The Swedish government is working to make the nation’s legislation, including its Parental Code, gender neutral, says Sputnik News.
Ron and Fabian Eckstrom-French, a two-dad couple who had become legal parents through surrogacy in the U.S., still had to go through an adoption process for those same children when they moved to New Zealand, explains Stuff. Last week, New Zealand’s Law Commission started a review of the country’s surrogacy laws, and the Eckstrom-French’s situation shows why change is needed.
An Israeli legislative committee will soon consider a draft bill that would allow same-sex couples in Israel to be equally eligible to adopt children. Currently, same-sex couples can be approved for adoption, “but in practice only a handful of such couples have adopted children in the past decade,” reports the Times of Israel, noting that same-sex couples have been treated unequally by only being offered older children and those with special needs.
Freddy McConnell, a transgender man in the U.K., has lost his final legal appeal to be named the father, rather than the mother, of his child. (Here’s more on McConnell and the film about his journey to become a parent.)
Parents in Power
Julia Hoggett has become not only the first-ever out gay chief executive of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), but the first gay parent, PinkNews notes. She has two children with her ex-wife, and splits her time between London, where she lives with her current partner, and Dublin, where the children live with her ex. Among her many career achievements, she has “campaigned to reduce barriers for women returning to work after childbirth.”
Hanukkah starts tonight, but LGBTQ parents will have to look long and hard to find even a glimpse of a family like theirs in a picture book about the holiday. One book slipped under my radar until recently, and while it still only offers a brief glance, it’s just about all we’ve got.
Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook, written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kristina Swarner (Kar-Ben, 2018), offers a holiday assortment of history, rituals, activities, songs, and recipes. Different families and historical figures are portrayed on each page. On one page, we see two women, wearing yarmulkes, standing on either side of a small table with a menorah on it. One woman is holding a baby; the other is lighting the menorah, with a small dog at her feet. While the two women could in fact be sisters, the scene is domestic enough that I see them as a couple; Publisher’s Weekly interpreted them that way as well.
My Family Products also published The Wonderful Adventures of Benjamin and Solomon, by Elena Yakubsfeld and illustrated by Wei Guan (2013), about two Jewish students traveling in medieval Europe who hope reach their destination by Hanukkah, but the book isn’t really about the holiday per se. Additionally, although it contains beautiful illustrations, the publisher said in a press release that it’s aimed at young adults, so it doesn’t really count as a book for young children. (It’s far too wordy and the protagonists are too old.)
I’ll also put in a good word for The Lotterys More or Less, by Emma Donoghue, the second in her series about two same-sex couples (one male, one female) jointly raising their seven children. This one revolves around the holidays, and there are characters celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah in their diverse community. It’s delightful–but it’s a middle grade book, not a picture book.That’s it. That’s all we’ve got. Even though I try to stay very attuned to the world of LGBTQ-inclusive picture books, the fact is that Light the Menorah flew under my radar for several years, since the LGBTQ representation is so incidental. It’s an ongoing problem that I’ve written about before; we need more books that show LGBTQ families simply as part of a wider world, but there’s a catch-22 between treating queerness as an everyday thing and having those books be invisible to those specifically seeking LGBTQ-inclusive titles. And the brief glimpse of a same-sex couple in Light the Menorah, while welcome as one of the various families depicted, is hardly enough. Granted, Hanukkah is really a very minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but has taken on added meaning in modern times as a sort of counterpart to Christmas (which it isn’t really, but that’s another topic). There are a lot of great Hanukkah picture books available now, and some are even happily showing the racial and ethnic diversity of Jewish families. It’s time for one that shows LGBTQ people and families as well.
You’ll see quite a lot of gaps here. There are no Christmas picture books about a two-mom family, for example, and no LGBTQ-inclusive picture books about Kwanzaa (except for some pages in the My Family coloring book).
And Other Holidays?
Overall, LGBTQ-inclusive picture books about holidays of any type are in short supply. Just a few other Jewish holidays now have queer-inclusive books related to them: The Purim Superhero
, by Elizabeth Kushner (Kar-Ben); Love Remains: A Rosh Hashanah Story of Transformation, by Rabbi Ari Moffic; and The Last Place You Look, about Passover, by j wallace skelton (Flamingo Rampant). There’s also the 1985 book Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday!), by Patricia Schaffer, a book about all the Jewish holidays, which may have shown a two-mom family. (Look on the Havdalah page and decide for yourself.) Lesléa Newman, author of the classic Heather Has Two Mommies(Candlewick), has also written many wonderful picture books about the Jewish holidays, but the only one I know of with LGBTQ characters is Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail(Charlesbridge), where two minor male characters have their arms around each other in one scene. The only queer-inclusive book about a Muslim holiday is Moondragon in the Mosque Garden, by El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson (Flamingo Rampant), in which three children encounter a magical creature on Eid al-Fitr. And Christmas aside, there are no LGBTQ-inclusive picture books about other Christian holidays, even Easter or Halloween. (And yes, there are a few other LGBTQ-inclusive picture books, including this very recent one, that show Jewish life, but not holidays per se.)
My suspicion is that there have been so few holiday picture books showing LGBTQ families because so many LGBTQ-inclusive picture books have been focused on the “issue” of LGBTQ identities per se. Pride, as an LGBTQ holiday, has a fair number of picture books devoted to it now, but other holidays get short shrift. I do believe it is important, however, for LGBTQ families and non-LGBTQ families alike to see images of LGBTQ families celebrating holidays from a wide variety of traditions, too. This offers representation for the former and can help build bridges across difference for the latter. And besides, picture books about holidays should simply be fun and joyous reads for anyone.
It’s notable that both Moondragon and Rachel’s Christmas Boat are from micro-press Flamingo Rampant; Love Remains and The Christmas Truck are self-published; the My Family! coloring book is from the My Family micro-press, owned by the authors. This shows the importance of small and self-publishers in addressing content gaps—like holidays—that larger publishers have mostly not touched.
I’d like to see many more holiday books with LGBTQ characters for all the major (and even minor) holidays of all traditions. I want them from small publishers who know the LGBTQ community well; I want them from large publishers who can still find #OwnVoices authors and illustrators and use their marketing clout to push the books out to a wide audience. I want books that are more about the holidays than about LGBTQ identities, so they are more likely to find readers among non-LGBTQ families, too. I want them to be more than just an image of maybe-kinda same-sex parents on one page (though in books about diverse families, we should be there, too). I want representation across the LGBTQ spectrum and across race, ethnicity, family structure, socioeconomic status, ability, and other dimensions of identity.
That’s a lot to ask, yes. But this is a season of rededication and miracles.
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A group of patrons has asked for LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books to be removed from the children’s section of a Louisiana public library and made available for checkout only by adults. The library board is set to discuss the matter this afternoon.
The Ruston Leader in Ruston, Louisiana, reported Friday that according to Lincoln Parish Library Director Vivian McCain, she and members of the library’s Board of Control in mid-November “began receiving emails from more than a dozen patrons, all with identical verbiage, asking that ‘LGBTQ items’ be removed from the shelves and displays in the children’s department.”
by Alex Gino. Other books would also be impacted, but were checked out at the time the paper did its reporting and photographs.
A few board members met to discuss the complaints and asked McCain to remove the books, which she allowed, reported the paper. It added that McCain said, “This goes against every grain in my body as a public librarian.”
McCain told local news station KNOE yesterday that the books had been chosen for the library’s collection according to “stringent criteria,” and that they were removed after the complaints in order to make sure they did meet the criteria. My interpretation is that she was willing to subject them to this extra scrutiny knowing that they are fine, but that she is not in favor of permanently removing them from the children’s section. She spoke with KNOE about the stigma that restricting the books puts on patrons, particularly children, who want to check them out.
The board has now reviewed the books, KNOE reported, and is expected to recommend at a meeting today at 4:00 p.m. CT, that they be placed back on the shelves. KNOE said McCain is “thrilled.”
Unfortunately for the library, too, the town on Saturday voted down the property tax that funds most of its budget. The Ruston Leader said that this vote had been mentioned in the November letters challenging the LGBTQ books; it is unclear if the challenges impacted the vote.
LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books are among those most often targeted for removal or restriction, as the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Past Decade list shows. Authors of such books also face attempts to stop them from giving book talks in schools or libraries, whether in-person or virtual. Once books about LGBTQ people and those with LGBTQ parents are restricted in libraries and/or schools, what’s next? Banning a transgender parent from taking their kids to a library book reading? Telling a kid during show-and-tell that they can’t talk about taking a family vacation with their two moms?
And yes, it’s a parent’s choice about what to teach our kids and expose them to, though our ability to control that declines rapidly as our children grow, in my experience. As I wrote way back in 2007 (in relation to attempted censorship in a school curriculum), “At some, if not many, points in my child’s education, the curriculum will contain something that contradicts a viewpoint I hold. The solution is not to ban it from being taught, but rather for me to be involved enough—with both the school and my son—that I can use the occasions as opportunities to teach him what I do believe. Wanting to ban something from the curriculum is an admission that I have little faith in my own teaching abilities and influence over my child.” (Though again, that influence tends to decline as our kids reach adulthood, which is something we parents just have to roll with.) Same applies to books in libraries.
Let’s hope that the board does indeed do the right thing, as KNOE indicates it will, and keeps these books on the shelves.
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Want a comfy sock and not sure what type of rainbow design you might want to sport on your wedding day? Or maybe you want to wear a pair and give your wedding attendants a pair, too. Bombas has a great pride calf sock 4-pack you can snag to give you a few options.
Bombas socks are super comfortable and hold up really well. The calf sock stays nicely in place when pulled up to show the design and with their honeycomb midfoot support, they provide comfort in all the right places. I’m definitely a Bombas fan after I purchased several of the pride socks this year.
And remember, as always with Bombas purchases, one purchased equals one donated to those experiencing homelessness.
Tired of election news? Here are some recent profiles of LGBTQ families, musings on the path forward for LGBTQ parental rights in the U.S., and news about LGBTQ families from around the world!
Journalist (and transgender parent) Dawn Ennis interviewed actor, comedian, and lesbian mom Tig Notaro for Forbes, asking the excellent question, “How Does She Juggle ‘Star Trek,’ A Podcast And 4-Year-Old Twins?”
Ennis also interviewed videogame icon and transgender parent Becky Heineman (whom you may have seen recently on Netflix’s High Score) for Outsports.
Angela Chen of The Atlantic spoke with David Jay, founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, about his legal three-parent family.
Heather Chauvin of the Mom Is In Control podcast spoke with transgender advocate and parent Trystan Reese on “Navigating Pregnancy As a Man.”
Over in Taiwan, some parents are protesting their government’s distribution of King & King, a picture book about two princes who fall in love, to six- and seven-year-old students last month as part of an optional, extracurricular reading program. Taiwan last year became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex couples to marry.
A bonded male pair of African penguins have stolen an egg from a bonded female couple at a zoo in the Netherlands, HuffPo reports. High drama—although the fact is, a zoo spokesperson said, they are most likely unfertilized and will not hatch.
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A big thanks to all veterans for your service and the sacrifices you and your families have had to make. For Veteran’s Day and any day, here are some ways the rest of us can support veterans, LGBTQ and not. (Me? I’m making my veteran spouse an especially nice dinner tonight.)
This is a slightly revised version of a list I published last year; despite the pandemic (and perhaps especially because of it), showing our support for veterans is as important as ever.
Thank the veterans you know, whether it’s an older relative who served in World War II or someone who has served more recently.
Learn their stories.
If you know any veterans personally, ask them about their service—though be respectful if they would rather not discuss what might have been traumatic experiences.
Watch today’s special online screening by the LA LGBT Center of Our Service, Our Stories, a short film developed, filmed, and edited by LGBT Veterans.
The Modern Military Association of America, which serves LGBTQ service members, veterans, and their families, publishes a magazine of stories and news for and about LGBTQ military families. Go read a few stories to learn more about the joys and challenges of military life.
Take a veteran out for a meal or shopping, if you can practice appropriate social distancing. Many restaurants and stores have special discounts for them today—but any other day works, too.
Educate yourself on how the Veterans Administration is still falling short on health care for LGBTQ veterans, according to a recent report.
Remember that an estimated 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 trans people are serving in military today, even as President Trump is trying to deny them the right to do so. Learn more from the National Center for Transgender Equality as well as from GLAD and NCLR. Yes, Joe Biden has said he will reverse the ban, but I think it’s important we all understand what the impact of the ban has been on transgender service members and their families.
It’s cheering to see travel and tourism operators catering for the LGBTQ community… when they get it right. Sadly, an incident last week in Singapore shows that some can still get things very wrong.
Royal Albatross Superyacht is a luxury, ‘tall ship’ schooner based in Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. It takes bookings for corporate charters, weddings and other private events, as well as hosting a popular dinner cruise for members of the public.
It recently decided to hold a dedicated LGBTQ dinner cruise. It got in touch with a local LGBTQ dating app, Prout, to ask them if they’d help promote it on social media. Prout duly posted information about the cruise to its Facebook page.
However, soon after the posting appeared, the company contacted Prout to ask questions about its followers.
“Within 10 mins of our social media and telegram post going public, the company contacted us to ask if there were any “transsexuals” following us,” a spokesperson for Prout said on Facebook last week.
“After further communication, the company said that they are open only to those who are “classy and willing to spend”, and not targeting the “trashy transsexual kind who only want to create trouble”. Upon hearing this, we immediately took down all the posts related to that event.”
Prout went on to condemn the company.
“Firstly, as a LGBTQ community group, we want to emphasize that marginalized communities are not here to be exploited by brands and companies to tap on the pink dollar for. If a company is not truly inclusive and does not contribute to uplifting the community, we have no wish to collaborate with them.
“Secondly, to call the trans community “trashy” is offensive and degrading. Transgender persons have historically been discriminated, and it is utterly dehumanizing to use the word “trashy” as it reinforces stigma against them.”
It also criticized the person who had contacted them for using the term “transsexual”, which has largely been replaced with transgender, and which some trans people find offensive.
Not long after Prout’s Facebook posting, Royal Albatross Superyacht took to Facebook to issue a prompt apology. It said the event aimed to “provide a private romantic dinner cruise experience without judgment.”
It went on to say, “Yesterday, a staff member communicated privately with someone and used a bad choice of words to address our target audience. The comments do not represent the position of this company, we retract them entirely and we apologize. We have since corrected the staff member and we will ensure we are more sensitive when it comes to our future communications. In hindsight, we were naïve not to take into consideration the diversity of the entire LGBTQ+ community. We are sincerely sorry to have offended by what was said, it was not our intent to exclude any particular group. We welcome everyone.”
It went on to say that the LGBTQ event had been put on hold while they better educate themselves.
“We have suspended our #LoveIsLove sail as we need to educate ourselves on the diverse communities. We invite any group organizers who would be interested in helping us and or holding events like these to contact us privately. Again, we apologize to anyone that was offended.”
The ship’s founder and CEO, Peter L Pela told Coconuts the event would go ahead at a later date.
“We have already started looking into providing diversity training to our staff as we do need to understand more about the sensitivities involved. I would also like to add we are only postponing our plans to hold such an event and we are looking forward to holding a successful event in the future where everyone is welcome.”
Two LGBTQ legal experts recently spoke on a GLAD panel about second-parent (co-parent) adoptions, Voluntary Acknowledgments of Parentage, and other ways LGBTQ parents can secure our legal relationships with our children. Regardless of who is in the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court remains conservative, and these actions are an important way of protecting our families. Watch the video now.
Patience Crozier, GLAD senior staff attorney, and Joyce Kauffman, GLAD board chair and lead attorney at Kauffman Law & Mediation, are not only attorneys, but also queer parents themselves. They understand both the legal and the emotional side of all this. They speak about why second-parent adoptions are necessary (even if you’re married!) and what to expect during the process; how Voluntary Acknowledgements of Parentage offer some LGBTQ parents another path to legal recognition; how likely they think it is that marriage equality could be overturned and what might happen to existing same-sex spouses in that case, and more.
The summary? “The good news is that there are ways to make sure your family is legally protected, and if you’ve already taken those steps they can’t be undone,” GLAD says.
Their focus is somewhat on New England, which is GLAD’s ambit—but even if you live elsewhere, I think you may also find much of this useful, if only to help you then ask better questions of lawyers and policymakers in your state.
Watch the video here—but please also visit the GLAD website for links to all the resources mentioned during the panel, along with additional legal information on parenting and other topics.
Even as we have been waiting for the results of the presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case yesterday that will determine whether taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies—and possibly any provider of government-contracted services—can cite religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. Here are some of the arguments made.
For detailed background on the case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, I refer you to my piece from last week. In short, it began in 2018, when the City of Philadelphia stopped referring foster children to Catholic Social Services (CSS) because the agency would not license qualified same-sex couples to be foster or adoptive parents. CSS then brought a lawsuit in federal district court, which ruled for the city, as did an appeals court. CSS appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the case in February 2020. In June, the Trump administration filed a brief siding with CSS.
Yesterday, in front of a court that included the newly seated Amy Coney Barrett, lawyers for both CSS and the city presented their cases. All of the justices pushed on the question of whether CSS, in taking the city’s contract, was doing the city’s work or doing its own work and simply being licensed by the city. If the latter, the city would have less authority to enforce its nondiscrimination laws.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out that the city was paying CSS, and the government does not pay entities to take a license. Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the city isn’t asking CSS to endorse marriage for same-sex couples, merely that they meet the statutory requirements to be foster parents.
Prompted by more conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, however, CSS claimed that no same-sex couple had ever applied to the agency. If they had, it said, they would simply have been referred to another agency. CSS also emphasized its 200-year history of providing services to children and families and said the city was targeting it because of its religion.
Attorney Neal Katyal, arguing for the city, said it is not targeting CSS because of its religious beliefs, but because there are no exemptions to the city’s nondiscrimination laws. This isn’t a matter of religion versus LGBTQ rights, they said, but rather of religion versus religion. A ruling in favor of CSS could mean that people are turned away from government services because of their religion.
Alito, however, seemed to side with CSS in opining that the city wasn’t actually trying to ensure that same-sex couples could be foster parents, but that it simply “can’t stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the Archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage.”
CSS also argued to overturn the 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division v. Smith, in which former Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, which permits freedom of religion, does not mean that there are exemptions from “a neutral, generally applicable law” that is “not specifically directed to religious practice.” It was hard to tell if the justices seemed interested in overturning Smith, however.
Additionally, Hashim Moopan, a Justice Department lawyer arguing for CSS, said that the city does permissibly consider race or disability in placing children with foster parents. Why can’t it also consider sexual orientation? The city’s lawyers countered that there was a difference between child placements and the screening of potential parents, and it is the latter, where there are no exceptions, at issue here. When asked if CSS’ position of allowing exemptions to nondiscrimination laws could lead to discrimination on the basis of race, Moopan indicated that it wouldn’t, leading Breyer to ask whether “discrimination on the basis of race is different from discrimination based on gender, religion, and sexuality.” Moopan responded that “Race is unique in this country’s constitutional history,” and that eradicating racial discrimination “presents a particularly unique and compelling interest.” When pushed by Justice Elena Kagan on whether it is a compelling state interest to eradicate discrimination against gays and lesbians, he equivocated.
Alito seemed to side with the idea that racial discrimination and discrimination against same-sex couples are fundamentally different, citing Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that legalized marriage for same-sex couples. “Didn’t we say in Obergefell that there are honorable reasons to continue to oppose same-sex marriage?” he asked. (The Obergefell decision, written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy, does indeed say, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.”)
Justice Brett Kavanaugh also brought up this point in Obergefell, and told the city’s lawyers that while he understood the “stigmatic harm” of CSS’ policy on same-sex couples, “What I fear here is that the absolutist and extreme position that you’re articulating would require us to go back on the promise of respect for religious believers.”
Overall, the justices seemed split along ideological lines, although Chief Justice John Roberts’ thinking was less clear. The newest justice, Barrett, while she didn’t seem eager to overturn Smith, at one point tried to get Katyal to respond to a hypothetical situation in which a city has taken over all health care and contracts with private entities to provide it. Must a Catholic hospital then perform abortions? Katyal replied that the current case does not involve a government monopoly of previously private services, and that the government takeover of a private care system in itself raises constitutional problems.
Depending on how the court rules, the case could have far-reaching implications beyond just child services, as I explained last week. What’s next? Now we wait—even longer than for the outcome of the presidential election. A decision is expected by the end of the court’s current term next June.
Senator Kamala Harris at the 2019 San Francisco Pride ParadePhoto: Scot Tucker/SFBay.ca
More than 50 years ago, a group of LGBTQ+ people at the Stonewall Inn did what so many Americans have done throughout our history—they stood up for equality. It was a turning point in a movement that would continue to march, organize, and vote for the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.
And it’s because of those efforts, through the decades, that, in 2013, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier were united in California’s first same-sex marriage after Proposition 8 was struck down by the courts—a wedding I had the honor of officiating.
The Trump administration banned transgender Americans willing to risk their lives for our country from serving in the military. They’ve rolled back protections put in place by the Obama-Biden administration against employment discrimination for LGBTQ+ workers. And they opened the door to allowing health care workers to refuse treatment to patients based on their gender identity.
At a time when our country is experiencing the worst public health crisis in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a reckoning on racial injustice, and a changing climate that’s battering our coastlines and setting the West on fire, it’s devastating that LGBTQ+ Americans must also worry about their human rights.
Here’s the good news: we can vote to put an end to the Trump-Pence era of discrimination and fear—and send the most pro-equality administration in history to the White House.
Joe Biden and I believe that every human being should be treated with dignity and respect and be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or who they love. We will reverse the attacks the Trump-Pence administration has made on the LGBTQ+ community. And we won’t stop there—we will advance equality through long-overdue changes.
Right now, half of all LGBTQ+ Americans live in states where their civil rights can be violated. They face discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives, from housing to starting a family to obtaining a driver’s license with their correct gender on it.
Joe and I will make enacting the Equality Act a top legislative priority in our first 100 days in office. Passing this law will guarantee that LGBTQ+ Americans are protected under existing federal civil rights laws.
We’ll work to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from violence, prioritize the prosecution of hate crimes, and work to end the epidemic of assault against the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure LGBTQ+ youth are safe from bullying, harassment, and sexual assault.
We’ll reverse President Trump’s discriminatory ban on transgender Americans serving in the military, and ensure that every American who is qualified to serve can do so regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We’ll make sure transgender service members receive the health care they deserve. And we will work to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals have full access to all appropriate health care treatments and resources, including care related to transitioning, such as gender confirmation surgery.
You can trust that Joe will work to support the LGBTQ+ community every single day as president—because that’s what he’s done for years. He supported marriage equality well before most major politicians. He worked with President Obama to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And he knows how much work there is left to do.
As the great civil rights lawyer Pauli Murray once said, “The lesson of American history [is] that human rights are indivisible.” They cannot be advanced for some and ignored for others.
Now is the time to build a country that embraces that truth—a country where every American is treated with dignity and respect, and where equality and justice truly are for all.