Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager
HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is joining with the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) to hold community readings of I Am Jazz across the country on April 28, 2016.
Last year, legal threats from an anti-LGBTQ hate group forced a school in Mount Horeb, WI, to cancel plans to support a transgender student by reading I Am Jazz, a children’s book about transgender youth co-written by Jazz Jennings, an HRC Youth Ambassador and Jessica Herthel. Following the cancellation, the local community rallied, holding a reading at the local library that drew a crowd of more than 600 attendees––mostly parents with their children––all to show their support for one transgender student.
"A courageous group of parents and teachers stood up for love and have inspired a new wave of organizing,” explained Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC’s Senior Vice President of Programs, Research and Training. “In January, parents, teachers and other allies held readings in dozens of schools, libraries and churches around the country –– from California to Texas to Missouri to Washington, D.C. We've had interest from all over and so we are mobilizing in even more communities for readings of I Am Jazz to show solidarity with transgender youth wherever they may be.”
HRC announced the program earlier this year at Time to THRIVE.
“Over the last several years NCAC has seen a rise in complaints against and challenges to LGBT books, theatre and art across the country in a quest to censor and silence LGBT voices and stories in schools and libraries,” said Sarah Hoffman, Youth Free Expression Program Manager National Coalition Against Censorship. “And yet we are heartened that for every one of those challenges there are more and more people standing up for their right to speak and read freely. We are proud to be part of the nationwide day of reading of I Am Jazz and work with our partners to encourage the freedom to read.”
HRC, the NEA and the NCAC urge all communities and allies all across the nation to sign up for the national day of action. These readings – in schools, libraries, bookstores, even your own home – will help increase understanding and build more inclusive environments for young people who need to know they are welcomed and loved.
“The National Education Association is excited to be a partner in the I am Jazz community readings,” said NEA Director for Human and Civil Rights Rocio Inclan. “These community gatherings will provide a forum for understanding the challenges transgender students face, and give them the support they need. Our schools must be a place where all students are valued and affirmed for who they are. I encourage educators across the country to get involved with this timely and vitally important effort.”
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, school counselor, advocate, librarian, administrator or community member, we hope you’ll join us in showing your support for transgender youth and educating your community. Sign-up to organize your own reading and download an organizing kit at www.hrc.org/IAmJazz.
“Transgender children and youth are being targeted by anti-LGBTQ lawmakers and hate groups,” Maxwell continued. “Now, more than ever, they need to hear from adults who support and affirm them and help others understand who they are. And that can be as simple as sitting down for story time and opening a children’s book.”
For more information on how you can host your own reading and to download our discussion guide, visit www.hrc.org/IAmJazz.
For more information on supporting transgender children and youth, visit www.hrc.org/trans-youth.