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!

Who’s got their back?

I attended a gathering last night that really spoke to my heart. Could be because I’m a mom (or maybe because I’m human) but the folks at Side by Side Virginia made a big impact on me.

Side by Side Virginia is an LGBTQ+ support group for youth that includes counseling services and support, but is also just a place where kids can come and be themselves with no fear of judgement or recrimination. I don’t have the quote in front of me, but they shared a comment from one of their members that said something along the lines of, “Side by Side is where I can come to be restored, and to just be myself.”

Wow.  Imagine feeling like you had to hide who you are nearly all the time. How draining that would be!  Now imagine feeling like that as a KID.

Side by Side started a trans support group in 2011, and now trans youth make up more than half of their members. The group has had a middle school program for trans youth aged 11-14 in Richmond since 2013, and hopes to start one in  Charlottesville this summer. I find that wonderful! The more support we can offer to children facing the challenges of transitioning, the better. And I have to believe that the younger that support starts, the easier (hopefully) the transition will be.

This program is headquartered in Richmond and has a Charlottesville branch, and I believe is connected to a couple of other locations within the Commonwealth. They not only support the youth, but they help train organizations on how to best assist these kids and how to help others support them. The Boy Scouts of America called them after last week’s announcement, and wanted their opinion on how they could help LGBT scouts!

Thanks for opening my eyes to a great way to assist the LGBT community, Side by Side — and thanks for all you’re doing on their behalf!  You have a fan in me.

If you know of any young LGBTQ+ folks who need a hand, their Youth Support Line is 888-644-4390. 

#writeourforewordellen

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!

Time to find a publisher!

I’ve been working on a book for the past year and it’s time to share it with the world!

It’s tough to find an agent in the publishing world, so I’m crowd funding this instead.

The gist of the story is this: real-life couple Jennifer and Marc weren’t always Jennifer and Marc. They were Jennifer and Marika. They were happily married for six months when Marika announced she wanted to transition.

Jennifer was completely blindsided, and unsure whether she could stay married.

This book details her struggles to accept the situation, to understand her spouse’s decision, and to come to terms with her own reaction.

It’s a deeply intimate look at her journey and I truly believe others will benefit from reading it.

If you’re a member of the LGBT community or have a friend or loved one who is, please consider preordering a copy! Or two, and give one as a gift!

Please visit this link and consider pre-ordering my book. Each order gets me closer to landing a publisher.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

How to be Queer 101

Today’s post is courtesy of my friend, Josh Tucker, who hosts a local weekly radio show. While my posts try to educate those, like me, who are trying to learn about the LGBT community, this one is written from Josh’s point of view. I thought it was interesting and wanted to share with my readers.

Thanks, Josh, for letting me share!

His post follows:

Every week on my radio show, I do a rant about current events or news or topics that are interesting to me. This week I wrote out an instruction guide about how non-queer identifying people can be more queer!!!

How to be queer

So you probably look at all the pretty queer folks out there, thinking, “Oh my god. They are so cool. I wanna be like them. I wish I wasn’t so boring.” Well I have got some news for you buddy… YOU CAN BE QUEER! Yes you can! I have faith in you!

You might think that we are some kinda strange endangered animal, or imaginary, like a unicorn. But we’re not. We’re everywhere! You might not see us, because like fairies, you have to believe in us and be nice to us, or we’ll never appear and fly over to talk to you. And now you might be thinking, “Hey wait… being queer is not a choice. If you’re saying that we boring folk can be queer, doesn’t that mean republicans are right about your ‘queer agenda’?” NOOOO. First of all, being a conservative republican is actually the choice to be wrong about absolutely everything (at least socially), and accepting that your ignorance is forever on the wrong side of history. And while your biology and mentality is NOT a choice, it is a choice to examine yourself and identify with the queerness your life. Chances are, you actually are very queer already, but haven’t realized it yet. So get outside of that closet ya big queermo!

If you’re still having trouble accepting your true potential, here’s just a few easy tips to get you started on the path to glorious queerdom!

1. Go by they/them or other gender variant pronouns. It’s easy. You use them all the time. If you find a gender neutral sweater, you don’t say “Someone left his or her sweater,” you say “Who left their sweater?” You only mean one person, but they/them references an identity that isn’t bound by specific universal genders. There are no rules about who is allowed to use they/them, you can even be cisgender and straight and call yourself they. But this makes you look different and cooler, and people will think you’re a bit more queer than they previously thought.

2. Realize that sexuality is not boring and limited. Remember how I said identifying as queer is kind of a choice? Well, so is not being queer. When you were born, a gender was chosen for you based on sex, and you grew up in a society where sexual identity is largely promoted as being acceptable if you desire the opposite sex. Society is really at fault. That’s what made you straight and dumb. But you don’t have to live like that! If you feel any attraction outside of your assumed sexuality, don’t run from it! Embrace it. It’s healthy for you.

3. Buck the cistem and present yourself the way you really want to. The thing about queers is that we just look androgynous and cool. But we don’t have any standards or dress codes. Some dudes wear makeup, some girls cut their hair short, some non-binary genderqueers don’t dress like a guy or a girl, and look like an androgynous angel from outer space. Just forget the rules that you’ve grown up with, and dress to express yourself. Note, expression isn’t identity, but you’ll be many steps closer towards becoming the queer self you’ve always been if you express yourself outside of your assumed gender.

4. GUESS WHAT. Nobody is normal. You aren’t normal. Queer has many definitions, but essentially it refers to a non-normative identity. Is there a certain man or woman you think is the quintessential idea of the normal person? And do you idealize them and try to be more like them? Does that make you feel more like a woman or man? It shouldn’t! Whoever you’re thinking of is just as unnormalized as everyone else. Once you understand this, you’ll see that masculine and feminine aren’t genders, they’re adjectives, and no matter how much of either you think you are, that won’t keep you from being queer.

5. Support your queer friends and queer circles. Like begets like. If you want to be queer, or a good person really, be nice to queer people. Here, queer is representative of the entire LGBTQ population. Use proper pronouns, don’t randomly ask people invasive questions about their sex lives, don’t tell anyone they’re living a sinful life. If you wouldn’t want someone to do something to you, don’t do that thing to another person just because they’re queer. That makes it a lot harder for you to be queer too, and remember, YOU WANT TO BE QUEER! You want to be cool like us. And be friends with us. If you have at least one token queer friend, all of the ideas on this list are so much easier to accomplish.

6. Stop using queer as a derogatory word against LGBTQIA folks, and start using it to describe EVERYONE. The truth is everyone wants to be queer, because everyone is queer to some extant. They mostly are ignoring the queer parts of their lives, but that’s ignorant. And not accepting it just keeps you from accepting yourself and being happy. Don’t say queer, faggot, tranny, dyke, and the rest to insult people. Actually don’t use most of those words if you don’t identify with them. But hey! As long as you don’t use it for a cheap joke or aggression at LGBTQ expense, you can use queer now! Say it all the time! Because you are queer.

7. Unbind from the binary. All of the binaries. We get taught that life is full of dualities, because it’s easier to tell children there are only things and their opposites, than to say not everything is either good or evil. Yes you may have an apple, no you may not. And that apple is green or it’s red. Life is actually full of spectrums. We live in 3 dimensional space, we can move through our universe in any direction we want. The hallmark of living the queer experience is navigating through perceptions of binaries without adopting a single specific ideal. That’s why we’re so cool and open minded. We’re not “this” or the absence of it, and we don’t expect anyone else to be that thing either. However, this is also true of the HUMAN experience. Everything is fluid for all of us, and we get to make a billion different decisions all the time that actually create our identities. So being human is akin to being queer.

I don’t speak for all queer folks out there, and I’m sure a lot of folks don’t want the rest of humanity to be exactly like us. I don’t want that either, but I do want more queer people to be proud of who they are. And being queer is not an exact science. You grow up with oppression, and you turn your experiences and identity into something beautiful and subversive. Absolutely ALL of our identities, if we are allowed to truly define them ourselves, are intrinsically transgressive. People feel safer in numbers. Yes, being an ally is great! But it’s indicative of a corrupted society that being an ally is an actual accomplishment. Being openly queer will give you a sense of pride for identifying with the antithesis of the patriarchal, cissexist, heterosexist, fearful establishment. Some of you can’t be queer, because you just don’t have what it takes… interpret that statement however it applies to you. But if you do have the stuff, the balls, guts, the mind, body, and bravery to be who you really are, DO IT!!! Just follow my tips, and you’ll get there.

Breaking the Gender Barrier

In my ongoing quest to learn about the LGBT community, this was a new one for me. (Duh, Lynn, that’s why it’s called “learning.”)

I read an article in Time magazine about a trangender who was born female, who’d always wanted to a) transition to male and b) still have a baby.

So he did.

Wowza! Talk about breaking a gender barrier, and not gently, mind you, but SHATTERING it.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I LOVE that he transitioned because that felt natural. I LOVE that he still wanted to have a baby. I LOVE that he did, in fact, have said baby. I’m not against this in any way.

I’m just a little … mind blown, I guess.

This could be our new norm. As we work (for some it’s more work than others, I guess) to accept gender fluidity, we come to terms with some of the more basic principles and they become a little easier every day. Someone wants to transition, so they do. We (hopefully) acknowledge it and adjust pronouns accordingly, and welcome (hopefully) them into our lives with their new gender.

That seems pretty simple to me. You see someone who’s trans and you think, “Hmm. I bet they’re trans.” Or better yet, you don’t even notice or think twice about it.

But when you take it a step further – “Oh look, that man looks like he’s due any day” – then the sheer unconventionality of that takes a moment to get used to.

I’m not sure how long it will take before that becomes as unsurprising as say, the mail truck or the long lines at Disney. I suspect it’ll be awhile before it’s commonplace.

But this guy’s taking baby steps (!) toward making it happen and I applaud him. It takes guts. And conviction. And a whole lotta Pampers.

Congratulations, Evan, on your bundle of joy. Wishing you a baby who’s a good sleeper!

 

Covermodel or Scapegoat?

Here‘s a doozy … 

National Geographic magazine put a transgender person on its cover for the first time and the special issue is making waves, as you’d expect in today’s environment. Titled “Gender Revolution,” the January issue examines the shifting landscape.

The topic is (sadly) controversial in and of itself, but the photo has drawn out naysayers in big numbers: it’s a pic of 9-year-old Avery Jackson, who was born male but identifies as female.

Now we have a perfect storm of all the controversial elements:  the topic of transitioning, a trans CHILD of all things, gracing the cover of a credible, world-renowned publication. Nat Geo says they put a trans child on the cover because they hope the gender stories…

“will spark thoughtful conversations about how far we have come on this topic-and how far we have left to go.”

The naysayers are having a field day, as you might imagine. It’s enough to make their poor, close-minded heads explode.

BUT!  Duh-duh-dunnnn…

One response in particular caught my attention. This guy, Walt, who transitioned from male to female for 8 years, and then transitioned back.

Walt calls Avery “a cross-dressing boy.” He says that cross dressing a young boy is a form of emotional and pyschological abuse that should be stopped, not celebrated. And he says that putting Avery on the cover will…

“encourage a child to question his or her gender and sex and act out accordingly.”

I’m at a loss. Yes, the cover may encourage a child to question his or her gender – but I gotta believe only if they were already questioning it. It’s difficult for me to think that someone would look at a magazine cover and suddenly be interested in transitioning to the opposite sex if they weren’t already inclined to do so. I don’t look at GQ and think, “Geez, now I wanna be a man!”

Ludicrous, in my mind. Mr. Walt Heyer, I’m truly, honestly, sorry you were confused in your childhood. I’m equally sorry you felt that you made a mistake by transitioning, and I’m glad you transitioned back to what felt right to you. I hope it made you happy and feel at home in your body.

BUT!

Please, remember…

Life requires a lot of introspection to figure out who we are … and who we are changes as we age. I’m not the same person I was at 15, 25 or 35. I personally never had occasion to question my gender. I’m not saying that Mr. Heyer didn’t have reason to. I’m just saying it’s a shame that someone who, at one point, understood the need to physically transition can’t afford others the same opportunity without calling it “abuse.” I’m stumped at his reaction and really, just kinda left mystified by it.

Whaddya think?

1.  Is Avery a brave, young girl acting on her instinct who should be applauded for breaking down barriers?

2.  Is she being duped or misled into transitioning?

3.  Is transgenderism — as Walt Heyer puts it —  “B.S.?”

We gotta talk about this. Wherever you fall on the yay/nay spectrum, this is real. This is life. And THAT is why Nat Geo put a trans child on the cover.

Time to get those thoughtful conversations going… please start one here by commenting on this post.

Reflections

It’s been a week, folks. I’ve had highs and I’ve had lows. I’ve undergone surgery, celebrated Christmas, struggled just to get a shower, fought nausea (and lost), and mourned the loss of some of my generation’s biggest icons. I’ve thought alot about what I’d like to change for 2017.

And it’s only Wednesday.

I’ve thought about those facing discrimination for just trying to be who they are. Those who just want to use the restroom in peace. Those who want nothing more than to marry the love of their life. Those who want the same things we all want – love, self-worth, and acceptance.

It sounds so simple. And yet, it’s anything but for so, so many people. I’ve read so many stories (on a secret FaceBook page) about how difficult the holidays have been on the LGBT community. How a traditional holiday meal turned into a sermon. How some walked out on family – or didn’t even attend in the first place – because they knew the rhetoric awaiting them around the dinner table.

But I’ve also read about so many people standing up for themselves! Those who couldn’t wait to marry their significant other, and did so in the face of a government that threatens their right to do so within a few short weeks. Those who boldly put loved ones in their place – perhaps causing permanent damage to the relationship but determined to be true to themselves regardless.

Acceptance shouldn’t be seen as a gift. It shouldn’t have to be earned. It shouldn’t be dangled like a carrot that can be snatched away whenever the mood strikes. It should be something we all just take for granted, like the sun coming up in the morning or the changing of the seasons.

So that’s my wish for 2017.  I just wish people could learn to coexist peacefully – accepting each other for who we are, celebrating our differences, and honoring the beautiful soul inside each of us.

I’m going to spend the rest of this year – what’s left of it – thinking about how I can personally help make that happen.

This is bigger than me. It’s bigger than you. But if we all work towards it – a common goal – we can make progress. And that’s a wish worth working for.

What’s Behind Curtain #2?

I’ve had a few folks ask recently about why I’ve started this blog. In case you’re interested, here’s the scoop:  I’m working on a new book. (Yes, I published one before. It’s here, if you’re curious.) 

It’s too early to get into details about my new work but it  deals with – surprise! – LGBT issues.

So this blog is helping me to learn more about the LGBT community. So that’s it – no big announcements from me or anyone in my family. It’s just research!

I’ve learned so much in this process. While I’ve always accepted lesbians and gays, I didn’t truly appreciate all they go through. I’m sure I still don’t (can anyone who doesn’t walk in their shoes?), but I’m closer to understanding. I celebrate their ability to legally marry and I hate the ongoing discrimination they face in so many other instances.

And I had almost no knowledge of the trans world so this has been eye opening, for sure. I’ve met some terrific people through this journey who’ve been willing to share some pretty personal experiences with me in hopes of helping me get a better sense of their world. I’m saddened by what they go through on a daily basis just to try to be themselves, and am so humbled that they’d tell me – a total stranger – about their struggles in an effort to help me understand.

So there you have it: my big secret. It’s a book!

I’ll continue to share my experiences here and I welcome your input, ideas, and inspiration for blog topics that relate to the LGBT world.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for coming along as I learn!

 

 

Learning the ABCs of LGBTQs

This whole blog is about my learning experiences in the LGBT world. I found this article that is helping me better understand all of those who identify as anything other than straight.

Because the LGBT world encompasses more than lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgenders. It also includes agenders, bigenders, and those who are gender fluid.

Then there’s graysexual, non-binary, and third gender.

It seems confusing. But when I stop think about it, it doesn’t have to be. Because I’m not supposed to know all of this – just like I don’t know everything about geology, microbiology or art history. No one knows it all. That’s how I stumbled across this article — because I wanted to learn more. It’s also why I’m sharing it here.

I definitely don’t know everything about the LGBT world but the key is, I’m learning. And I’m trying to learn. And yes, I make mistakes. I may use the wrong term, or use it incorrectly. But it’s not done with ill intent. It’s just what happens when we learn.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us try to learn – we’ll succeed. And we’ll be that much closer to a world of inclusion.