Building Inclusive Communities

LGBTQ+ Youth Task Force

In January of 2018, the City of New Haven’s Department of Youth Services launched an LGBTQ+ Youth Task Force, bringing together teachers, health professionals, youth-serving organizations, and LGBTQ+ advocates who “strive to build an affirming community and empower all NHV LGBTQ+ youth with resources and advocacy to lead healthy, open, safe, and meaningful lives.” The task force has focused on four areas that impact LGBTQ+ youth — BOE policies and PD, youth-focused advocacy and safe spaces, health education, and housing insecurity.

Some highlights of their work include:

  • Lobbied for and supported updates to BOE policies to be more inclusive and affirming for the LGBTQ+ community, aligning with state law and national trends.
  • Sponsored GLSEN training focusing on LGBTQ+ youth advocacy and safety entitled “Supporting LGBTQ+ Students: Creative Inclusive School Communities” for NHPS physical education teachers and wellness facilitators. All school social workers engaged in the same training in August, where they also received a safe space kit for their schools.
  • Building a broad coalition of teacher, doctors, parents, university partners, BOE staff, and GSA members ready to organize and support relevant city and state campaigns, including Pride Center expansion, homeless youth service development, and youth-focused HIV prevention.

The NHV LGBTQ+ Youth Force has many challenges to address and initiatives to push forward. They are advocating for district-wide professional development for administrators, teachers, and staff. GLSEN’s LGBTQ+ inclusiveness professional development workshops include topics such as why staff need to take active steps to ensure their school is safe for LGBTQ+ students; how to respond to LGBTQ+ based bullying; strategies for incorporating positive representations of LGBTQ+ people in curriculum and the broader school environment.  They seek to ensure the BOE adopts a more affirming policy toward LGBTQ+ students, that includes clear language prohibiting discrimination and harassment.  The upcoming district wide climate survey should include a series of questions that pertain specifically to the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ students, therefore enabling the district to identify and address those issues more effectively.

Holiday Gift Guide: LGBTQ+ Inclusive Books

The holiday season can be an especially trying time for LGBTQ+ kids and adults.  Teens who are out to teachers and friends, but not to family, during the break miss school-based support touchpoints, such as GSA and advisor meetings, and instead endure weeks in the closet.  An adult living in a queer-friendly city might head back to a hometown that is much less welcoming.  That’s why we encourage you to think of gifting your lovely LGBTQ+ colleagues, friends, nieces, nephews, neighbors, etc. an educational, queer-themed present for the holidays.  Below are some LGBTQ+ themed books we’ve either read or been recommended over the past year, along with summaries and links to purchase.  This list could also serve as a starting point for your very own holiday wish list!  Enjoy!

For Adults
Reading the Rainbow: LGBTQ-Inclusive Literacy in the Elementary Classroom($29.95) A deep exploration of every educator’s commitment to justice in teaching, this book offers comprehensive resources, curriculum development, resource materials, and a pathway between existing literature and current LGBTQ resources.
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity ($17.32) In Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between blackness and transness from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day anti-black and anti-trans legislation and violence.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches($11.55) In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Audre Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.
No Ashes in the Fire ($17.68) Growing up in Camden, New Jersey, Darnell Moore struggles against a crush of bullying, bigotry, and self-loathing. He chronicles his odyssey in this piercingly vulnerable memoir, ultimately finding his way to LGBTQ activism and ‘black joy’ through faith and family.
Elementary School Books
Julián Is a Mermaid ($13.72) In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.
Neither ($13.59) In the Land of This and That, there are only two kinds: blue bunnies and yellow birds. But one day a funny green egg hatches, and a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny pops out. It’s neither!
A Church for All ($12.00) This simple, lyrical story celebrates a Sunday morning at an inclusive church that embraces all people regardless of age, class, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. All are welcome at the church for all!
Middle School Books
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World ($9.81) Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe ($10.60) “A tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame.
High School Books
Queer: A Graphic History ($17.95) Activist-academic Meg John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop-culture, film, activism and academia guide us on a journey through the ideas, people and events that have shaped ‘queer theory’.
Let’s Talk About Love ($11.89) Alice had her whole summer planned. Nonstop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting―working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating―no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
Speak No Evil ($17.45) Speak No Evil is a coming-of-age book that follows the journey of Niru, a school boy living in the US, as he come to terms with being gay and fears that his conservative Nigerian parents won’t accept him if they find out. A craftily written heart-wrencher, it explores what it means to be black and queer in today’s USA.

Recommended Reading, Watching, and Listening

  1.       “LGBT Members Of The Caravan Went Ahead First To Dodge Danger And Discrimination.” BuzzFeed News.
  2.       “Over 150 LGBTQ Candidates Claim Victory in Midterm Elections.” NBC News.
  3.       “Simply Having a Gay Straight Alliance Reduces Suicide Risk for All Students.” Smithsonian Magazine.
  4.       “LGBT Native American Sharice Davids Wins Kansas Race.” WIBW.
  5.       “They’re Black. They’re Trans. And They’re Ready To Shake Up Brazil’s Politics.” BuzzFeed News.
  6.       “Transgender Immigrant Who Died in ICE Custody Was Beaten and Deprived of Medical Attention, Family Says.” CNN.
  7.       Watch: “Teen Receives Standing Ovation After Coming Out As Gay To Catholic School.” Huffington Post.
  8.       “LGBTQ Caravan Migrants Marry While Waiting for Asylum in Tijuana.” Into.
  9.       “Couple Takes on Trump Admin in Foster Care Discrimination Suit.” Advocate.
  10.       “5 Drag Queens Share Their Favorite Queer-Affirming Children’s Books.” Them.
  11.       “A Soldier And His Transgender Daughter Demonstrate True Love In Powerful Short Film.” Huffington Post.
  12.       “World AIDS Day in Photos.” Advocate.
  13.       “Bermuda Top Court Reverses Government’s Gay Marriage Ban.” Reuters.
  14.       “InQueery: The Past and Popular Usage of the Term ‘Pansexual.’” Them.

Here are links to several resource pages:

  • New Haven Pride Center: Health providers, legal support, and social programming
  • GLSEN CT: Trainings for staff, comprehensive glossaries, free educator resources
  • True Colors: Hotlines, mental health guides, and host of the largest LGBTQ Youth conference in the world

The Task Force is comprised of stakeholders with a wealth of experience and expertise, and is open to all who are interested in supporting their work. If you are interested in joining their listserv and/or attending their monthly meetings (hosted on the second Thursday of every month 5:30-7:00 PM at the Pride Center, 84 Orange Street, New Haven). Email: nhvlgbtq@gmail.com.