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One mother went from worrying about her son being out to traveling around the world to teach about LGBT rights. I was OK with my close friends seeing Danny’s gender-creative ways, but having it recorded with photos was another story. I’m proud of him for being true to himself and for teaching me a thing or two about what really matters to me. I was by his side through bullying, loneliness, depression, and other challenges and he did more than survive. I also learned that when we stand by our LGBTQ+ children, we have the potential to make a difference in our families and communities. Mirna’s primary language is Spanish and mine is English and our conversations bounced back and forth between languages. Mirna and I even traveled to El Salvador in 2013 to present at a conference on LGBTI human rights. LAURIN MAYENO is the mother of a gay son, cofounder of Somos Familia, and founder of Out Proud Families. I was depressed all the time a mother of toe and one on the way I felt lost I had a home And husband a car a boat a family.. We are never prepared for the loss of a son and when it happened to me I thought I would loose my mind.
He was smart and loved to learn so we knew that it wasn’t him…we just had him in the wrong school. Luckily we found a real out-of-the-box school where children engaged in experiential learning. His teachers set a plan in action (with my blessing) to see if they could break down his barriers and help him open up. This small act was the beginning of my son’s transformation—from the boy who didn’t want you to notice him to the man who can captivate an audience. I’d stand still and say ‘Oh my god, not again.’ It was uncomfortable but thanks to all their efforts, I started to get more self-confidence. My son became more active and involved at school and a few years later earned “Outstanding High School Student of the Year” and the coveted “Stanbridge Award” for being a good role model and leader. Now I’m not saying #ProjectHug would be the thing to do with every child and I’m sure that his teachers would have stopped immediately if it caused my son more anxiety or stress. We turned my son’s true story into an interactive children’s book called “The Mighty League, Vol. Sign up now to receive special updates and exclusive offers, just for dandelion moms subscribers! About JodiJodi Murphy is a mom to an adult son with autism and the founder of Geek Club Books, a registered nonprofit that tells the stories of autism through apps, curriculum, digital media, and webisodes. Sign up to receive a FREE copy of Thrive Guide, a dandelion moms exclusive e-book, plus lots more updates and special offers, just for subscribers! We only use this information to send emails relevant to you, and will never share this information with third parties. To do hard work of #schoolturnaround right, new leaders need exposure to success, guidance, & hands-on experience. When we treat kids who act out in school like criminals instead of kids calling for help, what do we accomplish? How can school systems keep track of and engage with successful students to develop future leaders of communities?


I remember speaking to him about making report card day a little livelier—adding some music performances, bringing in food, that sort of thing. I grew up mixed-race and was used to being different, but Danny was a different kind of different. When I got the prints, I hid them away in a box (yes, this was before Facebook, Instagram, and digitized photos). Seeing a gap in support for Latino families with LGBTQ children, we decided to form a support group. As soon as we reached out to the community, we received several invitations to do presentations for Spanish-speaking audiences. In every group we reach, we find that people are eager to learn how they can help make their families, schools, and communities more supportive for LGBTQ+ and gender-creative children.
I discovered a need to tell my own story as a mixed-race mother and reach out to other mixed-race families and families of color. He was funny and delightfully quirky so we knew we had him in the wrong social environment. He talked about it being the turning point for him during his high school graduation speech. The point is that for the first time, we found a school with teachers who saw nothing but potential. Today, we’re hearing from a parent whose child was fortunate enough to land in a special classroom. I could tell from watching him interact with my son and other students, talking to them outside of the classroom and hanging out with them, that his care for them was genuine.
Sanders can play pretty much any instrument there is, and that was always very inspiring to students.
By the time he graduated, he was lead trumpet and competing in a bunch of competitions both in-state and out-of-state. Honor them by nominating them for our $25,000 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice (or if you’re a teacher, apply online yourself). Back then I was too worried about Danny’s gender-bending behavior to celebrate the beautiful child I had.
I know I raised my son well because there was never a moment when he didn’t know he was loved. We marched in the 2007 San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and then pulled together a few people to begin planning.
We also meet many people who have LGBTQ+ loved ones who tell us that our stories assure them and give them hope. In 2013, I formed Out Proud Families and began to connect with families from all over the country and the globe. The teachers at this first school just didn’t work well with students who learned differently.
Every time they saw him—coming into class, or in a hallway or out on the playground—they’d give him a bear hug. But one of the things that changed me was that every time my teachers saw me they’d say, ‘Jonathan, how ya been buddy?’ and give me a big bone-crushing hugs.
It gave him the confidence to go on to college, perform in theater and become a voice actor. Gina Tovar is the mother of Reece Tovar, a former student of Fishman Prize winner Steve Sanders, an electric teacher of high school band at UIC College Prep in Chicago.


In fact, I would sometimes get dressed up for report card day and tell my son it was because I was going to see Mr. A lot of people can be courteous and have manners, but the level of sincerity he puts behind his actions is something you do not see very often. His parents come to a lot events, which I think speaks to how well he is able to engage them. When my son first started school, I tried to force him to get into music because my family has a history of being good at it.
When he saw my son’s talent, he told Reece I was right and explained why I was pushing him.
Danny, all dressed up in a skirt, angel wings, plastic jewels, and lipstick, began flitting around with his “magic” wand.
I wondered if something was wrong with him and feared that he would become a social outcast. It took a process to get here, including much soul-searching and support from the people around me. It took me a while, but I learned a simple lesson: Unconditional love means looking past all the expectations that are heaped on us and loving the child you have. We’ve also been able to expand our reached far beyond those we directly touch via video and media. But I’ve personally witnessed the impact and ripple effect caused by a simple act by my son’s teachers almost 20 years ago. Though he wasn’t diagnosed at the time, we could see that he was struggling to keep up with his peers, both socially and academically. Today, his character voices are in video games, apps, audio stories and even a major California theme park.
Jodi dreams of a world where those on the autism spectrum are valued and given every opportunity to share their gifts with the world. Since that day, along with a growing team of volunteers, we have shared our stories and engaged families in dialogue in as many places as possible including preschools, afterschool programs, schools, community agencies, and conferences.
Sanders is that he was always up for new ideas to help the school and get parents involved in the process. Sanders made a comment about how proud he was to watch my son grow from a chunky young boy into a nice, respectful young man who was going to do something with his life. I had already come a ways on the spectrum of acceptance, so I was able to lend an ear as a supportive friend. Sanders would often have one-on-one conversations with my son about personal things that are not always covered in a classroom but are important nonetheless, like how a young man should act and the meaning of respect. When I share my story, the invisibility I felt growing up mixed-race and the stigma I felt as Danny’s mom are transformed. More and more of these voices are families of color and mixed-race families, and we will not be silenced.



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