Mombian by Dana Rudolph

Mombian offers a mix of parenting insights, book reviews, media analysis and political and legal commentary for and about LGBTQ parents and our children. It takes an LGBTQ-focused look at parenting topics and explores other aspects of the LGBTQ community with a parent's eye. Dana Rudolph is the the founder and publisher of Mombian, a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents. She's the lesbian mom of a middle-schooler and lives with her spouse of over two decades. For more information, visit www.mombian.com.


One of the most frequent questions I hear from other LGBTQ parents is “Where can I find LGBTQ-inclusive books, shows and music for my kids?” Here are some recent additions across several different kinds of media — while there still isn’t as much as we need, there might be more than you think.

“The L Word: Generation Q,” the sequel to the groundbreaking queer television drama “The L Word,” just ended its first season on Showtime. There is much to praise about the new show, including more varied representation in many dimensions of identity. Here, I want to explore the parenting storylines of both series to see what they might tell us about the changing representation of LGBTQ parents.

The new year is starting off on a grim note for the world. The escalating tension between the U.S. and Iran. Bushfires destroying an estimated billion animals in Australia. Earthquakes in Puerto Rico leaving nearly a million people without power. Families still detained and children separated from parents at our southern border. Continued incidents of violent racism and anti-Semitism. A federal administration that seems bent on rolling back protections for LGBTQ people. Add in the personal struggles and simple to-do lists that we each have and things can feel overwhelming. I don’t have solutions, but I have found a few recent signs of progress for LGBTQ parents and our children.

Five more states — Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon — will this year join California in adding LGBTQ history to the public-school curriculum. Even outside these states, resources are growing for teaching about LGBTQ issues and history. Newsela, an online service that aggregates news articles and historical documents for classroom use, in December launched the Newsela LGBTQIA+ Studies Collection, with content for various grade levels. Newsela says its overall resources now serve 90 percent of schools in the U.S., reaching 25 million students and over two million teachers.

After the school district in Kalamazoo, Michigan received complaints from three parents about LGBTQ-inclusive books in its diversity initiative, administrators decided to focus the books in the initiative solely on issues of racial and ethnic diversity. A public outcry, however, convinced the board to change its mind, and the program will now include books on LGBTQ, disability and socioeconomic topics as well.

Illinois is updating its birth certificate system to be more accurate for parents of all gender identities. As residents Myles Brady-Davis and his wife Precious Brady-Davis found out when they had their child in December, currently, the gestational parent can be only named as “Mother/Co-Parent”; the other parent must be “Father/Co-Parent.” Myles gave birth to their baby, but identifies as transmasculine and the child's father. Precious, a transgender woman, identifies as the mother. With the help of Lambda Legal, the Brady-Davis’ reached out to the Department of Public Health to ask that their child’s birth certificate correctly reflect their relationships to the child. As Lambda explained on its blog, incorrect information would be “a clear mistake that could compromise the family’s safety because of the confusion it might create.” The state confirmed they have been working since October on updating the system to more accurately reflect the identities of all parents; the work is not yet done, but in the meantime, they will issue an accurate certificate to the Brady-Davises, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Last year, Rhode Island failed to pass legislation that would revise outdated statutes and make it easier for parents of any gender, married or not, to establish legal parentage of a child born through assisted reproduction. Supporters of the changes aren’t giving up, though. A coalition of Rhode Island parents, with the support of LGBTQ and family advocacy organizations, in December announced the launch of Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality (RIPE) to push for passage of the legislation this year.

This year’s GLAAD Media Award nominees include a record 10 shows selected for the Outstanding Kids & Family Programming category, reflecting the increased number of LGBTQ characters in children’s television. GLAAD tells us that the category grew “as a result of an increase in LGBTQ images across the kids and family television programming and an increase in GLAAD’s work to advocate for inclusion in this genre.” The nominees are: Andi Mack (The Disney Channel); The Bravest Knight (Hulu); High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney+); The Loud House (Nickelodeon); “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” Arthur (PBS); Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (Netflix); She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Netflix); Steven Universe: The Movie (Cartoon Network); “A Tale of Two Nellas,” Nella the Princess Knight (Nick Jr.); and Twelve Forever (Netflix). Maybe next year they'll even have enough entries to offer separate categories for both series and individual episodes, as they do for grown-up television.

Summer may seem far away for many of us, but registration is now open for the 26th annual Family Week, the world’s largest gathering of LGBTQ families, July 25-Aug. 1 in Provincetown. More than just a vacation, Family Week has been a vital source of community, inspiration and support for thousands of families for more than a quarter-century now. Visit ptownfamilyweek.com for details.

And in international news, Sanna Marin on December 10 became Finland’s youngest prime minister, its third female premier, and the youngest sitting leader in the world. She also has two moms — she “was raised by a single mother who later entered a same-sex relationship,” reported the Guardian.

Will the good news this year outweigh the bad? That remains to be seen. For many of us, much of the answer depends on the outcome of the presidential election — but November is a long time away. Until then, we can take heart that there is progress being made for our families despite the obstacles. More importantly, we can listen to our kids’ questions and concerns about the state of our country and our world. We may not have all the answers, but we can at least help our children see that there are still reasons to hope. We can assist them in finding their own strengths and ways of making a difference as we face the future together. Here’s to a good year for us all.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.

The end-of-year holiday season is hard for me now that my parents have passed. Thanksgiving had always been my Jewish family of origin’s time to gather. My brother and I have continued to celebrate Thanksgiving with our immediate families and his wife’s parents, but the absence of our parents makes the occasion bittersweet. I miss them, too, at Hanukkah, when we always lit a menorah and exchanged gifts. I’m finding comfort this year, however, in a new project to uncover and preserve our family history.

 

The end-of-year holiday season is hard for me now that my parents have passed. Thanksgiving had always been my Jewish family of origin’s time to gather. My brother and I have continued to celebrate Thanksgiving with our immediate families and his wife’s parents, but the absence of our parents makes the occasion bittersweet. I miss them, too, at Hanukkah, when we always lit a menorah and exchanged gifts. I’m finding comfort this year, however, in a new project to uncover and preserve our family history.

 

The end-of-year holiday season is hard for me now that my parents have passed. Thanksgiving had always been my Jewish family of origin’s time to gather. My brother and I have continued to celebrate Thanksgiving with our immediate families and his wife’s parents, but the absence of our parents makes the occasion bittersweet. I miss them, too, at Hanukkah, when we always lit a menorah and exchanged gifts. I’m finding comfort this year, however, in a new project to uncover and preserve our family history.

It’s time for my annual gift guide to some of the year’s best LGBTQ-inclusive children’s picture books! There were happily more books published this year than I can include here, so please visit mombian.com for a longer compilation.

 

Family and Relationships

“A Plan for Pops,” by Heather Smith and illustrator Brooke Kerrigan (Orca Books), is the touching story of Lou, an overall-clad, gender-ambiguous child who loves visiting their grandfathers, a biracial couple. Lou must figure out how to help when one grandfather is confined to a wheelchair and won’t leave his room. Evocative prose and a big dose of family love.

Caldecott Honor and Ezra Jack Keats Honor winner Bao Phi’s “My Footprints,” illustrated by Basia Tran (Capstone), tells of a Vietnamese American girl who gets teased by classmates about her two moms and told to “go back where I come from.” She finds solace in imitating wild creatures and her moms draw on their own cultural identities (Vietnamese American and Hindu) to help her pretend. A lyrical tale about finding strength in imagination, family, and heritage.

“Ghost’s Journey: A Refugee Story,” by Robin Stevenson (Rebel Mountain Press), is based on the true story of a same-sex couple who fled from Indonesia to Canada from fear of persecution. Stevenson tells the tale from the perspective of their cat, Ghost, and her thoughtful prose captures the family’s journey with just the right amount of detail for young readers.

“I Am Perfectly Designed,” by Queer Eye star Karamo Brown and his grown son Jason “Rachel” Brown, with illustrations by Anoosha Syed, gives us 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.

“Maiden & Princess,” by Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo, with illustrations by Becca Human (Little Bee), tells of a maiden who falls in love with a princess at a multiracial royal court. A welcome addition to the genre of LGBTQ-inclusive fairy tales and books about women in control of their lives and loves.

“Love Makes a Family,” by Sophie Beer (Dial Books), is a cheery board book in the vein of many others that showcase family diversity, but stands out for the fun, dynamic and gently humorous illustrations. (Published in the last week of 2018, too late for my gift guide last year.)

“My Two Moms and Me and My Two Dads and Me,” by Michael Joosten and illustrator Izak Zenou (Doubleday), are board books that depict the everyday lives of children with same-sex parents. While they stick with a formula used in two previous LGBTQ-inclusive board book pairs (one by Lesléa Newman and the other by Stacey Bromberg and Joe Taravella), they are upbeat and stylish.

“Family Is a Superpower,” by Michael Dahl and illustrator Omar Lozano, shows Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, and other DC Comics’ heroes, along with a diverse group of everyday children and parents, demonstrating aspects of the one superpower that outshines all others — the power of family. A two-dad family is included.

“You Began as a Wish,” by Kim Bergman and illustrator Irit Pollak, offers a simple explanation of assisted reproduction, inclusive of same-sex, transgender, and nonbinary parents. For 30 years, Bergman, a licensed psychologist, has been helping LGBTQ clients and others have children through assisted reproduction. She has distilled her wealth of knowledge to create this melodic book appropriate for even the very youngest children.

 

Pride

Robin Stevenson’s “Pride Colors” board book (Orca) turns the meanings of the colors in the Pride flag into a poem from parent to child, coupled with images of babies and toddlers and sometimes their two moms or dads. “Yellow sunshine, smiles so bright. I’ll hug you, kiss you, hold you tight,” says one spread. There’s a mention of “Pride Day fun,” but the sentiments extend far beyond a single day or month.

“Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution,” by Rob Sanders and illustrator Jamey Christoph (Random House), uses the perspective of the Stonewall Inn itself to create a simple yet compelling story of the fateful night in 1969.

 

Gender Identity and Expression

“When Aiden Became a Brother,” by Kyle Lukoff and illustrator Kaylani Juanita (Lee & Low), is a joyous tale about a biracial (Black and South Asian) transgender boy awaiting the birth of his new sibling. What sets this book apart from many others is that rather than Aiden’s gender identity offering only challenges to be overcome, it is instead a source of strength and wisdom as he plans for being a good brother.

In “They, She, He easy as ABC,” by Pura Belpré Honor Award winner Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez (Reflection Press), we meet an alphabet of friends, mostly children of color, who use a variety of pronouns and dance their way from A to Ze. The reader is then invited to “Join the dance. There’s always room.”

“Ho’onani Hula Warrior,” by Heather Gail and illustrator Mika Song, is based on the true story of a Native Hawaiian child who feels neither wahine (girl) or kãne (boy) and who wants to join the school performance of a traditional kãne hula chant. An empowering story of a child navigating and finding strength in both gender and cultural identities.

In “Sam!,” by Dani Gabriel and illustrator Robert Liu-Trujillo (Penny Candy Books), a nine-year-old transgender boy finds support from his older sister and parents when he tells them he’s not a girl. Sam and his family read as Latinx and they live in a racially diverse neighborhood. A warm story of sibling support and family love.

The protagonist of “What Riley Wore,” by Elana K. Arnold and illustrator Linda Davick (Simon & Schuster), loves to dress up in ball gowns, hard hats, and bunny costumes. When another child asks, “Are you a girl or a boy?” Riley simply answers, “Today I’m a firefighter. And a dancer,” and several other fanciful things. Arnold conveys a message of acceptance without raising issues of teasing or bullying — important issues, but too often the only narrative about children expressing gender creativity. The completely positive approach here is refreshing.

In “Ogilvy,” by Deborah Underwood and illustrator T. L. McBeth (Henry Holt), the titular and gender-ambiguous bunny moves to a new town, where the other children say that bunnies in sweaters must do certain things, while those in dresses do others. Ogilvy’s medium-length garment confuses them. Ogilvy relabels the outfit at will and plays accordingly, until one day the other bunnies demand a fixed choice. Ogilvy convinces them that everyone benefits from wearing and doing what each chooses.

“Jacob’s Room to Choose,” by Sarah and Ian Hoffman and illustrator Chris Case (Magination Press), is a follow up to their 2014 “Jacob’s New Dress.” When Jacob, in a dress, and his friend Sophie, in a button-down and khakis, get chased out of the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, respectively, their teacher leads a class discussion on gender expression. The children decide to create new signs indicating anyone can use any bathroom. The unfortunate reality is that not all schools will be as quick to make change — but this cheerful book offers a model to follow.

 

Across the Rainbow

Flamingo Rampant micropress published its third cohort of queer-inclusive, multiracial, and celebratory picture books, this time with the theme “Discovery.” Buy them as a set at flamingorampant.com. 

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.

Those of us with kids in school know that this time of year means the approach of an event that can cause distress even in the hardiest of us: Back-to-School Night.

This annual observance is on the surface a meet-and-greet with our children’s teacher(s), where they tell us all about the amazing things our children will be learning and doing this year, and we try to avoid signing up to bake cupcakes for school events. Usually, I come away a little jealous of all the great things my son will get to experience (though occasionally I’ve sat through a dreary, droning recitation of the syllabus).

For LGBTQ parents, however, Back-to-School Night can bring with it a host of additional questions: What if the teacher is homophobic or transphobic? What if the other parents are? Will I stand out because of my gender expression? Will there be other LGBTQ families there, or LGBTQ students in the class? Will there be LGBTQ-inclusive books and lessons?

Some of us may have already spoken with our children’s teachers to introduce ourselves and answer any questions they may have about LGBTQ families and individuals. This can be helpful, especially the first year in a school. Sometimes, however, our schedules prevent this; other times, we may choose to give our children, especially tweens and teens, the chance to control how and when to come out about their families. There is no one right answer for every family every year. The first year in a school may require a different approach than the third. We may even mix methods the same year when dealing with homeroom teachers as well as music, art, physical education and other specialists.

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