Monday, October 19, 2009

Touchstones and Heroes

This year's Southern Comfort Conference was themed "Heroes Among Us". I have been privileged to meet and befriend many heroes over the past three years since my first SCC. Each year, I meet and re-connect with more and more heroes... transgender people who are living their truths, loving parents, compassionate therapists, strong partners, radical activists, political lobbyists, people with transgender parents... I find myself at home there. It's become a homecoming of sorts, a place of celebration and reflection of the year before. For nearly a week each fall, that fancy hotel on the perimeter of Atlanta hosts this vibrant community.

COLAGE Kids of Trans program presented another panel, featuring Amanda Veldorale-Brogan and me. Amanda's MTF dad drove 13 hours from Michigan to see her speak. She sat in the front row with her camera and recorded this video of Amanda, who augmented her own experience with her Family Therapy degree. The video is about 20 minutes long and Amanda certainly became one of my heroes that weekend. (Yes, there is some footage of me toward the end, although the 9am EST session time didn't help my West Coast brain with articulating my empassioned point.)

I have grown so much since my first Southern Comfort Conference in 2006. Perhaps more evident this year was just how much the Kids of Trans program has grown. The conversation I have with parents has changed. We used to lament the lack of resources for transgender parents and their children. This year, I heard so many success stories - from parents who attended our panel before coming out to their kids, who actually read the resource guide and gave it to their children. This is progress.

We are reprinting the Kids of Trans Resource Guide, with help from IFGE, which will distribute the 2nd edition through their online bookstore. Stephanie Battaglino, IFGE's Communications Director, and I announced the partnership at Saturday's lunch after a moving key note address from Jamison Green. I stood on the stage feeling proud of this work, it's impact, and standing on the foundation of so many heroes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Never-ending Gender Odyssey

This post was drafted just after I returned from Seattle a few weeks ago. Part of the post didn't save, but I am posting it anyway. In a few days, I will board another airplane for SCC in Atlanta. Updates to follow (promise)...

This Labor Day weekend marked my second year at Gender Odyssey Conference in Seattle. Later this month, I will attend my fourth Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta. I am starting to feel like a transgender conference circuit veteran, similar to a high school senior who knows what must be done while finding time to play hooky and have some fun. After all, much of this work is about relationship building and the conversations happen in the lobby more organically than in the workshop session.

On Sunday afternoon, I facilitated one of the best Kids of Trans sessions, mainly because I spoke so little. It has been my goal all along to create spaces for folks with transgender parents to share their stories. This weekend, I managed - through years of networking and a bit of serendipity - to assemble a panel encompassing a range of experiences. It worked so well that most questions could be answered in the first person. Now that is a good panel.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

They Say It's Your Birthday

Today, I turn 29. It's been quite a while since I've blogged, busy with life and more private written reflections. Birthdays have always been an opportunity for self-reflection, the late summer new year to look back and ahead, take stock, and set some goals. I also indulge in this activity on January 1. Like clockwork, Jan 1 to Aug 13 to Jan 1, cycling through on this path of becoming my adult self. 

January's endeavor carries a slogan; this year is Sustainable Self. I blogged about this intention eight months ago and it has taken most of the year to really feel it. Upon today's reflection, I am succeeding at aligning my choices with a more peaceful, fulfilling, and (yes) sustaining lifestyle. 

Last week, while many COLAGErs attended the annual Family Week in Provincetown, MA, I stayed in San Francisco, having made the decision to 'retire' from six summers of volunteer facilitation. I was busy planning for Bay Area and Kids of Trans activities for the school year. As I registered for Gender Odyssey and Southern Comfort - two transgender conferences both held in September, I felt a sense of excitement that has been missing from my more recent work. It occurred to me that, for the first time in recent memory, I am not burnt out. A simple realization, but one that will guide me in my choices around work and life. Note to self: down time is a necessary component to sustainability. 

I am taking more time for me, working just one part-time job, living on less, and rethinking the difference between scarcity and abundance. Life is good. 

On this anniversary of my birth, I feel so loved and prepared for another year of compassionate living. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Today is Blogging for LGBT Family Day

I really like when LGBT doesn't mean same-sex couples only, when the T is part of the conversation.

This essay "My Impossible Father" on Bilerico Project written by a young son talking about his transgender MTF father. Jillian T. Weiss posted it in honor of the day.

I love his description of transition along with his father.

We both underwent changes in our time apart; I sprouted into adolescence while she transformed into a woman. Each time I saw her she had transformed more and more into a woman. By the time I was ten years old, and began to understand the world, my father was comfortably a woman, and I was comfortable with her as a woman.

My relationship with my father has molded me to who I am today. The lessons I draw from my father include those about gender, but largely influence my life in ways only a father can. I learned tolerance, patience, and acceptance from my father's transformation but more importantly she instilled in me a fundamental tolerance for the unknown as well as vigorous passion to find that which I love, not that which provides momentary satisfaction.

I imagine this passage resonates with anyone who has witnessed the transition of a parent, or any loved one. We need to share our stories.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Struck at GLAAD Media Awards

Saturday evening, I had the opportunity to meet these lovely women on the red carpet of the 20th annual GLAAD Media Awards here in San Francisco.

I was on the media side of the velvet rope, holding the microphone as Melissa Regan and I explained (an online space to share stories of lgbtq and ally experiences) before asking each celeb to share a 2-minute version of their coming out story. Most followed with a scripted 'I'm (lgbtq/ally celebrity), tell your story at' Stay tuned.

Calpernia Addams and Laverne Cox (above) shared the honor of Outstanding Reality Show award for the shows Transamerican Love Story and I Want to Work for Ditty. They were both stunning in person and had great brief stories to tell. What is so impressive about these women is the work they have each done for transgender visibility, far beyond the reaches of Logo or VH-1.

Also on the red carpet was Wilson Cruz, who I'll always remember as Ricky from My So-Called Life. He was so sweet and I was flustered. Apparently, he was the first openly gay teenager on television. He's done a lot since then and soon a short version of his story will be on our site! Like, whoa.

As more attendees graced our presence, my excitement kept building. Meeting Chad Allen took me back to middle school. I couldn't help thinking of Saturday nights watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. This teen heart-throb turned gay activist shared a touching story about coming out to his parents.

Another huge highlight was meeting Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for writing Milk. His acceptance speech brought me to tears, so I was nearly speechless when he agreed to share a few minutes of his own story.

The common theme of all of these celebrities' sound bites was simple: the importance of living authentic lives, coming out about who you are in order to change hearts and minds. Some of them moved me in under 60 seconds. We can tell our own short stories
and broadcast ourselves, weaving together across the world wide web. Because we all have a story to tell. Technology is making it more possible to share these stories, so that Dustin Lance Black's acceptance speech can intermingle with Morgan Green's account of her father's transition. So we celebrate the power of media.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gay Marriage in New England

This summer, I will travel home to Vermont for another wedding on the shores of Lake Bomoseen, the largest lake entirely within the state's borders. Two of my cousins were married on this lake with beautiful outdoor summertime ceremonies. Both weddings inspired me as gatherings of friends and families celebrated love and commitment. This July, I will see my childhood friend get married on this lake... a lake where I spent so many summer days in the water, so many nights staring at the stars, and a long summer working as a park ranger at the state park.

When the Vermont State Legislature overrode Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of same-sex marriage law a few weeks ago, I thought of Lake Bomoseen. Always a proud Vermonter, I am elated to know that I could someday marry my love on the shores of Lake Bomoseen... regardless of that person's gender.

Today, New Hampshire became the fourth New England state to legalize same-sex marriage. I love my life in California, but the couples and families I know in New England -- families like mine -- now have rights that we in California lack. Sadly, New Hampshire killed a gender non-discrimination bill, meaning that gays can marry but gender non-conforming folks remain unprotected. I would rather have gender protections than marriage. Let's hope that once we win full marriage equality, those activists mobilized by gay marriage shift their energy and resources to address the many other inequalities impacting our communities.

UPDATE 5/11/09: Add Maine to the list! Out of the four states I've lived in (Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and California), all but one have marriage equality. Come on, California, let's overturn Prop 8!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Activism 2.0

As I've mentioned, one of my current projects is I've been working with filmmaker Melissa Regan, producer/director of the Sundance award-winning film No Dumb Questions, to develop an online community inspired by the film. With new technologies, it is easier than ever to harness the power of the internet share our stories to change hearts and minds. (My inner geek gets really jazzed every time I think about this!)

We are hosting our first major virtual event next week, the National LGBT Equality StorySummit. This free online training will feature major LGBT activists Kate Kendell (NCLR), Lisa Mottet (The Task Force), Andy Marra (GLAAD), Jasper Hendricks (National Black Justice Coalition) and others talking about the power of online storytelling.

YOU are invited! Just register on the site and log on from your home computer (or call in from your telephone).

Here is the invitation:


As LGBTQ people, family, or allies, one of the most powerful tools we have for achieving LGBTQ equality is our stories. But how?

Join LGBTQ equality, storytelling, and technology leaders on Wednesday, April 22 - from any computer or telephone - for the first ever National LGBTQ StorySummit. You'll be part of a groundbreaking conversation about the state of the movement, why it is so critical that we share our stories, and tips for how to tell, record, and use Web 2.0 technologies to share your own personal story.

Join us Wednesday April 22
6-7:30pm Pacific/9-10:30pm Eastern Time
from any computer or telephone.

***Space is limited! Register TODAY:***

Monday, March 9, 2009

Something's Bubbling Up Inside of Me

So sings Department of Eagles, whose album has become my most recent soundtrack for life. (Thanks to Brian for yet another musical introduction.) I'm sipping on revelation and stewing in reflection.

On Thursday, I attended the rally/jumbotron screening of the opening arguments over repealing Prop 8 before the California Supreme Court. Inspired by the No Dumb Questions StoryHub project, I brought a video camera and interviewed a young man about his opposition to gay marriage. As he shared his perspective, I was struck by the power of documentary film making. Rather than engaging, I was able to just listen and observe, keeping my own beliefs to myself for once. If we are able to actually hear one another in our differing views, perhaps we can find a bit of common ground.

Today, I sat outside a favorite cafe in my neighborhood, reading bell hooks and drafting a press release on an upcoming COLAGE Bay Area Panel. Spending much of my time in cafes affords rich opportunities for eavesdropping. A small group of college students were reading to each other about lesbian motherhood, then continued their discussion of transnational identity, family, and queerness. As someone who tends to engage more than she observes, I am discovering the value of just listening.

I discovered this quote by Mimi Nguyen that resonated tonight:
It's impossible, after all, to imagine that "queer" only skews gender and sexuality, and not race or class or nation, as if we might line up our social categories like cans in a cupboard, as if they weren't just intersecting but mutually constituitive.

I am forever grateful for the ways that life continues to illuminate these intersections.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remembering Lawrence King, One Year Later

On February 12, 2008, Lawrence King was shot by a classmate in Oxnard, California. We all deserve to learn and live in peace. Here are a few memorials...

Memorial from Lawrence's family,


Note: Lawrence King was targeted based on gender expression AND sexual orientation.

Another gay teen --

Take action --
Safe schools for all! Contact GLSEN, start or support a GSA in your local school, act against violence!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

'I'm a man and I'm pregnant. It happens...

Don't you read the fucking tabloids?', says Max - The L Word's resident trans man. Despite what Oprah may think, Thomas Beattie is NOT the only transgender man to become
pregnant. In true soap opera fashion - or perhaps Law and Order's 'ripped from the headlines' approach - this often problematic though strangely addictive
lesbian drama is bringing a pregnant trans man to life through Daniella Sea's occasionally believable performance.
I can only imagine what sort of transphobic crap is going to come out
of other character's mouths over this - not to mention fan sites.
Interesting that people assumed that Tom and Max would only have 'gay sex', and frustrating that people would say they are actually straight for having vag sex. Sounds suspisciously like the 'not a real man' sentiment that exploded over Thomas Beattie's media blitz.

The basic storyline -- Max is a gay man, who has been having unprotected vaginal sex with his boyfriend and now is four months pregnant. Max discovers his pregnancy during a consultation for top surgery. Not only must he postpone surgery, but he's apparently one month into the second trimester and is refused an abortion. Will Max be 'the pregnant man with unrealistic facial hair'? (Stay tuned.)

This scene from Max's visit to a clinic in particularly noteworthy:

Yeah, men do get pregnant sometimes. I've been meaning to write something about Thomas Beattie, about the fact that he isn't the first (or only) pregnant man, about his exploitation of his own pregnancy and process of family formation. It's disappointing that Beattie doesn't seem to acknowledge that there are so many other transgender parents in the world. Because, actually, the fact that the world knows that transgender people have children is a good step in the right direction. Too bad he hasn't leveraged his time speaking into the big media megaphone to provide a bit more justice for all of our families. But, here's the thing - Thomas Beattie isn't an activist for our community, as much as we may wish it so. And maybe it's fine, because the rest of us are doing so much. A little visibility can go a long way.

Upon return from an incredible week at Creating Change in Denver, a few days before a trip to DC for the International Foundation for Gender Education's annual conference, my head is filled with thoughts of social justice and collective liberation, of 501c3 organizations and professional queers. Tonight, though, The L Word gave me more than women making out... lest we forget, the power of pop culture.

NOTE: I drafted this post before my trip to IFGE in DC, where I found myself discussing this episode countless times. My dear friend Ramzi, a scholar in American Studies, is a pop culture junkie and seeing him during my trip further highlighted just how these forms of culture reflect and inform our ability to articulate lived experience.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sustainable Nation, Sustainable Self

During President Obama's Inaugural speech yesterday, he made a great request to our nation:
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
These words resonated with my 2009 slogan - Sustainable Self - a commitment to do the work on myself to live a better life with the goal of working to create a better world.

This passage also reminded me of the illustrious Hedwig's song on the same theme:Link