Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources

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Earlier today guest poster Laura Perenic shared with us an introduction to asexuality (Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic). This really resonated with me because of a recent interaction I had with one of my regular teen patrons. I was sitting in the Teen MakerSpace working on some collection development. Specifically, I had a list of Asexual (or Ace) YA Lit titles that I was checking the catalog to see if we owned a decent number of titles on the topic for our teens. As I sat there, this teen came up to me and saw the word asexuality on my computer screen. “What are you doing?,” she asked. So I told her I was checking to make sure we had some YA fiction titles on asexuality in our teen fiction collection. She then pointed to the word asexual on my computer screen, “That’s me,” she said. She then went on to tell me that she had no idea that there were teen fiction books that featured asexual characters, she said it in a way that clearly communicated that this moment was important to her. For the first time, she knew that there were teens like her in our teen fiction collection. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of titles in her hand in that moment, which is why it is important that we do our due diligence in collection development and can meet the needs of any teen we encounter in our libraries. Here are a few resources for you to check your collections to make sure you have some asexual representation in your YA collection. I particularly recommend the Gay YA as it is curated by members of the GLBTQIA+ community and they really discuss representation and quality. When evaluating the quality of books featuring asexual teens it’s important to listen to members of the asexual community to make sure that the representation is not harmful and does not perpetuate stereotypes.

Masterlist: Asexual – Gay YA

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction – The Hub

Books with Asexual Main Characters – Quiet YA Reads

Not Broken: Julie Daly talks asexual representation in YA

Also, check out this multi-part discussion:

Reading While Asexual: Representation in Ace YA – Gay YA

National School Climate Survey results about LGBT students’ experiences in school

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its biennial National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBTQ students from across the country, in late October. If these statistics shock you, you clearly haven’t spent much time talking to gay students or hanging out in a high school or a middle school.  The good news is that things have improved slightly from their 2011 survey. The bad news is that it’s still really ugly out there.

168 page report (which is available as a PDF and as an hour-long webinar) looks at discrimination, harassment, assault, biased language, school resources and support, and more, and examines how these factors affect educational performance, safety, and mental health of LGBT teens. The report is filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBT students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported.  Being knowledgeable of their potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction. As GLSEN reports, “The survey has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.” This report should be required reading for anyone who works with teenagers. 

 

Findings of the 2013 National School Climate Survey include: 

Anti-LGBT Remarks at School

•  71.4% of LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 90.8% reported that they felt distressed because of this language

•  64.5% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often.

• 56.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or often.

• 51.4% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 55.5% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.

 

School Safety, Harassment, and Assault at School

• 55.5% felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% because of their gender expression.

• 74.1% were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 55.2% because of their gender expression.

• 36.2% were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 22.7% because of their gender expression.

• 16.5% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 11.4% because of their gender expression.

• 49.0% of LGBT students experienced electronic harassment in the past year (via text messages or postings on Facebook), often known as cyberbullying.

 

The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely, if ever, intervene on behalf of LGBT students.

 

• 56.7% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most often believing little to no action would be taken or the situation could become worse if reported.

• 61.6% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.

 

The report goes on to discuss: 

*absenteeism (“Many LGBT students avoid classes or miss entire days of school rather than face a hostile school climate. An unsafe school environment denies these students their right to an education.”)

*academic achievement (“School safety affects student success. Experiencing victimization in school hinders LGBT students’ academic success and educational aspirations.”)

*psychological well-being (“Experiences of harassment and assault in school are related to poorer psychological well-being for LGBT students.”).

 

Additionally, it looks at discriminatory policies, discriminatory discipline, restrictions, and prohibitions regarding public displays of affection, attending dances, forming a GSA, writing about LGBT topics, etc. It breaks the data down by race, ethnicity, school type, location, region, and more.

 

GLSEN offers many recommendations for turning these statistics around, such as giving students more access to LGBT-related information (literature, history, etc), forming GSA groups, providing professional development to increase the number of supportive teachers and staff, ensuring school policies are not discriminatory, having anti-bullying and harassment policies that make it clear that they provide safety for LGBT students, and teaching an inclusive curriculum.

 

Previously at TLT:

Check out my previous post GLBTQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens, which compiles articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your library collections and how to support GLBTQ youth.

 

Also check out:

The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Project, which “is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.”

 

HRC’s Time to Thrive conference (Februrary 13-15, 2015, in Portland, Oregon, “where nearly 1,000 educators, social workers, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals are expected to attend.” You might remember that it was at this conference earlier this year that actress Ellen Page gave a moving coming out speech)

 

Unfamiliar with GLSEN?

From their site: GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

@GLSEN on Twitter

Sunday Reflections: Why I’m a GLBTQ Ally

by Amanda MacGregor

In honor of LGBT History Month and on the heels of Ally Week, Karen asked if I would be interested in writing the Sunday Reflection on why I’m a GLBTQ ally, and I said of course. But when I started to think about what I wanted to write, I kept getting stuck on the fact that my answer is a short one: I’m an ally because of course I am. Because why wouldn’t I be? How could I not be? That’s the brief answer: I’m an ally because I don’t know any other way to be. I’m an ally because aren’t all decent human beings?

There is a longer answer, one that starts somewhere in the murky years of forming Teenage Amanda and figuring out what she was all about. Being an ally just felt like a natural extension of my early identity as a feminist. I credit the early 90s communities that I was a part of—feminism, punk, zine writing—for leading me to this role as an ally.

So what solidified this role for me?

Maybe it was joining the very awkwardly named group Respecters of Diversity in high school, which wasn’t exactly a GSA, but was sort of GSA-adjacent in its purpose. Maybe it was in college, when I was a Women’s Studies major. Some stereotypes are just true facts—the women’s studies program was home to lots of gay and bi women. Maybe it was taking the Lesbian Studies class (a class whose name was changed the year I took it to something very clunky like History of Women-identified Women, as there had been some drama over people not wanting the word “lesbian” on their transcripts. Most everyone I knew still called it Lesbian Studies, because this new name was not just clunky, but made little sense.) where we spent many weeks looking at the history of gay rights, reading coming out stories, and sharing coming out stories. Maybe it was joining the GSA in college. Maybe it was the night we held our candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard, and my brain reeled from the horrific details that we were learning about his death. Maybe it was all of those things. Maybe it was just thinking, learning, growing, and loving that never made me think “why this?” but instead made me think “of course this.”

Through high school and college, I’d had friends come out. Then there were the two girls I babysat. I’d started babysitting them when I was 16. I’d answered an ad in the newspaper. There weren’t a lot of punk kids in my small town in the early 90s. I went to the interview hoping that having purple hair, an eyebrow ring, and an infinite collection of band tshirts wouldn’t work against me. It didn’t. I spent the next many years babysitting those girls, telling them how Barbies were evil, playing the card game Punk Rock with them, introducing them to the eclectic mix of friends I’d made—a motley crew of kids I knew from bands, zines, and scenes. Even after I left for college, and then moved to Massachusetts for graduate school, we remained close. So when the older girl was visiting me in Boston, along with her mother, and nervously whispered to me late one night that she had been hooking up with a girl, and hadn’t told anyone else, I felt honored (and, honestly, not even a little bit surprised). This girl I loved was telling me something very new and very big. I immediately started shoveling books her way to show her other gay kids and their stories. A while later, when her sister emailed me that she’d met a girl at camp and they were dating, I did the same thing for her. These girls were and are my family, and my kneejerk reaction to “why do you care so much about GLBTQ issues” is to point at them.

But here’s where my identity as an ally really formed: working in a high school.

I started at the high school library in October a few years ago. The first thing I did was set up a bunch of displays for LGBT History Month. I put up a cheerful little sign on National Coming Out Day. When I did book talks to literature classes, I made sure to include all different kinds of books with GLBTQ characters, to talk about how important these books were. I tried to share as many books as possible, because GLBTQ characters and teens are not homogeneous. It didn’t take long for word to get around that I was “safe” to talk to. Before long, I had kids who would routinely come and tell me about their crushes, or their coming out stories, or stories about wanting to come out. I had kids come asking for books with gay characters and still remember one boy saying to me, “I didn’t know there were books about kids like me.”

By working in a high school, I saw firsthand just how important it was for teenagers to see themselves, to feel supported, to have someone listen. Their stories will stick with me for a long time. The boy who tried to kill himself, the girl whose mother told her she was going to hell, the girl whose parents kicked her out, the boy who told me about his first kiss, the girl who showed me pictures of her and her girlfriend at prom. Being an ally meant being vocal in my support for those teens. It meant lots of seemingly small things, like wearing purple for Spirit Day, giving high fives on the Day of Silence, and sitting where I was visible at the circulation desk reading books like Rainbow Boys or Empress of the World. Those seemingly small things spoke volumes. It meant calling out kids who I’d overhear saying “that’s so gay.” I’d say, “So perfectly normal? So born that way? So 10% of the population? So no big deal?” It meant telling kids when they were being offensive. It meant using inclusive or neutral language. It meant taking every opportunity to make it clear that I was an ally. I think a little bit of my initially getting stuck while trying to start writing this is that I don’t generally march around and announce I’m an ally. I’d hope my actions and my words would make it clear that I am. Being an ally is not something I think of as an identity, as something I am, but as an action, as something I do. Not a noun, but a verb, you know?

I’m no longer at the high school, but of course still want to read books about GLBTQ kids, and I want to make sure those books get into the hands of both the kids who really need them and the people who work with these kids. My role as an ally has taken on a new meaning while raising my son, too. As a parent, I’ve only ever told my son that he can love whoever he wants. He knows we have friends who identify as bi, or lesbian, or queer, or genderqueer. As far as he’s concerned, this is how everyone is raised–being taught that love is love, that all sexual identities are okay. As adults, we unfortunately understand that these are not the lessons being taught in every house, but we can do our best to help spread this message by our actions, our words, and our works. The most important thing we can do? LISTEN. We’re here to help, but these are not our stories. Listen as hard as you can, then see what you can do from there.

Where to look for information about being an ally:

PFLAG Straight for Equality

GSA Network Straight Allies

GLAAD Be an Ally and a Friend

Human Rights Campaign’s An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing the LGBT Community

PFLAG’s Straight for Equality

PFLAG’s guide to being a straight ally

GLBTQ YA resources for building a collection and supporting teens

by Amanda MacGregor

Check out these articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your collections and how to support GLBTQ youth.

“LGTBQ and You: How to Support Your Students” by Lauren Barack at School Library Journal. From the article:

“With 82 percent of LGBTQ students reporting verbal harassment, among other forms of bullying, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2011 School Climate Report, finding a space to feel safe may be particularly crucial for these students. So is finding materials in which LGBTQ students can see themselves—resources that reflect the stories of their lives and the themes that mirror their own questions and concerns. School librarians provide support through their very presence as well as through the services they can provide.”

I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I read? From the blog, “I think [the blog] is for teens (queer or not), for librarians, for teachers, for booksellers, for people with teens in their lives and for anyone interested in YA books with GLBTQ characters and themes. What books are already out there? What’s new? Your answers are here.”

The Lesbrary.

Bisexual Books tumblr.

Queer Book Club tumblr.

Trans titles for young adults. Book list with brief annotations. (From Young Adult Library Services. By Talya Sokoll.)

Serving Trans Teens. Suggestions for ways libraries can reach out and serve trans teens beyond just stocking books. (From Young Adult Library Services. By Talya Sokoll.)

Rainbow Reads: GLBTQIA Books for Teens: A reader’s guide to books across the spectrum. This is an amazing resource. This extremely thorough website lists books by many categories, including: lesbian contemporary fiction; lesbian secondary characters; anthologies; cross-dressing; asexual teen fiction; trans fantasy, scifi, and historical fiction; and so much. It looks like the site is in the process of being redone and updated. The site breaks the books down by age group, too. There’s a glossary of terms, important dates to know, and tips for how to build a good GLBTQIA collection.

Queer YA: Fiction for LGBTQ Teens is another great site. Excellent, thorough book reviews. Can search by genre, pub date, author, and a super duper character search that features terms like genderqueer, surprise queer character, unreliable narrator, and more. The site is on an indefinite hiatus, but there’s a lot of great stuff already on here.

Stonewall Book Awards. List of winners and honors from 1971 to 2014.

Gay YA: LGBTQIA characters in YA fiction & LGBTQIA YA Authors. Book reviews, forums, guest blog posts, reading lists broken down by various themes, online resources, teen voices, and more.

More Than Just Magic. Go to “recommended reading” and click on YA lit, which will bring you to a spreadsheet with tons of information.

Malinda Lo’s blog index to LGBT YA posts

41 Transgender-friendly Books for Young Kids at Bitch magazine. This list includes main or secondary characters who identify as transgender, genderqueer characters, characters who express gender ambiguity, or deal with gender in a nontraditional way.

It’s a few years old, but I absolutely love this great It Gets Better video done by children’s authors and illustrators.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYRYpYyHMos?rel=0]

Rainbow Books. GLBTQ Books for Children and Teens.

LGBT YA Reviews

F Yeah, Queer Teen Lit tumblr. “Finding queer teen books can be difficult; this blog aims to make it less so.”

DiversifYA. “In your YA, diversifying your stories.” Click on DiversiThemes and then QUILTBAG

Diversity in YA

LGBTQ resources: BEYOND BOOKS

On these sites, you will find resources for teens, parents, people who work with/care about teens, and more.

The Trevor Project—A 24-hour toll free confidential hotline for gay and questioning youth. 844-4-U-TREVOR

The It Gets Better Project—Suicide prevention video project and website to give hope to LGBTQ teens that high school and its bullies will not last forever, that it DOES get better.

GLSEN—Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

HRC—Human Rights Campaign

Stopbullying.gov

GSA Network

GLBT Near Me. The GLBT National Help Center has this awesome site where you just plug in your zip code and can find a variety of resources near you. Their national youth talkline is toll-free 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743)

The Nine Line For Homeless/Runaway Teens
1-800-999-9999

Advocates for Youth. Extensive links for resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. Organizations, websites, videos.

The American Civil Liberties Union has a section on LGBT Youth & Schools Resources and Links.

Know of a great resource I missed? Leave it in the comments or come tell me on Twitter @CiteSomething.