New Kids’ Book – The Great Big Body Book – Is Trans-Inclusive

A new children’s picture book  – The Great Big Body Book – about human bodies includes transgender and gender nonconforming people as well as same-sex parents. That’s a rare and wonderful thing, making this a welcome book, despite a few caveats.

 

The Great Big Body Book, by English author Mary Hoffman, is the fourth in her Great Big Books series for preschool and early elementary school kids. An earlier book in the series, The Great Big Book of Families, showed families with same-sex parents, among others, and Hoffman brings the same inclusive sensibility to her new work. The Body book begins by asking “What is a body?” and goes on to explore, in a fun and lighthearted way, how our bodies grow and develop over our lifetimes and the many things our bodies help us do.the great big body book, transgender, trans inclusive, trans kids, trans

Lively illustrations by Ros Asquith highlight both the main text and the humorous side vignettes that show short dialogs between characters. The characters show a great range of racial and ethnic diversity. Several wear headscarves and one wears a turban. We see two-dad, two-mom, and single-parent families. There are characters with a variety of physical disabilities, too, including ones in wheelchairs, one using a walker, and one with a short arm. To Asquith and Hoffman’s credit, they are always shown doing active things—they are not there as examples of harm or limitations to bodies.

In one spread, titled “Boy or Girl,” Hoffman gently pokes fun at the obsession with babies’ genders. One mom on the page, when asked “What is it?” responds simply “A baby.” A dad is asked “What’s her name?” and answers, “Fred.” Hoffman notes that pink doesn’t have to be for girls, nor blue for boys.

She then observes, “Some bits of your body are different, according to whether you are male or female.” That stays the same for most people, she says: “If you are born a boy you become a man and if a girl, you grow up to be a woman.” A few people, however, “don’t feel completely comfortable in the body they were born in and not everyone fits neatly into a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ box. That’s OK—just be yourself.”

Overall, it’s a positive, simple explanation of being transgender or gender nonconforming. Hoffman doesn’t use those terms, however, which could be seen as a negative. At the same time, she never uses the word “puberty” despite discussing the changes teens go through, so this may be part of an overall decision to focus on concepts more than terminology—or perhaps a praiseworthy desire to avoid labels.

This brings us to the section on teens, in which Hoffman notes that “Boys’ voices get deeper and they start growing hair on their faces and private parts. Girls grow breasts and their hips get wider. They get hair in private places too.” That’s not true for all trans teens, of course, especially if they are not using hormones. I would have preferred a more nuanced view, perhaps simply by adding “most” before “boys’” and “girls.”

I also have concerns with a spread explaining that having a baby bump is not the same as being fat. Several pregnant women are shown at the top of the page. One of the side vignettes, which usually contain funny comments about the topic at hand, shows a boy pointing to a person with a beard and a large belly and saying, “Look! He’s having a baby!” The message seems to be that if a male-appearing person looks pregnant, it’s funny—a mistaken assumption. The humor is vague enough, however, that the image could also be interpreted as an actual trans dad, if desired (and alternatively, the character has gray hair, so maybe age is the intended butt of the joke, not gender), but a different vignette might have been better.

Via Mombian,com, October 5, 2016

Click here to read the entire article.

NBC is first major network to launch an LGBTQ Dedicated Website – NBCout

In what is the first major networks foray into the LGBTQ web market, NBC launched NBCout last week to highlight and feature the stories that inform and entertain our community.

There’s lots of content and interactive components.  Thanks NBC for getting the word out about the LGBTQ community with NBCout!

Here is the letter from the editor announcing the launch:

Welcome to NBC OUT, NBC’s newest digital destination, where we’ll showcase enterprise reporting, original video and other unique content about and of interest to the LGBTQ community.

If there’s one thing everyone in our community can agree on (and there may just be one thing), it is that we are an extraordinarily diverse group. Our acronym may only include a handful of letters, but the variety within each of them is vast. Keeping this in mind, the NBC OUT team is committed to highlighting content that spans the spectrum – from a profile piece about an intersex millennial to an article about cisgender, black gay men in history, and a multimedia report about a Thai immigrant who started a transgender modeling agency.

In order to fulfill our goal of providing quality journalism for our readers and viewers, while also ensuring our stories reflect our incredibly diverse community, we plan to not only leverage the vast news-gathering resources of NBC News, but to also bring in new voices and fresh perspectives from across the LGBTQ spectrum.

I truly believe it will take a village – or better yet, a community – for NBC OUT to reach its full potential. So if you have a story idea, would like to share your feedback with us or just want to follow our latest stories, connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

June 2, 2016

Click here to visit NBCout.

Couple Adopts Newborn Baby With Help From Facebook

Brian Wildmo and Brad Mahon have adopted a newborn baby and they’re crediting Facebook with making it happen.

“We never expected this,” Brian told WJRT. “We keep having to pinch ourselves because I feel like we’ve been in a movie.”  And all with the help of Facebook.

The Michigan couple had been fostering for a year when they decided to adopt a baby. To help them get the word out, they created a Facebook page and started networking.

One day, Brian, a nurse, and Brad, an emergency medical technician, posted a link to their page on an online nurses support group they belonged to.

“Somebody saw it and connected us,” Brian said.Facebook, adoption, gay adoption, gay families

But after getting in touch with an expectant mother in Missouri who had an adoption plan, they lost contact with her about a month before her due date.

They figured the relationship was over until one day they got a call that the woman was in labour and had chosen them to be parents of her baby.

Social networking is just so powerful,” Brad explained. “That’s how it happened.”

While Brian headed to Missouri to meet their new daughter, driving 12 hours through the night and being up for 36 hours straight, Brad stayed behind in Michigan so he could reunite their foster child with her birth mother.

Brad eventually arrived in Missouri to meet their daughter, whom they named Kennedy. There a judge signed off on their adoption, making Brian and Brad her legal parents.

The couple credits social media with bringing Kennedy’s birth family and them together. But they also say that patience played a big part in their story.

“Everyone’s really excited,” they said.

One of the mantras that adoption professionals tell waiting parents is to stay active on social media and let everyone know that you’re adopting.

After all, you never know who will come across your profile or, as Brian and Brad’s story has demonstrated, how they’ll find you.

Click here to read the entire article.

AmericaAdopts.com, May 22, 2016

Estate Planning Basics for Gay Couples

What are the estate planning basics that all gay couples need to know? This article will give you the information you need to take those first steps toward protecting your family.

Some of the most common errors that gay couples make regarding estate planning basics can be corrected fairly easily. Before we discuss these, it is important to know that over half the American public, regardless of orientation, do not have a Will. The number one reason I hear is, “I don’t have anything so why do I need a Will?” The truth is that most people, when they know what the state requires when someone dies without a Will, realize that they have more than they think and that they want to decide what happens when they die.tips for estate planning
Maximizing non-probate assets – The rule of estate planning basics is to know what assets a Will passes to your desired beneficiary. Wills cover probate assets, or assets held solely in your name. Examples include real property, bank accounts and personal belongings. Personal belongings are key because many people do not like the idea of a distant relative rooting through their most cherished items after death. Wills do not pass non-probate assets, or assets held jointly with someone else, assets held in trust for someone else or any asset that has a designated beneficiary, like an insurance policy, a 401(k) or an IRA retirement plan.
Property ownership – The most valuable asset for many people is a home, condominium or cooperative apartment. If you own that property jointly as a married couple (Tenants by the Entirety) or with someone you are not married to (joint tenants with right of survivorship), then that property will pass directly to the surviving co-owner. If, however, you are not married and own the property with another person and the title to the property simply states both names, without the words, “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” then your half interest in the property must pass through your Will. This form of ownership is called “tenants in common.” One of the most estate planning basics is to verify on your title document exactly how you own that property with another person.
Documents everyone should have – While marriage provides some very important protections for gay couples, it is always advisable to have a comprehensive estate plan to make sure that you have control over you body and your assets. The top 6 document list of estate planning basics include the following:
• Last Will and Testament – A Last Will and Testament allows the drafter of the document to control the distribution of their assets upon death.
• Durable Power of Attorney – This document allows the drafter to authorize another person to make financial decisions for them. It authorizes, among other things, payment of debts, collection of payments, redistribution of assets, withdrawal of assets from a bank account and the sale of property.
• Designation of Guardian for Property Management and/or Personal Needs – If a person were to be judicially declared incompetent or incapable of managing their property or themselves, the court would appoint a guardian for that purpose. The guardian is usually a family member. This document allows the Principal to designate who that guardian would be.
• Living Will – A Living Will states exactly what measures a person wants or does not want if certain critical and specifically outlined medical conditions arise.
• Medical Power of Attorney / Health Care Proxy – This document allows a designated person to have access to medical records and make specified medical decisions for the Principal.
• Priority Visitation Directive – A Priority Visitation Directive specifies who the Principal prefers to have priority visitation privileges, usually over family members. This is particularly important if you are no married.
• Affidavit of Burial or Cremation – This document ensures that a funeral director or funeral home administrator follows the instructions given them by the person designated in the affidavit.
Without estate planning basics – If you are married, now that marriage equality is the law of the land, certain protections are guaranteed. Your assets will pass to a surviving spouse, and you children, in defined percentages according to the state in which you live. Your spouse will be allowed to make medical decisions for you, however, financial decision making requires an executed Durable Power of Attorney. If, however, you want to make sure that specific items go to anyone other than your spouse and/or children, you must have a validly executed Last will and testament.
When you are considering the estate planning basics that all gay couples, and individuals, should have, please consider me a resource. For more information the basics for estate planning for gay couples, contact Anthony M. Brown at Time for Families and speak to a specialist family lawyer to secure your and your family’s future.

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The 10 Best Animated Movies for Gay Dads and Their Kids

Huffington Post – September 25, 2012 – By Rob Watson

One of a child’s first challenges is to understand his or her own world. For gay dads this presents its own set of issues, because much of the material we use with our kids basically ignores our very existence. Kids’ programming, books, and toy sets all reflect the mommy/daddy standard. That is not likely to change, that standard being the majority, so LGBT families find ways to cope. I was constantly editing as I read my boys “good night” books, changing the word “mommy” to “papa” so that they heard a story about a world that they found instantly recognizable.

Gay dads don’t get many advantages in the parenting landscape these days, what with cantankerous celebrities and bogus “studies” bashing us at every turn. The one area that can be our friend is the local DVD outlet, however. For whatever reason, due to a patriarchal Hollywood complex or just mere coincidence, there is a full treasure trove of great, father-affirming family material available.

I truly wish that in this piece I could trumpet material that is great for all LGBT families, but sadly there isn’t a lot of it. The horrifying fact is that it sucks to be a mom in animated movies. Being a birth mother is tantamount to being a victim of some horrible, misogynistic plague, because if you are one, the likelihood is that in these movies, you are either dead (Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hoodwinked, and more) or absent/abandoning (Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, Tangled). If you are a stepmom or adoptive mom, it is worse: You are just plain evil (Snow White, Cinderella, Tangled). Even in the latest offering, Brave, the mother/daughter dynamic struck me as less than ideal; however, some of my women friends felt it did present a good mother/daughter dynamic.

So, lesbian moms, it is with a little guilt that I offer up this list of the 10 best gay-dad-friendly movies for kids. I wish there were similar offerings for your families. There should be. Whenever you are ready to go picket Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar, and others, I will march with you. In the meantime, here is my list, from the good to the best. I hope you agree.

10. Despicable Me (2010): Gru is despicable and inept at his profession of being a villain. In the end he demonstrates what it takes to be a good father, putting his kids first.

9. Cars (2006): Lightening McQueen has all the testosterone of a teenaged kid. He is finally tamed by the sage, gnarly, tough love of a surrogate dad, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), and due to that influence he grows up.

Click here to read the entire article.

2011 National School Climate Survey: LGBT Youth Face Pervasive, But Decreasing Levels of Harassment

September 10, 2012 – NEW YORK – The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) today released The 2011 National School Climate Survey, the only national study that for over a decade has consistently examined the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in America’s schools. The 2011 survey found for the first time both decreased levels of biased language and victimization and increased levels of student access to LGBT-related school resources and support.

The 2011 survey demonstrates a continued decline in anti-LGBT language over the years, and for the first time the 2011 survey shows a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation. The survey has also consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff and comprehensive anti-bullying policies. The 2011 survey had 8,584 student respondents from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“GLSEN has worked tirelessly for more than two decades to address endemic bias and violence directed at LGBT students in our schools,” said GLSEN’s Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “With this report, we are beginning to be able to discern real impact of our efforts. Much work remains to be done to turn promising change into a concrete, sustainable reality, but those schools and districts that are taking action are beginning to make a real difference in improving the lives of students and providing better educational opportunity for all.”

Despite signs of progress, the survey found that the majority of LGBT students are faced with many obstacles in school affecting their academic performance and personal well-being. Results indicated that 8 out of 10 LGBT students (81.9%) experienced harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, three fifths (63.5%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and nearly a third (29.8%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

Click here to read the entire article.

Back-to-School Resources for LGBT Parents

Ala Mombian.com – August 24, 2012

Back-to-school time is here, which means it’s time for my annual back-to-school resource post, a tradition I first started way back in 2006. My own son wasn’t even in school then. He’s grown and changed, and so has this list. I originally wrote a version of the below as part of one of my newspaper columns last year. I’ve revised it somewhat and hope it remains useful, whether your children are just entering school, starting a new school, or encountering new issues along their educational journey.

For families with young children

The Human Rights Campaign’s An Introduction to Welcoming Schools guide is perhaps the best single resource for families with young children. It aims to help elementary school administrators, teachers, parents and guardians address family diversity, gender stereotyping and bullying, and includes a bibliography of books on all kinds of families, LGBT and not.

Also be sure to check out the trailer for Welcoming School’s DVD, What Do You Know? Six- to twelve-year-olds talk about gays and lesbians,  an award-winning professional development film for elementary school staff and parents. If you buy the DVD (setting you back a mere $20), you’ll get the 13-minute film, a two-minute trailer, a four-minute special feature Teachers Respond, and a Facilitation Guide, as well as closed captioning and Spanish subtitles.

The Family Equality Council’s “Back to School Tool”—newly revised for 2012—is a useful short guide for LGBT parents on how to make our children’s schools safer and more inclusive. The organization also offers “Opening Doors,” a short but helpful booklet with tips for educators and others. It discusses the kind of prejudice children of LGBT families may face, how educators can support them, and how they can answer questions other children may have about them.

For families with older children

Many resources aimed at older students focus on LGBT youth, but most also have applicability to children of LGBT parents, whatever the children’s sexual orientation or gender identity:

GLSEN has extensive safe-schools materials for both educators and students, including information on its educator training program and starting gay-straight alliances.

PFLAG’s Safe Schools for All: Cultivating Respect program has similar materials (in both English and Spanish) for making schools safer, reducing bullying, and providing comprehensive health education. They also offer a certification program for PFLAG members who want to assist with staff training and policy creation in local schools.

The Gay-Straight Alliance Network has materials for starting or sustaining a GSA, as well as the guide “Beyond the Binary: Making Schools Safe for Transgender Youth,” a joint project with NCLR and the Transgender Law Center.

NCLR has additional safe-schools information, including samples of anti-harassment policies and memos to school boards.

Book recommendations

The American Library Association’s Rainbow List offers LGBT-inclusive children’s and young adult books chosen buy a committee of librarians for quality as well as content.

Click here to read the entire article.

New Social App Helps Lesbians Find Sperm Donors

Mombian.com, Friday April 1, 2011

Lesbians seeking to get pregnant now have a new tool at their disposal: Dōnr, a new app for mobile devices that lets women check out the credentials of potential sperm donors. Like Grindr, the social app that helps gay men find potential mates nearby, Dōnr lets lesbians access profiles of men in close proximity to see if they might be suitable candidates for providing genetic material.

“Lesbians have long used cutting-edge science to create their families,” said Elizabeth Bean, the CEO of Dōnr, Inc., herself the mother of twins. “It’s time that the search for sperm donors catches up with the rest of the family creation process and takes advantage of modern technologies.”

After their phone alerts them to the presence of a potential donor, lesbians can use the app’s extensive profile information to check out details such as education, hobbies, health, and whether the man wants contact with the child. They can then connect with the man to talk in person.

Bean says her company will soon be coming out with several related apps: Bāstr, which allows lesbians to find the nearest LGBT-friendly fertility clinic, and Lawyr, which helps them find an attorney to do the legal paperwork necessary to protect their families.

News from Lavender Law — the latest adoption/foster parenting bans

by Nancy Pollikoff – September 11th, 2009

It’s not called Lavender Law anymore, but I can’t help myself. (Sixth Ave will never be Avenue of the Americas to me…). Its official name is the National LGBT Bar Association Career Fair & Conference, but by any name this is the annual gathering of LGBT lawyers, law students, and law profs (and some straight advocates who work on our issues). This year’s conference is taking place in Brooklyn.

Today I attended a session on “The New Adoption and Foster Care Battle: Cohabitation Bans.” Law professor Carlos Ball started off with the history of bans on adoption or foster parenting by lesbians, gay men, or same-sex couples. The first such ban in 1977 (Florida…hopefully on its way out) predated by more than 20 years the first ban on adoption or foster parenting by anyone living with an unmarried partner — gay or straight (Utah…not on its way out).

Kara Suffredini of Family Equality Council then described recent efforts – largely unsuccessful – to legislate such cohabitation bans. In Tennessee in 2008, for example, the state budget office reported that instituting such a ban would cost the state millions of dollars, given the additional children who would remain in state care. That stopped the bill dead in its tracks. Naomi Goldberg of the Williams Institute followed with the economic analysis she and Lee Badgett performed for Kentucky. Based on the census data on the number of same-sex and unmarried different-sex couples with adopted or foster children in the state, and the current number of children in the foster care system (7027), Williams Institute predicted 630 children would not get foster home placements — thereby requiring more expensive and less desirable institutional placements, and 85 children would not be adopted and would therefore remain in state care. The projected cost: $5.3 million. That bill never got out of committee. (The Williams Institute also reports that if Florida drops its ban on gay adoptions, the state will save $3.4 million in its first year). Of course no one can quantify the human cost to the children who remain in group care or never get permanent families.

Finally, Leslie Cooper, ACLU’s litigator extraordinaire, discussed the litigation challenging the initiative enacted in Arkansas last year that also bans anyone living with a gay or straight unmarried partner from adopting or fostering. (And a gay married couple doesn’t count because Arkansas does not recognize them as married.) The state is defending the ban by pointing to the poorer outcomes for children raised by cohabiting different sex couples as compared with married different sex couples. It’s a regurgitation of the right-wing marriage movement’s basic argument that all our social problems result from the decline of life-long heterosexual marriage. The ACLU knows the drill and is well-equipped to respond. The case is currently in the discovery stage.

It’s a matter of some fascination to me that the right wing has decided that it is easier to defend a foster care/adoption ban on cohabiting couples, gay and straight, than a ban limited to gay men and lesbians. Although Florida is defending its gay ban with every discredited argument in the book (for the details, and the meticulous responses by the ACLU, check out this website), the right is capitalizing on the same ideology that gets us federally funded “marriage promotion” when it argues that unmarried couples should not foster or adopt. The panelists agreed that the real target of these bans is…gay men and lesbians; that although proponents no doubt believe that unmarried straight couples should be discouraged from raising children, the ban is primarily a means to the end of banning gay adoption without having to defend such a ban directly.