Friday, March 31, 2017
Last month, our transgender daughter’s picture went viral and our family discovered a whole new level of visibility as we continued to advocate for trans young people. It’s been exciting, encouraging, overwhelming, and more than a little scary. We discovered a small taste of what many other public families of transgender young people know. There is an enormous heartwarming community supporting and loving our kids. There are also far too many people filled with hate, anger, and, seemingly, a lack of meaningful hobbies as they go out of their way to vilify transgender kids and their families. We know the rule, “don’t read the comments”, but sometimes the comments find you via private messages, email and beyond.
As our newsfeed filled with my kid’s face, family and friends were generally supportive but some wondered. They said things like “We love and support Rebekah, but why did you have to do all this? Why couldn’t you go about your daily lives and just let her be a girl? Why did you have to go so public? With all the hate in the world, don’t you worry about her privacy and her safety?”
That right there seems to be the question of Transgender Day of Visibility for me this year. Why visibility? Isn’t it safer/easier to just lay low? Day to day, her trans identity doesn’t have much of an impact on her. She’s fits into society’s expectations for girls. You don’t know she’s transgender when you meet her. She has a supportive school that protects her rights and identity. She has a supportive family. We know that being so public will impact her for the rest of her life. We’re not naive about any of this.
We could tell Rebekah to keep her identity quiet. We could hide our family’s story. We would absolutely be safer. We wouldn’t be receiving hateful messages calling us sick and horrible criminals, accusing us of abuse and threatening to have our kids taken away, or suggesting the world would be a better a place if our family died of cancer. We wouldn’t be trying to walk these fine lines of preserving the normalcy of everyday life, ensuring the safety of our family to the best of our ability, and carefully, intentionally trying to use this voice we’ve been given, not knowing what Rebekah will think of any of it ten or twenty years from now. Life might be a lot more calmer, quieter, easier.
The rights of the transgender community are under attack, and those who are not as fortunate as Rebekah are the ones most impacted — those youth who don’t have supportive families, communities, or schools, those youth who don’t fit so neatly into the gender binary, those who already face discrimination based on their color, culture, creed, ability, income, and/or immigration status.
We are called not to hide behind our privilege, but to boldly tell our story and fight for those who aren’t in a position to do so publicly. And in that visibility, there is joy and hope. There are the messages we receive of love, support, and encouragement. Messages from people in the trans community telling us we’re in this together. Parents reaching out for support and resources. Young people thanking us for seeing them, valuing them when maybe their families or their schools don’t. The allies stepping forward, finding their voices, and taking action to support the trans community.
None of that is because our family is so special, or even because Rebekah is special, although we do think she’s pretty great. It’s because the trans community is strong, determined, brave, and resilient. They show us that every day just by existing and living out their lives when society tells them they don’t have a place here. The very act of being visible as a transgender person is an act of revolution.
We have watched Rebekah become more confident in herself and her identity as she uses her voice to stand up for her rights and the rights of all transgender kids. Being boldly, proudly, and joyfully visible sends a message to the community and the world, that this is not a secret, this is not a source of shame. My daughter’s identity is one to be seen and celebrated. As parents, as allies, we will continue to raise up trans voices, to see and celebrate trans identities, and to mobilize for transgender justice.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
I'm the Scary Transgender Person the Media Warned You About
(also known as "that time my kid went viral").
Originally published on Facebook on February 27, 2017.
Forgive me, guys. I have to be a gushing mom for a moment. This 10 year old girl stood up yesterday at a microphone in the street and told 200+ people why we need to stand up for not only trans rights but all rights. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BRAVE AND KIND!
We know how good she has it. We know the difference a supportive family and a supportive school make. And we know that rescinding the guidelines on supporting trans students disproportionately affects the most vulnerable. Black trans youth. Latinx trans youth. Immigrant trans youth. Muslim trans youth. Economically disadvantaged trans youth. Youth who live at the intersection of these identities and more, youth who are marginalized two and three times over just because of who they are, where they live, what they believe, or where they come from. This is why we will keep fighting.
Originally published on Facebook, January 29, 2017.
Elijah, my almost 8 year old, asked me why I was upset yesterday. He and his 10 year old sister have learned about the refugee crisis in school, and so I explained to them why I was upset in the simplest terms possible, that our president declared that we would not allow many of these refugees into our country right now. I explained that homes and lives were ready for some of these refugees and that they were being turned away, some of them even at our airports. Elijah, with a look of utter shock and dismay on his face, immediately said, "Mama, I think you're going to have to go march again."
I smiled and told him that, yes, people were protesting. I also told him we would do a lot of things. We would speak out. We would write and call our legislators, our voice in the government. We would donate money to organizations who will help fight for these people in court. We would do all things, but I needed them to do something really, really big.
I told them I needed them to be the bravest and kindest kids they know and that I would be the bravest and kindest person I know. We talked about how we have to reach out to and support people who are different from us, every day and in every way. We talked about making sure someone isn't excluded or hurt at school because they don't look, act, or live like someone else. I told them that by doing that they could change the world.
Rebekah looked at me skeptically. Her face seemed to say, "change the world? yea right." So I tried to explain how meanness and anger can spread, but Elijah took over for me. He explained about how they read a book in guidance class at school about a boy who was being a bully at school. He said the boy wasn't a mean person, but he was acting mean because his sister was being mean to him at home. I said, YES! And just like meanness and anger can spread and make us meaner and angrier, kindness and love can spread. Elijah exclaimed, "LIKE AN INFECTION!"
Yes, like an infection. These kids are going to INFECT the world with kindness, love, and bravery, and they ARE going to change the world.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
I am so very sad to hear that Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, died last week. Project Semicolon is a global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire.
Amy saved lives with her work. People were inspired and encouraged by her and the symbol of the semicolon, but more than that, through Project Semicolon, people realized they weren't alone.
From the moment I discovered Project Semicolon, I knew I needed a semicolon tattoo. I knew I needed this physical, visible, daily reminder that no matter what I was facing this wasn't the end of my story. I needed this symbol to tell me, without words, that no matter how hard it seemed, the pain wouldn't last forever. I needed to be able to look at it and know that I wasn't alone, that others all over the world were fighting the battles of depression and anxiety alongside me.
A friend reached out asking if I wanted to get one with her, and it was a done deal, another strong reminder that we are not alone. She worked her semicolon into waves inspired by her love of and connection to the water, a constant in her life, a place of strength and peace.
I put mine between the two words that anchor me daily. Love and grace. The things I both aspire to but also find solace in. Each day I want to give love, live love, embody love - for myself, my family, and the world. Love is the only thing that makes sense to me in the face of hate and suffering. When I have no idea how to respond, what else to do, how to push through, love is what calls me forward. Love is expansive and light. Love heals. It is a comfort, a gift, and a calling. It is messy and real.
Love and grace. Grace because we are human and our world is broken. Without grace, I can never measure up. Grace tells me, shows me, time and time again that no matter what I do, no matter how I mess up, I AM loved. Grace will save me every time. Grace means that I can stop fighting to earn my right to exist. Grace says I am enough, right here, right now, exactly as I am. And grace frees me from deciding who else is worthy, compelling me to focus entirely on loving them, just as they are, in all their mess and beauty, in all their humanity.
Every day I'm thankful for this tattoo. Things still get hard. Sometimes the darkness settles in, and I don't know how long it will stay. But every day I'm thankful to know I'm not alone, and that this is not the end of my story. Today I'm especially thankful for Amy and her work in this world. In her honor, I will keep sharing my story,
I will keep telling people that the pain is real, but depression lies. This is the truth. You are not alone. Your story isn't over. You matter.
If you are struggling, please reach out. To someone, anyone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)'