Today marks the Day of Silence, when many students from middle school to college choose to remain silent to protest the harm caused by harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in schools. This year, GLSEN is offering students both in-person and virtual ways of participating.
Almost all LGBTQ students hear anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, according to GLSEN’s most recent (2019) National School Climate Survey. Many feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and many avoid extracurriculars, school functions, and even classes because of this.
Not only that, but this year, dozens of bills in state legislatures around the country are targeting LGBTQ youth, particularly transgender youth—and that’s government-sanctioned harassment. The need to counter these bills and to continue working towards more welcoming and inclusive school climates remains as pressing as ever.
One bright spot right now is that Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona (R) vetoed a bill that would have prohibited schools from teaching about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, LGBTQ history, and HIV/AIDS, without written consent from a parent or guardian. The veto looks unlikely to be overridden. Good news, yes—but just two years ago, also just days before the Day of Silence, Ducey signed the repeal of a law that had forbidden any positive discussion of LGBTQ identities in the public school health curriculum. Perhaps the legislative Republicans who are pushing these bills will finally get the message. Such bills are harmful, not only because they don’t give students needed information about health, identities, and their world, but because they send a message to LGBTQ students that their lives and needs are somehow so wrong and shameful that they shouldn’t be discussed.
GLSEN will be holding a virtual Breaking the Silence rally at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight, but is also sharing resources for those participating in in-person Day of Silence events. GLSEN and Lambda Legal are also offering an FAQ sheet about what students’ rights are and what they can do if school officials try to oppose their participation in Day of Silence efforts.
Silence isn’t the end goal here, of course. Students are staying silent today so that they and their peers can speak loud and proud tomorrow. May the world learn to listen to them.
Today, my spouse Helen and I are celebrating our second anniversary in a pandemic and our 28th overall. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather quarantine with than you, dear—and that’s no April Fool’s joke.
When I posted about our anniversary last year, I hoped (rather naively) that we’d be able to go out again by November, our “Massaversary” of being legally wed in Massachusetts. (One of the perks of being queer is that we often get multiple anniversaries.) Clearly, that didn’t happen. And this year, our anniversary falls right in the middle of Passover, which means that for me, cake is out of the question. (I know, I know, there are kosher for Passover cakes, but they’re never quite the same.) We’re therefore delaying our celebration until next week—but flexibility is one of the hallmarks of a good relationship, I think. Certainly it’s worked for us!
It’s been quite the year of changes for us in many ways beyond the pandemic, too, as our son prepares to finish high school and head off on his own. In the coming year, we’ll have to figure out how to live as just the two of us again. Family board game nights won’t be quite the same (though I suspect the three of us will continue to play over the holidays). Still, whatever the next 28 years (and beyond) may bring, I’m looking forward to spending it together. Happy anniversary, my love!
I am thrilled to reveal a project I’ve been working on for months (and in some ways, years): the Mombian Database of LGBTQ Family Books, Media, and More: over 500 books, music albums, movies, games, and toys for and about LGBTQ families. This is not just a booklist: you can search and filter by categories, tags, and more. Want board books with queer dads? Picture books starring Black transgender girls? Memoirs by queer moms about adoption? You can find them, among many other combinations!
What sets this database apart from other LGBTQ-inclusive booklists is the searching and filtering. You can choose broad categories of age and type of media, then narrow down your results with tags for LGBTQ identities, racial/ethnic identities, subject matter, and more. You can also filter by writer/creator/director, illustrator, publisher, and publication date.
I’ve tagged books based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and racial/ethnic identities of protagonists and their families, but not of every character. I’ve tried to design all the tags to be specific enough to be useful without creating too many tags to wade through. Tagging each item involved many judgment calls; I’ve probably made mistakes or overlooked things (500+ items was a lot to process), which I will work to fix. Drop me a note if you catch anything, and please be kind; this was essentially a part-time, one-person project, with no funding (though my son helped with some of the data entry).
One important tag is “Incidental queerness,” for items in which the story isn’t “about” the characters’ LGBTQ identities. This is something I’ve very often heard LGBTQ parents asking for. Sometimes these are called “everyday” stories—but I also want to encourage more stories about LGBTQ families that aren’t just about our everyday family lives (we need intergalactic space adventures and fantastical journeys, too!), so I’m using a different term.
Another tag to know is “Character w/bias or misunderstanding of LGBTQ.” Many LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books depict someone questioning or being hostile to LGBTQ people and families. These topics are important to discuss (though far from the only storylines we should have), but parents and teachers may also want to be careful about when and how they introduce them, lest they raise fears or concerns that weren’t there before. I’ve tagged items that deal with these topics so you can make the decision that feels right for your children.
Each item contains a brief description. For ones that I’ve reviewed at more length on my blog, I’ve provided a link to the review.
A big thanks to my son for his help with the data entry. He’s far too old now for the kids’ books, many of which I wish had been available when he was younger—but I’m delighted he helped create this resource for the next generation.
These are the majority of entries (over 300!), most from the past 15 years or so. Earlier works are more sporadic, although I am working to add more. They include books from mainstream publishers, small presses, and self-published efforts.
I have not included all self-published books, however. Many are great and may push boundaries of inclusion that books from mainstream publishers do not; I’ve tried to include those. LGBTQ kids’ literature began with such efforts. Others are highly derivative or otherwise of lesser quality. If I’ve missed something that you think worth considering, however (especially more recent ones I may have missed), please drop me a note and I’d be happy to consider it.
Books for grown-ups on LGBTQ Families
These include how-to guidebooks for LGBTQ parents, memoirs and anthologies by LGBTQ parents and our grown children,social science studies about LGBTQ families, and books on LGBTQ inclusion in schools.
LGBTQ-inclusive middle-grade books
This is a much smaller collection than of picture books, because I can’t do everything and there have been so many picture books in recent years. I’ve included a number of them to get folks started, however.
There are no young adult books, since my site is aimed at parents; young adults are generally finding and choosing their own reading materials.
Kids’ music albums that are LGBTQ inclusive or expand ideas of gender
This is probably not a comprehensive list, but I’ve included a number that I know of.
Films about LGBTQ families
The current listings are documentaries and educational films for grown-ups, but I am working to include the growing number of LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ shows and movies—stay tuned; in the meantime, see this post, which rounds up a number of them, and my compilation of YouTube videos for and about LGBTQ families.
LGBTQ-inclusive games and toys
Dolls, building sets, and card games that showcase diverse families and gender identities/expressions.
Inclusion of an item in the database is not necessarily a recommendation. I’ve included some problematic items that you may come across and indicated why they may be problematic.
While I’ve made efforts to ensure the data is accurate, I make no guarantees. This was a part-time, unfunded project done mostly by one person (me, with some help from my son on the data entry), using off-the-shelf WordPress plugins. I hope to continue improving it.
I’ve provided links to Amazon and Bookshop for each item, when available (though because of technical limitations, you’ll only see the Amazon link unless you click through to each individual item). Many people prefer Bookshop for the way that it supports independent bookstores; many LGBTQ-inclusive books, however, especially by independent creators, are only available on Amazon, and Amazon is often a little cheaper. I’ve therefore included links to both (when available) so that you can buy where it feels right to you. Additionally, some items are available only through the creators’ websites, in which case I’ve included links to those sites instead. And a few books are available to read free online (at Open Library or elsewhere), so I’ve included those links, too, as applicable.
As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This is part of how I am able to maintain Mombian. I’m also just as happy if you ask your local library or school to stock these items.
This is a work in progress. I’ll be adding to the database as new books and other items come out this year. (I already have a number on my radar, but if you know of any, please let me know.) I’ll also be adding LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ movies and television shows, refining tags, and filling in some of the other gaps noted above.
“This is not normal,” I tell my son. At 17, he’s old enough to understand that logically, even if he barely remembers a time when our president wasn’t an egomaniacal, violence-enabling, reality-show host. Even though our leadership will change for the better on January 20th, though, I worry as he heads towards adulthood in a country still deeply divided. Can we adults give him, and all young people and children, the country they need to grow into happy, healthy adults? Will the ideals of freedom and equality for all ever be more than distant visions?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I do know that the violence at our nation’s capitol yesterday was more than just the work of the perpetrators on the spot. It was enabled by all of those who have turned a blind eye to Trump’s many immoral and likely illegal actions over the past four years, as Susan Ryan-Vollmar points out in this piece for WGBH. (Full disclosure: Susan is a friend and a former editor for work I’ve done elsewhere.) Goals like “building bridges” seem like limp platitudes when some are storming the gates of government.
I hope, though, that even as we bring the insurrectionists to justice, we remember that justice is not revenge, and that, as angered as we have been at the injustices of the past four years, we must now set an example of what real justice looks like. We must also each continue to examine ourselves and our actions, and the systems from which we benefit, in order to ensure we are not ourselves contributing to inequity and injustice—and are in fact working to stop them. We may not be able to change others’ hearts and minds directly, but we can lead by example, and work to change practices and policies that continue to oppress.
That won’t be easy when some continue to hurl blatant falsehoods and insults. When they go low, can we go high, as First Lady Michelle Obama urged us to do? That doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to what happened in D.C. yesterday, nor suppressing our anger about it, but rather to turning that anger into energy for positive change, guided by our morals and the vision of the country we’d like to see, starting with our own communities.
2021 may not be starting out as the fresh ray of hope that many of us envisioned. I do believe, though, that we have the power to make it so. Hug your kids today, and let’s move forward together.
After a year like 2020, how does one approach 2021? With low expectations, since anything would be better than 2020, or with high, since we feel we deserve a little recompense for the year gone by?
For myself, I am trying to remain open to what the new year will bring. I am cautiously optimistic about the Biden administration’s ability to make positive change for our country and to effectively address the pandemic. There is still much work ahead: continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing; taking care of those still being diagnosed with COVID-19; distributing the vaccine and educating people about why they need to get it; and helping people and businesses (especially small businesses), through the economic repercussions of the pandemic. Pandemic aside, we need to enact legislation and regulations in many areas to offset the backward steps taken during the Trump years; continue to combat the systemic racism that has plagued our nation since its beginning; and otherwise strive towards the vision of a country where all are truly free and equal. We need, too, to take strong steps to slow climate change so that we can pass on a green and healthy planet to our children.
Dare we hope there will be further progress towards LGBTQ equality, like passing the Equality Act to enshrine a broad sweep of LGBTQ protections in federal law? That would be progress indeed. There will regardless remain danger for LGBTQ families in the coming year, though, most notably from the U.S. Supreme Court, which this past fall heard a case that could give taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies the right to use their religious beliefs as reasons to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. That would reduce the number of otherwise-eligible parents for children in need of homes, could result in LGBTQ youth in care being placed with unsupportive parents, and might open the door to religion-based discrimination in other areas. The decision is expected by the end of June.
We need to continue, too, the work of educating those around us—from health care workers to teachers, coaches, and many others—about LGBTQ families. It can be tiring, yes. We have made such progress that it sometimes feels as if everyone should just “get it” already. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re in the PTA. I’ve found, however, that sometimes even the most well-meaning folks still sometimes stumble over the right language or could use some guidance on inclusive books and other resources. Perhaps it’s our burden as this particular generation of LGBTQ parents to be the guides that people need. Perhaps that’s one of the gifts we give to our children.
Speaking of books, the past couple of years have seen a tremendous surge in the number and scope of LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books, which shows no sign of stopping. I’m already looking forward to a number of new titles this year—stay tuned for reviews! While children’s books may not seem as important as political progress, I think their publication—and the response to them—have long been indicators of the general response to LGBTQ people and our need for equality. Nor should we minimize their positive impact on LGBTQ children and those with LGBTQ parents as well as their peers. Representation does matter.
Yet our assessment of a year is driven by more than external social, political, literary, and epidemiological happenings. Our years may include new children; milestones of their childhood; marriage or divorce; illness or deaths of family and friends; and other events for better or worse, which all impact how we feel about this lap around the sun. For my own family, the new year will hold some bittersweet moments as our son goes off to college next fall. While I am bursting with pride at seeing him growing up and discovering himself, I will also miss the heck out of him while he is away. I want to give him space, even while he is still here—the kind of space every teen needs—but there is also part of me that wants to spend every possible minute together before he leaves the nest. I’ll try to find a balance that suits both of us—I can usually get him to hang out with me if it involves baking something (and dozens of chocolate chip cookies would help temper whatever else the new year has to bring).
2020 was indeed a year like no other. 2021 remains as yet unknown. Many of us are dealing with the loss of loved ones to the pandemic or for other reasons. Many are struggling financially. We are heading into the new year a little worse for wear and know there is no magic in the calendar suddenly flipping to January 1. (The Jewish and Muslim calendars have already begun their new years, for that matter.) The ills of 2020 didn’t disappear magically when the ball dropped in Times Square. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about feeling like we’re starting fresh and turning the page to a better future. We may take the time to reassess, make resolutions, and catch our breath before moving forward. Whatever 2021 may bring for you and your families, and for our country and the world, may it include joy, peace, and much love.
Originally published with slight variation as my Mombian newspaper column.
This morning, I woke up feeling something that I haven’t felt for four years: hope that my son would come to adulthood in a country that he could be proud of.
Let’s start with Kamala Harris’ groundbreaking election as vice president. A daughter of immigrants, she will be the first woman, the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent to ascend to that office. Appearing in an all-white suit for her victory speech, a color symbolic of the suffragette movement, she seemed fully aware both of the impact of her election and of all those who helped her get there. She praised her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who came to the U.S. from India at age 19, and “believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.” She continued:
I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women who, throughout our nation’s history, have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are often too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.
Joe Biden also acknowledged Harris’ firsts, adding, “Don’t tell me it’s not possible in the United States. It’s long overdue. We’re reminded tonight of those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen.” He spoke of “the broadest and most diverse coalition in history,” which included “Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American,” and stressed that “especially in those moments and especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”
He continued, “I said at the outset I wanted this campaign to represent and look like America. We’ve done that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like and act like.”
It’s up to us to help him and Harris do this. One of the first orders of business is to help Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D) win their runoff elections in Georgia so that Democrats control the Senate. Yes, Biden wants to work across the aisle and would likely reach out to work with a Republican-controlled Senate—but I worry that Republican intransigence may still make that difficult. If your personal situation allows, please consider donating to their campaigns at the links above or to Fair Fight, the organization founded by Stacy Abrams to promote fair elections, educate voters, and encourage voter participation in Georgia and around the country.
Additionally, we still have a U.S. Supreme Court with a conservative majority, which is even now deciding cases that affect LGBTQ lives. As the National LGBTQ Task Force cautioned in a press statement yesterday, too:
[Trump] could still enact executive actions to drive agencies for a final attack on our most marginalized and vulnerable communities before he leaves office. We celebrate today, but we continue to stay vigilant and aware to ensure our continued safety and rights are not infringed on through the remainder of 2020. And we prepare for 2021 and beyond. And even with a new administration we are not naïve, white supremacy and prejudice is alive and well and widespread, as seen by the far too close margins in many states and nationally.
And we still have a pandemic to defeat and a climate to save, though I am encouraged by Biden’s commitment to listen to scientists.
So: lots of work yet to do. Let us go into it with gladdened hearts, though, buoyed by what we have accomplished and by the vision of a country whose leadership looks like its people. That would be a true gift for our children and for all the generations to come.
As summer winds down this Labor Day, let’s take a look at some of the stories of LGBTQ parents and our children that have been making headlines lately.
Jenni and Sarah Barrett married and had two kids before Sarah, assigned male at birth, realized she was a woman, and before Jenni realized she was gay. They came out to each other on the same night. Four years later, and they’ve stuck together; their sons support them (one is gay himself); and they’re sharing their story as inspiration to other families experiencing major changes. Some of the media coverage has been a bit sensationalized; LGBTQ Nation’s take is more temperate.
“Pandemic parenting in a two-mom family means twice the maternal guilt,” writes Sarah Liss in Xtra. “My queer family might have allowed me to avoid an unequal, gendered distribution of labour within our home, but queerness offers no protection against living in a culture that refuses to take care of its youngest, oldest and most vulnerable members.”
Wei Wei, a professor of sociology at East China Normal University, writes at Sixth Tone about “How Grandkids Are Changing China’s LGBT Family Dynamics.” He says, “For same-sex couples … the new focus on grandkids can create unexpected room for negotiation with their parents, while providing opportunities for new kinds of family relationships.”
In the Guardian, writer Ben Fergusson talks about adopting a child with his husband and the differences he’s noticed in how society treats mothers and fathers. “Mothers can do everything right, but be told they are doing everything wrong, whereas we are congratulated for doing the bare minimum,” he observes.
Javier and Amon Seabaugh share with the Dallas Voice their story of becoming parents through adoption.
Politics and Law
Maricopa County, Arizona, is reversing a policy that was spawned by homophobia. The county provides free legal services to parents doing uncontested adoptions. After marriage equality became law in 2015, however, then-County Attorney Bill Montgomery said same-sex parents weren’t eligible for the free services. Rather than face legal challenges, he moved legal work for any uncontested adoption to outside firms. Current County Attorney Allister Adel is now bringing that work back to her office, saving the county $750,000 a year.
Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has said the government will now allow nonbiological Canadian parents who are their child’s legal parents at birth to pass down Canadian citizenship to their children born abroad, reports the CBC. (Compare how the U.S. State Department is opposing similar recognition for U.S. parents.)
A proposed German law would recognize nonbiological mothers in partnerships with the biological mother, without the nonbiological mother having to adopt. Nonbiological fathers in two-dad couples would still have to adopt, however.
The Washington Blade profiled lesbian mom “power couple” Claire Lucas and Judy Dlugacz, who are working to help elect Joe Biden. Lucas is a senior Democratic National Committee member; Dlugacz is the founder and president of Olivia Travel and co-founder of the groundbreaking Olivia Records, both for queer women.
Forty-seven percent of employers still require demonstration of infertility among same-sex couples before providing fertility benefits; 45 percent require it among single parents by choice and 55 percent for different-sex couples, reports consulting firm Willis Towers Watson from their “2020 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey.” Requiring it for same-sex and single parents, who may be medically fertile but still need to use assisted reproduction, is ridiculous. This may slowly be changing, however, as some companies are eliminating the requirement for everyone. (See also my pieces on MassMutual and J.P. Morgan, which have both done so.)
Schools and Education
As so many of our children head back to school with at least some virtual component, Ty Marshall’s piece at Rethinking Schools on “How Google Classroom Erases Trans Students” is required reading. (Among other things, it should make us realize that improving a school’s LGBTQ friendliness isn’t just a matter of adding LGBTQ-inclusive books to the English and history curricula; there’s a technological component, too.)
Fan Yiying at Sixth Tone looks at challenges and solutions for same-sex parents and their children heading back to school in China.
Entertainment and Media
Cate Desjardins, a Ph.D candidate at the Institute for Clinical Social Work, is seeking participants for their research on “how trans* gestational parents make meaning of gendered experiences during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Summer is upon us. I’m going to scale back posting frequency a bit (but not entirely!) through August in order to spend more time with my family and work on a few behind-the-scenes projects. I’ll still post a couple of times a week and be on social media, so I won’t disappear completely. I hope you and your families are able to enjoy something of the summer, too, even in these trying times.
Please check back here regularly and on the Mombian Facebook page and Twitter feed to see what’s new. Please Like and Follow those if you haven’t already!