Monday, June 3, 2024

Clubs for Transgender, Nonbinary, Gender-Expansive, LGBTQ+ Youth

Here are user-friendly links to my clubs for various age groups. Please note that I am constantly running multiple sections of each group. If they do not appear to be running, it is because they are full, and Outschool's platform does not easily distinguish between full offerings and offerings with no current sections. FYI: The easiest time to snag a spot in a full ongoing Outschool class is on Sunday mid-day (Pacific US time), as this is when the system renews subscriptions for the week.

Rainbow club (5-9)

Tween club (8-12)

Teen club (13-17)

Note that I am flexible on ages, and I ask families to choose the group that is the best for where their child seems to fit developmentally and socially. However, please refrain from choosing a group that is less appropriate simply because it has space; group spaces do open up every few weeks. Also please note that I have rearranged my age groups a bit and consolidated the middle-school/high-school groups into one teen group. This was done as I was finding that my 11-14 and 14-17 groups both tended to be mostly 12-14s (there are few older teens on the platform as many older teens are no longer seeking out adult-led/parent-involved programming, and those who are tend to be socially on the young side). 

Additionally, I have an LGBTQ+ book club and LGBTQ+ Dungeons and Dragons campaigns that run off and on. 

Book club details

Dungeons and Dragons details

Monday, January 22, 2024

New group (non-Outschool) for LGBTQ+ young adults ages 18-24

In response to the brilliant request of some young adults who have aged out of Outschool or soon will be aging out, I am in the process of creating an LGBTQ+ social/support group for young adults 18-24. This one obviously won't run on Outschool, as it's for adults, but it will be similar to my Outschool teen groups. (Outschool does allow teens to participate up until their 19th birthday, but the group will be open to anyone interested, not just Outschool alums, so calling it a 19-24 group seems weird.)

Please email erika rose outschool at gmail dot com if you are interested. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Join us for Book Clubs on October 11/Indigenous Peoples' Day

On October 11, I will run as many book clubs as there is space/interest. Please e-mail me to suggest a book and some times that works for you, and I will start up a section and open it so peers can join. Readers who suggest a book and request a time before September 24 can join for free. 

Any book with positive LGBTQ+ representation is fine. Fiction, nonfiction, younger reader, middle grades, young adult, adult, all ages, are all fine (with a few caveats that obviously we will not read books that are better suited to people over 18). I provide general guidance in terms of sensitive themes a book may contain and I allow families to make their own decisions.

If you are in need of book ideas, the Outschool listing contains a list of books we have done during previous groups and are happy to repeat, and group member Onyx has a great listing of LGBTQ+ books published here.

I will update this post as new groups are scheduled. See previous posting for a calendar format if that is your preference.

10AM Eastern: Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she's in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she's coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she's able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.

When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school's website, Zenobia knows she's the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time. Timely and touching, Zenobia July is, at its heart, a story about finding home.

Available here on Amazon. Publisher's suggested age range 10-13. Contains references to transphobia. 

7:30PM Eastern: George by Alex Gino

When people look at Melissa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. Melissa thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. Melissa really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part... because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, Melissa comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Available here on Amazon. No particularly sensitive subjects. Should be suitable for all ages. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

LGBTQ+ Book Club Fall 2021 Schedule

Please join us for LGBTQ+ Book Club. Click here to register for any of the sessions. $10 per session. All ages welcome.

This group is for transgender, gender-expansive, nonbinary, agender, queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or any other youths who fall under the LGBTQ spectrum to choose and discuss books. During each meeting, youth will discuss a book featuring positive queer representation. All ages and dis/abilities are welcome, and the reading level and interest level of the books will vary.
Book clubs are scheduled for September and October, and there will be more coming. Check out the calendar at the bottom for an easy view of which book is at which date/time.

If interested in future book club sessions, please leave a schedule request on the Outschool listing by clicking "request another time" below the current times. This helps me know what times/days tend to work for families, and I can schedule around that for future groups.

Monday September 27 2021: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment.

The 57 Bus is Dashka Slater's true account of the case that garnered international attention and thrust both teenagers into the spotlight.

Available here on Amazon. Some sensitive topics as outlined in the publisher preview above. Best suited for middle-school or high-school readers. Families should use their own judgment.   

Sunday October 3 2021: The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

A touching, humorous story of strong-willed eleven-year-old Liv, who is determined to challenge his school's terrible dress code and change his life. Inspire empathy and compassion (and a few laughs!) in young readers with this stunning middle-grade novel.

"My name is Liv (Not Olivia)... I'm not technically a girl. I'm transgender. Which is a bit like being a Transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won't get to save the world one day."

Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school's terrible dress code, he can't even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn't just a mission to change the policy—it's a mission to change his life. And that's a pretty big deal.

Available here on Amazon. Also currently available on Hoopla, a free streaming service likely accessible through your local library. Appropriate for all ages; no particularly sensitive subjects.   

Tuesday October 5 2021: Girls Like Me by Nina Packebush

Sixteen-year-old queer-identified Banjo Logan wakes up groggy in a juvenile mental ward. She realizes that the clueless therapist and shiny psychiatrist can’t help her come to terms with her genderqueer boy/girlfriend’s suicide, much less help her decide what to do with the fetus that’s growing inside her or answers the question of why she cuts. She’s befriended by two fellow patients—a strange and slightly manic queer girl and a shy, gay boy disowned by his born-again Christian parents. Girls Like Me is the a powerful coming of age story of a pregnant gay teenager who realizes that friends may make the best medicine.

Available here on Amazon. Also currently available on Hoopla, a free streaming service likely accessible through your local library. Some sensitive topics as outlined in the publisher preview above. Best suited for middle-school or high-school readers. Families should use their own judgment. 


Also: On October 11/Indigenous Peoples' Day, I will schedule book groups throughout the day based on student request. Please e-mail me (erikaroseoutschool at gmail dot com) with times that work for you along with book suggestions. The Outschool class listing has a list of books we have previously read, which I am happy to repeat. You are also welcome to suggest any other books that feature positive LGBTQ representation, just do it soon so we all have time to read them. And...

Our fabulous group member Onyx had their LGBTQIA+ book recommendation list published by The Horn Book, so check it out as well. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fall 2020 Book Club

Please join us for LGBTQ+ Book Club. Click here to register for any of the sessions. $5 per session. All ages welcome.

This group is for transgender, gender-expansive, nonbinary, agender, queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or any other youths who fall under the LGBTQ spectrum to choose and discuss books. During each meeting, youth will discuss a book featuring positive queer representation. All ages and dis/abilities are welcome, and the reading level and interest level of the books will vary.
Please message me if you missed a favorite book and would like us to repeat one of the books (there is a full listing of past books in the Outschool course listing). I realize the books scheduled at the moment are on the more mature side, so I am certainly happy to repeat some of our younger books in particular.

Wed Oct 28 2020: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Available here on Amazon. Local library likely has eBook available. The book has some mature themes (suicide, sexual assault) but is not graphic and does not glorify these themes.

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn't exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in ├╝ber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley's life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it's really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley's starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley's real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

Sun Nov 8 2020: Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Available here on Amazon. Local library likely has eBook available.

From School Library Journal: Although her parents are the local superheroes, it looks like Jessica Tran is merely "normal." Taking an internship would be another normal thing for her, except it turns out she'll be working with her biggest crush as well as for her parents' nemesis. Can she work alongside Abby without making a total fool of herself? And what is the truth about heroes and villains in this superpowered world? This is a light romp of a middle grade adventure/romance, but the real strength is in its matter-of-fact representation of LGBTQ and first-generation American identities. While the meanings of these identities are explored, they are not the focus of the book and are simply part of the character- and world-building. Coming out has already happened, friendships based on immigrant identity are complicated, and there are many primary and secondary characters who fall into these categories so that no single character has to stand for everyone. It's unfortunate that the use of the third person is so clunky throughout and that the twists are so obvious, but these are minor issues. VERDICT: A good addition to any middle grade library concerned with LGBTQ and racial diversity representation across all genres.

C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber and pinniped enthusiast based in California. She is a first-generation Asian American and has a BA in Sociology and Environmental Science, which occasionally comes in handy in her chosen career, but not usually. Lee enjoys reading, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. Her first novel, Seven Tears at High Tide, was published by Duet (Interlude Press) in 2015.

Wed Nov 11 2020: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Available here on Amazon. Local library likely has eBook available. 

When Liza Winthrop first lays eyes on Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there’s something special between them. Soon, their close friendship develops into a deep and intimate romance. Neither imagined that falling in love could be so wonderful, but as Liza and Annie’s newfound sexuality sparks conflict in both their families and at their schools, they discover it will take more than love for their relationship to succeed.
One of the first books to positively portray a lesbian relationship, Annie on My Mind is a groundbreaking classic of the genre. The subject of a First Amendment lawsuit over banned books and one of School Library Journal’s “One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century,” Nancy Garden’s iconic novel is an important story for anyone discovering who they’re meant to be.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

October DQD: Play Dungeons and Dragons with other LGBTQ youth

Hello DQD folks. I have just posted several sections. Please register as soon as you can, as these fill up fast. 

Reminder: Games are intended for LGBTQ youth ages 11-16 who are familiar with using internet/Zoom independently. We are aiming more for social play than professional play, and very much welcome beginner players; however, we do not explicitly teach game play, so players will need to be comfortable with picking up the game rather quickly, screen-sharing, uploading/posting in classroom, and taking initiative to google any necessary reference materials. I can be somewhat flexible with slightly younger players, but I ask players to please respect that our game flow is geared toward the adolescent social experience and independent computer users. At some point I will likely offer an LGBTQ D&D class for students who are socially younger/less independent internet users.

DQD with Dungeon Master H:
Mon Oct 12, 6pm - 7:30pm Eastern
Mon Oct 19, 6pm - 7:30pm Eastern
Mon Oct 26, 6pm - 7:30pm Eastern

DQD with Dungeon Master R:
Sun Oct 11, 7pm - 8:30pm Eastern 
Sun Oct 18, 7pm - 8:30pm Eastern 
Sun Oct 25, 7pm - 8:30pm Eastern 

Currently needs a Dungeon Master – please message me if this could be you 
Wed Oct 14, 10:30am - 12pm Eastern 
Wed Oct 21, 10:30am - 12pm Eastern 
Wed Oct 28, 10:30am - 12pm Eastern
Click here to register (may not run if no one is able to DM)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Left-handed ukulele folks: please read

There is some debate about whether left-handed folks should play ukulele or other instruments in the opposite hands and string them in the opposite direction. As someone who comes from the classical world and music education world, my view is that all instruments should be played in the traditional fashion unless someone has a limb difference or other disability that makes it impossible to play traditionally. Think about symphony orchestras that are filled with people – and have a very high proportion of lefties! – who all play their instruments in the same direction. There really is no reason for most left-handers to play an instrument flipped, and it can be limiting in terms of finding instruments and finding teachers who are willing to teach this way. While ukulele is a great instrument for social music-making and learning beginning music skills, it is not an instrument that one can typically use to do things like play in youth orchestras, get scholarships to colleges and so forth. If a child finds they have musical aptitude, they will probably need to play a classical instrument in order to continue their musical education, as most high-level music education in the U.S. is based on classical music. Ukulele skills transfer nicely to orchestral string instruments (violin, viola, cello, double bass), which are always played with the left hand on the fingerboard except in the event of disabilities that make this impossible. Learning to play ukulele in reverse from the standard setup means that the ukulele skills will not transfer to other instruments and the skills will have to be re-learned.

In my beginning group ukulele classes (both online and in-person), I require students to play in the standard fashion, in which the right hand strums and the left hand fingers the chords, unless previously contacted to discuss a relevant disability. In a group class, if students are playing in different orientations, I would need to give two directions each time I give a direction, and I do not wish to overwhelm and confuse students. 

Also, every single student who has arrived at my classes stating they are "playing left-handed" has not actually set their ukulele up correctly for left-handed playing, which means they had the wrong strings and wrong notes positioned relative to their hands, had no possible way to play correct notes, and were playing incorrect notes that throw off the rest of the class. This is not fair to other students in the class, and it does not allow the student to learn any useful skills.

Students with physical disabilities/limb differences who need to play in an adapted fashion are very much welcome to contact me privately for a one-time very-low-cost music therapy consult in which I can assess abilities and determine a suitable way to adapt the instrument, generally using readily available household items or low-cost commercially available products. Students are then generally able to join my online or in-person group classes on an adapted instrument. Students who have established a method of adapted playing on their own or with another professional are welcome to send me details, and I can assess what group class would be appropriate.

Tuning the ukulele

Tuning the ukulele:

For those familiar with tuning instruments, you can match pitch to a piano, tune it to itself by intervals, or whatever your preferred method is. For absolute beginners, you will want to either buy a hand-held tuner, use a web-based tuner, or use a mobile device tuner app. This web-based tuner is what I recommend.

The first thing to know about the ukulele is that the strings are out of order. For anyone familiar with a stringed instrument such as guitar, violin, cello, harp, lute, piano, this is going to seem really strange. It is correct though; the strings are not in order from lowest to highest like you expect. This graphic (originally from, which I edited to correct some errors) does a nice job explaining where the strings lie on the staff and on the piano. 

These directions assume you are using this web-based tuner.

To tune the ukulele, start with the G string. Pluck it and see what pitch the app says it is. It will say a letter and number, such as A3 or C4. The pitches go from low to high using the musical alphabet (CDEFGABC), and the numbers tell you what octave it is in. The pitches in order will be C3 D3 E3 F3 G3 A3 B3    C4 D4 E4 F4 G4 A4 B4    C5 D5  etc. There will also be flat/sharp pitches in between some of them. Middle C is C4. When you pluck the string, it will most likely be flat (below the correct pitch), so turn the tuning peg in the direction that makes the string tighter. The app will go up in pitch. Keep turning until it says G4. The arrows on either side of the pitch are for fine-tuning it so it is exactly in tune (green). If it's too high (sharp), loosen the string. Do the same for the C string. Pluck it, see what pitch it says, turn it until you get C4. Do the same for E and A.

Once you have each string in tune, go through and check them all again, as they may throw each other off while tuning. If the ukulele and/or strings are new, tug each string firmly at the soundhole to stretch it until the pitch is a good bit lower, then tune it again. You'll want to tune it every 10 minutes or so while you play around with it. After you've gotten the strings stretched out a bit, it will then stay in tune most of the time and you will only need to make minor adjustments.

Another option is to go to a local music store and ask someone there to tune it. If they are not busy and especially if you purchase an accessory or book to show some courtesy, they will usually be happy to do this for you.

Please try very hard to come to group classes with the ukulele in tune, and the strings stretched/broken in so that they stay in tune. In online group courses, I do not check tuning as there is nothing I can do about it without spending many minutes walking the student through how to tune the instrument. I permit students with untuned instruments to stay, though their learning is negatively impacted since the instrument sounds wrong despite them doing everything correctly. In my in-person classes, I may quickly tune the instrument if necessary, but cannot keep retuning if the strings have not been properly stretched. In online private lessons, I will check tuning, and I will use the student's lesson time as needed to walk the student through tuning the instrument.

If tuning proves difficult, a fellow Outschool teacher is offering live tuning walkthroughs by appointment for $5.

How to acquire a ukulele and make sure it works

The first step in playing the ukulele is to make sure you have a ukulele, and make sure it is sufficient for basic playing. The two most important factors are that it 1) is able to be tuned and 2) that the instrument is in tune with itself. This essentially means that the tuning screws are decent and the frets are installed correctly. 

If you have read that and have no idea what I just said, then what you probably want to do is go to Amazon or your favorite retailer and find an entry-level ukulele with a lot of ratings and a high average rating. This is generally an indication that the instruments are consistently made in such a way that they stay in tune and play in tune. This one is a nice deal for just under $40, and comes in fun colors if that's your thing. This one is a bit nicer for a bit more money. Both are brands I've played around with, and they're fine. Unless you have a background in stringed instruments and can assess the quality of an instrument, I would avoid anything cheaper. There are a few on Amazon in the $20-30 range that have mixed reviews from people who seem to know what they're doing, with some folks apparently receiving an acceptable instrument and others receiving a defective instrument. A local music store also is likely to have instruments in the $40-$60 range, and is not likely to be selling substandard instruments. I would not purchase one from a toy store or big-box store, unless you have found quality reviews of the exact same brand and model.

Despite the ukulele being an inexpensive and simple instrument, there also does exist a creature known as a "toy ukulele." If your instrument was less than about $30, is plastic, or low-quality particle board, you may have such a thing. Please make sure you attempt to tune your instrument (see here). If it can be tuned and stays in tune, you likely have a sufficient instrument for a class. If you have familiarity with music or a friend who does, also check the frets to make sure they are roughly in the correct place (each fret should be a half step, and playing up them should play a chromatic scale).

Because this has happened more than once: A ukulele has four strings. Something that doesn't have four strings and doesn't have frets is a different instrument, regardless of size, or what someone told you. Please bring a ukulele to ukulele class.

Ukuleles come in several sizes. The most common are (from smaller to larger): soprano, concert, tenor, baritone. Most beginner ukuleles are going to be soprano. A younger child will definitely want soprano. An older child, teen, or adult may be more comfortable with concert, which allows for the fingers to be a bit more spread out when forming chords. For beginner lessons, the baritone is the only one that will not work, as the standard tuning for it is different than for the other three. There are also some other less-common sizes and variations on the ukulele. If you are unsure what size you have, measure the string length from the nut to the bridge (the length of the string that vibrates). Soprano is around 13 inches, concert around 15, tenor around 17. A baritone is huge, like guitar size, is expensive, and is unlikely something you randomly acquired. 

Overview of ukulele basics

Welcome, ukulele students or potential ukulele students.

Please read these links as appropriate. Looking forward to seeing you in class with a working and tuned ukulele. 

How to acquire a suitable ukulele and make sure it works

How to tune the ukulele

Please read this for left-handed individuals