From the hate in Charlottesville, hope for the future

I am reposting a blog from Alexandra Chandler, a woman I’m proud to know as an online acquaintance and I hope, someday, as an in-person friend.

I live 15 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of this weekend’s horrific events. I’ve spent the past several days near tears, unable to come to terms with the hatred and violence that blanketed the city I love. The rally lasted just a few hours; its effects will stay with me for a lifetime.

Heather Heyer, who died when a car allegedly driven by a neo-Nazi, ran her down, will be laid to rest today. I pray that event can happen without incident and it can be a step in this city’s healing.

Which brings me to Alex’s post. Alex is a transgender woman who’s fought hatred and discrimination since she transitioned, from white supremacists and others. If you’re wondering how to help, she offers some insights. Thanks, Alex. Your words resonate with me today, especially.

To those reading this, spread hope, not hate. Spread love, not fear. We are bigger than this. We are #charlottesville.

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Don’t despair. Honor Charlottesville with action

August 15, 2017

Speaking only for myself. I’m not here to work out my own feelings, my outrage or to seek out meaning. I’m not here to convey an image of woke-ness. 

 I’m here to encourage action that changes things. I pray the display of overt, proud hate in Charlottesville carries the seeds of its own destruction. I pray the tragedy and bravery in Charlottesville is the vital call to action for those of us that are white in America.

 I think back to my own call to action, which started as a reaction against white supremacism. After 11 years of being mostly silent about my story as a transgender woman and the lessons my life has taught me about our society, I chose to speak out. In just a few days last November, a white supremacist mailed anti-Semitic hate mail to a neighborhood parent acquaintance and journalist. A dad who I would see with his kid at the playground. And then people spray painted swastikas at my childhood neighborhood high school. This happened in liberal Washington, DC and New Haven, CT. Don’t kid yourself that this is a Southern or rural problem alone. And this happened following an uptick in violence against LGBT people, especially trans women of color. And then I saw a video of Kansas students chanting for their non-white classmates to go back to Mexico. 

 I had doubted whether I had anything worthwhile to say or do. I had hesitated to put myself out there other than a Facebook post or talking with friends and family- and even then confronting only when need be. I was afraid of offending, of saying the wrong thing. But then I started writing the words that became my Washington Post op-ed. And that led to more and more writing and speaking and giving and participating and protesting and plans for more actions to come beyond anything I ever imagined. 

 Now, I only wish I had done so earlier. More after Ferguson. More after Charleston. More after so many moments. I wrote and told my story as a transgender woman not because it would help struggling transgender women, or transgender girls just like me. I wrote it because so many trans women are also trans women of color, or trans immigrants of color. Or poor trans immigrants of color– who frankly need more support than another white middle class trans woman from an accepting family like mine. And because making even one person who is “soft” in their bigotry check their assumptions for a moment could do good for other communities, trans or straight, of any color.  

 Contrary to the rants of some about “identity politics”, this is not about dividing people into groups of who is worse off. This is about recognizing our different lived experiences, which is a prerequisite to real unity. And that real unity, where we support one another with our eyes open, where we recognize that white supremacy and Nazism victimizes us all in different ways, is when we can make progress on the structural social and economic issues that reinforce our divisions while serving the purposes of the few and the powerful. 

 Make no mistake, there are those that make political profit by perpetuating these divisions. They are doing it right now, and have been since America’s founding. In the last few years, they have taken a new approach. If they can’t scare you into hate, they can discourage you with what-about-ism, nihilism, or false equivalancies. And if they discourage you enough, you won’t engage. And you won’t vote. But they will– because they will not practice the nihilism they try to instill in you. 

 We all can do something or something more to resist hate, and to build up the resistance of others to its message. You may have a story to tell that can motivate others. You may have resources to give that can fund others. Most of you can protest in relative safety as an ally where people of color and other groups fear mistreatment and even violence, including from the police. Most of you have even some tiny resources to give. Maybe you will be in a room where you can step in and call out racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant bigotry.  Particularly those of you who are white and men will be in such a room where the rest of us are discussed. I know. I am white, and I was once perceived as a white male. I’ve been in those rooms too, and I still am sometimes. And I’ve had my proud moments and those that still haunt me with shame. I say this not to demonize white men or white women, but to offer up the opportunities that privilege brings. I’m here to encourage, and to prompt action, not to prompt guilt and despair without purpose or effect.

 People of color and other communities have been fighting this fight against forces of hate building quietly. They have fought without the visible, physical, financial support we can bring in our communities. They have been dying doing so.

 Accordingly, they are the leaders. In this struggle, it is on us to educate ourselves, to listen, to support, to follow. This is not a cop out, it is an acknowledgment of who has done the most work and who has the most on the line all the time, whereas most of us can and do come and go from engagement as we please to varying degrees.

 I am an optimist. America and human civilization has in the very long view moved forward in inclusion and in humanity to one another. We are experiencing a backlash that has been there for years but has been like an iceberg to white America- so little visible to us above the surface and yet so much bigger than we realize below the surface. 

 We have all the tools we need to help change this course. I have seen many links over the last several days, but for those who are engaging in this process for the first time, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ten Ways to Fight Hate is a great start and of very broad utility, with concrete examples. 

 I’ll close by only very briefly touching on some good news. It involves the specter of a man who is so weak, so small, so scared and insecure that he can’t criticize actual Nazis who would kill their fellow Americans or deprive them of their rights. He considers some of them “fine people” and equates them to protestors defending civil rights and our Constitution.

 The good news is that all his defeats are clearly getting to him, what little political capital he has shrinks by the day, his political allies dwindle. And that means he is less likely to get as much done on his terrible policy agenda before his time comes to an end. All those actively resisting his agenda should perversely take pride in their handiwork today. They are holding the line. If that includes you, keep it up.

 Don’t despair. Honor the heroes of Charlottesville with further action. Hold the line as they did.

 

Remember that tweet banning trans in military? Here’s your lawsuit.

Five transgender military members just sued the president of the United States. (Yes, the lowercase “p” in president is on purpose, in case you were wondering.)  Two different groups have filed on behalf of five openly serving trans women in our military.

The suit not only claims that banning them from serving violates their constitutional rights, but it also forces an answer … just how serious was Trump when he announced this via Twitter?

The Pentagon (wisely, in my humble opinion) has declined to make any changes to the current policy, at least as of yet. Smart not to make sweeping changes due to a tweet. (Who thought it was a good idea to dictate national policy via social media?! I don’t even put it on Twitter when I change my dinner plans.)

If the idea that trans soldiers are a “disruption” weren’t ridiculous enough, I also heard that — with things heating up in North Korea — the idea of any ban would be put on hold.

So let me get this straight. Someone thinks trans soldiers don’t belong as long as everything is hunky dory in the world. I can just imagine Cheeto Jesus saying, “Kick ’em out without notice. Let ’em figure out how where their salary will come from and how to feed their families. They don’t need healthcare. They’re dead weight.”

UNTIL suddenly it appears he need them to take on North Korea. Well, that’s different. Now it’s okay for them sacrifice their lives. Suddenly, they’re not such a distraction any more.

There are about 15,000 transgender members of the United States military. That would certainly leave a hole if you’re trying to shore up your defenses, now wouldn’t it?

I’m fascinated by this lawsuit and by those who filed it. It takes chutzpah to file a suit against a world (so-called) leader. I’ll watch with interest to see how this plays out. Would love your thoughts on the whole situation. Feel free to share your comments!

When “just” is a four-letter word

I recently read something from someone who, like me, said she is “just” an ally. When I saw those exact words — “just” an ally — it really hit me. I felt the same way. I belittled my position because I don’t exist within the LGBT community. I downplayed my significance to those who are living their life as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

When I saw her post and particularly that one word … “just”… I was struck by a couple of thoughts.

One, why do we think we’re lesser because we “only” support the LGBT community?

It’s true, we don’t live the daily struggles of someone who is LGBT. We haven’t experienced the discrimination they face, the fear they live with, and the harrassment for just being themselves. And thank God for that. What a tremendous injustice those behaviors are!

But just because I haven’t lived it doesn’t mean I don’t understand. I’m sympathetic. I see the injustice and the pain it causes, and it hurts my heart. No, I don’t live it but I sure do *feel* it.

My second thought when I saw that word, “just,” was indignation. (Even though I’d also thought it. Welcome to my schizophrenic mind.) We, as allies, can be a force to be reckoned with. We *don’t* experience those struggles, that discrimination, or fear … and yet we stand up against it. We rally around those in this community because we care. We see how our friends and loved ones are treated and we recognize how wrong it is.

Better yet, we can do something about it.

We can work to change the discussion. We can work to educate those who don’t (or won’t) understand. Our words and our actions are weapons to be used to defend those who are LGBT. We can defend through personal conversations, at PRIDE events, and at the polls. We can volunteer. We can be a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on.

Allies have the capacity to change perceptions, to change behaviors, and to change minds. That’s pretty powerful stuff. That’s nothing to sniff at. Forget “just” being an ally.

So the next time you think about being an ally, be proud. I am. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to change the world.

Right after I finish my coffee.

P.S. If you’d like to read more about how to be an ally, please visit my website at www.lynnthorne.com and click on “Giveways.” I’ll send you tips on being a better ally!

 

 

How I Found a Different Perspective on the Military Trans Ban

I keep reading things about the military ban on transgender soliders. Most of what I’ve read is support for the transgender community. Many of the responses favor allowing our trans soldiers to continue to serve. Of course there are exceptions, including those who name-call and explain at great length why, in their minds, these particular people aren’t fit to serve.

This topic, like most things about being LGBT in today’s society, is divisive … which makes one particular piece I read all the more poignant.

I invite you to read this article published by The Washington Post in February. Authored by a trans woman who serves in the Office of Naval Intelligence, it gives me hope. In particular, this section strikes me:

When I look beyond the sweeping statements of a few loud and cruel voices, I am struck more by the similarities of the conversations across our communities than by the differences. Most people are fundamentally good and want to be even better.

My earlier post on the trans ban came from a place of anger. I need to shift my thinking. If this author can find a way to be hopeful after the type of treatment she and others like her receive, we all have reason to be hopeful.

No Trans in Military? What the Actual F*ck?!

I stay away from political posts as a rule. I don’t want to engage. I’m not going to change anyone’s mind (and their comments aren’t going to change mine). So this blog has always focused on what I am learning about the LGBTQ+ community. My goal is to inspire others to open their hearts and minds and learn a bit about a community that is so misunderstood.

Today, I change the rules. I cannot sit by, silent, after the news that President Trump has banned transgender people from serving our military in any capacity. That they are a “distraction.” Hinting that they are only serving so the armed forces can pay for their medical procedures.

I’m disgusted, saddened, sickened and outraged. And those are only the words I feel comfortable sharing here.

We have heroes among us, ready to defend this country and its freedoms. Think about word for a second. “Freedoms.” Freedom for everyone except those that live a lifestyle that our leader deems “distracting.”

I’m sitting in an airport in San Fransciso as I write this, watching all manner of people walk by. Young, old, straight, gay, white, black. And yes, transgender. And you know what? None of them “distract” me. They are all people, just like me, trying to get to the next leg of their journey on this earth.

I’ll write more on this, rest assured. Feel free to unfollow this blog if that bothers you. And if it reassures you, or comforts you, to know that this is my very public stance, feel free to share my blog with others.

To the trans people who have chosen to put their lives on the line to save mine, thank you. You have my undying gratitude.

 

Who’s looking out for Grandpa? (Hint: the answer’s in here.)

I was talking with a long-time friend today and we both commented on the number of younger adults who are coming out or transitioning earlier in life. I watch this phenomenon unfold with awe and appreciation. It wasn’t that long ago they weren’t comfortable enough to do it. Society didn’t accept the idea of LGBTQ quite as readily as it does today. Anyone who wasn’t straight or cis often chose to hide it much longer than the youth my friend and I were discussing this afternoon.

I watch the kids who go to school with my teenager who are comfortable in their own skin and don’t care who knows it. How great is that?!  I wasn’t comfortable in school and it had nothing to do with my lifestyle. These kids have so much confidence in themselves. It makes me happy to see it.

(And yes, I fully acknowledge that I live in a progressive area. The comfort young people around here feel in coming out is not represented everywhere. I get that. I am so happy to see it, regardless!)

Then I read a NY Times article that made me think about the opposite end of the spectrum: the elderly LGBT community, which doesn’t necessarily enjoy that same comfort. The article talked about how many of them feel they have to go back into the closet when it’s time to go into a nursing home or some sort of assisted care. My heart broke all over again at the thought that they are once again forced to live a lie.

Studies prove they’re right to worry. One showed that 48% of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have faced some sort of mistreatment. “Bias” is the reason given in the article I read … that “the older someone is, the more likely he is to harbor bias.” Call it what you like — bias, or stubbornness, or someone who’s set in their ways. At it’s core, it’s still discrimination. And it’s damn sad.

And then, just as I was about to get discouraged about their plight …  hope! I read about Sage, a nonprofit organization that provides services to older people who are LGBT. Among its other efforts, Sage is building NYC retirement communities with subsidized rents. These facilities ensure seniors who live alternative lifestyles have a safe and welcoming place to call home in their golden years. What a gift!

Sage, you and the people within your organization are doing such great work to give seniors a better life. In fact, this seems like a good time to celebrate all of the efforts on behalf of members of the LGBT community. Those who make it their mission to help this group feel comfortable, worthy, safe, and loved are amazing. Well done!

 

Why I now respect a ton of folks I don’t even know

One thing I’ve learned while writing this book: WRITING the book is one TEENY, TINY part of the whole process. You have to have a story. You have to sit down and write it. You have to edit and re-edit it. You have to query agents and publishers, and convince them they should pay attention to what you’ve written.

And if you’re lucky enough to actually land a contract, even then your work’s not done.

Oh no. Because now, you have to MARKET the sucker.

As someone who’s been around marketing for (ahem) a year or two, I figured this part would be a piece of cake. Geez, was I wrong. There are so many pieces to it! The part I’m currently working on is trying to convince people who don’t know me to do me a favor:

I’m trying to land endorsements.

These are the blurbs that go on the cover, or inside the jacket. Praise, accolades, compliments. Research shows these actually make a difference. If you have strong endorsements from people who are well-known among your target audience in particular, the average reader is more likely to buy your book.

So here I am, trying to convince these perfect strangers to take time from their fabulous lives to read my work AND say something nice about it.

Hence my recent flurry of emails, tweets and Facebook requests to people like Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Aniston and J.K. Rowling. Yes, there are many requests to men too: Ben Affleck, Larry Kramer, Jim Parsons, and John Grisham among them.

Here’s the interesting thing, though. I had to research people who had ties to the LGBTQ+ community. They didn’t have to be a member of the community, mind you; they did, however, have to be visibly supportive of causes that impact this group. These are the folks that my target audience are most likely to respond to. So I started scouring the Internet to see who I could find.

AND THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM!

I was floored. Honestly, the more research I did, the more people I found who’ve used their celebrity status to advocate on behalf of the LGBT people in this world. Names like David Leavitt, Chuck Palahniuk, and Alison Bechdel might not be familiar to you. But what about Daniel Radcliffe, Christina Aguilera, Oprah Winfrey and Queen Latifah? (By the way, if you ever try to write a letter to Queen Latifah, let me know how you address it. I struggled with that. “Dear Queen?” “Dear Ms. Latifah?” Lady Gaga caused the same issue. “Dear Gaga” just sounds odd.)

All of these celebs and so many more support the idea that we all deserve love. That we’re all equal. That we’re all worthy. And they’re using their fame to promote those messages, even though some of them are straight, cis, and could advocate for so many other causes. How great is that?!

This book has taught me so many lessons. Some have been tougher than others. Some have been painful (rejection letter after rejection letter gets rather depressing after awhile). But this one, this one … well, I’m very glad to have been reminded of just how supportive human beings can be.

And by the way, in case you’re wondering, my book goes to print July 17! Stay tuned for more on that one…

Who am I, if you’re not you?

Those words will look familiar to you if you’ve been following the journey of my latest book. If you haven’t been, welcome aboard my book train!

I blogged about it here, in case you’d like to catch up. Go ahead and read that post if you like … I’ll wait for ya!

So now that we’re all on the same page (!), here’s the latest …

The book is completely written and being professionally edited. Mascot Books will be publishing this, and they’re currently working on creating some options for the cover art. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Once we have the edited manuscript and the cover art, it will be laid out (both for print and e-book) and then it will go to print.

I’ll have a few copies in hand by Labor Day but the official launch won’t be until October. (When we have an official date, I’ll definitely letcha know!) That extra time gives the publisher an opportunity to do several things:

  1. shop it around to various retailers;
  2. convince them they should carry it;
  3. ship it; and
  4. make sure it is stocked on store shelves before the launch date.

It also allows time for us to schedule some book signings and events to make the biggest possible splash 🙂

This particular post feels a bit self-serving (because it is). I just wanted to keep you in the loop. You’ve all been so supportive of this effort and I couldn’t be more thankful.  This book has been a few years in the making and it’s hard for me to believe I’ll be holding it in my hands in a few short months. Can’t wait to share that moment with you!

P.S. I still haven’t landed @EllenDeGeneres to write the foreword but I’m not giving up! Ellen, if you’re reading this, let’s tawk.

 

When you care enough to create a card

Way to go, Hallmark! Once again, the company is embracing inclusion. Hallmark has a new card specifically for those undergoing gender transition.

It features a butterflyScreen Shot 2017-05-25 at 8.48.44 AM on the front with the words, “You’re becoming who you’ve always been.” Inside, it says, “How wonderful is that?”

How wonderful is that? I think it’s terrific! Hats off to Hallmark for embracing the LGBTQ+ community. This is the second time I’ve blogged about them – the first time I wrote about how the company featured a real-life gay couple in their Valentine’s commercial.

I think this deserves a new catch-phrase. Instead of ,”There’s an app for that,” I propose we change it to, “There’s a Hallmark card for that.”

I admit I don’t buy as many cards as I used to, but I just might need to visit my local Hallmark store and show them some love. They’re definitely showing love to the LGBT world.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more companies did?

From high school student to trans icon

Gavin Grimm is in the news again. The Virginia student was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People. Just 15 years old when he transitioned, his case attacted national attention when some parents complained to the school board because he was born a girl but was using the boy’s restroom. I blogged about the outcome of his intial case here. The case went all the way to the country’s highest court before the Supremes sent it back down to the lower courts to reconsider.

Gavin is now only 17 but his name is known throughout the world, in part thanks to Laverne Cox. The transgender actress used her acceptance speech at the Grammy awards to shine a light on Gavin and his case. And now that Time has recognized him as the face of justice for the transgender comunity, he stands as a reminder to us all. Time had this to say about including him on their list:

His case…has implications that extend far beyond bathrooms. It’s about a greater sense of belonging for us all

Way to go, Gavin. You didn’t set out to change the world but your courage and your bravery are paving the way for others to live a more authentic life. That’s a hell of an accomplishment for someone who’s only been able to legally drive for a year.