They’re Not Just Numbers

Homelessness bothers me. A lot. My heart breaks a little inside every time I pass someone holding one of those small, handwritten cardboard signs. I wish I could help every one of them by offering them a safe, warm space to live. My family and I have started a tradition of putting together supply bags that we hand out, giving them toiletries, water, and a gift card for food. But I haven’t ever given them a home.

Who’s behind that sign? The faces are usually weathered. Tired. Defeated. Sometimes the face is younger; fewer wrinkles maybe, but the eyes still carry that same beaten-down hopelessness. And when it’s a young person, somehow it hurts a bit more… it’s hard enough to be a youth in today’s harsh world, but these kids — no more than children, really — don’t even have their own bed to sleep in, something I take for granted each night.

When you see a homeless young person, there’s a very good chance they’re LGBT. While these kids only make up 7% of the general population, LGBT youth represent 40% of all young people who are homeless. FORTY PERCENT. Nearly half of those kids out there without a home are LGBT.

That’s just staggering to me. According to a few articles I’ve read, LGBT youth are often homeless for different reasons than non-LGBT kids. Often, it’s because their family has rejected them.

And the harsh reality is that the world in general has too – and will probably continue to for their lifetime.

I’m grateful we’re making strides toward inclusion. They’re small steps, in reality, but there’s a tiny spot of awareness in this world that these people exist, and they matter. Forget for a moment about job discrimination, lack of services, and hate crimes. Think instead about the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the recent White House decision that says school students can use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

Baby steps, for sure. But they’re steps that are at least moving in the right direction. And for these homeless LGBT youth — out there with no direction at all — at least baby steps are better than nothing.


Transgender Casting: Nashville Got it Right

Who’s better equipped to play a transgender role in movies and on TV – a cisgender or a transgender? I’m hearing more about this argument lately, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the TV show Nashville has cast the first transgender actress on CMT. Jen Richards will play the role of a transgender physical therapist when the show starts its fifth season.

Good for them!

It makes a lot of sense to me. I’m an actress, and I’m capable of playing different roles. That’s what acting is all about. But when there’s someone who’s closer to the role for some reason – age, ethnicity, physicality, etc. – it’s understandable that they get cast instead of me. (It does’t mean it doesn’t sting, by the way, but I get why the director made the decision. It’s better than not getting cast because my audition sucked, right?!)

So the director of Nashville cast a transgender actress to play a transgender woman. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Contrast that to the backlash Mark Ruffalo recently faced after casting Matt Bomer as a transgender woman in his upcoming film, Anything. GLADD’s director of Programs, Transgender Media, said this about the move:

“The decision to put yet another man in a dress to portray a transgender woman touches a nerve for transgender people. It’s yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men.”

And that’s the crux of it, I’m afraid. While maaaaaybe there is a bit more acceptance – and that’s a big maybe – there is still a huge lack of understanding. Like, a Grand Canyon-sized hole where understanding should be.

I do think we’re making progress, and taking baby steps toward understanding the trans life. But clearly there’s still room for improvement, both within Hollywood and society as a whole. All you have to do is read any article on HB2, the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” or read some of my earlier blog posts, and you’ll readily find where understanding is missing.

Like any major shift, this takes time. I’m thrilled to hear about Nashville‘s newest cast member and hope it will be the start of a new trend in casting … and understanding. I remain hopeful. And I might even start watching the show, just because of this casting decision.

As we say in theatre, break a leg, Jen!

(Logo source: By Source, Fair use,




It Took Them a Lifetime to Marry

This weekend, I had the honor of attending the reception for friends who recently got married after 41 years together. FORTY. ONE. YEARS.

Why didn’t they get married sooner?

They weren’t allowed.

They’re gay.

But their sexual preference is not what defines these two wonderful people. They’re both incredibly talented performers. They have hearts of gold. They are fun, funny, and downright NICE people. They just happen to be the same gender. And as a result, these two men who’ve been together nearly as long as I’ve been alive couldn’t legally be married until recently.

It’s really ironic to me. I know plenty of straight folks who can’t sustain a relationship longer than a few months. I also know some who were married and divorced in the span of three years. (Raising my own hand, here.) Hollywood marriages are infamous for their brevity; we laugh when we hear about those legal unions that last days or maybe months, and put bets on how long the next union will “stick.”

But those marriages are “okay” because they’re between a man and a woman, right?

Before I go any further, yes, of course I am familiar with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriages are now legal. My point is, why in the hell did it take us so long to get to this point?

As I watched this pair happily, freely, and LEGALLY celebrate their union, surrounded by nearly 100 family and friends, it brought to mind the injustice they faced for four decades. And it reminded me of the injustices they — and countless others — still face in the form of discrimination, benefits denial, hate crimes, or even dirty looks and snide comments by people who just don’t get it.

I’m so very grateful to know this pair, and even more grateful they can now legally share their lives. And I hope that as a society we’ll continue on this path of recognizing people as  equal. We have a long way to go, but thank God for baby steps.

And congrats to the newlyweds!