Social Determinants of Health

Free to Be You and Me

Picture of 2 male penguins with baby

How many of you grew up listening to Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda, Rosey Grier, and others singing “Free to Be, You and Me?” The songs and stories expressed the possibilities for me growing up that were not reflected nor reinforced consistently outside of my home. As I grew older, these songs were a soundtrack of the America that I believed possible and wanted to be part of creating. 

I grew believing in the unconditional love of God. My maternal grandfather, William “Daddy T.” Greer, was the person with whom I experienced this kind of radical love and acceptance. When I became a parent, I saw that our society still had a difficult time valuing many groups of people. As a young person, oppressive systems, like poverty, were assumed to be the “norm” and were explained away with religious teachings. The contradictions were challenging; yet, my heart and mind were at peace the most when I chose the inclusive love that Daddy T. modeled for me. I wanted my children and those close to me to know that I was an adult who would always be there for them no matter what. 

In addition to friendships and the village we chose to cultivate, our bookshelves became a place where we could reinforce whom we value and challenge society’s definition of “normal.” I wanted my children to grow up knowing that they were “Free to Be You and Me.” 

Finding children’s books celebrating the LGBQTIA+ community in 2003, when my first child was born, was not easy. I sought recommendations from friends so that our bookshelves and time spent reading together would reinforce our family’s belief that all people are sacred and made in the image of God. Two books that I enjoyed reading to my children are “123 Family Counting Book” and “And Tango Makes Three.” Thankfully, there are more children’s and young adult books that can be found here with accompanying reviews. 

I am grateful for all those who helped me see (and continue to) how my heteronormative worldview can hurt people whom I love.