The battle schools didn’t see coming

Forget lesson plans and PTA meetings. Schools are facing some huge changes in the coming years.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the number of trans students is increasing – and will likely continue to climb. That’s going to require schools to do extra homework when it com
es to how to manage a changing student population.

Some changes are already underway. The government just sent a letter to all public schools, outlining that they must let trans students use the bathroom and locker rooms of their choice or forfeit federal funding.

Being able to use the girl’s restroom sure would’ve helped now 18-year-old Eli Erlick, who was born male but began identifying as female when she was 8. Bathroom bans at her school led to this:

“I could not use the restroom for six years. I had to go home to pee. I had to pretend to be sick.” 

But the changes required to keep up with the increasing trans population won’t stall out in the bathroom. Schools need to be prepared to handle all kinds of different scenarios that will result with more transgendered students.

What about bullying? While many children seem to be far more accepting than we might expect them to be, trans kids provide an easy target for those looking for someone to pick on. With the suicide rate among transgendered people so high, additional – and perhaps specialized – counseling will be needed.

How will schools handle sports teams? Uniforms? Sex education classes? And rites of passage like “Prom King and Queen?” These questions are already arising in some schools across the nation, and I’m sure there are other issues that haven’t even cropped up yet.

Trans kids + schools = changes coming

Schools are tapped with protecting the physical and emotional safety of every student. Having more transgendered students will force schools to rethink how they handle gender-related topics. What it shouldn’t force is school-initiated discrimination, however unintentional.  Sad to say, based on many school systems’ reactions to the government-mandated bathroom guidelines, I’m not convinced they’re really ready for it.

Lessons I’m learning from kids I don’t know

My recent blog posts have been lopsided. I’ve been completely focusing on the adult view of transgendered people and now I am reminded that I have neglected to consider things from a child’s view. Consider that changed.

Allow me to introduce you to “T,” a transgender 9-year-old in Los Angeles. Yes, you read that right… nine. Born a male, the third-grader wears dresses and feels “like a girl, not a boy.” T is the first openly transgender student in her school. (And thanks to Kim for making sure I knew about her!)

Surprised? Don’t be. I predict you’ll be hearing many more stories like T’s. Like Sam Moehlig, who was born female but identifies as male. Unlike T, Sam has undergone gender reassignment surgery to further his transgender journey. And there’s 18-year-old Eli Erlick, who was born a boy but began publicly identifying as female at age 8. She said it wasn’t a decision, but a realization.

“You don’t choose gender,” she said. “Why would someone choose? It’s not a choice.”

T, Sam, and Eli have plenty of company. Just a decade ago, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles saw about 40 transgender and “gender nonconforming” youth. Today, the same center sees about 600 transgender patients between the ages of 3 and 25. I can only imagine as people become more comfortable with the concept, that number will rise.

As a parent, I’d like to think that I’d support my child if one of them came to me and said they were trans. I know I’d sure try. It must be challenging as hell to get used to the idea, but making sure my kids are physically and mentally healthy and well-adjusted as possible is my goal: which includes wholly loving them if they’re any one of the LGBTQ alphabet soup.

There are those out there that think these kids’ parents are crazy for supporting their children’s trans journey. Arguments against it range from “they’re too young to know better” to “it’s a phase” to “messing with God’s plans.” But considering the significant suicide statistics among trans people, I applaud these parents for being supportive of their child’s feelings. Parental support promotes better self-esteem and helps act as a buffer against the bullying and discrimination these kids are bound to face from a world that doesn’t understand. Btw, here’s a very cool article with other stories of trans kids and their families’ reactions, if you’d like to read more.

I am pretty confident that T, Sam and Eli – along with their parents – won’t ever read this blog. But if I ever had a chance to talk to them, I’d say this:

Your journey is your own, as are your struggles. No one knows what it’s like to be in your shoes, and no one can define you but you. I applaud you for honoring your authentic self, and am grateful that you have your parents’ love and support to do so. I am sure this journey is not easy and there will be challenges as the world fails to understand who you are. But know that there are some of us out here who are trying, and who want nothing more than for you to live a life in which you feel accepted. You’re showing more courage at a young age than some do in a lifetime. Thank you for teaching us. I’m grateful to learn.

Readin’, Writin’ and Transgenderin’

On Friday, US public schools got schooled. They received a letter from the US Department of Justice and the Education Department regarding transgender students.

The letter says public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with the gender they identify with. (Yes, I know it’s “with which they identify” but that sounds so awfully formal in my blog so I wrote it incorrectly. On purpose. Dangling participles be damned.)

In short, the letter spells out what’s expected of public schools in exchange for the federal funding they receive. Loretta Lynch is the Attorney General who sent out a statement along with the directive, which included the following statement:

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination of any transgender students on the basis of their sex.”

And schools are responding. Iowa cried foul. Texas called it blackmail, with the state’s Lt. Governor saying Texas will forfeit federal education money rather than follow the guidelines as they were laid out. Iowa, North Carolina

What’s interesting to me is this: I have two kids, both in middle school. They’re old enough to understand the situation and they’re perfectly fine with the idea of transgender students using whatever restroom they choose. Their friends seem to be, as well. Perhaps I live in a tiny little bubble of acceptance land, where we don’t discriminate and we don’t judge. But I have to believe that kids elsewhere might feel the same way.

I wrote in a previous blog about a Virginia students’ fight to use the boys’ restroom. The kids didn’t have a problem with it. The school board had an issue, and they’re the ones who raised it up to the court level, fighting to make this student use the girl’s room even though he identifies as male. If the kids don’t care, why are we adults making it a huge deal?

Maybe, just maybe, our children are more open and accepting than we are. As we strive to teach them lessons — in the classroom, in the home, and in their lives — they’re learning. Let them learn well the lesson of acceptance. And please let us be the ones to teach it. Because right now, it seems that we’re the ones that could use some schoolin’.

Called, but called what?

steepleBeing a member of the clergy AND a member of the LGBT community is tough to pull off in most traditional churches, which is part of why it made a lot of waves last week when 111 members of the Methodist church came out, defying a church ban on homosexuality.

Seems like the overwhelming majority of them were coming out for the first time, although a handful had been open about their sexuality within their own community … they just hadn’t informed church officials.

Small wonder why.

The United Methodist Church’s ban on homosexuality dates back to 1972. The Church doctrine claims all people are worthy, but the “practice of homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Openly gay clergy can be removed from ministry and face trial.

Which is why I think it was incredibly gutsy for these people to come forward and share the truth about their sexuality. The group sent a letter to church leaders, which read, in part:

While we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us.


Those who came out say they did it to show that congregants who are against LGBTQ inclusion cannot stop what these church leaders believe is God’s will.

“While you have welcomed us as pastors, youth leaders, district superintendents, bishops, professors, missionaries and other forms of religious service, you have required that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities.”

One minister who signed the letter summed it up this way:

“It really does take your entire self to be a full minister. As people in your church open themselves up to you, you want to be able to provide a very open sounding board — and one of the ways to do that is live authentically. I don’t think keeping secrets is the best way to do that.”

So often, it takes a mammoth act of courage to try to change the world. Jesus Christ did it. So did Abraham Lincoln. And Rosa Parks. And Martin Luther King, Jr. And countless others, each of them risking a great deal by standing up for what they believed was right.

Would *I* risk my career, my church, my freedom to stand up for my beliefs? I’m so fortunate that I haven’t had to consider it much. I’m straight, white and middle class. The gutsiest thing I’ve done is to start this blog and work on a book that are focused on LGBT issues. I know these are hot button topics and someone’s gonna disagree with me, but I am really not risking anything of worth. Not my life. Not my job. Not my freedom.

Hats off to these people who struggle to follow their heart. To live their authentic lives. To risk so much for acceptance. To those 111 clergy this week and all those who have fought, and will fight, the battle to be true to yourselves – I say, God bless.







The only thing we have to fear is…not what you think.

I just read a blog that damn near knocked my socks off. Which is a pretty good feat (feet?) since I was barefoot at the time.

The blog neatly lists reasons we don’t need to fear transgendered people, each as important as it is accurate. I’ll shorten the explanations here but I encourage you to read the full blog, with or without socks. You don’t even need to worry about whether the lights are on or off when you read it. I promise it’s not scary.

Culled from Chase Strangio’s blog, here is his list of why we don’t need to be afraid of those who are transgendered:

  1. The existence of trans people does not threaten the privacy of anyone else.

  2. Trans women and girls are women and girls. Full stop. They are not “biological males” or “men pretending to be women.” Same is true for trans men and boys.

  3. Extending legal protections to transgender people,including when it comes to using restrooms and locker rooms, does not threaten the safety of anyone else. (The bolded typeface is my addition – I wanted to be sure you saw it.)

  4. Policing of gender or genitals in restrooms is bad for everyone.

  5. Anti-trans laws are not about restrooms, locker rooms, safety, or privacy but about expelling trans people from public life.

Just think about that last one for a second. “Expelling trans people from public life.” That’s what would’ve left me sockless, had I been wearing said socks.

Who are we to expel anyone from anything? Did we learn nothing from the Holocaust? From the Civil Rights movements in the ’60s? We don’t get to control groups of people simply because they look, believe or act differently than us.

I’ve got two points to make here. In discussing this issue with people on both sides of HB2, the “Bathroom Law,” the biggest argument I hear in favor of it is from people worried about their children’s safety. They say they are concerned that child predators could use this as a means to sneak into a restroom, intent on harm. If that’s true, it’s not trans people we’re afraid of, it’s child predators. Totally different issue. Let’s penalize them instead of the trans community, shall we? That’s point one.

Point two is really hard for me to write because 1) I know I’m gonna really piss some people off and 2) I don’t often publicly call out anyone. But I am boldly coming out and saying I fear that – for a majority of people who support it – HB2 is a thin excuse to shun a part of society that isn’t understood. Trans people mean no harm. They’re trying to live the life they feel most comfortable in. The sad truth is, not everyone else can get comfortable with that. If so, it’s not the trans people we have a problem with: it’s us.


Who’s scary now?

The bottom line is this: Transgendered people are not asking for our approval. They’re not even asking for anything extraordinary. They’re simply asking not to be “expelled from public life” through discrimination. Which, the last time I checked, happens to be illegal.

Bullies or Bigots?

With lawsuits flying back and forth between the US Justice Department and the state of North Carolina, there’s a whole lotta drama going on. NC Gov. Pat McCrory seems to think the government is confused about its HB2 law, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Law.” The state sued the Government, and the Government sued back. Think of it as Civil War 2.0.

McCrory is fundraising for his campaign’s re-election, asking supporters to “fight back against the federal government’s overreach and bullying tactics.” He seems to think that the government threatening to withhold federal funding as a result of HB2 is overreaching. The government says, “McCrory, you’re about as wrong as pairing okra with ice cream.” It’s a matter of equal rights for all.

I love Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s statement to the LGBT community:

“Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”

Wow. For all of the times I’ve complained about Government losing sight of the people it’s supposed to protect – which is frequently, sadly – I believe they got it right this time.

(By the way, for you trivia buffs, Obama is the first president to ever mention the word “transgender” in a State of the Union speech. I know, you probably thought Washington said it, but he probably glossed over it in favor of things like Valley Forge and paddling across the Potomac. Different priorities, I guess.)

Of course, it remains to be seen who will win this particular battle. Each day seems to bring a new development for the so-called Bathroom Law. What do you think? Is the Government overstepping its bounds by enforcing equal rights and cutting off funding to NC?  Is NC discriminating against the LGBT community?

The Restroom Issue that won’t Rest

Like a carefully choreographed dance, more retailers are following Target’s lead, welcoming transgendered people to use the bathroom they identify with. Starbucks, Barnes and Noble and Hudson Bay Co. (parent company of Lord & Taylor and Sakes Fifth Ave.) said, “Yeah, Target got it right. We’re inclusive too!”

It could be seen as a gutsy move since the response to Target has been … um…. controversial. More than 1 million folks signed a petition to boycott the retail giant and multiple instore protests by anti-LGBT protestors have made it clear that this is a hot-button topic. (I don’t know about you, but I’m not inspired by people yelling at me to “Repent” while picking out new patio furniture. Maybe I’d listen better if I were in the candy aisle.)

Despite the flak that Target’s getting, the retailer is standing firm – and inspiring others to follow suit. Starbucks says they will be hanging gender-neutral signage on restrooms in their stores. Can’t wait to see what that will look like. Wonder if it’ll be just the male and female symbols with whipped cream on them?  You can bet the signs won’t have too much ice 🙂

Regardless of the bathroom signage, I applaud these stores for a move that could cost them some sales. In the long run, I hope it inspires more loyalty from those of us who consider ourselves allies. I’ll support them and enjoy sipping a skinny hazelnut latte while doing so.







Excuse me, that’s not your stall.


Fair warning: Expect potty humor in this post. A shit-ton of it.

The bathroom debate has opened up some new ways of thinking. It’s been interesting to watch the discussion develop, with both sides equally convinced they are right on the mark. There are those who say they are concerned for their safety, and those who say everyone should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. (Excuse the dangling participle, please. Better than a dangling dingleberry, right?)

In thinking about this whole issue, let’s put the seat down on the debate for a second and consider exactly how this could work. (Consider it stalling, if you will.) If it’s mandated that people have to use the bathroom of the gender that is on their birth certifcate, how would that that enforced?

My college professor, Joyce Dodd, came up with the answer below on Facebook and agreed to let me share it here. She’s identified a possible solution that not only ensures that people use the correct bathroom, but creates jobs too! (Insert Joyce-approved sarcasm here.)

Assuming there will be no return to outhouses, which were all gender, how about this? Businesses hire sex identity checkers for each of two restrooms. A male checker would be in a little stall outside the men’s room and those entering would be required to show their private parts before entering. After passing the check, a token would be given to the person who would give it back after going to the bathroom. A female checker also would be placed in same type of stall to check female privates to ascertain female parts. Same token protocol. Checkers would have to qualify themselves via a 20-page background probe, including fingerprints and appropriate swabs. A Ph.D in anything or professional practice in a related field would be a minimum requirement. This opportunity would be golden with the ratspatootie economy being what it is. Whether this would be a federal or state program would have to be decided by the federal or state governments.

 Tax payer dollars for genitalia identification. Seems like someone could make a hell of a campaign slogan out of that somehow. Like, “No pee gets by me!” Or “Penis or Venus – put stalls between us!”  Chime in and comment if you’ve got an idea for it. Maybe you’ll see it in the November election!

In all seriousness, I’m really curious about how this would be enforced. Do you have any suggestions – sarcastic or otherwise? How do you propose enforcing the correct gender for each bathroom?

Why I Want to Meet the Preacher’s Wife

Target recently announced it would allow customers to use whatever bathroom they feel most comfortable in, to which I say, “Bravo!” Keep selling stuff I didn’t even know I needed but suddenly can’t live without, and I’ll keep shopping there. And now I have even more reason to spend my money in the land of the Red bullseye.

There are tons of reactions out there to Target’s stance on the bathroom issue: some incredibly supportive and others who denounce it. Those against the store’s decision say it endangers women and children by allowing men to enter the women’s restroom and dressing rooms. One million people have now signed a pledge to boycott the store. I’ve read so many reactions from both sides, trying to understand. I’ve queried personal friends about their thoughts on the matter, and they’ve respectfully and thoughtfully shared with me where they stand on the issue and why.

But probably the best thing I have ever read in my entire life was written by a woman I’ve never met, Missy Moody Richards. She is now my new hero. I do believe I’d walk through fire to shake her hand – or maybe even just touch it. She’s a preacher’s wife who says she will continue to shop at Target. She’s got an answer for every objection I’ve heard – an answer that is expressed articulately with humility and with humor.  This is what Missy had to say about keeping her four children safe in the bathroom when she shops there:

We can pee before we come, we can pee when we leave or we can pee in our pants if we’re that terrified of what we might find behind the restroom door.

And while I loved that quote, what really got me is her discussion about how this debate actually gives us an opportunity to discuss why some people feel afraid.

Transgendered people have never hurt my children. But believe it or not, a whole bunch of church people have. (Oh, yes, I said that. Hand slap. See how that honesty bit gets me in trouble?) What does that mean? It means that ANYONE is capable of hurting my children. ANY.ONE. And it’s my job to keep them safe. But what if they did see a transgendered person in the restroom? Would the world really end? No. Because I would then have the opportunity to explain to my children, who don’t have any choice but to grow up in this messy world, that there are some people who feel like they are different and like they don’t belong anywhere. We could talk about what Jesus would do and how He would expect us to love them and how we would feel if we didn’t belong anywhere.

She goes on to say that if Jesus were walking the Earth today, he’d be standing outside the bathroom at Target not to scare the shit out the kids of this world, but to tell them He loves them. And then she said this:

I think He would much rather be inside Target with people who are broken and messy than outside of Target signing petitions to make the outcast feel a little more shunned.

BINGO! Nailed it.

Now you should know this: I am a believer. I haven’t been to church in many years, partly because I have struggled to find one that makes me feel at home, and that embraces all of my vast and varied (and sometimes more Buddhist than Christian) beliefs. I’m not going to start quoting a lot of Bible verses here (partly because I am not a Bible scholar and partly because I know that for every verse out there there is one that seemingly contradicts it) but I will quote this Matthew 7:1-2 because it means so much to me:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

And that, my friends, is how I try to live my life. It’s not up to me to say who’s living life the ‘right’ way. Nor is it  up to me to say what the ‘right’ way is. I just want to do the best I can to help, and not hurt, others. That’s it. I want to live a good life. Raise kids who respect and accept others for who they are. That’s the best lesson I can teach them.

So thank you, Preacher’s Wife, for spelling it out so clearly. And thank you, Target, for doing the right thing when it comes to this matter. You’ve got a lifelong supporter right here.