LGBTQ Inclusivity: utilizing books to help navigate gender and sexuality.

While visiting family for the holidays, I had attended a storytime event at a library with my own children.  I love seeing the children’s sections at different libraries. Each has a different way of creating a safe space for engaging children in reading.  This specific library we were visiting had built a giant cardboard pumpkin. This pumpkin was filled with tunnels for the kids to crawl through.  It was enclosed enough to make the space private for the little explorers. But also had occasional windows for the adults to peer in. The pumpkin also had a ton of little cozy nooks filled with pillows, blankets, twinkle lights, and small cardboard shelves that proudly displayed books relevant to pumpkins and the holidays.  If I was smaller, I would have gladly crawled through and snuggled up with a book in one of the pumpkin nooks.

The Fight for LGBTQ Inclusivity

This brought me back to something I had been thinking a lot about. How do we make books and libraries more LGBT inclusive?  There is a big push to get more diverse books into classrooms. Yet those reading lists still leave off any topics of gender or sexuality.  Recent initiatives, such as the #biggaybookdrive and Drag Queen Story Hour, in my opinion, have gained the traction they have because kids deserve to see themselves in stories, however that may be.  Drag Queen Story Hour “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. Kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions. And imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”

Parental Pressure

The unfortunate reality is some parents feel that these books or events are an attempt to push a political agenda. Or believe that exposing their kids to such “sexually perverse” material will “turn” their children.  In Loudoun County, Virginia, parents have rallied in opposition to one school’s decision to include more LGBT-diverse books in their elementary and high school. They commented that some of the content in the collection “normalizes peer-on-peer child sexual abuse” and “romanticizes statutory rape.”

The actual reality is that when an LGBTQ child has support by just ONE adult, the chance of them attempting suicide or becoming homelessness from running away significantly decreases.  Youth that feel supported also suffer from less mental illnesses and report higher instances of happiness than their unsupported counterparts.  Unfortunately, 4 out of 10 LGBTQ youth say that they do not feel supported in their communities. And are 2x more likely to report being physically assaulted by a peer.

Filling in the Gaps at Home

My own children have just begun entering the local school systems. And they have been dropping comments that haven’t sat well with me. So we began beefing up our library at home.  By the ages of two to four, children already have strongly internalized identity-based biases, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics and Harvard Business School Professor, Amy Cuddy.

For us, books are an excellent way to begin having conversations about consent, sexuality and gender fluidity.  Some of our favorites include Julián is a Mermaid, a book with minimal words that follows a young boy who wants to be as beautiful as the mermaids he sees while out with his Abuela; Introducing Teddy, a story about Thomas the Teddy who knows in his heart that he wants to be Tilly the Teddy instead; and One, a story that uses numbers and colors to tackle bullying and inclusion.  These are directed at a younger audience. However, there are more and more books coming out every day for all ages.  Family Equality has an extensive list of books to explore and, if you are into subscription services, OurShelves will deliver age-appropriate diverse books right to your home.

LGBTQ Inclusivity, Gender, and Sexuality with CPA

I go back to the image of the cozy pumpkin tunnels. And want to encourage the creation of a safe, cozy space for kids to explore different books and ideas.  It could be something as simple as reading a book with your child to make them feel protected and supported. Showing them that you and your house are safe spaces for these types of conversations.

Navigating LGBTQ inclusivity, gender, and sexuality is difficult. And we know you want to do all you can to help your kids succeed. Let us help you navigate that blur of a line and help you be the best parent you can be. Cristina Panaccione and Associates has one location in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new child and adult patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you! 

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Laurel Wasson – MSCP

Laurel Wasson has a master’s level education in mental health counseling from Chatham University. She is currently pursuing her licensure and sex therapy certification. She has focused her training and experiences on delivering quality, compassionate, trauma-informed care and encourage empowerment through strength-based solution-focused strategies.

At Chatham, she was a member of the Gender Research team. She participated in research studies examining girls’ experiences with sexism and resiliency and, separately, the impact of positive psychology and mindfulness on mental health treatment. She happened into postpartum mental health care relatively organically and began to also focus on researching abuse and mistreatment of perinatal women by medical and mental health professionals. Her clinical experience has been with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape as a certified sexual assault counselor and at WPIC’s pediatric OCD unit.  She is also currently working at Every Child, Inc as a Postpartum Family-Focused Clinician.


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