Tag Archives: Melita Noel Cantu

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.

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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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Author who celebrates diverse sexuality & gender

Amy G. Dalia, featured guest on Censored2Celebrated for Chat #2 (Season 2)

Season 2, Chat 2 features author Amy G. Dalia.
Amy helped shape our book selections
for the Celebration Tour!

AmyGDalia_RainbowHeader_101515_Censored2CelebratedRSVP to tune in for the Blab with Amy and Melita on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 1 pm CST here.


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 with youth in order to support – and celebrate – them around diverse gender and sexuality.

We will also be speaking to writers and readers of LGBTQ stories.

Check out Amy’s extensive lists focusing on books for youth celebrating diverse sexuality and gender:

 

Amy G. Dalia: author who celebrates LGBT themes

Amy G. Dalia: Celebrating LGBT themes

About Author Amy G. Dalia
Season 2 continues with special guest Amy G. Dalia, inspiration for many of the books that were gifted to the Celebration Tour.

Amy is an author who makes a difference for LGBTQ youth, families, and anyone who’s ever felt they’re somehow “less” or “other” in the world. She is currently writing a contemporary Young Adult (YA) novel with LGBTQ themes. She also has a YA fantasy trilogy stewing on the back burner.

You can check out her blog here. And here’s a FREE sample of her book – just in time for celebrating Halloween!

Amy is passionate about LGBTQ equality, travel, and anything related to Greece. She is the proud mama of three children.

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

Quote that Inspires Amy

Check out Amy’s writing portfolio here. Connect with Amy here.


 

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.

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.

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.

Alaina Szlachta_difference quote_censored2celebrated_May15

Talking Diversity with Alaina Szlachta

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Check out this video with Sexuality Educator & Researcher: Alaina Szlachta, MEd, PhD.C
Alaina Szlachta You Tube Image 05.12.15 #Censored2Celebrated

Watch right here.

Sign up for future After Party chats & other Exclusive Opportunities here.

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SEX POSITIVE BUT NOT SEX MANDATORY_Kate McCombs quote_April15 (2)

Geeking Out with Kate McCombs

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Geeking Out in April 2015
I had a fantastic time talking with Kate McCombs about how it came about that she started Sex Geekdom in 2012. We also chatted about the importance of “linguistic precision” including the difference between being sex mandatory vs. sex positive. And I couldn’t wait to hear what a Tea & Empathy party looks and feels like! There were so many gems in our chat that I encourage you to watch the whole interview – multiple times.

If you’re short on time, skip right to the video clip.

What is Sex Geekdom?
Watch here as founder, Kate McCombs, talks about what Sex Geekdom is, where the hubs are all over the world, and what the events are like.
Kate McCombs_Sex Geekdom_Video Clip Image 04.14.15 #Censored2Celebrated

Who is Kate McCombs
Kate McCombs, MPH is a NYC-based sex educator and speaker who’s geeky about empathy and connection.

Ultimately, all of her work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex and feelings. She believes that meaningful conversations and accurate information can help us create a healthier and more joy-filled world.

To that end, Kate writes articles and facilitates workshops on how to build amazing relationships. Click here to find out more about Kate McCombs & SexGeekdom.

What is Emotionally Alive in You_Kate McCombs quote_April15


Check out the #Censored2Celebrated interviews all in one handy place right here.


 

Want access to exclusive opportunities, and insider info about our upcoming Celebration Tour? Get it all right here.

Celebrate All the People in Your Life_c2c

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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

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

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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Find out more about Censored2Celebrated here.

Celebrating DSG

Celebrating the diversity of sexuality & gender, one (webcasted) conversation at a time.

#Censored2Celebrated offers a monthly webcast expanding the global celebration of sexuality & gender diversity, one conversation at a time. 

Webcasted interviews feature a wide range of guests who celebrate the diversity of sexuality and gender, both professionally and personally. Melita and her guest(s) have a “come as you are” conversation once a month online for 30 minutes – join us!

The webcast is FREE to all in order to expand the conversation using the accessible, global medium of Google Hangouts on Air (live webcast) and YouTube (replays).

Video clip about DSG with Josh McAdams:

On the #Censored2Celebrated webcast we discuss topics such as:

  • The LGBTQ+ Alphabet Soup of Sexuality Orientation & Gender Identity, including newer terms like #DSG (Diverse Sexuality & Gender)
  • Aha moments that our guest(s) experience in their professional work (for example: at DSG conferences, in research, in volunteer work) as well as in their personal life
  • How to find inspiration to move from from censorship to celebration around Diverse Sexuality & Gender

If you want to learn about how you can experience more celebration – and less censorship – in your professional and personal life, join us as we explore the alphabet soup of sexuality and gender.

We look forward to expanding the conversation with you!

In celebration~

Melita Noël Cantú, MA (Sexuality Studies, SFSU)
Host, From Censored to Celebrated


P.S. If you’d like to be on the EMAIL NOTIFICATION LIST to get notified about future #Censored2Celebrated shows and when video replays and show notes are posted.

CLICK HERE: Join the *Free* Email List for Exclusive Opportunities

You may also ping us on Google+, Facebook or Twitter with a request to be added to the G+ #Censored2Celebrated Circle for upcoming notifications.


Thanks to Javier López Cantú for the use of his digital photograph in #Censored2Celebrated images.

Photograph Title: Stand By Your Dan (2007)
More info, images & video at: www.JLCart.com

All rights reserved by the  Javier López Cantú Artworkstudio.

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