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One small way children's museums can support trans kids

Anti-trans rhetoric is on the rise around the world. Specifically, across the United States there is legislation being introduced that seeks to eliminate access to education about LGBTQ topics through "critical race theory" bans and "don't say gay" bills, prevent trans youth from participating in school sports, and criminalize doctors and caregivers who provide gender-affirming care for transgender children.

Children's museums are trusted sources for information about early childhood education and parenting and as such, children's museums have an opportunity to use that influence to send a signal to their communities that it is not in children's best interest to be denied care and support to express who they are. One way to do this is to make a public statement in support of transgender children and their families.

The following is a quick guide to preparing your public statement. If after reading this guide you could use some further support, please get in touch. I am offering free 30 minute consultations to help you hone your statement, plan its release, and answer your questions.

Make your case

Whether you are a part-time educator or the CEO, you will need to convince others that making a public statement is the right thing for your organization. Whenever I'm making the case for a new initiative I like to use this chart to map out an advocacy strategy.

You can support with research by talking about your museum's status and influence in the community. When you point to precedence, you may have trouble finding examples of statements from other museums but you can use other statements like this strong example from President Biden. By making a statement, your museum will demonstrate solidarity with trans children and their families, and send a signal to LGBTQ adults that their families are welcome and that the museum has their interests in mind.

Draft your statement

A statement with substance has these parts:

  1. Assertion of solidarity in specific language (eg. say "transgender" not "all children")

  2. Connection to mission (your answer to "who are we to say this?")

  3. Stated commitment to the kind of work that will back up the assertion with concrete examples (we offer this program that celebrates gender creativity, we plant to host this speaker, we plan to do an all staff training- don't name any individual or organization if you haven't confirmed they want to work with you- if you don't have the programs or the money, skip to talking about your enthusiasm for working with the public)

  4. Invitation to affected parties to work with the museum (specifically the parents of trans children and all transgender visitors)

Plan to publicize

Depending on how you communicate with your community you will probably need to release your public statement in a variety of outlets. This may include a press release, in the newsletter, on social media, and on your website.

I recommend preparing a one-pager of FAQs for your staff who interface with the public and support those staff by insisting they escalate any feedback they are not comfortable with to a director-level person. You should prepare your receptionist and social media manager with extra support in the event of backlash (especially if the people in these roles are queer themselves). In the event of a social media pile-on, I recommend not engaging, hiding and deleting inflammatory comments judiciously, making liberal use of the block and mute buttons on Twitter, and only responding to good faith questions and comments. Hopefully this preparation will be unnecessary.

Transgender children deserve happiness, support, and care and as advocates for children's well-being, children's museums are in the perfect position to make a difference in their communities. Crafting a public statement is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this.

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