OSU PhD candidate authors new book to help adults talk to kids about LGBTQ issues

Experience can be a good teacher, and Jonathan Branfman's experience had taught him that you're never too young to learn about diversity and inclusiveness. That experience has also taught him that, often, experience isn't enough.

That's the catalyst for Branfman's new book, “You Be You!” Branfman, a PhD candidate in Ohio State University's Department of Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies, hopes to provide a tool that will open doors for a discussion about gender identity, romantic orientation and family diversity for children.

Through his work as an intern with the Human Rights Campaign and Jewish LGBTQ organization Keshet, Branfman has led inclusion training for schools and other groups. This, coupled with his experience teaching at OSU and, in the past, working at summer camps, led Branfman to consider, “Wouldn't it be great if all these students arriving in college classrooms had gotten accurate and un-stigmatizing information when they were 5?”

“The reason I wanted to write this book was to give adults a really easy guide for educating children about these topics,” Branfman said in a phone interview. “It's easy to say there's stigma from homophobia and transphobia, but a more subtle form of discrimination is the assumption that these topics are scandalous and inappropriate for children. I was chatting with someone once about this kind of training for kids and they said they didn't want to talk with children about sex. There's this misconception that talking about LGBTQ people means talking about sex.”

Branfman added that, while his family has been supportive of him since he came out, he has still had to unlearn “stigmas I had implicitly picked up.”

“[The book is] definitely meant for straight people as well as LGBTQ people because, on one hand I do want to help LGBT people to experience less stigma and have an easier time accepting themselves,” he said, “but I also want straight people to have the tools to understand people who are different from them in a supportive way.”

The book also addresses social justice concepts including privilege, discrimination and intersectionality.

Julie Benbassat illustrated “You Be You!”, which has been translated into several languages, with more in the works. Branfman will read from “You Be You!” on Thursday, Jan. 11, at OSU's Urban Arts Space.

“Everyone is welcome, but anyone interested in LGBTQ topics, whether they themselves identify or they have family or just want to be able to support people in the future” might have interest, Branfman said, as well as “families who have children ages 7-12, regardless of whether those kids or their family member identifies as LGBT, or adults, who can still find these topics difficult and who think they might benefit from understanding it with the help of kid-friendly language.”

“If you are interested in raising kids who get it and accept themselves and accept other people, this is for you,” he said.