North Bay LGBTQI Families seeks to provide families with LGBTQIA+ parents, caregivers, and children with a means of building community and engaging in intersectional advocacy for inclusive, diverse, and welcoming spaces in Sonoma County and the surrounding areas. In addition to planning family-friendly social events, our group hosts workshops and other training opportunities for parents and caregivers to develop the tools and skills they need to engage in intersectional advocacy for equity in schools, local government, and elsewhere in our semi-rural and suburban communities. We are fiscally sponsored by Positive Images LGBTQIA+ Center.
Throughout the year we typically offer play dates and other family-friendly gatherings such as the workshops referenced above. In response to evolving COVID-19 pandemic conditions, during the past year we have transitioned from temporarily offering only virtual programming to offering primarily in-person, outdoor programs implemented in accordance with COVID safety protocols. Check our events page to learn more about upcoming gatherings, and read more below about our ongoing efforts and initiatives!
Support for Gender Expansive Youth Under Age 12
North Bay LGBTQI Families offers monthly social and family support gatherings for gender expansive kids under the age of 12. In July 2021 we shifted these gatherings from an online to an in-person format, though we continue to offer periodic virtual programming.
Our goal through this program is to provide a hangout space where gender expansive young people can meet new friends, participate in fun activities, learn from older members of the community, and build community connection. During these gatherings, we also offer a parent/caregiver space during which family members can ask questions of our presenters, discuss challenges they may be facing, and offer input regarding what they would like to see from this area of programming in the future. For these events we welcome guest facilitators from our community each month.
If you have a gender expansive child under age 12 and would be interested in attending but haven’t joined us before, please fill out our registration form to receive further information. You can also email us at email@example.com with any questions, and/or if you are interested in being a guest presenter at one of these meetings (authors, health care providers, and trans community members are some of the guests we have previously welcomed or have plans to welcome).
Intersectional Advocacy for Equity in Our Schools
A core area of programming for North Bay LGBTQI Families is intersectional advocacy for safe, equitable, diverse, and welcoming school environments for all students. Through our work, we are seeking policy, curriculum, and school culture changes by participating in school board and LCAP meetings, collaborating with local groups, and supporting community organizing.
A central focus of our school advocacy over the past year has been to urge school districts to allocate government pandemic response funds to supportive measures for LGBTQIA+ students, who experience significant mental health disparities that have only been exacerbated by pandemic conditions. In collaboration with other local LGBTQIA+ serving organizations, we have encouraged all Sonoma County school districts to invest in areas including professional development for educators around LGBTQIA+ cultural responsiveness, implementation of LGBTQIA+ inclusive curriculum in history and social sciences through California’s FAIR Education Act, and access to gender-inclusive facilities such as all-gender restrooms. We have worked with Amor Para Todos to vet and develop recommendations for school districts around LGBTQIA+ inclusive health and sex education curriculum options, and also collaborated with Our Family Coalition and the Sonoma County Office of Education to bring an LGBTQ History/FAIR Act training to local educators in December 2021. These elements of cultural responsiveness as well as the ability to see their identities reflected in inclusive curriculum are critical components of providing much-needed social, emotional, and mental health support for our LGBTQIA+ youth.
Further, in late 2021 and early 2022 we engaged in a dedicated outreach effort to encourage Sonoma County school districts to respond to the bi-annual Equality California Safe and Supportive Schools survey, which provides LGBTQIA+ families with important information about school climate and safety. We also worked with Petaluma City Schools to present an April 2021 Parent Education Night on supporting LGBTQIA+ elementary students in collaboration with community partners including Positive Images LGBTQIA+ Center, LGBTQ Connection/Promotores de Amor, Amor Para Todos, and Petaluma TIDE. You can view the recording of that session here.
Additionally, at the start of the 2020-21 school year we worked with some of our partner organizations to develop this resource document for educators on how to support LGBTQIA+ students during distance and hybrid learning, particularly given the risks that increased social isolation and a potential lack of safety or support at home can present for this student population.
We are also seeking equitable change through efforts including advocating for the implementation of Ethnic Studies curriculum in local school districts, as well as dialogue and policy changes around addressing campus discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, and/or LGBTQIA+ status in a manner that centers youth voices and experiences. In addition, North Bay LGBTQI Families has participated in a coalition dedicated to addressing the equity aspects of distance learning and COVID-19 impacts in Petaluma, which has included advocating for subsidized in-person supervision or childcare during school hours for working families.
Intergenerational Community Building
Since July 2021, North Bay LGBTQI Families has collaborated with Positive Images LGBTQIA+ Center to co-host Social Saturdays, which are a recurring series of monthly outdoor events taking place throughout Sonoma County where we seek to bring together members of our community across generations, particularly gender expansive youth, teens, and adults. All LGBTQIA+ youth, families, adults, and elders are welcome at Social Saturdays, which feature guest facilitators who are LGBTQIA+ community members and allies. Past and upcoming program activities include bilingual Zumba classes, theater games, group art activities, and creating holiday cards for seniors who reside at Fountaingrove LGBTQ+ Retirement Community in Santa Rosa. We have also worked with local businesses and artists to assemble and distribute LGBTQIA+ family and community care kits during months when we did not gather due to the pandemic, and we have $50 financial stipends available to families and individuals for whom costs such as gas or missed work may create barriers to program attendance.
Every year North Bay LGBTQI Families hosts an all-day symposium that includes a number of workshops (as well as family-friendly activities, entertainment, and child care) designed to help caregivers and families learn more about rights and opportunities that they can access. Throughout spring 2021 we hosted a series of workshops (in a virtual format due to COVID-19) on Family Building for LGBTQIA+ People, Legal Protections for LGBTQIA+ Families, and Intersectional School Advocacy. Our 2022 Symposium is scheduled for Saturday, May 7 at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa, and you can find more information here!
Ongoing Community Building & Family Events
In addition to the programs described above, North Bay LGBTQI Families offers family-friendly events and social gatherings for LGBTQIA+ families all year long. For example, we host an annual Spring Egg Hunt, which is a popular offering with our families, who often feel excluded from similar events in the broader community. In June 2021, we participated in the Sonoma County Pride Drive-Thru Parade by distributing treat bags to hundreds of children, and co-hosted a hike with Sonoma County Pride so as to provide family-oriented offerings during Pride month. We are planning similar offerings in June 2022, at which time these gatherings are projected to take place in a more traditional in-person format.