Today, parents, teachers and youth advocates across the nation are standing up to efforts targeting transgender people, including a law recently passed in North Carolina, by holding more than 50 readings of “I Am Jazz,” a book by transgender teen and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings.
The nationwide action involving more than 3,500 people in two dozen states is inspired by the residents of tiny Mount Horeb, WI., who unequivocally rebuked bigotry and censorship last year, showing up in numbers exceeding 600 at a public reading of “I Am Jazz.” The reading was organised by a caring parent after legal threats by an anti-LGBT hate group forced a local school to cancel plans to support a transgender student by reading the book in class.
Days later, the Mount Horeb school board adopted inclusive measures fully accommodating transgender students. Said one board member: “We will not be intimidated, and we will teach tolerance and will be accepting to everyone.”
The national reading effort is sponsored by HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program, the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). It unites in action youth advocates across the country — including the mother of the Mt. Horeb transgender student; Jazz and her mom; and the book’s co-author Jessica Herthel — who are hosting readings of “I Am Jazz” in dozens of schools, churches, bookstores, homes, and community centres across the country. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-CA, a member of the Transgender Equality Task Force, will read the book from the floor of the U.S. House.
“Mount Horeb parents and school leaders acted with courage and showed that love, indeed, conquers hate,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training. “Today, in dozens of communities across the country, people are standing up and supporting the full humanity of transgender children and youth by lifting up the values of respect, compassion and love. They know that there never has been a more important time to step up and speak up, helping all of our children thrive, and become better human beings for a better tomorrow.”
In a video created for the first HRC-sponsored “I Am Jazz” national reading earlier this year, Jazz, a Youth Ambassador for the HRC Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation, thanks the caring people reading her book. Growing up transgender, she says, can be challenging, and kids–all kids–need the support, compassion and kindness of their parents, schools and friends.
HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier resource for LGBT-inclusive professional development tools, lessons and resources that help elementary schools across the nation embrace family diversity, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender-expansive students. HRC’s Welcoming Schools has created this guide to help organizers of “I Am Jazz” reading events build more affirming and supportive spaces for transgender and gender-expansive youth across the country.
The story of Mount Horeb and its support for the young student and her family was featured during the HRC Foundation’s annual Time to THRIVE conference in February, when the Foundation announced this second national day of action of “I Am Jazz” readings.
Follow “I Am Jazz” day of action events on Twitter at #ClosetheBookonHate and #LoveConquersHate.