Tag: Families

“I’ll Build You a Bookcase” Celebrates Diverse Families and a Love of Reading

Mombian - Sustenance for Lesbian Moms Since 2005

A lovely rhyming story shows diverse people and families, including one with two dads, as it seeks to inspire a lifetime love of reading. It’s also available in four different bilingual editions!

I'll Build You a Bookcase - Jean Ciborowski Fahey

“I’ll build you a bookcase before you are born / that’s made out of boxes from shoes that were worn,” says a pregnant Black woman at the beginning of I’ll Build You a Bookcase, by Jean Ciborowski Fahey and illustrated by Simone Shin. On the next spread, two White dads watching their infant pick up the story, “for books we will read in the soft morning light / and books we will read before saying good night.” Each subsequent spread introduces us to parents building bookcases and sharing something about how they’ll interact with their children around them—filling them with library books, putting their phones away while they read, exploring the world through books, and reading the same story “for the tenth time.” One spread touts building bookcases for other kids, too, and subsequent pages show neighborhood library boxes being enjoyed by adults and children in the community.

The people depicted have a variety of skin tones and range in age from infant to elderly. We see the two-dad couple as well as a mom-dad one, single parents, and grandparents. There are no obviously queer women in it, but one woman wears overalls and dons an Amelia Earhart-style pilot’s cap and goggles while playing make-believe with her child, giving her a lesbian-ish vibe (or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking). One child is in a wheelchair and two parents wear hijabs. Two final pages offer parents tips on “How to read with your child.”

The book is available in Spanish-English, Mandarin-English, Arabic-English, and Vietnamese-English editions. It came into being after innovation program OpenIDEO, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, launched the Early Childhood Book Challenge in 2019, “seeking an original story for children ages 0 to 3 that would inspire children and their caregivers to read together,” publisher Lee & Low explained. Fahey, an early literacy specialist and parent educator, submitted a story that was selected by a committee of literacy and family engagement experts. The publisher, Lee & Low, is selling the book through the usual online and offline channels—and the foundation’s funding will allow 25,000 copies to be distributed free to Philadelphia families with young children.

My only criticism is that the book feels aimed at an age (0 to 3 years) where a board book edition would have made sense. So far, however, the Spanish-English version is only available in hardback and the other editions in paperback. Nevertheless, it’s one of those books that would make a great first book gift for a family with a new baby. As a book nerd myself, I love books about books, and wish I’d had this celebration of diversity, community, and reading for my own son when he was a toddler.

(For another recent queer-inclusive kids’ book that features a free library box, check out The Little Library, which features a nonbinary librarian.)

8 adorable LGBTQ+ families to follow on Instagram

8 adorable LGBTQ+ families to follow on Instagram

Whether you are looking for inspiration, advice on expanding your own family or simply some heart-melting cuteness, these eight LGBTQ+ families are must-follow accounts.

Triplet dads JP and Iz have been chronicling their lives with sons Alex, Albert and Adrian since the kids were born.  Follow this account for adorable matching outfits and endless family fun.

Photographer Jake Santos lives in the Netherlands with her 9-year-old son, fianceé, and dog. Their beautiful family photos are filled with love and pride.

Terrell and Jarius, dads of two little ones, exude endless love. Their gorgeous family photos will bring you so many smiles.

Follow Kaila DeBesse Strickland for contagious excitement as she chronicles her pregnancy as well as her experience using reciprocal IVF to conceive.

Trans dad and activist Aydian Dowling posts utterly adorable photos of him and his family.

Krystian Gabrielle’s account is a stunning ode to her gorgeous family of four.

With bold, bright, beautiful photos, blogger Raffinee chronicles her life with her wife and three toddlers.

Trystan Reese not only displays lovely photos of his family, but he also shares his thoughts and feelings on being pregnant as a transgender man. Reese is also the founder of Trans Fertility Co, an online hub that provides education and resources on trans fertility.

OurShelves Connects LGBTQ Families with Diverse Books and Advocates for More

OurShelves Connects LGBTQ Families with Diverse Books and Advocates for

When lawyer, policy advocate, and community organizer Alli Harper and her wife had their first child, they did what many LGBTQ parents do: looked for children’s books that showed two-mom and other diverse families. The difficulty of finding more than a handful, however, led Harper to launch a nationwide service that is connecting readers with these books while also pushing the publishing industry to create more.

Alli Harper of OurShelves - Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

Alli Harper of OurShelves. Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

When she and her wife failed to find the books they sought, and heard similar stories from other LGBTQ parents, “We were surprised in large part because we felt like there was a significant audience,” she told me in an interview. When their own daughter grew too old for picture books, they realized that like so many other kids, she’d “missed out on seeing herself and her family appropriately and adequately represented.”

Harper then made two observations: first, that “There just aren’t enough high-quality LGBTQ and other diverse kids’ books, period. That means we can’t even scratch the surface of the diversity within our families,” Second, that “Sometimes these books do exist—more existed than we knew of—but they can often be too hard to find.”

In 2018, therefore, she founded OurShelves, a book-subscription service with a dual mission, to “review and select high-quality, LGBTQ and other diverse kids’ books and connect them to the busy families, librarians, teachers, and others seeking them,” and “to advocate for the many more LGBTQ and other diverse kids’ books still needed.” The advocacy part was nothing new for Harper, who had been president of the Maryland ACLU during that state’s marriage equality fight in 2012, while also pregnant with her and her wife’s first child.

OurShelves accomplishes the first part of its mission through quarterly book-box subscriptions as well as one-time gift boxes. Each box is curated based on the age of the subscriber’s child(ren), with Sunshine Boxes of board books for kids ages 0 to 2, Rainbow Boxes for kids ages 2 to 5, and Treehouse Boxes for kids ages 5 to 8. Members choose whether they want one, three, or five books in each box.

First and foremost, we’re looking for quality of text and illustration. Our kids, and all kids, deserve to see high-quality LGBTQ representation.

“First and foremost, we’re looking for quality of text and illustration,” Harper said. “Our kids, and all kids, deserve to see high-quality LGBTQ representation.” Additionally, OurShelves wants “content that is as reflective of the diversity within our families as possible.” She explained, “Ideally, there would be books that show characters and families living at the intersection of multiple underrepresented identities—LGBTQ, Black, indigenous, people of color, disabled.” That kind of intersectional representation can still be hard to find within individual books, however, but they make sure that each box of multiple books contains characters and families with “various traditionally underrepresented identities,” and includes at least one book with LGBTQ characters. They particularly look for “stories where there are LGBTQ families out and proud, but the storyline doesn’t have to be about whether we are legitimate or okay as people and families.” They also emphasize “OwnVoices” books, a term coined by author Corinne Duyvis, meaning “the author or illustrator shares the underrepresented identity of the character in the story,” Harper explained.

To choose the books, Harper has brought together a curation team that is majority LGBTQ and majority people of color, with expertise in “academia, librarianship, teaching, early childhood development, parenting, and identity-based bias. “One hundred percent of our curation team have the lived experience of being both underrepresented themselves and having children who are underrepresented in kids’ books,” she asserted.

OurSchelves - Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

Photo credit: Alaina Lavoie

OurShelves pursues the advocacy part of its mission in two ways. First, it tries to inform publishers about the stories its members want, based on feedback from frequent surveys. “We’re always asking, ‘What are you looking for that you can’t yet find?’” Harper explained. “We’re trying to continually come up with ways to communicate this to publishers.”

Additionally, she said, they want to go “beyond advocacy” and buy the books “in ever-growing numbers.” Sometimes, this means seeking out smaller or foreign presses. For example, when they first heard of the two-mom story, My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother, and Me, by Natalie Meisner, from the small Canadian press Nimbus Publishing, it was not yet being sold or distributed in the United States. OurShelves became the first to bring it here.

Millions and millions of people want these books.

Her goal is “to shift publishers’ perception away from [the idea] that these books are risky to create, to that there is significant opportunity,” something different publishers understand to varying degrees, she feels. She cited a 2019 survey from Family Equality showing that up to 3.8 million LGBTQ millennials are considering becoming first-time parents or adding more children to their families. She added, “The majority of babies in this country are babies of color. Millions and millions of people want these books. Our hope is that we can make it easier for publishers to connect these books and then also make it easier to connect the voices of some of these families, teachers, and librarians back to publishers so we can be better partners in creating these books.”

OurShelves’ membership tripled in 2020 and they now have members in all 50 states—proof that it is filling a need. “Our growth has been because of our members sharing us as a resource,” Harper said. When members join OurShelves, she said, “they’re both being connected to these wonderful curated books, and also being counted as part of this ever-growing audience, to really prove to publishers how significant the audience is for these books.”

OurShelves is now taking orders for its spring subscription boxes. Visit ourshelves.com to learn more.

Chicago for Gay Families – 2TravelDads

Chicago for Gay Families - 2TravelDads

Chicago for Gay Families - 2TravelDads

The USA has several cities that are known around the world as being iconic or embodiment of America. We think of New YorkSan FranciscoSeattle and Chicago. Traveling to Chicago is really awesome and totally easy to do in two or three days; you could even have an unforgettable Chicago experience in one day if you were really in a pinch and wanted to. It’s an easy, walk-able city with unlimited potential and plenty of things to do.

There are so many things to do in Chicago, and you really can’t do them all on one trip. For your first trip, or if you’re traveling to Chicago on a tight schedule, these are the best ideas to make sure you explore the city and really get a feel for this incredible town.

To get familiar with the layout of the city, take a look at the map below. You’ll see that Chicago is on the shore of Lake Michigan, so there are several activities and sights very near each other since they’re all in that Magnificent Mile neighborhood, between Michigan Ave and the Lakefront Trail. We don’t include the Shedd Aquarium or Field Museum on our things not to miss in Chicago, but they’re close by too, so easy to add to your list.

By Chris and Rob – Full Story at the 2TravelDads

Chicago Gay Travel Resources

LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids’ Books Centering Black Families

LGBTQ-Inclusive Kids' Books Centering Black Families

It’s Black History Month, and I’m partnering with Family Equality to share some #OwnVoices LGBTQ-inclusive picture books that focus on Black characters and families, with the acknowledgement that these books are for all year round, not just February.

Black History Month 2021 - LGBTQ Kids Books

These are LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books with #OwnVoices Black writers and/or illustrators, which center Black characters and Black families. A growing number of other LGBTQ-inclusive picture books also include Black characters as part of multiracial families or ensemble casts. That’s great—but I believe we also need more books where the entire family or cast of characters is Black (and much the same could be said for characters with any non-White identities). Additionally, while all of the below books offer affirming representation, only two are really about Black history per se. There is unfortunately still a real lack of picture book biographies of famous LGBTQ Black people (or other LGBTQ people of color) that also acknowledge their LGBTQ identities (without necessarily focusing on them).

Want more LGBTQ-inclusive books with characters of various LGBTQ, racial/ethnic, and other identities? The new Mombian Database of LGBTQ Family Books, Media, and More includes nearly 600 items, including more than 300 picture books, and can be searched and filtered by various categories and tags to find items with the representation you’re seeking (if they exist).

In alphabetical order by title:

  • I Am Perfectly Designed, by Karamo Brown with Jason Rachel Brown, illustrated by Anoosha Syed (Henry Holt & Company, 2019). A gentle yet affirming conversation between a young Black boy and his father about their life together, as they walk through their vibrant, multicultural, queer-inclusive neighborhood. The book captures universal feelings of parental-child love in simple but elegant phrases.
  • I Promise, by Catherine Hernandez and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019). A parent addresses her child’s curiosity about how different types of families form—not by going into technical details, but by focusing on the parental promise of love and support that underlies them.
  • Keesha’s South African Adventure, by Cheril N. Clarke and Monica Bey-Clarke, illustrated by Julia Selyutina (My Family!/Dodi Press, 2016). When Keesha’s moms surprise her with a trip to South Africa, she learns about the country’s animals, food, and landmarks. The fact that she has two moms is immaterial; the story focuses on the anticipation of the trip, the adventure of exploring a new place, and the excitement of sharing with classmates upon her return. See also Keesha & Her Two Moms Go Swimming, where Keesha and her moms go to the neighborhood pool for a day of fun. Keesha plays with her best friend Trevor, who has two dads, and befriends another boy who has no one to play with.
  • Leaders Like Us: Bayard Rustin, by J. P. Miller and illustrated by Markia Jenai (Discovery Library, 2020). A biography that focuses on Rustin’s work with the Black civil rights movement, but that also notes “Some people treated Bayard unfairly because he was gay, but that did not stop him.” There is no mention of his later work speaking for gay rights or of how standing up for one part of his identity compelled him to speak up for the other, as this History article explains. Still, the fact that the text says he was gay is a step forward in picture book biographies of him.
  • Love Is in the Hair, written and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware (Flamingo Rampant, 2015). A child is staying with her two uncles while waiting for the birth of a new sibling, and learns the stories of her family through the objects woven into the dreadlocks of one uncle’s hair. The uncles’ queerness is incidental; this is simply a charming tale of the way we collect, keep, and share family memories.
  • My Name  Is Troy, Christian A’Xavier Lovehall and illustrated by Chamar M. Cooper (Self-published; 2020). “My name is Troy, and I’m a beautiful, Black Trans boy!” this book proudly begins, then takes us through Troy’s day in rhyming couplets as he shares what he likes (playing outdoors, sports, and bugs)  and doesn’t like (the color pink and playing with dolls). We see images from his life and with his supportive parents. Trans boys whose interests go beyond the traditionally “boyish” ones that Troy favors might not see themselves reflected quite as well, but they should still be buoyed by his happiness and the love that surrounds him.
  • My Rainbow, by Deshanna Neal and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila, 2020). Based on Trinity’s real life as a Black transgender girl with autism, this story tells of her mom and nonbinary sibling helping her get the long hair she wants to express her true self. The love of the family for Trinity and their desire to help her shines from every page.
  • Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution! The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ History, by Joy Ellison and illustrated by Teshika Silver (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2020). Tells the story of Stonewall icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson by focusing on their close friendship and how they cared for their community in the face of harassment. Some of the violence during the rebellion has been tempered for the age group and a few historical details could be argued, but as the author notes, this is only one possible retelling. What comes through clearly is the bond between the friends and how they worked to help those in need.

For some middle-grade titles (most, but not all, #OwnVoices), see the results of the “Middle grade fiction” category and “Black protagonist/family” tags my database.

Jewish Book Program Sending 14,000 Families with Toddlers a Free Two-Mom Story

Jewish Book Program Sending 14,000 Families with Toddlers a Free

PJ Library, which sends free books to families raising Jewish kids, has included a board book with a two-mom family in this month’s shipment to families with 1-year-olds—marking a striking change from how the organization handled a book with a two-dad family just a few years ago.

Havdalah Sky

PJ Library is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and unaffiliated with any Jewish movement, although they partner with organizations around the Jewish world. Subscribers receive free books each month, chosen by PJ Library, based on the age of their children. In 2014, PJ Library offered Elizabeth Kushner’s picture book The Purim Superhero, which stars a boy getting ready for the Jewish holiday of Purim. He happens to have two dads. Unlike their other titles, which they choose and send automatically, they only sent The Purim Superhero to families that specifically requested it. “Like it or not, parents in our community have differing opinions about same-sex marriage and how or when it is discussed with children,” wrote Harold Grinspoon Foundation trustee Winnie Sandler Grinspoon at the time. “… We think many families would love this book. Yet we know that there are some parents who would want to decide for themselves.” Even at the time, however, the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements of Judaism all supported marriage equality; only the Orthodox movement didn’t. Many were outraged that the book was treated differently from all others. The good news, though? The demand for the book was overwhelming. PJ Library ran out of copies within 36 hours and had to print additional ones.

Fast forward to this month, when PJ Library simply included Havdalah Sky: A Poem for the End of Shabbat, a board book by Chris Barash and illustrated by Sarita Rich, in its shipments to all subscriber families with one-year-old children in the U.S. and Canada. A publicist working with them told me that over 14,000 families have received the book. On its blog post announcing the pick, PJ Library wrote, “Our committee also loved that this book depicts a family with two moms. PJ Library strives to include books that represent all our families, and Havdalah Sky is an excellent contribution to that mission.”

What a difference a few years (and a little outrage) makes. Additionally, PJ Library now says it is “actively soliciting manuscripts that show and celebrate” a variety of diverse Jewish and interfaith identities, including “LGBTQIA+ people and families.”

Havdalah Sky itself is a gentle rhyming board book, told from a child’s perspective, as she, her two moms, and a pair of grandparents observe Havdalah, the short ceremony that ends Shabbat each week. After the requisite three stars are seen in the sky, a candle is lit; the grandfather (Saba) blesses the wine; Mama holds a container of sweet-smelling spices; the grandmother (Savta) watches the candle flame. The other mother, Ima (Hebrew for “mother”) plays the guitar and the child claps along, then the ceremony ends as the grandparents extinguish the candle in the wine cup, marking the end of the holiest day of the week. To end the evening, the child and her moms watch out the window as the child bids good night to the Havdalah sky. On the cover, one of the moms has very pale skin; the other mom and the child are just a shade darker. In the book’s interior, the dim room in which Havdalah is observed makes everyone’s skin a very light tan.

I love that, as in The Purim Superhero, the fact that this family has same-sex parents is entirely incidental to this soothing tale. I also love that Havdalah Sky shows extended family and the sharing of tradition across the generations, and adds to the small number of LGBTQ-inclusive books that depict families of faith. (Not that I’m particularly observant myself, although I am Jewish; I just don’t like it when LGBTQ and faith identities are always placed in opposition.)

Unfortunately, the book isn’t (yet) available to non-PJ Library subscribers, but PJ Library does tend to offer its books individually through the major online bookstores, so stay tuned. In the meantime, though, you can watch it being read in this Facebook video.

Bonus fun fact: Families with 3-year-olds received Here is the World, by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Susan Gal (Abrams), in their January PJ Library shipments. It’s a lovely book about the yearly cycle of Jewish holidays. While there’s no LGBTQ content in it, Newman is of course the author of several LGBTQ-inclusive picture books, including the famed Heather Has Two Mommies.

Second bonus fun fact: Havdalah Sky isn’t the first book to show a two-mom family celebrating Havdalah. The 1986 book Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday!), by Patricia Schaffer, about the Jewish holidays, did so as well. The text doesn’t specify them as a couple, but professor and librarian Jamie Campbell Naidoo includes the title in his authoritative Rainbow Family Collections reference book—and they sure look like a couple to me. (Chag Sameach! feels dated now, though; I mention it only as a historic note.)

Want to sign up to receive PJ Library free books monthly? Do so here. Children 8 and under receive PJ Library’s picks; those 9 to 12 may select their own (from a few options) through the sister service PJ Our Way.

Extra bonus note: Today also marks the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, the “New Year of the Trees” that is today often celebrated as a Jewish Arbor Day or Earth Day. For the holiday, PJ Library has launched a “Plant for Tomorrow” matching donation campaign to help plant tens of thousands of trees for future generations and help with critical reforest efforts. All proceeds will go to the National Forest Foundation (NFF). Each dollar contributed through PJ Library’s campaign through the end of January will help plant one native tree. PJ Library will match donations up to a total of $50,000, and NFF will plant trees where they are most needed.

Removal of Transgender Military Ban Is a Victory for Trans People and Their Families and Children

Removal of Transgender Military Ban Is a Victory for Trans

President Biden’s executive order yesterday ending the ban on transgender people serving in the military is not only a victory for the many trans people in uniform, but also for the children and families they support.

Jennifer and Deborah Peace and their children - Credit: TransMilitary

Jennifer and Deborah Peace and their children – Credit: TransMilitary

The premise of the executive order is very simple: “All Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve.” Biden added, “The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security.”

For the more than 15,000 transgender people currently serving, that’s an acknowledgment of equality. For those who are parents, it means they do not have to fear losing their jobs and being unable to feed and house their children. The U.S. military is the country’s largest employer of transgender people, according to the 2018 documentary TransMilitary. The unemployment rate for trans people is three times higher than the national average, and over one quarter (27 percent) of trans people who held or applied for a job reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion due to their gender identity, per the National Center for Transgender Equality‘s latest U.S. Transgender Survey. (The survey covers 2016-17, but I can’t imagine the number improved during the last four years.)

As Deborah Peace said in Transmilitary about her spouse Jennifer Peace, a captain in the U.S. Army and a trans woman, “She was the breadwinner of the family.” The Peaces have three children.

The removal of the ban will also, I imagine, positively impact service members and their spouses who are not trans themselves, but are raising transgender or gender-creative children. Consider: The Department of Defense Child Development Virtual Lab School (VLS), an online professional development system for the 33,000 child- and youth-care professionals working with children of military families on bases around the world, in 2018 launched a course on “Creating Gender Safe Spaces.” Sarah Lang, associate director of research and professional development at VLS, told me in an interview, “Part of the reason we developed this course was that people working in military childcare saw gender-expansive kids and reached out to us. We want to be supportive of children and families with gender-expansive or LGBT members, and to arm staff with tools to navigate conversations with other families.” Clearly, then, there were enough of these families that such a program was worth creating. Yet children are less likely to thrive in an environment that condemns their identities. Transgender people serving openly (and perhaps occasionally visiting on-base classrooms) may give these children important role models.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has also clarified that the new policy applies not only to transgender people currently serving, but also to those wishing to enlist. He noted, too:

The United States Armed Forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens. I also believe we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and the devotion to serve in uniform.

This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.

Darn right.

As we move forward, however, let us not forget how we got here. TransMilitary, which profiles not only the Peace family, but also several other transgender service members, is available on several of the major streaming services. I encourage you to watch. It’s a reminder that not only did transgender service members and their families feel the negative impact of the ban, but that many put their careers on the line by sharing their stories and speaking out against it. It is in large part because of their efforts, along with research (and more research) and the work of many other advocates, that Biden put pen to paper and signed yesterday’s order, affirming transgender people’s right to serve their country on equal terms.

Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace, and Senior Airman Logan Ireland - Credit: TransMilitary

Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace, and Senior Airman Logan Ireland – Credit: TransMilitary

If reading’s more your thing, check out the 2019 NPR profile of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bree “B” Fram, her spouse Peg, and their two kids; this piece by Alli Alexander, an Army veteran, mother, and now military spouse, about her husband’s transition while in the Army; or this InStyle profile of Capt. Peace.

This executive order is personal for me—I have a friend who is a transgender man, a parent, and a serving member of the Armed Forces. I’m delighted for him and his family, and for all transgender service members. Thanks to them for their service to us all.

9 Highlights for LGBTQ Families from the First 24 Hours of the Biden Presidency

9 Highlights for LGBTQ Families from the First 24 Hours

I slept better last night knowing that the U.S. nuclear codes were in the hands of someone not likely to make ego-driven decisions. I woke up refreshed thinking about the first vice president who is a woman, Black, and of South Asian descent. And I was delighted for LGBTQ families, who have a number of reasons to celebrate today.

American flag with children's silhouettes

  1. President Biden yesterday issued an executive confirming that, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last June in Bostock v. Clayton County, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is forbidden under laws that ban gender-based discrimination. All federal agencies should implement this ruling in all their programs, the order states. Lambda Legal explains that this should apply not only in employment, but also “wherever federal law prohibits sex discrimination, including in education, housing, credit and healthcare.” Alphonso David, president of HRC, called the order “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.” Among many other things, it will nullify the rule that Trump’s Department of Education issued last week saying that schools could discriminate against transgender students. And of course, protections against discrimination should benefit not only LGBTQ individuals, but also their children of any identities.
  2. There are at least five queer parents in the Biden administration: Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary; Pili Tobar, deputy White House communications director; Gautam Raghavan, deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, Stuart Delery, deputy counsel to the President; Rachel Levine (assuming she is confirmed), assistant secretary of health. The first three are also people of color. Additionally, Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s pick for secretary of transportation, has said that he and spouse Chasten want to have kids, although it is unclear when that might happen. (When it does, I’m guessing that, given Buttigieg’s role, the kid will have plenty of toy cars and an epic train set.)
  3. At least three queer parents were part of the interfaith Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service that was just livestreamed from Washington National Cathedral: Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, senior rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City, who is a lesbian, and two transgender women: Barbara Satin, faith work director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Rev. Dr. Paula Stone Williams, author and pastor of the Left Hand Church.
  4. Biden will “imminently” revoke Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, which benefits not only transgender individuals, but also their families.
  5. Many of Biden’s other Day One actions—on immigration, addressing climate change, fighting racism, stopping the pandemic, and more—will of course impact LGBTQ families as they will any others. I won’t cover them in detail here since so many other news outlets are doing so.
  6. Less related to parenting, but a fun trivia fact: During the inauguration ceremony, Jennifer Lopez sang “America the Beautiful.” Its author, Katharine Lee Bates, was in a 25-year “Boston marriage” with another woman, about whom she once wrote, “You are always in my heart and in my longings.”
  7. The White House contact form now has options for people to indicate their pronouns and/or the nonbinary prefix “Mx.” So contact them and tell them what you think of how they’re doing for our families (and what they should do)!
  8. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention poet Amanda Gorman and her powerful inauguration ceremony poem, “The Hill We Climb.” If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch. If you have, it’s worth seeing again. The connection to LGBTQ families (aside from its general inspiration for all people)? In March 2018, at the end of her term as National Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman was part of the celebration for the next year’s finalists. Also speaking at that event was Jacqueline Woodson, who had in January 2018 been named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature—and is a queer mom. (Yes, “six degrees of queer parents” is a game I play with myself.)
  9. [Updated 1/22/2021 to add: Senator Bernie Sanders’ wooly mittens, which he wore to the inauguration, have been taking the Internet by storm. The woman who made them, second-grade teacher Jen Ellis, lives outside Burlington, Vermont “with her partner, Liz, and their kindergarten-age daughter,” reported Jewish Insider.]

Happy first full day in four years with a president who supports us!

What Queer Parents Can Teach All Families

What Queer Parents Can Teach All Families

In an article for the Boston Globe this past weekend, a queer mom reflects on talking with her daughter about her family structure and donor siblings, as well as the lessons this holds not only for her but for families of all types.

Children in Silhouette

In “A lesson in queer parenting that’s good for any family,” Stephanie Fairyington writes about introducing her 4-year-old daughter to her donor siblings—something she and her spouse were happy to do, but struggled to find the words to explain. “The topic was far too complicated for her language and understanding — and ours…. The way we laid it out was spectacularly idiotic from beginning to end,” she admits.

They sought help by connecting with other queer families and by reading children’s books that included families like theirs. Despite their earlier bumbling, though, their daughter came to take pride in her extended family. The moms ultimately realized the value in discussing their family’s difference and “in the way that her lived reality challenges social norms,” which may help their daughter foster a compassion for other marginalized people. More broadly, too, Fairyington says, queer families challenge traditional conceptions of family, making room for new possibilities that can help make the world kinder and more inclusive. All parents, she says, can learn a lesson here.

For me to say more would be to recreate her piece, which I don’t want to do. Go read it. Then, if you want some further related reading for yourself or your kids, try these books:

  • Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin, by Rosanna Hertz and Margaret K. Nelson, the result of interviews with 212 parents (two-mom couples, different-sex couples, and single parents) and 154 of their donor-conceived children. The authors explore how parents chose donors, how they and/or their children chose to connect with donor siblings, and how the children within a donor network made sense of their donor and each other. Grounded in academic research, Random Families is nevertheless an accessible and informative read for anyone who has or is considering donor conception. Full review.
  • Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction, by Kim Bergman (Conari Press), offers a detailed look at assisted reproductive technology, including assisted insemination, in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy, written in a way that doesn’t take a medical degree to understand. Bergman, a licensed psychologist and senior partner at Growing Generations, the first surrogacy and egg donation agency dedicated to the queer community, devotes a whole chapter, too, to ways of talking about their creation to your child(ren) and to the outside world. Full review.
  •  You Began as a Wish, also by Bergman, is a simple and melodic picture book appropriate for even the very youngest children, based on what she’s been advising parents for 30 years to tell their kids and what she told her own kids about their creation. Full review and author interview.
  • Zak’s Safari: A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families, by Christy Tyner, is told from the perspective of a young child with two moms. Buy it at the link, or read it free online in English, Spanish, or French at the book’s website. Full review.
  • What Makes a Baby? by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth, remains a gem of all-gender-inclusive explanation for young children about reproduction. Full review.
  • Picture books that specifically talk about donor siblings include Your Family: A Donor Kid’s Story, by Wendy Kramer, co-founder and director of the Donor Sibling Registry (also available in Spanish); Jennifer Dukoff’s Meeting My Brother (watch the author read it here), and I’ve Got Dibs!: A Donor Sibling Story, by Amy Dorfman.

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Two Picture Books Offer Joyous Portrayals of Black Trans Kids and Supportive Families

Two Picture Books Offer Joyous Portrayals of Black Trans Kids

I’m continuing to wrap up the LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ book reviews for the year, so here are two recent titles that share the stories of Black transgender children—one a girl and one a boy—and their supportive families.

My Rainbow

My Rainbow, by DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal and illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila), is based on Trinity’s own life. The book opens in the Neal’s living room, where Trinity, her two sibings, and her mother and father are sitting together. Trinity is stroking her pet pig, Peter Porker. “She loved soft things, just like many kids with autism, and Peter’s hair was perfect,” we learn. Her father is playing the cello, “enveloping the room in tranquility and making it feel safe.”

That sets the tone for the rest of the book, as the family maintains a safe and supportive place for Trinity and her siblings (including Hyperion, who is nonbinary and uses “they” pronouns). One day, however, Trinity says that she can’t be a girl because she doesn’t have long hair. Her mother notes that she, the mother, has short hair and is a girl.

For Trinity, however, it’s different. “I’m a transgender girl,” she says.

Her mother already knew she was trans. “Trinity’s gender was part of what made her a masterpiece, just like her autism and her Black skin,” she reflects. Yet she senses Trinity is trying to convey something more. She listens, and Trinity explains, “People don’t care if cisgender girls like you have short hair. But it’s different for transgender girls. I need long hair!” Her mom gets it. The problem is, however, that Trinity’s sensitivity to texture means she dislikes how her hair made her itchy when she tried to grow it out before. Her parents confer, but neither has an idea.

Trinity’s older sibling Lucien then suggests going to a beauty shop (where the clerk has a “they/them” tag on her apron), but none of the wigs he and his mom find there seem right. He then has the idea that Trinity needs her very own rainbow wig. The mom works long into the night on the wig, although she has never made one before.

In the morning, Trinity cries tears of joy at the wig her mom made from the colors Lucien chose. The rest of the family comes in as she is dancing joyously and surround her with a loving group hug.

This book is such a pleasure on so many levels. It’s great to see an entire family of color in an LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ book; it’s terrific to see a story with a trans character that doesn’t center around the revelation that they are trans (an important topic, but already done in several books); and it’s so, so, wonderful to see that the whole family is nothing but supportive right from page one. The love of the family for Trinity and their desire to help her shines from every page. Less important, but notable are the antics of Peter Porker, who tries on wigs, paints his hooves with nail polish, and generally provides background amusement on every page—the kind of fun extra details that can make a picture book even more of a delight to read.

Read more about the real Trinity and her family, their fight for transgender rights, and their pet pig, in this 2017 article from DelawareToday.

My Name Is Troy

My Name Is Troy, by Christian A’Xavier Lovehall and illustrated by Chamar M. Cooper, is a self-published title available for sale through the author’s website. “My name is Troy, and I’m a beautiful, Black Trans boy!” it begins, then takes us through Troy’s day in rhyming couplets as he shares what he likes and doesn’t like. “It’s okay that I don’t like dresses, or my hair long in pretty tresses,” we learn. He doesn’t like pink, or playing with dolls, but “it’s okay” that he likes to play outdoors, play sports, camp, explore, and play with bugs. He likes race cars and trucks, vampires, zombies, and collecting rocks. “Like most kids” he also doesn’t like to do his chores. As he goes about his day, we see images from his life and with his parents, who are also Black.

While most of his likes lean towards the rough-and-tumble variety, he’s also “kind and not mean” and tells us, “It’s okay when I cry and need a hug” (as we see the image of his father hugging him). He proudly waves (or wears) the trans flag on several pages, and towards the end, we see a “photo” of him and his extended family as we read, “I love my family and they love me too!”

What the book lacks in a narrative plot, it makes up for with a joyous “slice of life” portrayal that conveys Troy’s self-confidence, enthusiasm, and family support. Trans boys whose activities and interests go beyond the traditionally “boyish” ones that Troy favors might not see themselves reflected quite as well, but they should still be buoyed by his happiness and the love that surrounds him.

Lovehall himself is “a proud Black Trans man with Caribbean roots” he tells us on his website. He founded and organized the annual Philly Trans March in 2011, has worked as a certified peer specialist helping trans people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, and is a certified doula, hip-hop artist, and freelance photographer. The back of the book tells us that this story “is a re-envisioning of the love he wished he received from his family.” He adds, “My Name Is Troy is not only a children’s book, but also a tool to help families see the importance of creating support systems and safer homes for Trans youth.” May his words and his book reach the ears that need to hear them.

Both My Name Is Troy and My Rainbow fill a much needed gap in the picture book representation of young Black trans lives. No one book (or even two books) can capture the entirety of those lives, however. And while the images of supportive families are absolutely vital, one further thing that neither book here shows us is Black trans children playing with friends who are supportive of their identities. Kyle Lukoff’s Max and Friends series and Tobi Hill-Meyer’s A Princess of Great Daring are good models for showing how this can be done. Perhaps that’s a subject for Troy and Trinity’s sequels.


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