LGBTQ+, Gender Identity and Pronouns 101

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Roxbury Library proves once again you don’t always have to go to a book for helpful information. In anticipation of Pride Month in June, the Roxbury Public Library through the efforts of the volunteer Common Grounds initiative will present a virtual panel on May 18 at 7:00pm offering insight into use of pronouns, acronyms, and what respectful inclusivity looks like today.

“This panel will provide a user-friendly overview on terminologies, acronyms and pronoun preferences that are so meaningful to members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Library Director Radwa Ali.

In putting together the panel, the volunteer Common Grounds team facilitated by Programming and Outreach Coordinator Karen Cerreta reached out to the Gay Activitist Alliance of Morris County (GAAMC).

“The great folks at GAAMC have access to a wonderful network of local speakers that make finding the right voice for a topic so very easy,” said Cerreta. “The Library is grateful for their continued partnership,” noting their earlier collaboration in October 2021 when the two organizations co-presented an LGBTQ+ Living/Personal History Panel.

Gordon Sauer and Sue Henderson will speak on LGBTQ+ Terminologies and Gender Identity.

Henderson (She/Hers), is a retired Health and Physical Education teacher and school counselor. Sue is currently Co-Chair of GLSEN Central NJ -- an organization which promotes safe and inclusive schools by providing resources and staff training as well as an annual GSA forum for students.

Gordon Sauer (He/His) is a retired NJ educator, and works with a number of LGBTQ+ organizations including GLSEN (A national organization dedicated to making schools safe for LGBTQ+ students), SAGE (A national organization which supports LGBTQ+ older adults) and GAAMC (NJ’s Oldest LGBT organization). He lives with his husband of 27 years and enjoys music, being outdoors and having fun.

Pronouns will be the topic for Sherri Rase. Rase is an award-winning activist who has volunteered with GAAMC since 1994 serving also as a board member and part of the Executive Team. Sherri is also a founding board member and Special Events Director of Jersey Pride, Inc., NJ's statewide Pride organization.  She has been training and facilitating groups in the LGBTQIA+ Community and at-large for more than 20 years. 

Debbie Russ will address “Why Pronouns are Important to My Child.” Russ is a mother of a transgender daughter and a long time resident of Mt. Olive. She is a Social Worker with an LSW and an advocate for mental health in adolescents. She has done other speaking events at Morristown Memorial Hospital, and multiple private schools throughout the area. She is here as a parent to share her ongoing journey as a parent of a transgender youth.

“The Legal Rights of LGBTQ+ Youth in New Jersey” will be addressed by Dr. Christopher Zegar and Amy Gallagher. Zegar is Assistant Principal of the Lincoln Roosevelt School in the Roxbury School District. His preferred pronouns are he/his/his. He believes that schools should create a culture that makes students feel safe and ready to learn. Zegar in previous roles in the district has worked to ensure that the district administration is aware of the legal rights of LGBTQ+ youth. Gallagher is the Director of Special Services for the Roxbury School District. Her preferred pronouns are she/her/hers. Her priority in the Roxbury School District is to ensure that students from all walks of life are fairly represented and are provided with the support that they need to be successful. As a professional in the school setting, Gallagher works to ensure that the school and larger community are aware of the legal rights of LGBTQ+ youth. As an ally, she promotes understanding, support, and affirmation for all within the LGBTQ+ community.

Students from the West Morris Mendham High School GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance) will present, “Please Respect My Pronouns / This Is What Inclusivity Looks Like Today.” The Mendham High School GSA was formed in February of 2021 by Maddie A. in an attempt to give the LGBTQIA+ community a more prominent voice in the school. Within the first year of its formation, the GSA grew to over 60 members as well as accomplishing many major achievements. The Mendham GSA reinstated the national Day of Silence run by the organization GLSEN. The second annual Day of Silence on Friday, April 8th had a great “Breaking of the Silence'' ceremony where a group of parents and community members stood outside of the school in support due to pushback the GSA faced for hosting the event at the school. The Mendham GSA was

also able to get Mendham Borough, Township, and Chester Township to officially proclaim June Pride Month. The GSA is a safe space for all people no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation to meet and help support each other with their different points of view as well as be a advocacy group to help raise awareness around the school and community. In the coming years, we hope to become more involved in charity work as well as make Mendham High School a more accepting place for everyone.

The panel will be moderated by Roxbury Town Councilman and Library Trustee Bob DeFillippo. DeFillippo has more than 40 years of senior leadership experience in corporate communications, journalism, government and public policy. As the Chief Communications Officer for Prudential Financial, Inc., he led the Global Communications Department and oversaw Prudential’s public relations and internal communications around the world. During that time, DeFillippo led communications for the company’s historic transition from a mutual to a public company – one of the largest IPOs in the insurance industry. He also served as executive sponsor to Eagles -- Prudential's LGBTQ+ employee resource group, which introduced the company's first Ally program. Hecurrently serves as an adjunct professor at NYU's School of Professional Studies.

LGBTQ+, Gender Identity and Pronouns 101 is the brainchild of the volunteer team that supports the Common Grounds, the ongoing series that explores and facilitates civil conversation on race, political beliefs, gender, creed and more, celebrating diversity in Roxbury. Presentations since September 2020 have included a virtual workshop Skills for Bridging the Political Divide through Braver Angels, a community panel on women and leadership called How She Leads, and a local panel On Race and Racism: A Roxbury Conversation, and Black History: From Civil War to Black Lives Matter, Allyship and Inclusion, a discussion on the film “Brian Banks'' and Black People’s Incarceration, and a LGBTQ+ Living/Personal History Panel. Also as part of Common Grounds, the Library, in partnership with Roxbury Area Chamber of Commerce, has hosted recent programs on generation in the workplace and sustainability. In addition, Common Grounds hosts the Ad Hoc Book Club to introduce through literature new points of view and awareness on cultural elements outside the mainstream. The Common Grounds team also creates the Library’s Facebook posts that celebrate different cultures during their designated awareness months.

Register online at www.roxburylibrary.org/events or by calling the Library at 973 584-2400.

About the Roxbury Public Library: The Roxbury Public Library is our community crossroads for learning and discovery. Each year, Roxbury Public Library serves more than 23,000 residents and neighbors with more than 200,000 check-outs and

engagements through offerings of educational and enriching programs, concerts, lending books and audiovisual materials, and offering a wide array of digital content that allows our community members to access a vast array of books, audio-books, music, and film on their personal devices via their library card. Roxbury Public Library offers expanded digital services, virtual, in-person and hybrid programs, passport services by appointment, an inventive Library of Things, and an abundance of helpful resources. Visit us in person or at www.roxburylibrary.org.


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