Click for larger view
View full resolution
Dear Bookbird Readers,
As I prepare this—Bookbird’s Queer Issue—for press, I am listening to Canadian singer-songwriter Kate Reid’s latest album, Queer Across Canada. After interviewing more than seventy queer adults and their children, Reid prepared the Queer Across Canada Musical-Educational Kit, which includes the seventeen-song album and an educational resource package that pairs activities and exercises with the songs in order to teach children about gender and sexual diversity, homophobia, heternormativity, and to encourage acceptance of diverse people, families, and communities. A number of Canadian musicians make guest appearances on the album, which also features a choir of young people from Gab of Qmunity, an LGBTQ resource center in Vancouver, and children from some of the queer-headed households Reid interviewed. Overall, the Queer Across Canada Musical-Educational Kit is a groundbreaking, musical-educational project for families and educators.
However, Reid’s project is not alone in taking on controversial themes and issues. Cultural production for children and young adults—books, art, music, television, film—has long engaged with complex cultural issues and weighty sociopolitical concerns. From the golden age of children’s literature on, those who create for children have laced or loaded their work with pointed social critique and sharp political satire even as they have reflected current social, political, [End Page iii] environmental, economic, and cultural concerns; think of Alice or Huck Finn or the Onceler; remember your journeys to Oz, or through the Secret Garden, or over the bridge to Terabithia. However, if those who create, consume, employ, or study texts for children and young adults have long engaged with difficult subjects, we have been much slower to embrace queerness. I suggest this slowness even as I work on an issue that features guest editor Laura Robinson’s compelling discussion of queerness in children’s literature, alongside seven first-rate articles, two Letters, and several reviews all on this subject. I suggest this lack of embrace or acceptance or even tolerance, because although Laura and I received almost thirty proposals for articles, we did not receive a single Children & Their Books column. I know that there must be teachers, child-care workers, and librarians around the world who work with young people to help them understand queerness in its many aspects, to trace the ways in which society constructs gender, and to welcome alternate sexualities and reconfigurations of families and communities. Nevertheless, we did not hear any of their stories for this issue, and that troubles me greatly.
As with Bookbird’s Trauma Issue, the Queer Issue has a good deal at stake. Young people around the world are being made to suffer because of alternate sexual orientations and lifestyles, because of queerness, and adults around the world are beginning to help. As one notable example of someone committed to helping queer young people, consider pop star Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors foundation for LGBTQ kids. Comparing her work for queer children with the American Civil Rights Movement, Lauper notes on the True Colors website, “this time the minority is the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. This time it is straight people who are beginning to stand side by side with their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.” Lauper was motivated to fund True Colors when she learned that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth make up about 40% of all homeless youth, yet only 3% to 5% of the general youth population in the United States, and queer homeless young people are the chief beneficiaries of the foundation. Similarly, Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project works “to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.” In the face of a number of suicides by marginalized teenagers, Savage created It Gets Better as a highly public site in which openly gay adults and straight adults who are openly accepting of alternate lifestyles come forward to show LGBTQ young people that things will get better.
In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, Reid notes that...