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.

Make Yourself Visible!

Happy International Transgender Day of Visibility!

This is new to me, but it’s an annual holiday on March 31. Today is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. 

If the past year of writing this blog has taught me anything, it’s taught me that the trans community faces an unequal balance of visibility and invisibility. They’re invisible in many ways, like when it comes to being forgotten, ignored and dismissed.

But they sure are visible when it comes to discrimination. So many people are so quick to shun those who are trans! (The North Carolina bathroom bill and Gavin Grimm come to mind.) How can this community be so misunderstood?

Learning about the LGBTQ+ community has definitely been a journey for me. I look forward to continuing to try to understand and educate others to live a life of inclusion, acceptance and love.

Meantime, be visible and go shine your light today!

Homeless and poor and trans, oh my

Just read an article about a Virginia Beach woman who helped a trans man who was about to be homeless. He’d moved here from Florida and had no place to stay, so she opened her home and her life to him. It’s a great story and I encourage you to check it out.

More than the story caught my eye. The article included some sobering statistics about being transgender in Virginia.

According to the U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015 …

  • 6% of trans people in Virginia were unemployed
  • 23% of them were living in poverty
  • 26% had been homeless at some point in their lives

Read that again, if you’d care to. I’ll wait.

Nearly a quarter of them couldn’t make enough to live on. 26% had been homeless at some point in their lives. More than one in four. 

And sadly, 15% of those surveyed said they’d avoided staying in any kind of shelter, despite not having any other options. Why? They were afraid they’d be mistreated for being trans. (Note: this survey was done before the current administration took office, during a time that was considerably more hopeful within the LGBTQ+ community.)

I can’t imagine not having a home. (I blogged about the issue of homeless transgender youth before.) I also can’t imagine not staying in a shelter because it didn’t feel safe. Choosing to stay out on the streets because the shelter was potentially dangerous? What kind of hell must that feel like?

I don’t have a grand plan or a glorious solution to solve this. I just know that it’s unacceptable to me that anyone is homeless or living in poverty for any reason, lifestyle included.

I’m hoping that by calling attention to this problem, maybe we can find a solution. There is assistance available. In Virginia, check out the Transgender Assistance Program. I’m sure other localities have similar programs. If you’re interested but don’t know where to turn where you live, let me know – I’ll do some digging for you.

Meantime, hats off to the kind soul in Virginia Beach who helped out the trans person from Florida who needed a safe place to say. She did more than help someone within the trans community; she helped a fellow human being.

Love and light to you, fellow human beings. May we all remember we have the power to change the world.

 

Who Am I If You’re Not You?… aka, What’s Next?

My book project is in full swing! I am thrilled with the pre-order campaign, in which 323 very kind people ordered a copy of my book before it’s even completed! Talk about humbling. The fact that friends, family and business sponsors were willing to shell out money for something on faith that I will make this book a reality  – well, let’s just say I’m honored. And tiny bit terrified.

Writing this book has been on my mind for 4-5 years, give or take, ever since I met Jennifer and Marc and heard their amazing story. I knew someone else out there would benefit from hearing it, and I hope that it will help open some peoples’ minds. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, but I believe that maybe someone who isn’t altogether supportive of the LGBT+ community might learn something that softens their heart. That’s my goal with this story. (If you’re not familiar with it, check out this blog post where I explain the book. And if you’re curious, this blog post tells you who I’m hoping to get to write the foreword!)

And here we are … about to make it come to life. The book is about half written. This weekend, I’m leaving to go squirrel away in a quiet cottage for several days to finish writing it. I’m in talks with a few publishers who’ve expressed interest in working with me to print and distribute it. I have two stores who’ve committed to stocking it when it’s printed, and hopefully whichever publisher I choose will convince others to put it on their shelves.

There’re a couple of ways to look at this project now: with excitement – that people believe in me and this book; and with fear – that I won’t be able to deliver a product worth their confidence in me. I’m going with first point of view, at least most of the time. Now and again, doubt creeps in and I’m overcome with butterflies, wondering whether I can really make it happen.

When that self-doubt creeps in, I think about Jennifer and Marc – the couple at the heart of my book – who struggled against so many obstacles and kept their marriage intact. They lived this story. I only have to write it. I’m gonna be okay.

And this book is gonna kick ass.

 

Name-calling. Aka, the Power of Pronouns

Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about pronouns. But then again, most people aren’t LGBTQ+. I was having lunch with a friend whose child is in the midst of a tran…

Source: Name-calling. Aka, the Power of Pronouns

Name-calling. Aka, the Power of Pronouns

Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about pronouns.

But then again, most people aren’t LGBTQ+.

I was having lunch with a friend whose child is in the midst of a transition. She told me she still struggles to use the right pronoun to refer to her ftm child. Rather than making a mistake and accidentally saying “she” when referring to her kid, my friend uses the name her child prefers – a shortened version of the birth name. After all, my friend used “her” and “she” for nearly two decades. That’s gotta be a tough adjustment.

It’s not that my friend is unsupportive. Far from it! She says doesn’t truly understand, but she’s trying. And she simply wants her kid to be happy. But changing “she” to “he” has proven to be a real challenge after almost 20 years. So my friend uses her child’s preferred name when referring to him, or sometimes uses “they.” It makes for a bit of an awkward conversation but I followed along pretty well. I even found myself doing it too – using “they” instead of trying to remember which pronoun to use. Maybe I was just picking up on her way of speaking, but it did seem to make it a bit easier in the flow of things.

And afterward I thought, Does calling them “they” somehow diminish them? Does it take away their gender completely? Was I just taking the easy way out? I mean, “they” has a name. Is it better to try to use the right pronoun even if I mess it up sometimes? Seems to me that (from the outside looking in) either their new first name or an accidental pronoun screw up might be better than “they.”

As someone who (until recently) has had no exposure to anyone who’s trans, I had no clue how very difficult it would be to change how we think about someone – much less, how we refer to them. And as a cisgender, I had absolutely no idea how much it means to someone who’s transitioning to be identified by the right pronoun. I mean, it makes total sense to me – I just hadn’t given it any thought. Until now.

Now I am thinking about it alot. And I promise, I’ll try to get it right! But please forgive me if I mess up, or put my foot in my mouth (which happens more than I’d like to admit). I’m supportive, I promise. But I am still learning. After all, I’m an old dog …

My Valentine’s Wish = #WriteOurForewordEllen

Please forgive me for being self-indulgent for a moment, but I have to share my greatest wish for Valentines Day. It’s not a giant diamond or a box of milk chocolates that is bigger than my dog. It’s not a dozen roses or a dinner out.

It’s Ellen DeGeneres.

Not Ellen herself, mind you. She’s taken, and I’m straight.

No, my wish this Valentine’s Day is that Ellen would consider writing the foreword to my book, Who Am I If You’re Not You? (You can read more about it at www.WhoAmITheBook.com, my brand-spankin’-newly created website)

Ellen is the perfect choice the write the foreword for this particular book. Not only because it deals with LGBT issues, but because Marc and Jennifer, the real-life couple at the center of this true story, have their own personal tie to Ellen. When they were undergoing IUI to have a baby, one of the rooms had a framed magazine cover with Ellen on it. They literally looked at Ellen’s face while trying to have a baby! (Which they did, btw – a gorgeous, now two-year-old, boy!)

So I tweeted, FBed and Instagramed her today, all using the hashtag #WriteOurForewordEllen.  And if you’re reading this and are on social media at all – FaceBook, Twitter, or Instagram – and would use the same hashtag, maybe someone from her staff will see it and tell her about it!

I know it’s a long shot, but so is winning the lottery. And since I haven’t ever won that, I figure maybe life’ll make this other wish come true.

So whaddya say, Ms. DeGeneres? Will you please be my Valentine and #WriteOurForewordEllen ?

How Young is Too Young to Transition?

The topic of trans children is a hot-button issue. I’ve blogged about it a bit, talking about how schools can prepare for this wave of change that’s coming, and unfortunately how sometimes they’ve handled it badly.

You may have guessed this post is inspired by last week’s Boy Scouts of America decision to allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in scouting programs. That’s a BFD, and a huge step forward for an organization that not so long ago was on my crap list.

Personally, I think we all know our hearts at a pretty young age. My own belief is that outside influences often confuse us; perhaps we should put more faith in our own gut instinct. But that may just be me. I have no experience in this realm – I’m a complete outsider who is just speculating.

But others seem to agree with me. I found a good article that shows why it’s okay for kids to start transitioning at a young age. And I’ve been following a new friend’s blog that I strongly encourage you to check out … she details her young daughter’s journey. She’s a warm and affable writer and it’s easy to relate to her, and her daughter’s, experiences.

What do you think … is there an “appropriate age” for children to transition? Do you think they’re any more likely to be “going through a phase” than adults are?

 

When You Care Enough to Sell the Very Best

Yay Hallmark! 

I just read that for the third year in a row, Hallmark will feature a real-life gay couple in a Valentine’s Day commercial.

I don’t know why that touches my heart, but it does. I know Hallmark is not the first company to embrace the LGBT community this way, but I see it as a positive step forward that more and more companies are trying to be inclusive.

Nice to see them reflecting real life.

I might just have to send out a few cards today to support them!

Girl meets girl. Girl becomes boy. Uh oh.

That – in a nutshell – is the gist of my new book, Who Am I If You’re Not You?

Based on a true story about a real-life couple, the book looks at gender transition from the partners’ perspective.

I’m crowdfunding this project, which means I could really use your help!

If you’d care to support it, please take a look at this page which gives you all the details and a way to order.

Come on, it’s $15.   Help a struggling blogger/author/ally out?!

XOXO and thanks!