Tag Archives: Censorship

Best of Luck_Anna Nguyen_Censored2Celebrated

Anna Nguyen on #Censored2Celebrated (Season 3, Chat 3)

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Season 2, Chat 3 features PFLAG Austin Board President, and fashion maven, Anna Nguyen.

Anna_Nguyen_RainbowHeader_111215_Censored2Celebrated (1)RSVP to tune in for the Blab with Anna and Melita on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 3 pm CST here, or watch it right here on this webpage.


Why Join Us for the Live Blab?
Our webcasted conversation is an opportunity for allies and advocates of the LGBTQ community to gather. Together, we will explore how to connect in order to support – and celebrate – each other around diverse gender and sexuality.

Through this webchat, Anna will offer her experience and insights to gender variant people considering transitioning or is in the process of transitioning. Join us live to learn and jump in to ask questions!

About Anna Nyugen
I am a transgender woman from Austin, Texas.  I started transitioning in December 2013 and came out in July 2014.  I am the current President of PFLAG Austin, which is co-sponsoring the Transgender Day of Remembrance event at Austin’s City Hall on 11/21.

I am a software engineer.  I currently own a small software company that publishes fashion-related applications.

Anna Nguyen headshot

Anna Nguyen, modeling a Halloween costume of her own design

PFLAG Austin had provided a supportive and welcoming environment during the early stages of my transition for which I am very grateful.  I serve on its Board as a way to give back, to ensure that PFLAG will continue to be a supportive and welcoming environment for all those who need it.


Best of Luck_Anna Nguyen_Censored2CelebratedAnna the Awesome was
one of our first supporters of the Celebration Tour!

Check out Anna’s personal website here. Connect with Anna here.

A quote that inspires Anna Nguyen

A quote that inspires Anna Nguye


More on What We’ll Be Talking About in Season 2
Each month in Season 2, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015.

In September, for Chat 1, we talked with author and educator Sally Ember, Ed.D. Watch the video clip with Sally here.

In October, for Chat 2, we learning more about what author Amy G. Dalia is up to, as well as got a chance to see her in-depth lists of LGBTQ books and films.

To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season 1, 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 the Rainbow Video Clip Q&A series with Melita about Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender

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

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Day 9: Call Me Tree – Llámame arbol

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DAY 9
Call Me Tree – Llámame arbol
by Maya Christina Gonzalez


With gratitude to Susie Hayes for gifting this colorful – and bilingual – book that ends with this quote:
Call me tree  /  Llámame árbol
Because  /  Porque
I am tall  /  Soy alto
I am strong  / Soy fuerte
And like a tree  /  Y como un árbol
I am free  / Soy libre


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Call Me Tree
You may have noticed some transgender people have been a bit busy breaking cultural taboos recently. There are a few hashtags running around which might be recognizable.

Depending on your relationship with the transgender community, you may know one or all three of these hashtags: 

It has been a week where Caitlyn Jenner’s image on the cover of Vanity Fair was tweeted the world over. It has also included notable responses from the transgender community such as Jenn Dolari and Crystal Frasier’s powerful call for trans people to create their own Vanity Fair cover celebrating the beauty and strength in the transgender community. (They also wanted to make the point that not every trans person can – or wants to – subscribe to “white, cisnormative beauty standards.”)

Celebrating in Philly
This flurry of conversation about transgender matters has merged with my own experience as I witness friends and colleagues enjoying their time at the Philly Trans Health Conference. In the ever-expanding trans conference circuit – 20+ conferences planned as of January 2015! –  the 14th annual #PTHC2015 conference was attended by over 3,000 people from around the globe.

It was celebrated with the Transgender flag flying proudly at City Hall, and just wrapped up on June 6th. As quoted in The AdvocateNellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia’s director of LGBT affairs says:

“Far too often the ‘T’ is left behind or out of sight when we talk about LGBT issues, and it’s important to visibly make a commitment to work that we know needs to be done. I can’t think of anything more visible than putting the trans flag right next to the American flag at City Hall,” she told Philadelphia Gay News.

“We have far too many times where the trans community is mourning, from Trans Day of Remembrance to every time we lose somebody. But instead we should take a moment and revel in the empowerment of where the community is going because that’s incredibly important to celebrate.”

Enough about Hashtags & Trans Flags…What About Books?!
Yesterday, on June 6th – are you seeing a pattern yet?! – the New York Times noted something I’ve been witnessing as I prepare for the Celebration Tour. There seems to be a celebratory explosion of wonderful books being written by and for transgender kids and young adults.

Author Sam Martin, who is now 43 and transitioned after reading a photo journalist book featuring transgender people, says, “When I was growing up, I never saw people like me in movies or books.” He continues:

“My goal was to write stories that would have helped me feel less alone at that age,” said Mr. Martin, who works as a Starbucks barista in Washington and writes at night.

A few years ago, gender fluidity was rarely addressed in children’s and young adult fiction. It remained one of the last taboos in a publishing category that had already taken on difficult issues like suicide, drug abuse, rape and sex trafficking. But children’s literature is catching up to the broader culture, as stereotypes of transgender characters have given way to nuanced and sympathetic portrayals on TV shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent.”

Transgender actress-activist, Laverne Cox, echoes this sentiment when she reviewed the book I Am Jazz, co-authored by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

Laverne Cox on "I Am Jazz"

Arin Andrews, 19 year old author of Some Assembly Required, makes a similar point in The New York Times article:

Mr. Andrews, 19, said that books for young adults on the subject were scarce when he began transitioning to male from female in 2011.

“When I first started transitioning, I mostly had YouTube as a source,” he said. “I wanted to write a book to help others because there were not a lot of sources out there, and I thought that one book could save a person’s life.”

Mr. Andrews says he receives 15 to 20 Facebook messages a day from readers about his memoir, “Some Assembly Required,” including notes from children as young as 8 and readers in their 60s and 70s who say the book helps them navigate questions about their gender identity.

Books are a path to self-understanding, and these books are clearly making a difference for many people – of all ages. I cannot wait to see what books will make a difference for the people I will be meeting on the Celebration Tour!

Call Me Tree / Llámame árbol
While there are a number of books which focus on what it feels like to move from one gender box to another, there are fewer that focus on the non-binary experience. These are the kids and adults who identify as gender creative, gender expansive, gender fluid, and/or gender non-conforming. Recently, my webcast guest, Krysti Ryan, noted how she has seen an increase – just in the past year – around the next generation pushing the gender binary norms.

Call Me Tree fits that need in that it provides a “gender free” multicultural reading experience where all children can see themselves. 

The author, Maya Christina Gonzalez, writes:

You may or may not notice something different about my new book, Call Me Tree. Nowhere in the story are boy/girl pronouns used. No ‘he’ or ‘she’ anywhere! I found it easy to write this way because that’s how I think of kids, as kids, not boy kids or girl kids.

I even requested that no ‘he’ or ‘she’ be used anywhere else in the book, like on the end pages or the back cover when talking about the story. I also asked the publisher to only refer to the main character as a child or kid when they talked about my book out in the world. Because I wanted Call Me Tree to be gender free!

(Read the note to the reader from the author about creating a “gender free multicultural book” here.)

Gender Free
While I knew this book was “gender free” before I read it, and liked that it was about growth (a big theme for me), and celebration, I was curious if reviewers would recognize or highlight the gender free message. None of the reviews I found seemed to even notice this message, and always referred to the child (“Tree”) in the book using the “he” pronoun.

Given that the author was very intentionally creating this book to be gender free, I was happy to see this review where Crystalee of The Best Books Ever, writes:

I rushed out and picked up a copy from the library. It’s a beautiful picture book with bright illustrations and sparse language in both English and Spanish. However, if I had never read the article, I probably wouldn’t have realized the gender-neutral tones. This isn’t a book that hits you over the head with an agenda, but it DOES do a great job of conveying the message that everyone is unique and everyone should go after their dreams.

Like me, this reviewer knew about the intentionality around gender. On one hand, given the more subtle undertones about gender, this book may appeal to a broader audience, and it may not be as likely to get challenged or banned. On the other hand, it could mean that some youth who would enjoy – and see themselves reflected in it – may not know how to access it easily.

Alphabet Soup Paradox
This seems the paradox around how and why we choose to categorize any literature – or identities, for that matter. Witness the many discussions around language and the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup that we discuss on my monthly webcast. Regardless, I will be interested to see which library chooses this book to add to their collection, and why!

Our Favorite Quote
My daughter, Tulip Lavender (her chosen pen name), loves that this book is bilingual. She particularly enjoyed sharing it with her bilingual Spanish/English 1st grade class earlier this year.

Some trees reach
Some trees teach
Some trees stand so still

Algunos árboles se extienden
Algunos árboles se enseñan
Algunos árboles se quedan tan quietos


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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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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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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Along with many of you, we have been especially inspired by the series NBC has been doing on Transgender Kids. Today, we are focusing on celebrating Jacob and his family.

Here’s a powerful excerpt from a letter that Mimi wrote to her son, Jacob, on his 5th birthday:

#ItGetsAwesome #CelebrationStories #DSG“And it is because I no longer fear: the outcomes, the medical interventions, the bigotry, that I will not be filing this birthday letter in a box in our attic with those of earlier years.

Rather, momentarily, I will set these words free — relinquishing my control over their trajectory and destination. Their intent is to provide comfort and strength to another mother or father with an aching heart. To provide the message: It doesn’t get better. It gets awesome.


Click here to see the interview with Jacob and his family on the Today Show.


At From Censored to Celebrated, we believe that it is vital to celebrate powerful stories about diverse sexuality and gender (DSG). We believe that celebrating can be a powerful way to dramatically decrease self and cultural censorship, and counteract the deadly effects of censorship.

Watch this video clip with Krysti Ryan on #Censored2Celebrated about her preliminary research findings about “Parenting Outside the Gender Box.”

 

Watch this 1-minute video about why we think it’s so important to celebrate DSG.