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My brother thinks I’m stuck in the past. He didn’t tell me that directly. But he did mention it on the phone recently with my kid Harry, who turned 29 this year. I laughed when Harry told me. Surely my frequent posts on social media of photos of Harry from toddler to teen prompted Uncle John’s comment. There were several on my Instagram last week  honoring Harry’s dad’s awesomeness on Father’s Day. But here’s the thing: My past experience parenting a nonbinary child is most definitely someone’s present.

We’ve made a lot of progress understanding gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. There are now some 200 LGBTQ characters on cable television and streaming services that have contributed to our collective knowledge.Still, there are adults who aren’t sure exactly what those three terms mean or how they differ. Many of the uninformed are the parents, family members and caregivers of children and teens who don’t fit into the two-option-only categories of gender and sexuality. Others will become their teachers or future employers.

We need to understand these LGBTQ kids, respect them, and make ways for them to belong just as they are. They’ve been around since the beginning of human existence. And I’d say they make up at least 20 percent of our population.

Here are some important trend statistics from studies in 2016-17:
  • Only 48 percent of 13-20-year-olds (Generation Z) identify as “exclusively” straight, compared to 65 percent of millennials aged 21-34;
  • More than a third of Generation Z believes that gender does not define a person as much as it used to, while only 28 percent of millennials felt the same way;
  • Over half, 56 percent, of Gen Z say they knew someone who went by gender neutral pronouns such as “they/them,” compared to people 43 percent of 28-34-year-olds.
As for the millennial to baby boomer comparison:
  • Twenty percent of millennials identify as something other than strictly straight and cisgender (someone whose gender lines up with the gender they were assigned at birth), compared with seven percent of baby boomers.

So it’s the boomers – and Gen X adults who followed them – that I’m determined to share my past with. They are the parents of a four-year-old transgender girl who had a very unhappy child until they allowed her to transition socially. Or the family of a bisexual teen who thought that meant he just hadn’t made up his mind about whom he was romantically attracted to. They are the head of a company who doesn’t think that transgender is “normal.” I’ve met them all. And as the parent of a nonbinary child, I understand their worries, their misunderstanding, their tendency to stereotype.

Here are some disturbing statistics from a 2017 Human Rights Campaign/University of Connecticut study of LGBTQ teens:
  • More than 70 percent of LGBTQ teenagers report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;
  • Only26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff members are supportive of LGBTQ people;
  • Sixty-seven percentreport that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people.
And then there are these startling statistics from a recent workplace study by the HRC:
  • Forty-six percent of LGBTQ workers say they are closeted at work, compared to 50 percent in HRC’s groundbreaking 2008 report;
  • One in five LGBTQ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner;
  • Fifty-three percent of LGBTQ workers report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people at least once in a while;
  • Thirty-one percent of LGBTQ workers say they have felt unhappy or depressed at work.

The people that make up these statistics drive my work. Yes, I talk about my past and share the education I still get parenting a nonbinary child. And I do it because I want to help improve the lives of LGBTQ people. We all deserve to be our true selves at home, school and work. We all deserve to live happy, fulfilling lives.

My brother’s comment triggered this post. So I can’t’t resist sharing a past photo of him playing with toddler Harry, circa 1991. He was a great storyteller of magic bubble gum and flying cars. And still is.

Studies referenced: GLAAD/Harris Poll, Accelerating Acceptance report; HRC 2018 Youth LGBTQ Report; HRC Report, LGBTQ Employees in the U.S.

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Many children learn that gender is simple. There are boys and girls; boys behave one way, girls another. Modern researchers have explored girls’ experiences with limiting stereotypes. At the core of those limits are beliefs that women are innately caring, nurturing and fragile. When it comes to understanding how rigid boundaries of masculinity can hurt boys, however, our culture is off to a slower start. So it’s important to examine how we talk about what it means to be a man. For example, do emotions really have a gender?

You’ve heard the directives. “Man up.” “Boys don’t cry.” “Be brave.” “Be a man.”

It all starts with what some experts call “the man box.” Inside this box are a narrow set of qualities that many boys and young men are told are necessary to be an ideal man: toughness, physical strength, power, courage and financial success. The lesson? “Real men” don’t express emotions or show empathy. Studies show  that many parents across the globe are more likely to talk about feelings and discuss emotional topics with daughters than sons, even as infants. Gillette’s recent headline-making TV ad calls out a lot of these assumptions, and slams them down one by one.

The “man box” has real consequences. Researchers connect this impossibly narrow perception of manhood to clinical depression in men. They cite men’s difficulty in expressing emotions other than anger for fear of being seen as girly or feminine. But feelings shouldn’t be denied or suppressed because society erroneously equates them (and women) with weakness. The truth is, emotions don’t have a gender and every emotion is valid.

No boys left behind.

Parents, guardians and trusted adults can contribute to the health and wellbeing of boys and men by thinking of emotions as an internal compass and sharing that attitude with the young people in their lives. To experience, feel and then evaluate those feelings is our internal guidance system for self-awareness, decision-making and personal growth.

In short, we must allow all children to express their full range of feelings, regardless of gender. It’s part of their freedom as little humans. Together, we can smash this box of masculinity myths!

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With the growing number of LGBT-themed children’s books and the vast amount of openly LGBT celebrities in music, sports, and television, children are feeling safe to come out at younger ages.

If your child comes out to you as LGB or tells you they are not the gender they were assigned at birth, chances are you may worry. You may doubt your ability to be a good parent to an LGBT child. Or you may fear for their safety due to bullying or harassment, both alarming realities reported in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.

But the HRC report also states the positive outcomes for LGBTQ youth whose parents are supportive and accepting, including greater self-esteem and resilience. To help your child achieve happiness and well-being, here are four things they need you to know and do:

1. Coming out is a process. 

Before your LGBT child comes out to you, they’ve had to come out to themselves. Maybe it happens with their first crush. Maybe you have a boy who tells you he’s really a girl, or a daughter who tells you she’s a boy on the inside, or a child who doesn’t feel like either. Believe them. Open your heart to them. And continue to listen. Gender identity and sexual orientation are about how you feel inside, who you know yourself to be. And it can develop over time. Trust them to know themselves.

2. There’s no right way to be a boy or a girl.

Transgender kids know that a girl can have a penis and a boy can have a vagina. A gender-nonconforming or gender expansive child knows that boys can be happy wearing dresses or that girls can love a good buzz cut. Kids are as unique as their fingerprints, so it follows that not every child will fit inside the pink or blue boxes traditional society has constructed as the norm. So check your expectations and allow your child the freedom to express their individuality.

3. Words Matter.

 There are many different words used within the LGBT community. If you have a child in middle school or older, chances are they’re familiar with all of them. Facebook users can now choose their gender identity from categories, like “bigender” or “gender fluid.” And they can decide which pronouns they want to be associated with the gender option they’ve chosen. Use their chosen pronouns and educate yourself. Learning their language will help you have clearer discussions with your child.

4. Have their back. 

In addition to unconditional love and acceptance, your LGBT, non-binary or gender nonconforming child needs you to be their ally. They need you to advocate for them with family and friends, in the neighborhood and at school. And they need you to carry your allyship back to the office. Demonstrating the same respect and support you have for your child with your LGBT colleagues will help continue to shape a workplace environment that ensures your child’s future economic equity and stability.

This piece first appeared in the spring issue of Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) Magazine. 

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What do drag queens and children have in common? They love dressing up and all things sparkly and fancy. Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is just what it sounds like. Fabulous drag queens reading storybooks to children in public libraries, schools, children’s museums, bookstores and community events.

I’ve seen firsthand how these magical literary events capture the imagination and gender play of kids ages 3-8 and give them glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models. Children are able to see people who defy rigid ideas about gender and imagine a world where people can present as they wish. Drag Queen Story Hour is where dress-up is real!

Created by writer Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions in San Francisco, the nonprofit Drag Queen Story Hour now has chapters all over the world. Events have been held in more than 100 cities.

The first time I attended a DQSH in Brooklyn, Queen Witti Repartee kicked off the hour by getting close to 150 kids and families members on their feet to dance the Hokey Pokey. Then she read three picture books, including one of my favorites, Jacob’s New Dress. Afterwards, as the kids colored pages from The Dragtivity Book, a grandfather in a red shirt came over to tell Witti that he’d learned something from her. He might have been the only person there older than me, and I wondered what it was he’d learned. Maybe he realized that drag is just about creating a character to express another side of who you are. Or maybe it was how a loving parent can support a boy who wants to wear a dress.

Help Drag Queen Story Hour Fight Back Against Right-Wing Attacks

Sadly, some people aren’t open to learning something new. In fact there are those trying to prevent Drag Queen Story Hour from spreading its message of love and acceptance. For example, the Family Policy Alliance launched a campaign to urge legislators to stop DQSH events in libraries. Conservative groups and individuals have also staged protests outside of readings (including in Brooklyn and San Francisco), although these folks are always greatly outnumbered by LGBTQ families and allies. And in some towns, local politicians are even putting pressure on libraries to cancel scheduled DQSH events.

But in true drag queen style, Drag Queen Story Hour is standing strong!  And they need our help.

Here’s What You Can Do 

Please join me in supporting freedom of expression by donating to the Drag Queen Story Hour GoFundMe drive. Every dollar gets them closer to the $10,000 goal they hope to reach by National Coming Out Day – Thursday, October 11. These funds will allow them to strengthen as an organization. They’ll be able to host more events and develop resources for chapters around the country, especially in places where respect for LGBTQ people faces significant opposition.

“If you can teach people to love themselves, it makes it a lot easier for them to love other people.”

–Queen Harmonica Sunbeam

Even if sparkly earrings, false eyelashes and candy-colored wigs aren’t your thing, I hope you agree we can all get behind the Drag Queen Story Hour’s work to teach kids it’s okay to be different and to love themselves.

P.S. By all means please share this post to spread the word about helping Drag Queen Story Hour meet its GoFundMe goal. You’re awesome!

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Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is just what it sounds like. Fabulous drag queens reading storybooks to children in public libraries, schools and children’s museums. I’ve seen firsthand how these magical literary events capture the imagination and gender play of kids ages 3-8 and give them glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models. Children are able to see people who defy rigid ideas about gender and imagine a world where people can present as they wish. Drag Queen Story Hour is where dress-up is real!

Created by writer Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions in San Francisco, the nonprofit Drag Queen Story Hour now has chapters all over the world. Events have been held in more than 100 cities.

The first time I attended a DQSH in Brooklyn, Queen Witti Repartee kicked off the hour by getting close to 150 kids and families members on their feet to dance the Hokey Pokey. Then she read three picture books, including one of my favorites, Jacob’s New Dress. Afterwards, as the kids colored pages from The Dragtivity Book, a grandfather in a red shirt came over to tell Witti that he’d learned something from her. He might have been the only person there older than me, and I wondered what it was he’d learned. Maybe he realized that drag is just about creating a character to express another side of who you are. Or maybe it was how a loving parent can support a boy who wants to wear a dress.

Help Drag Queen Story Hour Fight Back Against Right-Wing Attacks

Sadly, some people aren’t open to learning something new. In fact there are those trying to prevent Drag Queen Story Hour from spreading its message of love and acceptance. For example, the Family Policy Alliance launched a campaign to urge legislators to stop DQSH events in libraries. Pat Robertson released a rambling video condemning the effort. Conservative groups and individuals have also staged protests outside of readings (including in Brooklyn and San Francisco), although these folks are always greatly outnumbered by LGBTQ families and allies.  And in some towns, local politicians are even putting pressure on libraries to cancel scheduled DQSH events.

But in true drag queen style, Drag Queen Story Hour is standing strong!  And they need our help.

Here’s What You Can Do 

Please support freedom of expression by donating to the Drag Queen Story Hour GoFundMe drive. Every dollar gets them closer to the $10,000 goal they hope to reach by National Coming Out Day – Thursday, October 11. These funds will allow them to strengthen as an organization. They’ll be able to host more events and develop resources for chapters around the country, especially in places where respect for LGBTQ people faces significant opposition.

“If you can teach people to love themselves, it makes it a lot easier for them to love other people.” –Queen Harmonica Sunbeam

Even if sparkly earrings, false eyelashes, and candy-colored wigs aren’t your thing, I hope you agree we can all get behind the Drag Queen Story Hour’s work to teach kids it’s okay to be different and to love themselves.

P.S. By all means please share this post to spread the word about helping Drag Queen Story Hour meet its GoFundMe goal. You’re awesome!

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“Kids’ books that celebrate the gender spectrum.”

“Life lessons learned from a drag queen.”

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The post Support Drag Queen Story Hour against anti-LGBTQ attacks. appeared first on Julie Tarney | My Son Wears Heels.

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Warning: Triggers for heartbreak, tears and depression. Over the summer 9-year-old Jamel Myles came out to his mom as gay and said he wanted to wear more feminine clothes. She told him she still loved him. Jamel was proud of himself and eager to share the news with his classmates. Four days after school started, 9-year-old Jamel Myles took his own life. His older sister told their mom that after coming out at school the mean kids who had bullied him incessantly the year before told him to kill himself.

Can you imagine the hate-filled words that child had to endure?! I can. And where did those bullying 9-year-old classmates hear such despicable language? The answer: in homes where kids like Jamel would be put in foster care, in churches where he would be decried an abomination, and from the mouths of elected officials who don’t believe transgender students deserve equal rights or federal protections.

And can you imagine the shock and grief Jamel’s mother, Leia Pierce, is feeling? Of course, you can. In interviews this week she pleads for an end to bullying. In the solidarity of shared heartbreak, we must also share her outrage.

Here’s what we adults can do.
  1. We must teach children to be kind.
  2. It’s our job to teach children to be accepting.
  3. Children must learn that it’s okay to be different.
  4. We must teach children that it’s okay to be gay.
  5. All kids should know that love is love.
  6. We must teach children that hate is never okay.
  7. Everyone can work to ensure that schools, churches, neighborhoods and homes – and our own workplaces – are safe and welcoming spaces for all people.

Please say Jamel Myles’ name and take action in his memory.

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When the question for my latest advice column came in, four words jumped off the screen. They promptly set off a 9-1-1 call to my heart:  Christian parents gender exploration. I wanted to phone the parent immediately. But anonymous means anonymous. My urgent reply follows the letter below, sent to the helpful and supportive folks at My Kid Is Gay.

“My four-year-old (they/them/theirs, for now) has been exploring gender and recently asked me to tell family members about it – including my fundamentalist Christian parents who babysit frequently. Is it necessary to have this conversation with my parents, especially since we still don’t know how our child may end up identifying? And if so, do you have advice on how to talk to my parents about this and ideas for good ground rules to have so my child is emotionally safe when they’re with their grandparents (who babysit frequently)?”

YES! It is absolutely necessary for you to talk to your parents. Here are three critically important reasons why you must have a conversation with them about your 4-year-old’s exploration of gender.

1. Your child asked you to.

That request was child-speak for “sometimes I don’t feel good about myself when Grandpa and Grandma babysit me.” Something is going on during your parents’ babysitting hours that isn’t lining up with the confidence and freedom your child typically feels. With you, they’re allowed to be themselves; to play outside the lines of gender expectations and explore their sense of self. It sounds likely, however, that your parents are critical of your child’s gender exploration when the three of them are alone together.

Given their fundamentalist Christian beliefs, your parents may be trying to enforce gender stereotypes or gendered ideas of how your child “should” be acting based on the constructed concepts of “boy” and “girl”. Maybe your child is hearing comments like, “those clothes really aren’t meant for you,” or “your hair looks silly like that.” Maybe they’re being told, “It’s wrong for you to want that toy.” Even worse, maybe your parents have said, “God doesn’t like it when you act like that.” Your child has asked you to intervene. They are counting on you for your unconditional love, support and protection. They expect you to have their back.

2. Your child’s life is always about right now.

The decision to act on your child’s request does not depend on how they may end up identifying down the road. The only thing that matters is how your child is feeling right now. It sounds like your child is feeling distress when your parents babysit, so that must be your focus. No good can come now or later from the sense that the love of a family member is conditional.

If your parents’ criticism and/or ridicule of your child are allowed to continue, your child may start to question if adults can be trusted. What’s more, if religion plays into that equation, then faith can become suspect too. It may be hard for your child to separate the loving God many preach from the judgemental God of others. Your four-year-old child’s present life is supposed to be fun, fabulous and creative, so help them be happy in the now moments as these will shape all future moments.

3. Your child’s emotional well-being depends on your intervention.

With frequent babysitting opportunities to be alone with your child, your parents may think they can “fix” your gender non-conforming child. However, the reality is that unsupportive, negative comments are both harmful and dangerous. A child made to feel shame about themself for their likes, dislikes, and preferences is a child at risk for low self-esteem and diminished self-worth. When those preferences may go on to form the core of their gender identity, it’s important to step in early. Shame, guilt and other highly negative feelings can lead to more serious psychological distress.

A mental health study published in the May 2018 journal Pediatrics found a high prevalence of anxiety and depression among transgender and gender non-conforming children and adolescents. While an earlier study released in January 2018 also reported increased risks among those youth, it found that better family functioning is likely to be protective for those children. It is imperative that you intervene on behalf of your child and let your parents know their support is critical. That goes for all other family members, too, who may or may not be aware of your child’s exploration of gender. The concept may be new or challenging for them, but this is not about them.

Advice on how to talk to your parents.

This urgent conversation with your parents doesn’t have to be a scary confrontation. Start with a text or an email. Let them know you’d like to talk with them about your child when the child isn’t around. You can suggest getting together at their house or talking to them simultaneously on the phone. When you do talk, be direct. Your child asked you to tell them about their gender exploration. Obviously, they’re already aware, but they need to know that their grandchild doesn’t feel understood or respected. Their grandchild is experiencing a natural stage of child development that requires their full support. That right there is the basis for your one and only ground rule:

Only positive messages and interactions with your child are allowed.

Be very clear, and then give them time to think it over. Let the choice be theirs. If they can’t agree to positive-only interactions, then they can no longer babysit. If they push back about why allowing your child to discover and express gender on their own terms is “wrong” or “unnatural,” just go back to the ground rule: only positive messages and interactions with your child are allowed. They are allowed their own opinions, but anything less than loving kindness and respect for your child won’t be tolerated.

When they do decide to accept the ground rule, let your child know you’ve had a talk with their grandparents. Assure them that your parents now understand what it means when a child explores gender expression. Then, unless you have a nanny cam, you’ll need to check in with your child. See how things are going when the grandparents babysit. Address any concerns immediately. Go back to the ground rule and the choice they have to continue babysitting or not.

There is the unfortunate scenario your parents won’t fully accept your child for who they are as a whole person. In that case, you can assure your child that while their grandparents love them. But not all grownups “get it” when it comes to gender creativity. Explain that, for now, you think it’s important they wait to babysit until they can better understand.

No matter how it plays out with your parents or any other family member, continue to invite them along on your child’s gender journey. You can suggest websites, articles, and resource books on raising healthy gender nonconforming children, like Gender Born, Gender Made, for their continuing education. If they’re on Facebook, you can even recommend they watch the National Geographic documentary, Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric, on Facebook.

You are your child’s chief advocate. Draw strength from that. Show your child that how they feel and what they say matters. They are counting on you to hear them and take action. What are you waiting for? Talk to your parents.

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The post ‘How do I talk to my Christian parents about my kid’s gender exploration?’ appeared first on Julie Tarney | My Son Wears Heels.

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International Pride Month may have officially ended, but there’s something to keep in mind about the months July through May. People of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions need safe spaces to be their true selves every day of the year. That means feeling the respect, support and inclusiveness of the people around them. Here are four simple ways to be a year-round LGBTQ ally.

1. Don’t assume everyone is straight.

If you’re a straight, cisgender person like me, keep your assumptions in check. When a woman says she’s married, don’t ask what her husband does. If a man is wearing a wedding band, don’t assume he has a wife. Try asking your nephew if he’s seeing anyone, instead of “Do you have a girlfriend?” Think partner, spouse, or significant other. Every time we assume someone is straight and/or cisgender, they have to evaluate whether or not it’s safe to come out. Imagine how stressful that can be! So keep an open mind.

2. Educate yourself.

It’s not up to the LGBTQ+ community to have to explain themselves to you. Other people, especially co-workers and acquaintances, are not responsible for your education. If you hear a new term, or need a quick refresher on the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, it takes less than a minute to look up. There are a ton of online resources and glossaries to help you understand all the different ways we exist as humans.

3. Be aware of the issues.

Did you know over 100 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 2017? North Carolina’s HB 186 would have repealed laws that define the LGBTQ community as a protected class, allowing for discrimination of employment and public accommodations. LGBTQ people can be legally fired from their job in 28 states just because of who they are or whom they love. LGBTQ+ youth can still be forced into harmful conversion therapy in 37 states. Paying attention to legislation in the works and how it might affect the people you know can help you understand what co-workers, friends and family members might be going through.

4. Start a conversation.

Engage more people like you. As allies, the more we can do to bring people who share our identity to understand the broad spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities and to also act as allies, the better.

Lastly, that Pride  button on your jean jacket or rainbow flag on your desk is an all-season show of support to people who just want safe spaces to be their authentic selves. And if you have kids or grandkids, I assure you there’s no way you’ll be able to pack up their rainbow shirts, boas or flags until next June!

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“I have a Harry,” a young dad in Minneapolis-St. Paul told me last month, as I signed a copy of my book for him. I’d heard that before and knew it meant that his five-year-old son liked playing with dolls and wearing mom’s heels.

“I’m okay with it,” he said, “but my wife isn’t quite there yet.”

While we didn’t get into the reasons his spouse was struggling to understand their child, I liked the optimism he projected with the word “yet.” I saw endless love, acceptance, and support reflected in his eyes. How fortunate that little boy and his no-doubt-worried mom are to have someone so secure and grounded in their family of three, I thought. I know firsthand that gender nonconforming kids need fierce dads.

That dad crossed my mind this Father’s Day weekend. He’s a reminder of the growing number of straight, cisgender men who are rejecting society’s stereotypical ideas of masculinity and “proper” male role models for their sons. I reflected on comments my now-adult kid Harry’s awesome dad Ken made last September at my book event in hometown Milwaukee.

“Gay back then was the worst term of derision,” he said, “and it usually preceded getting beat up by somebody.”

“I think we mature generationally,” Ken began, as he told the story of how his father, a modern guy for his time, had worried about Ken as a creative kid who didn’t conform one hundred percent of the time attending a small-town high school. “Gay back then was the worst term of derision,” he said, “and it usually preceded getting beat up by somebody.”

“I grew up caring about what other people thought and believing one had to have the approval of people, but Harry taught me otherwise.”

Safety first.

Ken shared that his first concern when Harry came out in high school was for our son’s safety. “Because I loved him so much, my concern was that people would hurt him emotionally,” he said. “So my number one objective was to be there for him.”

Ken told the audience that in the process of being there for Harry, he also learned from him. “I grew up caring about what other people thought and believing one had to have the approval of people, but Harry taught me otherwise,” Ken said, describing himself as lucky to be our kid’s dad. “There’s a confidence about being himself; Harry defined for me self-love in a way that I thought was very healthy.”

When I think about Ken’s dad as a high school student the sixties, Ken as Harry’s dad since the nineties, and the fierce 21st century dad of the fortunate five-year-old in Minnesota, I see the generational shift in knowledge and growth Ken talked about so thoughtfully last fall. And I’ve seen the confidence kids get from the freedom that comes with being allowed to be themselves and express gender as they see it in ways that give them absolute joy.

The world needs boys who can nurture and girls who question authority. So I think it follows that fathers be as proud of their young sons who dress up as Wonder Woman as they are of their daughters who want to be Batman. Happy Father’s Day to the evolving, gender-revolutionary dads everywhere. Gender nonconforming kids need fierce dads.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST YOU’LL PROBABLY ALSO LIKE THESE:

“My (genderqueer) son’s awesome dad.”

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The post Gender nonconforming kids need fierce dads. appeared first on Julie Tarney | My Son Wears Heels.

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Gender identity. The sex we’re assigned at birth. Sexuality. Gender expression. The world’s straight majority, of which I am one, often misunderstands the intersection of those things for people who are gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex. In her new documentary, Between the Shades, Director Jill Salvino puts faces to the letters that make up LGBTQ+ and explores how those letters have evolved. It’s a provocative film that examines the immense power of labels and, ultimately, the transcendence of love.

Of course, for some in the queer community there is no singular label that fits. As one person in the film explains, labels are what society attempts to put on you, while identity is how you define yourself. I know that from my adult kid Harry, who has no pronoun preference and whose gender expression defies labeling. He’s one of the 50 participants in the documentary who shares experiences, feelings, and viewpoints, with complete candor and tremendous heart. In fact Harry is the first face you’ll see on the trailer for Between the Shades. Please watch.

Between the Shades Trailer 16 x 9 - YouTube

Between the Shades premiered at the SOHO International Film Festival last year. Since then the full-length feature has been showing at juried film festivals around the country. You can see it at QFest in St. Louis on April 7 and at the Thin Line documentary film festival in Dallas, April 20-21. Between the Shades will soon have national distribution. And negotiations are underway to make the film available to schools, where kids need to hear positive and empowering messages about diversity.

There is really no better way to understand people than to hear them tell their own stories.

I hope Between the Shades reaches as many audiences as possible, especially in the states that lack protections for LGBTQ+ people. There’s a line in the film where writer Andrew Tobias talks about how things have gotten a lot better for queer people in the big cities. “But if you’re living in Mississippi it’s probably a whole different,” he says. Ironically, during a talkback at the recent Queens Film Festival, Jill Salvino noted how some people at the screening in Oxford, Mississippi said they didn’t know anyone who was transgender before seeing her documentary.

Director Jill Salvino, Harry and me of the set of Between the Shades, Feb. 2016

America Needs This Movie

I imagine Between the Shades will introduce many moviegoers to the diversity of LGBTQI people. And that’s a good start to furthering family harmony, workplace acceptance, and social equality. The participants in Jill Salvino’s film say they feel a social responsibility to give the queer community a voice. “They also want to help normalize being LGBTQI for younger people who may feel scared and alone,” she told me.

There is really no better way to understand people than to hear them tell their own stories. Bottom line, we’re all human. We all want to be accepted for who we are. We want to love and be loved. And this documentary is bound to be a classic reminder of that.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST YOU’LL PROBABLY ALSO LIKE THESE:

“Life lessons learned from a drag queen.”

“Labels are for soup cans.”

“Transgender? Homophobia? May love conquer all.”

The post Between the Shades: Putting faces to the letters LGBTQ+ appeared first on Julie Tarney | My Son Wears Heels.

Follow My Son Wears Heels on Twitter or Facebook.

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