By Hal Patnott
Last week at the Oak Park Public Library, I had the opportunity to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility during story time for children ages four and up. Established in 2009, Transgender Day of Visibility is an international holiday honoring accomplishments and raising awareness about the lives of transgender and gender nonconforming people. While Day of Remembrance, observed on November 20th, mourns the lives of transgender folks lost to violence in the previous year, Day of Visibility combats transphobia through celebration and education. Visibility and dialog are more important than ever after the rollback of protections for transgender students in public schools. In her statement in February protesting the protections rollback, ALA President Julie Todaro said, “The Trump administration’s decision to revoke important protections for transgender students couldn’t conflict more with the library community’s fundamental values and principles upon which libraries are founded.” Although the conversation about equitable access for transgender and gender nonconforming patrons often focuses on bathrooms, libraries can and should offer more than just a safe place to pee.
When I started planning what books and songs I would share, I knew I wanted to promote themes of love and friendship. Transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses a huge spectrum of identities. However, gender identity doesn’t need to be a complicated topic if it’s approached through the lens that everyone is happier when they get to be themselves. Since Day of Visibility is about celebrating the accomplishments of transgender people as much as it is about education and awareness, I also wanted to showcase music by a transgender artist. Before and after the storytime, I ended up playing songs by Steam Powered Giraffe. Their music is upbeat, so it fit the tone of the story time well.
Day of Visibility may be past, but transgender and gender nonconforming people still need allies to stand up and demonstrate their support. You don’t need to wait until next March or even Pride month to make your library and your programming more inclusive.
For those interested in running a story time at their library, here is a full list of the books and music I included in mine.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, Dial (2014)
Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson, Bloomsbury (2016)
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, Greenwillow (2015)
Music & Rhymes
“Clap for Love” by Little Miss Ann (Clap for Love, 2008)
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams (GIRL, 2014)
The Hokey Pokey*
If You’re Happy and You Know It*
“Jumping and Counting” by Jim Gill (Irrational Anthem and More Salutes to Nonsense, 2001)
“Me & My Baby (Saturday Nights)” by Steam Powered Giraffe (The 2¢ Show, 2012)
The More We Get Together*
“One-Way Ticket” by Steam Powered Giraffe (The 2¢ Show, 2012)
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear*
*These we sang without accompaniment.