as a child that you were different. You may have wished – more than anything – for safe space to explore what that might mean for you.

Imagine…
Imagine for a moment if someone had created safe space for you to feel celebrated. Imagine if you now choose to consciously create safe space for another person in your life who deeply needs to explore their authentic selves. What would that look like? How could this one act of quiet celebration change someone’s life?

Audre Lorde once said that poetry is not a luxury. Similarly, for me, celebration – in the face of censorship and hate – is NOT a luxury. Indeed, celebration is the way through. Those are the words I live by. Those are the words that shape my thoughts, and direct my actions.

Celebration IS the way through.

Celebration IS the way through.

In celebration of you, in celebration of all of our children, I commit my business, my time, and the time and talents of the team that supports me to making sure that every single-stall restroom on the planet is safe for you. It begins here in Austin as I lay the foundation for the #PeeInPeace project.

PeeInPeace_twitterheader_Censored2Celebrated

I commit to you now, today, in this moment, that at this event next year I will say to you: In Austin, it is done. Never again will you be in this city without allies like me making it safe for my ally in you.

If you want to join me, in making Austin a safe place and setting the standard for public restroom ordinances elsewhere, let me know.

#PeeInPeace                    

Thank you.


Support the basic human dignity to #PeeInPeace here:

Click here to watch why Ivan Coyote thinks we all need a safe place to pee.

Powerfully said #IvanCoyote. #PeeInPeaceSupport 100% of Austinites being able to #PeeInPeace by 11.16.16 here:http://igg.me/at/PeeInPeace/x/12809685

Posted by From Censored to Celebrated on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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#PeeInPeace bumpersticker

Pee in Peace Project

Find out more about the #PeeInPeace Project here.

In a very short time, my exploration around the signage on single-stall restrooms in Austin, Houston, and beyond, has turned into a Call to Action. You can get all the details about the #PeeInPeace project here.

You can support our work – and get free #PeeInPeace perks – on IndigeGoGo.

If you’re already on board, and ready to purchase your own inclusive, ADA compliant signage, then scroll on down to find out how to get your discount from SmartSign.

#PeeInPeace

Support our goal to 100%!

 

WANT TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN MORE QUICKLY?
DONATE NOW:

Thanks to our fantastically supportive sponsors at SmartSign, you can get a discount when you purchase All Gender Restroom signs here. (Email Katelyn, and mention Censored2Celebrated, to get your discount.)

Click on the SmartSign logo to see signs, and mentioned Censored2Celebrated to get your discount.

Click on the SmartSign logo to see their signs, and email Katelyn about your discount.

Are you outside of Austin? Contact me if you’d like to talk about how we can bring the #PeeInPeace project to your hometown.

In celebration,
Melita
Melita Noël Cantú, MA

Melita Noël Cantú, MA
CEO & Founder
aka “Rainbow Celebrator Extraordinaire”

PS: Can I ask you a favor? This is a labor of love and celebration of the power of individuals coming together to make change. Please take a moment to donate $4 dollars – or more – to receive your free gift(s) and support the implementation of this celebratory project. 

With thanks to the sponsors of the #PeeInPeace project:


cropped-c2c-logo.png     hues-logotype-1400       thehumanempathyprojectorg_logo     SmartSign_logo          PFLAG Austin Logo wht

Find out how you can sponsor us – for less than you’d imagine –  here.

Celebration IS the way through.

Celebration Quotes & Questions

Quotes and Questions_MIN_Censored2CelebratedI’ve been collecting quotes and questions on Pinterest,
and also wanted to post some of my
absolute favorites on the website.
Enjoy!  
~Melita

Quotes & Questions for You…

Quote_Celebration IS the way through_MelitaInaraNoël_Censored2Celebrated

Celegration IS the way through

Why isn't this a gender nonspecific restroom sign?

Why isn’t this a gender nonspecific restroom sign?

AudreLordequote_Made verbal and shared_PeeInPeace_Censored2Celebrated

Audre Lorde on speaking one’s truth

bell hooks on power

bell hooks on power

"What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels." Ralph Ellison #CelebrationTour

“What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels.” Ralph Ellison

Q for Librarians: What's your favorite book celebration DSG?

What’s your favorite children’s or young adult book celebrating Diverse Sexuality and Gender (DSG)?


 

Parenting Tips from Remi Newman

Remi's Parenting Tips

Remi’s Parenting Tips

Remi Newman Parenting Tip 1- Impart Your Values_Censored2CelebratedRemi's Parenting Tip #2 - Start EarlyRemi Newman Parenting Tip 3 - It's Never Too Late
Remi Newman Parenting Tip 4 - Be honest
Remi Newman Parenting Tip 5 - Make a Plan


More Favorites…

Quote that Inspires Amy : "The best is yet to come." - William Shakespeare

Quote that Inspires Author Amy G. Dalia

Celebrate DSG

Celebrating Diverse Sexuality and Gender

This work is truly world wide_Joel Baum and Mexico City_Gender Spectrum_Censored2Celebrated_July2014

Joel Baum on connecting with 140 people in Mexico City via the Censored2Celebrated-facilitated webcast during the Gender Spectrum conference: “This work is truly world wide.”

Censored2Celebrated_AhaMoment_MNCantu

What’s an aha moment you’ve had recently about Diverse Sexuality and Gender?

In response to this meme: "Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer." - Dr. Sally Ember

In response to this meme: “Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer!” – Dr. Sally Ember

Censored2Celebrated_98vs2_MNCantu

Do you agree? 98% commonality vs. 2% difference?

Celebrate all the people in your life.

How Melita wraps-up every webcast: “Celebrate ALL the people in your life.”

#ItGetsAwesome #CelebrationStories #DSG

“It doesn’t get better. It gets awesome.” – Mimi Lemay

Celebrate Inspiration to Live Life Fully

Celebrate Inspiration to Live Life Fully

What does DSG mean to you?

What does Diverse Sexuality and Gender (DSG) mean to you? Share your thoughts – and favorite quotes too! – with us in the comments here.

Sally & Melita dancing

Sally Ember, Ed.D.: Featured Guest for Chat #1 (Season 2)

Season Two launched with a special guest we met along the way during our Celebration Tour!

Season Two officially launched with special guest Sally Ember, Ed.D., author, educator, and HOA host of Changes: Conversations Between Authors.

We celebrated live on Thursday, September 17, 2015, by webcasting on Blab!

Check out the replays:

  • Look at the live comments and watch the video of our 55 minute chat here.
  • Listen to the audio recording here.
  • Watch the video clip here.

    Video Clip: Defining Sexual Identity

    Video Clip: Defining Sexual Identity

Connect with Sally here.

What We’ll Be Talking About in Season Two
Each month in Season Two, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015.

To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season One, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.

Click here for a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG

Click here for a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG

Get all the Censored2Celebrated news to your in-box:
Sign up for emails here.

Day 8_EveryDay_C2C_May15

Day 8: Every Day

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DAY 8
Every Day
by David Levithan

Day8_EveryDay_Censored2Celebrated_May15_YouTube


This book has not yet been gifted for the Celebration Tour!

Donate it using our handy Wishlist here.


My Recent “Aha” Moment about DSG
One of my favorite questions to ask guests on the Censored2Celebrated monthly webcast is about an “aha” moment they have had recently in their work or personal life about Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG). My most recent “aha” moment this week came about when I read David Leviathan’s book for young adults entitled Every Day

Censored2Celebrated_AhaMoment_MNCantuThis book not only entranced me as a story, but it also explored difference and sameness in an unusually compelling way. (I also celebrate that this book features a delightful, very much in love transgender and cisgender teen couple. I am not sure I have ever seen this!)

Here’s a synopsis in a review by Noah Towne – a High School Sophomore in Buffalo, NY:

The fascinating concept that Levithan has based his story around is a peculiar choice, even for the genre of fantasy. The plot revolves around a teenager named “A,” who is forced to travel between bodies every day. Whenever “A” wakes up, he/she needs to quickly adjust, as he/she will have to live the life of that person. One day, our protagonist finds himself controlling the body of a rude boy named Justin.

Despite a vow to never interfere with the person’s life he/she inhabits, “A” ends up falling in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon, who Justin emotionally abuses. After “A” gives her the perfect day, he/she comes to the realization that Rhiannon’s heart will be broken after Justin returns to his bullying ways. “A” continuously returns to her in different bodies, and eventually reveals the truth about his/herself and how it wasn’t Justin that was so kind to her that day. The rest of the book involves the blossoming romance between “A” and Rhiannon, and how it is a struggle for both of them to see each other, due to the freakish circumstances.


While I am a big fan of Young Adult fiction, and science fiction and fantasy in particular, I appreciated how unusual it is that this book’s premise allows the reader to explore difference in so many ways. The differences explored by “A” include: gender identity, ethnicity, class, immigration status, sexual orientation, and mental health.

This exploration of difference and sameness is explained beautifully by “A” here:

It’s only in the finer points that it gets complicated and contentious, the inability to realize that no matter what our religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other.

Yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren’t a whole lot of things that are different. Race is different purely as a social construction, not as an inherent difference. And religion— whether you believe in God or Yahweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things.

For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent that’s different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that. The only way I can navigate through my life is because of the 98 percent that every life has in common.

Censored2Celebrated_98vs2_MNCantuMy “aha” moment came about as I reflected on the 98% in common and 2% that’s different that “A” experiences in the different lives he/she/they inhabits for a day at a time. When put in such stark numerical terms, it struck me how powerful that 2% “difference” is. Some fear these differences, some tolerate, some accept, and some celebrate them.

The aha moment for me came when I connected some disturbing dots about how the fear – often communicated through censorship – effects those of us who identify with marginalized gender identity and/or sexual orientation.


 

About Books, Censorship, and Suicide Rates
Not surprisingly, with the Celebration Tour road trip taking off from Austin on June 13th, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebration, censorship, and books. Although Every Day isn’t on the banned book list, the quote about difference and commonality made me thinking more about the fear of difference that often seems to behind censoring books about DSG.

In the #aBookaDay blog, I have been surprised at how many books that we’ve been celebrating for kids and young adults have been challenged, or banned outright. (I wrote about this quite a bit on Day 3 with And Tango Makes Three.)

Cultural & Self Censorship
How does this cultural censorship of books effect those whose difference is rarely – if ever – celebrated by the culture around them (i.e. those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ or DSG)?Censored2Celebrated_CulturalCensorship_MNCantu Is there a connection with intensive cultural censorship, and self-censorship? Is this cultural and self-censorship related in any way to the high suicide rates we see in youth – especially those who identify as LGBTQ+ or DSG?

Using data from the CDCThe Trevor Project reports that:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
  • LGB youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
  • Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Censored2Celebrated_SelfCensorship_MNCantuWith such high rates of self-harm and suicidality among LGBTQ+ identified people, it is not a surprise that cultural censorship – such as banning books about DSG or throwing youth out of the house who come out – may turn inward and manifest as self-censorship. With this culture of censorship, how do we experience internal love worthiness when we are so often found unlovable by those around us?


Love Worthiness
I recently attended the Conference of Contemporary Relationships here in Austin, Texas. I was struck by a phrase shared in a workshop on Love Worthiness, presented by Amelia Coffman, MA.

My memory of the phrase is: “A person has to earn the right to hear your story.”

Earning the Right to Hear Your Story
In this day and age of the examined – and some might say over-shared – life on social media, this phrase struck me forcefully. In this world where so much is shared, the boundary between public and private often becomes even more sacred.

What does it mean for someone to earn the right to hear my story, or your story? What does that look like when the boundaries are often so blurred by social media, and the instant clickability that can so easily make our communications – like emails, texts and videos – go viral? What do we keep to ourselves, or choose only to share with our intimate circle of friends, family members, lovers and other significant others?

In the book Every Day, Rhiannon earns the right to hear “A’s” story through trust built on communication, connection, and a leap of faith. There is a sense of the sacred in their connection – something that – literally – transcends the body. Something that transcends the fear of the 2% difference. This allows them to move beyond self-censorship – particularly “A” who had never told anyone his/her/their story before – to celebration, as well as continued challenges by their unusual situation.


Books, Books and More Books
There is a funny paradox about how books create such an intimate internal world, but are words that are (usually) publicly available. It is amazing to me how an author’s words can connect with my inner world and become something unique to me – but also connect me with the author and the community of readers who have read this book. As a reader, I find such joy when an author chooses to share their story with me (and the rest of the world). As a result of their choice to publish their work, I have earned the right to hear their story. Stories are sacred.

When I have felt alone in some challenge – especially in my youth – I often turned to books in order to “see” myself. It is a form of celebration to see yourself in the books you read. You realize you are not alone when you can see a glimmer of that 2% that makes each of us different connecting with another person’s experience in a book.

Given all this, I am saddened – but not surprised – that books are challenged and banned. I am so grateful for all the librarians, authors, educators, and readers who celebrate censored books. These are the powerful stories that so often can help us move from cultural and self censorship to celebration.

I cannot wait to get on the road to hear more about what librarians are hearing from their communities about diverse sexuality and gender!


Have you ever asked your local librarian about banned or challenged books in your community?  Let us know what they said!

A Book Can Change A Life

It is my joy and pleasure to be doing this work. I know how much books have changed my life for the better. I see how they have impacted my 6 year old daughter as well. She has pored over It’s Not the Stork (featured on Day 4) for many years now, and always comes up with new and interesting questions for me based on her reading. Books can – and do – change lives.


An Outpouring of Support
We’ve had the great fortune to receive 13 children’s lit and Young Adult books gifted for the Celebration Tour in the past few weeks. I love receiving the private messages with suggested titles to add to our Wishlist, and with the promise of more colorful books, wrapped in lovely brown paper packages, winging their way to our door.

Our goal is to be able to gift at least one book in every state or province that we will visit, for a total of 24 books gifted to public libraries from Austin to Montreal and back again by way of Chicago and St. Louis. With the help of our supporters, we are well on our way to meeting that goal by June 8th.

If we will see you along our route, please check out the Wishlist online, but purchase the book from your local bookstore. We will be happy to pick the book up from you in person during the Celebration Tour!


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my #aBookaDay blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Red: A Crayon 's Story

Day 7: Red

DAY 7
Red: A Crayon’s Story
by Michael Hall


With gratitude to Alexis for gifting this powerful, colorful
“story about a crayon I know.”

Alexis dedicates this book to:
Maria – 
for always knowing her true colors.

Many thanks to the author, Michael Hall, for donating an additional
11 hardcover, library-bound copies to Censored2Celebrated!

Watch the video:
Red: It’s about being true.

We will update when & where these generously donated books are
gifted to libraries here.


Day7_Red_Censored2Celebrated_May15_YouTube


From: BookReview.com
Red: A Crayon’s Story

Red is feeling blue. Literally. He can’t understand why nothing he does comes out red. It says ‘Red’ on his label after all, but he just can’t get the hang of it. Nothing he draws is right.

Strawberries are blue. Fire engines are blue. Red ants are … well, blue.

Perfect for kids learning about colour or individuality or being true to oneself or just looking for a story that firmly sits outside the square, this is entertaining as it is brain-expanding. I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous, naive-style illustrations and Michael Hall’s author voice–hip, current, utterly kid-friendly and dry.

Quirk and colour at its best.

From an interview with the author, Michael Hall, about the power of picture books:

My favorite picture books are the ones that you can revisit over the years and continue to find something new and relevant. I think of picture books as more than a stepping stone to other kinds of reading, but a legitimate form of literature — and art — in their own right. I hope that my books have something in them for all ages. For children, I hope my books will help them broaden their sense of wonder, celebrate their differences, and come to know the power of their imaginations.

On a personal note, I can relate to how the author sees the world (and also bumps into people and things!) as he is also blind in his left eye. Michael Hall notes:

Early on, I became interested in making images that are built to exist on a two-dimensional page rather than using perspective and light and shadow to suggest three dimensions.

Actually, my world is relatively flat. I lost the vision in my left eye about fifteen years ago, so my depth perception is lacking. I still occasionally run into people on my left side from time to time.

From the author’s website, here’s a fun video clip about this lovable crayon.


Our Favorite Quote
My family and I really enjoyed this book – it is simply done with a powerful message.

It’s actually hard to find a great quote as the story cleverly interacts with a number of different colored crayons – representing family, friends, teachers – with varying opinions about “Red.”

This book is best when experienced. We hope you get a chance to read and enjoy Red!


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my #aBookaDay blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

Day 3_And Tango Makes Three_C2C_May15

Day 3: And Tango Makes Three

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DAY 3: May 17th
And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell & Henry Cole


With gratitude to Amy Pittel for donating this book that has allowed  so many individuals, libraries, and communities to move From Censored to Celebrated!

Amy writes:
“I’m thrilled to be able to help bring stories like these to kids who so need to find characters with whom they can identify.”


Day3_Tango_Tulip Lavender_Censored2Celebrated_YouTube

Three is a powerful number in this book due to baby penguin, Tango, born to Roy and Silo, a family of male penguins, at Central Park in New York City.  According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), in 2014 it was also third on the list for attempting bans in communities across the USA. And it is my pleasure to celebrate And Tango Makes Three on Day 3 of our #aBookaDay preparations for the Celebration Tour in June.

I have to admit that I was surprised when I realized the extent that Tango had been censored, not just in its early years, but even through 2014. The reasons given for challenging it are listed as follows: “Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group….and promotes the homosexual agenda.” For these reasons, “Tango ranked as ALA’s most frequently challenged book for a record four years in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010.” Check out this timeline from the American Library Association for a visual history of banned books in the US.

As I mentioned, my family and I read this book without realizing thow much it has been banned over the past 9 years. Given that my daughter, Tulip, was born in 2008, and that she has a mother with a Master’s Degree in Sexuality Studies, it is not surprising that she didn’t find this book to be controversial or unusual. We both loved it, and had a great chat about it here.


While Tango engaged both my 6 year old and 16 month old, it also had the added benefit of finally helping us name our very large penguin – a much beloved and bemusing gift from Grandpa. (Our family penguin is now, yes, “Tango Lavender.”)

Tango also allowed us to further explore how families can grow and thrive when they have a safe environment where their strengths, innovations, and connections are recognized, and, yes, celebrated.

My Favorite Quote
Out came their very own baby! She had fuzzy white feathers and a funny black beak. Now, Roy and Silo were fathers. “We’ll call her Tango,” Mr. Gramzay decided, “because it takes two to make a Tango.” 


Many people have read this book on video. Here Tango is engagingly read by staff at Seattle’s Sanislo Elementary School during Banned Book Week: 

Here’s a fun, more adult video clip with staff and visitors to the Central Park Zoo about how Roy and Silo became a committed couple, and had baby Tango.

Finally, I appreciate the sentiment shared on this version of the video
“Everyone should have the right to see themselves & their families in the books they read.”


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

  • Do you have a favorite book that celebrates diversity?
  • Have you read the And Tango Makes Three?
  • Why do you think it’s been challenged so often?

Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my a-book-a-day blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Vincent, Josh & Adam with Two Boys Kissing

Day 2: Two Boys Kissing

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DAY 2
Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan

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With gratitude to Amy Pittel & Josh McAdams
for each donating this life-changing book!


Where We’ve Been & Where We’re going
Two Boys Kissing
is my new favorite YA book celebrating DSG – and I haven’t even finished it yet!

Thanks to Vincent, Josh & Adam for talking about this book with me, and posing for this pic, today at the Contemporary Relationships Conference in Austin, Texas. It was a joy to celebrate diverse sexuality & gender with all of you at this celebratory conference!

Two Boys Kissing was featured on the 2013 National Book Award Longlist, Young People’s Literature.

From the National Book Foundation Review:
New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

My Favorite Quote

If you are a teenager now, it is unlikely that you knew us well. We are your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother’s or your grandmother’s best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library. We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore. We are the ghosts of the remaining older generation. You know some of our songs…We taught you how to dance.

Celebration Tour_T dancing_July14

How Do You Celebrate Diversity?
Do you have a favorite book that celebrates diversity? Have you read Two Boys Kissing?

Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my book-a-day blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

CelebrationTour_WhatBook_4.25x4.25_Censored2Celebrated_FINAL

 

 

Click here to gift this book, or another book, to the Celebration Tour!

 

 

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Change a Life, Donate A Book

A Book Can Change Your Life

How can a book change – or even save – a life?
As my family and I prepare for our Celebration Tour in mid-June, we will be featuring  a book-a-day. Each donated book will be gifted to a library in one of the 25 states and 2 provinces we visit.

The books celebrate themes of Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG), and are all gifted from our incredibly supportive community. Many of these books are gifted in honor of a family member or friend. Books can – and do – change lives.

Laverne Cox says it so clearly when she writes about Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings’ book I Am Jazz:  “I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions.”

Laverne Cox quote about "I Am Jazz"

Like inspiring people, like art, like music, books don’t just change lives – they even save lives.

HRC Research on 10,000 Youth
According to recent ground-breaking research by the Human RIghts Commission, 92% of LGBT youth “say they hear negative messages about being LGBT” mainly from “school, the Internet, and their peers.” 42% of the youth surveyed report that they live in communities that are not accepting of LGBT people. If you would like to hear more in-depth experiences from these youth, watch this video clip from my interview with Amy André, sexuality educator and advocate.

What happens when we counter these harmful, censoring messages by offering gifts of celebration? With words that are freely accessible in every community, but still private enough to access without fear of censorship? Libraries can offer such a safe haven, and books offer such a celebration.

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Join us in celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender!


A Book A Day

Until we head out for our celebratory road trip adventure, I will:

  1. share a donated book-a-day
  2. give gratitude to its donor, and
  3. share a favorite quote

Read all the #aBookaDay posts here.

How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

Share in the comments how books have changed – or even saved – your life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my #aBookaDay blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

Tulip & Azalea Lavender on the #CelebrationTour

Introducing Tulip Lavender

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It is a pleasure to introduce my daughter, budding author, Tulip Lavender!
6 year old Tulip Lavender has been working on a trilogy for the past few weeks. She sat down with me in her writing chair, and again in our garden, to talk about her writing, libraries, and where we’re going on our Celebration Tour this summer.


Celebrating Geography in the Kitchen & on Car Trips
Tulip is also a big fan of geography, and writes about her passion for studying time changes as well as longitude and latitude at school. She tracks every state she and her sister have visited on our kitchen map with color-coded stickers.

In this photo, you can see Tulip telling Azalea about our trip from Austin to the Bay Area last summer. (In case you’re wondering, “Azalea” is her little sister’s pen name. Tulip wanted them both to have flower names. As explained in the interview, Tulip Lavender is also a self-selected pen name.)

Tulip is very excited not only to meet more librarians, but also to add some colors to this map by visiting more states and provinces during our Celebration Tour car trip this summer.

Celebration Tour with Tulip Lavender

Celebrating libraries & authors from Austin to Montreal!

Gardening
As you can tell, we are a family that enjoys reading, talking about maps, and traveling. We are also a family that has collectively gotten excited about gardening this year. (For the record, my partner, Javi, has always been a wonderful gardener. It is the rest of us who have grown green thumbs this spring.)

You can see our thriving garden behind Tulip in this video clip interview. Here’s a little bit more about how we started, and what we’ve been growing in our personal and professional gardens.

Growing Our Garden

Where are we going on the Celebration Tour?
This is a question we’ve been getting a lot recently. Tulip shares a few of the places we’ll be visiting, from Austin to Montreal, during the interview. These are just the seeds of our trip as this Celebration Tour has been growing new blossoms every day!

We hope to share more of the blossoms with you in the next week about our Celebration Tour path!


Tulip on the Last Day Celebration Tour
(And now she’s 7!)

How can I help support #Censored2Celebrated with the Celebration Tour?

Thank you for asking! There are two ways you can help support us celebrate libraries, librarians and authors of books about Diverse Sexuality & Gender

  • Buy a book and gift it to your library!
    8 Steps to Gifting a Book Celebrating DSG

Click here for 8 Easy Steps to gifting a book to your local library

  • Celebration Tour needs supporters and funding.
    We are in the start-up phase, and gratefully accept monetary donations to support our celebration of diverse sexuality and gender. ($7 and $20 are our most popular donation amounts – every little bit helps!) 

Celebration Tour Support Levels

  • DSG  (count the letters)    $3.00 USD
  • LGBTQIA  (count the letters)    $7.00 USD
  • Number of…Countries worldwide with marriage equality    $20.00 USD
  • Number of…US states with legalized same-sex marriage    $50.00 USD
  • Number of Driving miles from…Burlington, VT to Montreal, QC    $94.00 USD
  • Number of Driving miles from…Vass, NC to Philadelphia, PA    $464.00 USD
  • Number of Driving miles from…Austin, TX to Boston, MA    $1,965.00 USD

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How can we celebrate you?

  • We would like to give you a shout out online about your support when you donate funds and/or donate a book to the #CelebrationTour

Laverne Cox on "I Am Jazz"

Do you have questions for Tulip Lavender, or would you like to see me interview her about a particular topic?

She loves being interviewed, so let me know!

In celebration~
Melita

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