Wednesday, December 31, 2008
This year's slogan was 'liberate your desires', which supplanted 'all systems go' part way through January. As my dear friend says, It's never too late to change your mind. So, I did.
Liberating my desires this year meant:
allowing myself to not know what's next
giving myself permission to change
bringing more of myself to the spaces i inhabit
celebrating successes, while acknowledging the long path ahead
trusting that everything will work out
accepting that good living takes work (and it's worth it)
loving my friends and family, on both sides of the country
being truly blessed by the many generous and caring people in my life
Thank you for supporting my work, being my friend, and caring enough to read my blog.
Happy New Year!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
During the Transgender Day of Remembrance service, we are reminded – these people are children, siblings, parents, friends, and lovers. As we read the names, I think of the mother mourning her transgender child’s death, the brother who will never understand how someone could take his sibling’s life. There is a small child whose parent committed suicide, an adult whose parent died because the doctors refused treatment. I don’t know their names, but anti-transgender violence has taken their family members.
In this moment, I find sadness. In this moment, I find rage.
Then, my thoughts turn to the transgender people in my life. I picture my father and her partner, the peaceful life they have pieced together in the small town surrounded by mountains. Grateful that they have a place to live, that she has a job. They are less vulnerable than many of those on the TDoR list, but still the fear creeps in. I could be that family member, holding a picture at the vigil. This year, I am not. I say a little prayer that my loved ones – family and friends – live free from violence.
In this moment, I find sadness. In this moment, I find rage.
While marching through San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, I meet a woman whose name could have been on the memorial list. She tells me her story of surviving stab wounds and being left at Ocean Beach, of the children who found her there, of her recovery just two years ago. And she is marching next to me, holding a candle just like mine.
In this moment, I find perseverance. In this moment, I find hope.
May this compassionate rage fuel our collective efforts to recreate a world where people live free from violence and discrimination.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I realized on Wednesday that I'd been holding my breath for weeks, hoping that the collective power of grassroots organizing in America would win at the polls. In my decade-long experience as a voter in this country, I had reason to be skeptical. After all, my first opportunity to vote for president resulted in voter fraud in Florida and the Bush regime. I remember thinking, 'How bad could it really get?' and within a year, it was pretty obvious.
In 2004, I was living in Boston during the Kerry campaign. In the face of the Iraq War and so much injustice, many of us figured that Bush just had to lose. Instead, we had another close election resulting in a so called 'mandate' for a second-term president who should've never been elected. My good friend Bonnie and I visited Copley Square on election night to join with throngs of damp broken-hearted Kerry supporters. The day after the election, I saw Antibalas perform at The Middle East in Cambridge. We danced our pain and frustration out, realizing that millions of Americans actually believed those campaign lies.
All this is to say that I am used to being broken-hearted the day after election day, needing to be angry and sad, take care of myself and my community, and reflect on next steps.
Last Tuesday, I gathered with friends in San Francisco to watch the returns come in. Many of us spent part of the day near polling places reminding people to vote no on proposition 8. There was a nervous energy all afternoon. When I voted earlier that day, I was disgusted by the ballot question - 'Proposition 8 - Eliminates the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry'. I should NEVER be able to vote on whether to eliminate another person's rights. But, I suppose it happens all the time, just in less obvious language.
As an east coast transplant, it's strange to see the results of the rest of the country before the polls close here. I am grateful for the delay, because it gave us about 45 minutes to truly celebrate Obama's victory before California precincts started reporting the bad news.
We sat together, snuggling and crying at Obama's speech, overcome with a momentous sense of hope and history. Yes.We.Can.
As President-Elect Obama told the story of the 104-year old African-American woman who cast her vote that day, the banner showed the first returns. We tensed, unready to move from this moment of victory. A little over 50% had voted to ban gay marriage - 52% in the final count. We were still hopeful, but tinged with a strange feeling of homophobia on a broad scale.
I am still so proud to live in a country that elected Barack Obama as its 44th president. This is the beginning of a new era and part of it is a nuanced mix of victory and injustice. I've grown used to trusting that every decision of the Bush administration is a bad one. Moving forward, I know I cannot trust the Democrats to always make good decisions. This means paying closer attention, keeping social justice at the forefront of my mind and my work.
As a member of the LGBT movement, a queer person, and a resident of California, I am outraged and saddened by the passage of Proposition 8. I took to the streets with thousands of San Franciscans on Friday to protest. Check out my radio report on Flashpoints here (it's about half way through the broadcast). While we need to get outraged to heal, this is not the time to scapegoat those who voted for the bill - regardless of their race, faith, or age - but rather a time to move forward. We must look beyond the fight for marriage equality.
I have been deeply inspired by some of the conversations some of us in the queerspawn community are having. As a community existing at the intersections of oppression, homophobia and transphobia is an oppression we all face. My goodness, we have some powerful things to say from this vantage point. Here is part of the COLAGE statement:
COLAGE calls on our members and allies to stand up against the scapegoating of voters of color in the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Some have publicly stated that the African American vote tipped the scales against marriage equality in California. African Americans represent only 6% of the CA population, while Anglo Americans represent 47% of the state population. This means that the majority of people who voted for Proposition 8 are white. Let's reject racist scapegoating. Affirming racism while standing up against homophobia is never productive and lashing out against those who voted for Proposition 8 will not help educate or raise awareness to move our society forward.It really bothered me to see visibly white protesters wearing 'Second Class Citizen' t-shirts at the march on Friday. There are many people in this country who are treated like second class citizens. While all of us should have access to the institution of marriage, their claim overlooks the various privileges enjoyed by many white, middle-class, able-bodied citizens working for equal marriage rights.
We much use our voices at this critical moment, even if it's hard to know what to say. I vow to be more outspoken in the coming months. After all, I AM the child of LGBTQ parents. Those who voted for Prop 8 did NOT have my best interests in mind. AND there is so much more to equality beyond my right to marry a woman in California.
May we seize this feeling of hope to truly bring change to our communities.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Sandwiched between these two local conferences, I traveled to Atlanta for my third Southern Comfort Conference. What a celebration! More than one transgender parent expressed their gratitude for the Kids of Trans Resource Guide. They came out to their kids since May (the release date) and actually gave them a copy of the guide as part of coming out! It meant so much to meet folks whose families are already benefiting from this resource. This work feels like a dandelion that's gone to seed... I am letting the wind scatter the Kids of Trans resources through the world. I am cultivating other things now. SCC was such a great opportunity to see firsthand what sort of impact this work is having.
SCC also provided a venue to launch the No Dumb Questions project. We screened a clip of the new footage in a last minute addition to the schedule. Melissa Regan, the filmmaker, was met with overwhelming accolades from conference attendees. I'm not sure she realized just how much people in the trans community love her film. We met with Jennifer Finney Boylan after a rousing workshop on writing transgender memoir. She is quite the storyteller and was so excited about the new NDQ online community where people can share stories and ask questions about gender identity and sexual orientation. Check out the site to see Jenny talking about storytelling and share your own story.
I am working hard out here to connect the dots. I'll try to update the blog more often, since the NDQ project has me embracing the power of the web.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Well, it turns out Canadians know another Bill who became Barbra. Bill Amesbury had a few hit songs in the 1970s, including "Virginia (Touch Me Like You Do)", and has since transitioned to become Barbra Amesbury. Canadian crooner James Collins released the song "Do You Mind If We Talk About Bill" in 2002, in which he asks Barbra whether she can talk about her life as Bill. Denise played the song on air before our interview segment. The YouTube video is pretty amazing:
I like how this song touches on the dilemma of talking about the past (pre-transition) with transsexual people. He keeps asking 'is it alright?'. As SOFFAs, we want to do and say the right thing; sometimes, it's hard to know what that means, especially when navigating discussions of the past.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Today, COLAGE Joins the LGBT community in mourning
the loss of beloved Civil rights leader Del Martin, 87
Today, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community lost an iconic leader and a beloved friend. Del
Martin, 87, passed away in San Francisco with Phyllis Lyon,
her lifelong partner and spouse, by her side. COLAGE
celebrates the lifetime of activism of a hero of our community and expresses our gratitude to Del and Phyllis for their long-
time support of COLAGE.
Martin was one of the nation's first and most visible lesbian rights activists who dedicated her life to combating
homophobia, sexism, violence, and racism. She is survived by spouse Phyllis Lyon, daughter Kendra Mon, son-in-law Eugene Lane, granddaughter Lorraine Mon, grandson Kevin Mon, sister-in-law Patricia Lyon and a vast, loving and grateful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family.
"Today the LGBT movement has lost a true community treasure and role model," reflected Beth Teper, COLAGE Executive Director. "I am reminded of the amazing chutzpah of Del and Phyllis. From an early age they recognized their right to love freely, to organize their community and to advocate for their rights. I have always appreciated Del and Phyllis' long-time moral, emotional and material support of COLAGE and their recognition of the importance of youth and adults with LGBT parents in our movement. Our thoughts are with Phyllis and Kendra during this time of grieving and with the entire community as we reflect on Del's amazing contributions to social justice and LGBT rights."
Martin began working as an activist after receiving her degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. While working on a newspaper in Seattle, Martin met her partner Phyllis Lyon and the two began working on behalf of lesbians in their community. Martin and Lyon have devoted their lives to working towards LGBT equality, healthcare access, advocacy on behalf of battered women, and issues facing elderly Americans. Their many contributions over the past five decades helped shape the modern LGBT movement.
In 1955, Lyon and Martin were among the founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization. In 1956, they launched "The Ladder," the first lesbian newsletter, which became a lifeline for hundreds of women isolated and silenced by the restrictions of the era. Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman elected to the board of the National Organization of Women (NOW), and in 1971, encouraged the board to pass a resolution stating that lesbian issues were feminist issues. In 1995, Martin and Lyon were named delegates to the White House Conference on Aging by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. In 2004, Lyon and Martin became the first same-sex couple to be married in the state of California, and subsequently became plaintiffs in the California marriage case, helping to ensure that the fundamental right to marry under the California Constitution belongs to all couples, including same-sex couples.
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married in California on June 16, 2008 after 55 years together.
"Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her, and been her partner in all things," Lyon said. "I also never imagined there would be day that we would actually be able to get married. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."
Gifts in lieu of flowers can be made to honor Del's life and commitment and to marriage equality through NCLR's No On 8 PAC.
You can learn more about Del Martin's powerful legacy through the film No Secret Anymore: The Life and Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Perhaps it is a measure of how far our popular culture has shifted, when hot transgender people are popping up in the fashion and entertainment world. I recently caught an episode of I Want to Work for Diddy, which includes a striking transgender woman as a contestant. Though I'd sworn off reality television years ago, it was encouraging to see both a trans woman and a gay former soldier on a show based mainly on P. Diddy's ego.
In other reality TV news, one of the contestants on America's Next Top Model is also a transgender woman. Talk about going mainstream!
Trans folks can also be fierce fashionistas, as evidenced by Kenneth Cole's online ad with Nina Poon and her boyfriend. This video is so impressive, I almost want to buy designer shoes.
This type of inclusion is great because it not only shows that transgender people exist, but that they can be beautiful (even by our culture's unrealistic standards).
Saturday, August 16, 2008
the wife of a transgender woman and a remarkable activist. She is also the voice of partners of MTFs online, hosting My Husband Betty message boards for partners, contributing to the TransGroup Blog, and maintaining her own blog called en|gender. Helen also teaches, speaks, and rocks it in true New Yorker fashion. We met a few years ago at a conference where she was the key note speaker and I've been a big fan ever since. She recently interviewed me about the Kids of Trans Resource Guide, which posted on my birthday. (Thanks, Helen!)
Here it is:
As many of you know, Monica Canfield-Lenfest is the daughter of a trans woman and created a new resource, with COLAGE, for kids with trans parents.I highly recommend it.
1) First, tell me about COLAGE & how the book for Kids of Trans happened, what your goals were.
COLAGE (www.colage.org) is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy. I first contacted COLAGE five and a half years ago, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis: “She’s My Father: The Social Experience of People with Transgender Parents”. Looking for references for my project, I discovered a diverse community of queerspawn who gave me the space to better articulate my experience and encouraged me to continue my work, since there are hardly any resources for transgender parented families. I started presenting at transgender conferences and gained a renewed sense of responsibility to build community and develop resources for people with transgender parents.
During a COLAGE conference in Dallas two years ago, I suggested to Meredith Fenton, COLAGE Program Director, that perhaps I could fill a fall internship position at the national office. We came up with a Fellowship model for my position, which has become a new program for the organization. I worked full-time for eight months focused specifically on the Kids of Trans Program. The major goal of the fellowship was to develop resources for people with transgender parents. Since there was no book detailing our experiences and offering advice to people with trans parents, the Kids of Trans Resource Guide became the obvious main project.
My goals in writing the guide were: first, to tell other people with trans parents that they are not alone; second, to recognize that the entire family transitions when a parent transitions; and third, to provide compassionate advice from people who have similar families. In short, I hoped to create the book I wanted my father to give me when she came out to me over ten years ago.
2) I remember first meeting you & being thrilled to meet another ally who happened also to be related to the trans community – me as a partner, you as a KOT. How did trans people respond to you being at the conference & at trans events?
Yes, I remember how inspired I was to meet you, too! At many conferences, there is the inevitable question - so, why are you here? Since I don’t identify as transgender and very few people read me as trans, many people are curious about my presence at trans conferences. Once I explain my work, people tend to be excited that someone is advocating for transgender families. Although, there is usually some confusion about whether I work with trans youth or youth with trans parents.
The most memorable response I ever received was at an IFGE conference. I stood up during a panel session, introduced myself as the daughter of a transwoman, and asked how people with transgender parents can utilize the media to further transgender equality. The entire crowd gave me a standing ovation! That was the moment when I decided to dedicate more time and energy to building the Kids of Trans program. Each parent I meet reminds me how this work touches people’s families.
3) So far, what has the response been to the book?
The response has been great. People have been waiting for this type of resource for so long that families are thrilled that it exists. One therapist told me that they gave a copy to a couple who were about to come out to their kids and the parents were visibly relieved to have this type of resource. The book features quotes from nineteen people with transgender parents, and people really appreciate the personal experiences sprinkled throughout the text. By including so many elements of this experience, I hope everyone finds a resource for their family. The guide includes: The Basics, Finding Out Your Parent is Transgender, Tips for Transition, Family Shifts, Talking About Our Families, and other valuable resource sections.
It really is amazing to be able to direct people to the COLAGE Kids of Trans website (www.colage.org/programs/trans) to find a copy of the guide, sign up for our online discussion list, and search the resource lists. People can also request paper copies of the guide through the site. Since the guide is aimed at middle school aged youth and older, there have been a few requests for a resource for younger children. There are a few books for young children listed in the resources section, but I agree that we need more tools to explain gender non-conformity to young children, not just those with trans parents.
I am excited that the Kids of Trans Resource Guide addresses some of the needs of our community. If just one person feels less isolated because of this book, I’ve achieved my goal.
4) Have your feelings about your own gender changed as a result of having a parent who is trans?
My entire understanding of gender - my feelings about my own gender and other people’s genders - has been deeply impacted by witnessing my father transition from male to female. Mainly, I have a broader sense of the possibilities of gender identity and expression. In part, because I saw my dad become a woman. Also, I’ve found myself quite often existing in queer and transgender spaces, where various genders are lived and celebrated.
Since I have learned to respect the gender identities and expressions of my parent, her partner, and others, I have gained an appreciation for the complexities of my own gender.
5) I expect you don’t stay idle for long: what’s your next project?
The filmmaker, Melissa Regan, recently shot follow-up footage with the family. The sisters are teenagers now and Barbara has been living as a woman for a few years. The new footage provides invaluable perspective on one family’s process of understanding a loved one’s gender transition. In Spring 2009, No Dumb Questions will be re-released on DVD with new footage. We will also launch an interactive online community where anyone can use video, audio, photos, text and social media to ask – and answer – their own questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.
My role is to get the word out about the new project and provide input as an advocate for transgender people and families. I am really excited to apply my energy and expertise to educate the public about issues of gender identity and expression. As we saw last fall with ENDA, there is still a lot of education needed around transgender rights, even within the LGB community. This film and website will provide a venue where people can ask their ‘dumb’ questions and get answers about trans people’s experiences. You can read more at www.nodumbquestions.com.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
and Rachel Pepper in the latest issue of Bay Windows, recommending them each for family members of transgender people.
Here's what she said about the guide:
The Kids of Trans Resource Guide, by Monica Canfield-Lenfest of the COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) Kids of Trans program (and a KOT herself), likewise starts with basic terminology and a discussion of gender. It then provides succinct advice on matters such as what to expect when a parent transitions, what to call them, how and when to come out about being a KOT, and how to deal with shifts in family structure. It also includes a section about dealing with transphobia, but follows it with an upbeat one on "Benefits of Being a KOT." An additional but helpful piece has "Transition Tips for Parents" to make the process easier for- everyone in the family. Like Brill and Pepper’s book, the Guide explores the many facets of each issue, includes quotes from those who have been through them before, and avoids one-size-fits-all answers.
Most importantly, the Guide discusses how to find support and community, and reassures its readers that they are not alone. It includes an extensive resource list of books, movies, and support groups, online and off.
The typography and grammar could use editing in a few places, but the work is by and large an enjoyable and readable resource. It should be of enormous value to those with transgender parents. Download a free copy and view other COLAGE resources for KOTs at: www.colage.org/programs/trans/.
I'm glad to get the coverage and the call for further editing is humbling. The word is getting out about this resource, which means more KOTs will find it. It's appropriate that Boston's LGBT newspaper covered the guide while I'm in the northeast.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
As the train pulled into my hometown, fireworks exploded over the Vermont horizon. It's been a long month of traveling and visiting, speaking and listening.
I flew to Philadelphia on May 28th, to attend the Trans Health Conference. This was perhaps my favorite transgender conference yet, since it really draws the community, and not once was I asked why I was there (despite my gender presentation). The conference is free on Community Days and charges for Provider Day. I presented a session on Saturday morning, caught up with some dear friends, and made some new ones. I also got to share copies of my resource guide.
Then, I headed north to New York via chinatown bus (the east coast phenomenon of buses that travel between chinatowns), where I stayed with my college roommate, met up with some other KOTs, and saw some family and friends. I'd forgotten that people in NYC are booked solid, so I missed a number of people during my visit. You mean I can't make plans for a Thursday on a Tuesday? Oops.
From NYC, I took the bus (greyhound) to Northampton, MA, for the first ever New England Trans Pride March. I stayed with a college friend who is now a father (!) and husband (to a lovely gender theory head). It's amazing how children bring out certain aspects of people - Adam is such a dad, now. How sweet. We met up with my incredible 15-year old half-sister, who had died her hair platinum and is such a rad teenager. I had the pleasure of introducing sis to a bunch of activists and trans people (including the lovely Donna Rose) and hanging out in the NoHo heat. When her mom picked us up at the end of the day, she asked what we'd learned. 'Monica's famous', Morgan replied.
I spent a night with them, headed to Vermont to drop off some luggage, then traveled to Boston . Oh the layers of memories are deep there, after nine years of forging my adulthood in that city. I even caught one of those perfect days when it seems like the best weather on earth -- the sun hits the Charles River just right and I know what Anne Sexton meant. There was plenty of catching up to do, as well as helping with the Boston COLAGE Chapter during Pride. Oh, Boston. You will always be a bit of home, but I'm certainly moving on.
So, I did (physically) move on to New York (again!) on my way to Philadelphia (again!) to speak to family therapists about my work at the American Family Therapy Academy Annual Meeting. Thanks to Arlene Istar Lev for inviting me to attend.
After a relaxing weekend with friends in Philadelphia, I took a long train ride home to Vermont for a few weeks of quality time with my mom. I've run into quite a few familiar folks here and each time it's a little awkward to answer the question "So what are you doing in California?". Maybe this is really grassroots activism, each time I explain that I just wrote a resource guide for people with transgender parents. Sometimes, I just say "youth advocacy".
It's good to remember where I come from, so I can appreciate where I am now and where I will go.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Part of the problem was that there were no resources for me to give to my son to
help him. There was nothing to help him understand, to know what to expect, to
help him realize that he wasn't alone. There was no support network, so we were
left to struggle through all the difficult issues on our own. Far too many
trans-people become permanently estranged from their children as feelings of
discomfort, anger, shame, and confusion pervade the relationship. Many of us
never recover from this heartbreaking loss.
The good news is that times have changed. Tools and support networks to help transitioning parents and their children are being developed. Case in point is the recent announcement from COLAGE of the development of a groundbreaking guide for people with transgender parents, a Kids of Trans Resource Guide.
Congratulations to Monica Canfield-Lenfest who is celebrating the release of her
new resource guide for people with transparents. This guide is a culmination of
her personal experience of having a transparent and her recent years of advocacy
and community building, topped off with several months as a fellow at the COLAGE
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Why, yes, that is a copy of the Kids of Trans Resource Guide in my hand. Contact me for a copy of your own. If you're in the Bay Area, you can pick one up at the Transgender Family Picnic tomorrow afternoon in Dolores Park.
Needless to say, it's been a big week.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Joyfully, this is the third state I've called home that has legalized same-sex unions (2 out of 3 have marriage equality). Today was an incredible day to be in San Francisco. You may recognize COLAGE's own Beth Teper celebrating this morning, pictured above as seen in the NY Times.
The court's ruling was strongly worded:
“In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship,” Chief Justice George wrote, “the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”Yeah... it's about equal rights.
This ruling does not signal 'full equality' in California as some have said today, but rather marriage equality - one institution. There is still plenty of inequality in this state and throughout the world. Marriage equality solves some very real problems for many people - including thousands of families in the country's largest state. It will not cure many of the inequalities that LGBT people (and all people) of this state experience, but it does send a loud message that people should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation. Let us remember this as we celebrate.
It's a great day to be gay in San Francisco.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Email me at kidsoftrans (at) colage(dot) org if you'd like a copy of the guide.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The Kids of Trans Resource Guide is with the designer and will be available in print by May 18th (at our Transgender Family Picnic in Dolores Park). If you'd like a copy, please get in touch. I am wishing for more time and better foresight for the design and printing of the guide. Hopefully, it will actually look pretty, since it will be the resource guide for people with transgender parents. I'll know soon enough.
Beyond my work at COLAGE, I've attended some great workshops recently. Class Action facilitated a one-day workshop on class last week, which I was privileged enough with my co-worker from COLAGE. We focused a lot on class background, which helped me overcome a lot of shame of growing up working class. It also left me wondering how to reconcile my current class experience as middle professional class. Upon leaving the workshop, I wondered how I would use it, since there were very few hard tools provided. Brilliantly, the session made me more able to talk about my own class and open up conversations about class in many areas of my life. Well done.
I've also been blessed with the opportunity to attend two fantastic open sessions put on by the Catalyst Project, a center for political education and movement building with a commitment to deepening white anti-racist organizing. Two of my friends are participating in the four month Anne Braden Anti-Racist Training Program through Catalyst and they invited me to these open sessions. The first was a panel on visionary politics, which got me fired up with hope that a better world is indeed possible. The panel gave me taste of the amazing radicals doing work in this area. I've always learned better from people than from books, so it appears I've found my activist home.
Yesterday, I attended a panel on anti-racist organizing. People had some good things to say about knowing your political history and being willing to make mistakes. As white folks living in a system of white supremacy, we are taught that we know everything. It's part of how the system works. So, it's fundamental for us to be able to engage in the work in order to learn the lessons of doing the work. One woman talked about utilizing the political moment of elections to bring conversations to the masses of people who are apolitical the rest of the time.
Today, I read this transcript in the NY Times of Rev Jeremiah Wright's speech about the black church in the US. His speech encompasses so much history, which seizing this political moment to talk about race. Seriously, how often does the main stream press print quotes like:
Maybe this dialogue on race, an honest dialogue that does not engage in denial or superficial platitudes, maybe this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation.Of course, Obama is adamantly distancing himself from the radical reverend.
“Obviously, it’s not ideal,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior strategist. “It’s pretty clear that Reverend Wright is not out there to help Obama — he’s out there to help himself. It’s a sideshow, and the media is consumed by it.”Actually, it seems like Reverend Wright is actually out to get people talking about race in America. He is seizing the moment and his connection with a major party candidate to bring the conversation to the front page. Too bad the mainstream messaging is set up to support the status quo, which means not talking about all of the systems (race, class, gender, etc) that privilege some and oppress others.
Fortunately, I live in a place where the common political discourse is more progressive than anything you will see in the mainstream press and the cover to a dance party always goes to a good cause.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The final version of the Kids of Trans Resource Guide will be available by May 18th, the day of our Transgender Family Picnic in Dolores Park (prospective parents and allies are welcome). This means I still have a lot to do, although it still amazes me that this is my day job (at least for another month and a half). I am so blessed!
If you are looking for resources for people with transgender parents, check out COLAGE's Kids of Trans Program. Our Transgender Family Resources List, KOT online community, Pen Pal program, and other resources are available on the site.
Life in SF has been pretty hectic and filled with springtime since my return. I realized that so much of my energy focus was finishing the guide for IFGE that the past week has felt like a release. Now that it's in final draft and the conference was so successful, I am really asking 'what's next?'.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Friday, I am co-presenting two sessions - one specifically on When a Parent Transitions and one focused on Children of Transgender Parents. I look forward to reconnecting with the transgender community that has welcomed me so warmly.
Two years ago, I attended my first IFGE with fellow KOT Christy Hubert. During a media workshop, I stood to ask a question to the panel: "My name is Monica and my father is a transwoman. I work with COLAGE and have witnessed people with gay and lesbian parents further the rights of their families. How can people with transgender parents do the same?". The audience gave me a standing ovation. At that moment, with tears in my eyes, I realized that it was time to commit to this work. I couldn't have done it without the trans community or the queerspawn community.
Tomorrow, I will carry 75 copies of the Kids of Trans Resource Guide Preview in my suitcase.
The guide exists. Now is the time to share it...
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Walter Bockting, who runs the Human Sexuality program at University of Minnesota, is quoted:
"When coming out to children, it is always appropriate to do so at an age-appropriate level. When a parent begins transitioning and coming out, it is something of adolescence for them too. They might be taking hormones which not only affect their body but their mood too. It is important for a transgender parent to remember they are a parent first."
While the journalist ask me some sort of strange questions (e.g. 'is it harder for kids with transgender parents to understand how babies are made?') and prompted me to respond 'What is a normal American family, anyway?', the quotes he used were good ones, including a plug for the KOT resource guide. I'm not thrilled about the male pronouns used to describe my dad, but talking about transgender people who are just coming out and on the verge of transition is always a pronoun challenge (even for me).
I even get the last word:
Monica Canfield-Lenfest first learned her father planned to make his outward appearance match his innermost feelings and become a woman when she was 17.
Because of feelings of shame and fears of being teased, many children keep their parent's transition a secret, leading the children to feel isolated and alone, said Canfield-Lenfest, who, as a fellow at Colage, a group that counsels children of gay and transgender parents, is writing the first resource guide for children of transgender parents.
"The biggest thing is a feeling of isolation. My dad came out when I was 17, and I thought I was the only one," she said.
"People have all kinds of reactions. One friend found out his father was about to undergo a transition and his reaction was 'Oh, that's fine, can we make the 2:20 showing of X-Men 2.' Other people are angry. Many have questions right away, and others need to process the information more slowly."
"The best things a parent can do is keep their door open and answer their kids' questions," she said.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
It feels like a paradigm shift; I thought I had some idea of my future and recently admitted that my perspective has changed. My relationship fell apart, my plans to return 'home' to Boston unraveled. This essentially happened in the six weeks between my MSW application submission and receiving the letter of acceptance. Thanks, Simmons School of Social Work, but no thanks. Turns out, I'm not ready to go back to school or leave San Francisco. I'm not even sure that I want to be a therapist for transgender people and their families, despite my heart-felt application statement. It makes me laugh -- how did I think I would know the next step before I took this one? Live and learn. New slogan for 2008 = Liberate your desires.
Besides all of the processing of paradigm shifts, I've been getting some KOT work done...
The resource guide is almost finished, thanks to so much support from the queerspawn and transgender communities. I am finalizing the content this week, based on feedback and edits from a few KOTs, therapists, and trans advocates. The photocopied version of the guide will be available early April at the IFGE conference in Tucson, where I am co-presenting two workshops and hope to spend some time by the pool.
Last week, I sat on a panel after the Frameline screening of transparent and Just Call Me Kade at the SF LGBT Center. The films were good, despite the lack of children's voices in transparent. I love sitting on a panel and seeing at least fifteen friends in the audience. Queerspawn community in the Bay Area is truly a marvelous thing.
Friday, COLAGE's Board of Directors convened at the CTWO House in Oakland, a rad old purple mansion that hosts racial and social justice groups for meetings and retreats. We met about strategic planning all day and hosted a reception in the evening, where I spoke about the successes of the KOT program and pledged to become a monthly donor. Did I mention how much I love queerspawn community?
I slept too little and awoke early to travel to UC Berkeley for the Transgender Leadership Summit. This was my first visit to the Berkeley campus and I kept an eye out for a landmark from 'The Graduate'. (Do you have pictures in your head about places you've never been? My image of Berkeley was taken from the scene when Benjamin Bradford tries to find Elaine Robinson at school.) A young Dustin Hoffman was nowhere to be found, but some of my favorite trans activists were in attendance. I saw Jamison Green, who complimented the resource guide draft I'd sent for his review. Donna Rose (who vocally resigned from HRC's Board over the ENDA debacle) made a short video with me about the KOT program, which will be posted on her website. She is an absolute peach, assuring me that I am 'an honorary one of us'. Aw, shucks.
I attended some great workshops at the summit, including a fundraising session that was exactly what I needed. The KOT program isn't going to support itself and I need to raise some funds to get the resource guide out into the world. GLAAD did a media spokesperson training, which I left early to attend the AFLOAT caucus. AFLOAT (Allies, Friends, Loved Ones, and Tribe) is another acronym for SOFFA (Significant Others, Friends, Family, and Allies). No one knew where AFLOAT originated and I find the use of 'tribe' slightly problematic. I'll stick to SOFFA, but the caucus was a nice gathering of folks connected to trans people. I introduced myself as a 'super SOFFA'. Although I was the only KOT, the family and partner perspectives resonated deeply.
I am so grateful for the support my work has received, from COLAGE and from the transgender community. It's all coming together and I couldn't have done it without all the love. To those of you who have inspired me to keep me going, Thank You!
Friday, February 29, 2008
It's amazing that through a parent's transition, one can sometimes discover a relationship that you've always been missing.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I lobbied for this bill back in May as part of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) Lobby Day - it was actually a "lobby date" with my soon-to-be boyfriend. We wandered around the state house, entering legislators' offices and explaining our individual connections to the bill. I talked about my dad, he talked about himself. Then we walked through the Boston Common and had lunch in Copley Square. It was a memorable super SOFFA experience and one of my favorite dates of all time. Although we're no longer together, I hope the bill passes for his sake, and for all of the other transgender and gender non-conforming people still living in Massachusetts.
Since I am still in California and too far away to testify at the hearing, I submitted the following written testimony:
My name is Monica and I lived in Jamaica Plain, MA, until late 2007, when I moved to San Francisco to work for COLAGE, a national organization of people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer parents. I am completing a fellowship at COLAGE to expand their Kids of Trans program and develop resources for people with transgender parents.
My father is a transgender woman who transitioned from male to female in western Massachusetts about ten years ago. She found it difficult to maintain a career while facing discrimination as a transgender woman. Eventually, she took a job with a corporation in Vermont with human resources policies prohibiting gender based discrimination. She was forced to make a long commute, keeping her from spending time with my 14-year old sister. Last year, she and her partner finally decided to leave Massachusetts permanently to move to Vermont, one of a growing number of states with protections against gender-based discrimination.
HB 1722 would provide much needed protections for families like mine, families with one or more transgender parent(s). As the daughter of a transgender person, I have witnessed the impacts of transgender discrimination on my family. My father has struggled to support our family and found that her best option was to leave the state. Passage of this legislation would provide transgender parents, like my dad, with the opportunity to work and live in Massachusetts without fear of discrimination.
Thank you for your consideration of my family in the passage of HB 1722, An Act Related to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
building a bigger toolkit...
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The nation now is so uptight
All queerspawn have got to unite
The G-O-V's got hate and spite
So us queerspawn gotta shed some light
Resist! Resist! The system that we're in
Picture-perfect families don't let every one in
Families on TV have a mom and a dad
My family's different and we sure are rad
I see you you shooting that documentary
but that's not everybody's family
Families of color and KOTs
Single parents and divorc'es
Second-gen's not what they want to see
Resist the expectation that they have for me!
If all our families come together as one
That's the way it's gonna get done!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I got a new tool this week, thanks to my colleague Lauren, who is writing a training manual for local and national volunteers to understand and integrate COLAGE’s social justice framework. She is a writer and impresses me on a regular basis. She showed me this program called Scrivener, which is a magical intuitive writing software that allows you to work on multiple documents within a larger document, among other common-sense tools. I downloaded a 30-day trial and started using it this afternoon. It’s sadly only available for Mac OS X Tiger or higher. My nerdy love for this application is almost too much to admit. The most useful feature, in relation to productivity, is the full screen view, which blacks out the rest of your screen and leaves you with a blank page to write on. As yet another easily distracted member of the information age, this feature may change the way I work. Isn’t that what innovative technology is supposed to do? The software is created for writers, so the tutorial kept reminding me that I must be a writer if I’m using the program. Let’s consider it positive reinforcement.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
“It is urgent that the rest of the country know that Massachusetts is a living laboratory for the health care reforms being pushed in California and by the Obama/Clinton/Edwards campaigns. Right now the Gov. Romney/Massachusetts’ plan gets a failing grade on the ground,” said Dr.Rachel Nardin, Assistant Professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.Apparently, mandating residents to enroll in private health care plans benefits insurance companies more than it benefits the people of the commonwealth. Mitt Romney push through something for big business? Go figure.
Starting January 1, 2008 Massachusetts residents face fines if they cannot offer proof of insurance. Yet as of December 1, 2007 only 37% of the 657,000 uninsured had gained coverage under the new program. These individuals often feel well served by the reform in that they now have health insurance. However, 79% of these newly insured individuals are very poor people enrolled in Medicaid or similar free plans. Virtually all of them were previously eligible for completely free care funded by the state, but face co-payments under the new plan. In effect, public funds for care of the poor that previously flowed directly to hospitals and clinics now flow through insurers with their higher administrative costs.Oh, the joys of privatization. Thanks, Mitt. Hopefully, the federal government will learn from the Massachussetts model and enact real health care reform. I can't say that I am very hopeful though, considering the Dems also like big business, especially when giving perks to the insurance companies seems more like populist reforms than corporate handouts.
The United States should have universal health care. Politicians talk about this great nation, but how embarrassing to be the wealthiest country in the world without a national health care system. As the doctors of PNHCP said, "The lesson from Massachusetts is that we still need real health care reform: single payer, non-profit national health insurance." Hopefully, we will get just what we need.
In the mean time, I am uninsured, living in California, hoping I stay healthy and wondering what overpriced ineffective insurance policy I'll be required to purchase when I move back to Massachusetts.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
This is a big challenge, since people going through a gender transition tend to be a little self-involved. I mean, it is an enormous life change. The problem is that if the parent's gender stuff eclipses their parental role, no one wins. Kids are resentful that they've 'lost' the parent they used to know. Perhaps this 'new' person is more interested in their own transgender emergence than in their relationship with their kid, which creates a real loss for the child. My consistent advice to parents: You are the parent! Act like it. It doesn't matter how old your child is. You need to act like the parent and be supportive of your kid.
On a lighter note, one of the parents on lj posted a song his 7-year old sang to him, to the tune of the spiderman song: "mommyman, mommyman, does whatever a mommy can. Can she spin a web, yes he can...cause he's mommyman, mommyman...". I love this kid, wherever he is.
Monday, January 7, 2008
One interesting element of the plot is that Blair Waldorf's father has recently left her mother for another man. In the Christmas episode, Blair's father returns home with his new partner, expecting that if they are all in the same place, things will just work themselves out. Of course, Blair is completely heartbroken that she doesn't get to spend special time with her daddy. Never fear, though, daddy and Roman just bought a villa in France with a room decorated just for Blair.
While the episode is as ridiculous as the rest of the show, some elements are true to life. Roman was an old family friend who the father fell for after years of knowing him, which happens sometimes. The dad has unrealistic expectations for the family, which often happens after a divorce. Ultimately, it comes down to the parents being adults, even if the teenagers act like adults already.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
The article also includes the words of Travis Stanton, Susan's 14-year old son, who is rolling with the punches of having such a high-profile transgender parent. Our parent's transitions impact the way in which we see the world.
"Everyone thinks my dad has hurt me and my life is ruined. But that's not how it is at all. I just think I get things more now.Hopefully, Travis will feel more comfortable around transgender people than his father does. It sounds like the experience has made him more open-minded. There is so much pressure on a family when a parent transitions, that it must be especially hard to deal with a parent who makes national news in the midst of so many other changes.
"Like, I used to think gay people were kind of weird. Now I see how they feel," Travis says.
I still find it hard to answer questions about my relationship with my dad. While in Boston, I did an interview for a journalist with WBUR, Boston's NPR station. At one point, she asked me, "Do you have a good relationship with your dad now?" I told her we relate as adult child to parent, that the relationship is important to me, and that, we have our history, like any family. There is some really hard stuff in that history (I left that out) and most of it has nothing to do with her transgender identity. When our families get placed under a microscope, it's hard to figure out which parts to leave in the petri dish. That's why it's good to have trustworthy support, people with whom we can talk about the ugly stuff without worrying that they will pin it on our parent's trans identity. I am hoping that the email discussion list will create that space for KOTs.
At the end of the Stanton profile, the reporter included an essay by Travis. Interestingly, one of the comments on the article is from someone who knows Travis and says he didn't write it himself. In any case, here is the essay as printed:
This seems to me like an essay written by a youth working through his father's transition. Adjusting to new pronouns takes time for family members. Is Travis being used as a 'poster child'? Hopefully, his father's recent comments will force her out of the spotlight and give the family a little privacy.
Susan Stanton's only son, Travis, is 14. This fall, his middle school teacher asked the class to write about tolerance. With his parents' permission, and Travis' consent, here is the essay he wrote, edited for spelling and space.
Throughout my whole life, I thought my dad was a really tough guy. He went out with the cops and busted bad guys. He shot guns, fought fires. He was an aggressive driver. He liked football and lots of sports.
Then one day my thoughts changed about him when we had a family meeting and he told me how he felt about himself. He said he felt like a woman on the inside and was going to change into one. He said he tried his best to be a manly guy, but he couldn't stop his feelings to become a girl.
At first, I thought I was in a dream. I thought he was 100 percent manly man, more manly than most guys.
After a few days, I thought about it. I knew he was making the right choice to become a girl. Although I can't relate to his feelings, it must be really hard to hide something like that. It would be like having $1-million and not being able to spend it. After just so long, your feelings would take over and you would spend it. ...
I think that everyone should be who they are and not try to be the same as other people. If you ask me, this has got to be the most manliest thing he has done in his whole life. It takes a real man to come out of his shell and say, "Hey, I am who I am."
Now he is who he is meant to be. He is himself.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Sadly, the enactment of a law that passed in October didn't make the headlines, but those still organizing against it are making national news. According to the New York Times, conservative groups filed a law suit against the law, arguing that protections against 'perceived or actual' sexual orientation and/or gender identity are too vague.
“This lawsuit argues that the redefinition of gender should be declared unconstitutional because it is too vague,” said Jennifer Monk, a lawyer for Advocates for Faith and Freedom. “If it’s not based on physical anatomy or how they act or dress, and it’s all based on what they think they are, then how is a teacher to know how a student identifies?”Well, Ms. Monk, you could ask them. Fortunately, we have smart people on our side. I guess if we didn't, there would be no progress.
“The same concocted concerns could theoretically apply to any of the categories,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who filed the motion to intervene on behalf of the two groups. “A student could identify as African-American or Muslim or Jewish, even if others do not perceive that student as such.”What this issue comes down to is securing the basic right to public education in an environment free from discrimination. Fortunately for LBGTQ students in CA, the law is now on their side. Hopefully, it will stay that way.