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.

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!

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!

Do People React a Certain Way Because We Expect Them To?

I love this story I just read about a woman who was afraid to tell her grandmother she was bisexual. But she bit the bullet and told her anyway.

Her grandmother didn’t scoff, scorn or scold. She didn’t disown her, throw a fit, or judge.

No, this grandmother sat down and knitted her bisexual granddaughter a sweater with a great big rainbow on it.

Cool. Very cool. And it made me wonder – how many other people feared coming out without needing to?

Okay, I’m not naive. I know there are plenty of haters out there. Parents who turned their backs on their kids because they couldn’t understand. I just wonder whether we sometimes make situations harder on ourselves than necessary because we expect the worst reaction.

Or maybe it’s self preservation? We expect someone to be really upset, and when they are, we can handle it because we were prepared. And if by some chance they’re okay with the shocking news, it’s a great surprise.

But this doesn’t just apply to the LGBT community. The same is true for anybody who’s got to share news we think people aren’t gonna like. Job changes. Unexpected pregnancies. Failed college classes.

In each case, there’s the potential for someone to be really thrown for a loop. But there’s also the chance they’ll be fine about it. Disappointed that we’re hurt, sure … but not un-frickin-believably mad. Maybe people aren’t as harsh as we think they are. Maybe we help set the stage for how they react before they’ve even heard the news.

It’s an interesting psych-type question, I think. For those of you who’ve had to come out and who care to share, I’d love to know how you handled it and how it was received!

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.

First, do no harm – unless you think it’s okay to discriminate

We hear a lot these days about the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” There’s one particular section of the legislation that I want to write about here … the section that deals with LGBTQ folks.

Let me say this upfront: I don’t know how this will be affected when the incoming administration nixes the AHA as it is already in the process of doing. With that question momentarily out of the way, here’s what I’ve learned about 1557 and what a win it is for the LGBTQ community.

Section 1557 says all LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in health insurance coverage and health care. That in and of itself is wonderful, in my opinion. (Of course, I think they should be protected from discrimination in any form!) So, by law, doctors must treat someone who’s LGBTQ the same way they’d treat someone who isn’t. While that should be a no-brainer, unfortunately, it’s not. Many in the LGBT world avoid going to do the doctor for fear of discrimination or hostility based on their lifestyles. How sad is that?!

Another cool part of the law? Trans patients must be allowed to be housed in a room according to the gender they identify with, not the gender of their birth.

I’m all for that.

Think about nursing homes.  Until section 1557, someone who’s trans would’ve been forced to share a room based on the gender of their birth certificate. So a woman who transitioned to become a woman 20 years ago had to share a room with a man because her birth certificate said she was born male. Doesn’t matter that she’s identified as female for two decades — she was born with a penis and therefore housed with a man. Period.

Section 1557 changes that. She’s now free to room with another female.

However, it could create an interesting scenario… say you’ve got a trans man sharing the same nursing home room as a CIS man. If the CIS guy has a tough time comprehending the idea of a transgender man, it could be an explosive situation. Talk about forced integration!

But it could also potentially help the CIS patient to better understand how he and his roommate are similar, and better understand their differences. (I am guessing that the trans guy probably already has a decent sense of that.) I know I might sound like Pollyana, always hoping for the best in every situation, but I love the idea that perhaps this ruling could do more than protect LGBTQ rights. Maybe, just maybe, it could help some of teh more close-minded people grasp where someone else is coming from — and that the LGBTQ community poses no threat.

Imagine how much we could learn about each other if we were forced to treat a patient or share a room with someone we didn’t understand.

If you wanna learn more, here’s a fact sheet and an article for your reading pleasure.

I’ll post an update if I learn whether Section 1557 will go the way of the dodo bird when the rest of the ACA is repealed. Fingers crossed it will remain untouched.

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.