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(from the atchives – 2011) The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1998 in response to the murder of Rita Hester but for the last several years it has brought another woman to my mind.She is greatly missed and though I did not know her well, I knew enough to understand what manner of loss had befallen us all when she was taken.

We are in the office kitchen. She has arrived in tall shoes, with pink ribbons twined in her hair. We are forever trading nods and pleasantries, this beautiful girl and I. Still, I’m not even sure that she knows my name. I know a few of hers. The one she uses on good days, the kind of days you wake and wind ribbons in your hair, and the one she uses on bad days, when the mean reds hit and it takes all the strength you have to clutch a pillow in one hand and a telephone in the other. “Tell him it’s Pumpkin.” she’d whisper into the receiver.

And I suppose she wouldn’t mind me telling you this now. What she’d mind, I suspect, is that there were no fireworks when she went, no moments of silence, no flags at half mast. We were nothing to one another, Pumpkin and I. Little more than nods and smiles, phone calls transfered and a “hey you, how goes it?” in the stairwell. Still I couldn’t help but see in her what I have so often seen in myself, that ability to dress up sorrow with bravery. Put together and put on. She did it better but I’ve done it longer. That’s all. So if you see her, tell her that there were fireworks and more moments of silence than she could have expected. It’s the god-awful truth.

When Ashlie died, one of the phone calls I made was to her teacher, a former Army drill sergeant who manages to teach the students that no other teacher in town can manage. When I told him that Ash was gone, his first thought was that there was violence involved. To say that she died “by her own hand” is little consolation we agreed, but in light of the statistical alternatives, it is somehow a blessing.

Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo and Rita Hester are not anomalies. Nor are they the norm. But every year, on this day, Remembering Our Dead is one way to fight the bigotry and lack of understanding which results in the kinds of brutality that no one should ever face. On this day and every day, educating yourself and those around you, refusing to engage in the casual, “soft” bigotries of our current culture (Ann Coulter’s adam’s apple jokes, lazy sitcom man-in-a-dress plotlines, Chaz Bono gawking)   and instead establishing your position as an ally can go a long way to changing public perception and ultimately, saving lives.  Like THIS

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promopicWhen Alice first revealed herself to us, someone loaned me a book from the local PFLAG library. It was a skinny yellow volume titled “Mom, I Need to Be a Girl” written by a woman who called herself Just Evelyn. I must have read through that book twenty times in those first couple of months. When I felt alone, plunging headlong against the tide, she gave me strength.

It’s the reason I started writing about Alice and our journey.

The culmination of that work is The Complicated Geography of Alice, my memoir which will be available for Kindle and in paperback through Amazon this December. It is an intimate, portrayal of a family in crisis and a mother who believes that her daughter is going to blaze a brave new path if she can just keep her sober long enough to grow up.

Many of the stories in the book first appeared as blog posts here and at The Daily Kos and you can still find excerpts on the book page. If you would like to be notified upon publication, you can follow Laurustina.com on Facebook or send a blank e-mail to laurustina [at] gmail [dot] com with the words BOOK NEWS in the subject line. 

 

Everything Tex-Mex Rice

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TEx Mex RiceI am currently obsessed with this Tex-Mex rice dish. J. doesn’t do much Mexican food, so when he’s away, we eat this like crazy. You” find the recipe below but honestly, it’s really just a starter guide. I highly recommend Basmati rice and swear by this Taco Seasoning recipe, but beyond that, you can throw in whatever you want and leave out the bits you don’t like.

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Good Read: Queer and Pleasant Danger

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Kate BornsteinAny book that is framed as a love letter to an estranged child is going to be bursting with love, but Kate Bornstein’s “Queer and Pleasant Danger” is also raw, funny and wrenching, a memoir befitting the grand cultural icon she has become.

The book’s subtitle “The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today” gives you the lay of the land but the journey is nonetheless revolutionary. In the guise of the clown, Kate dances into dark territory, making the pain manageable, almost celebratory. She is unapologetic, in your face, and at the same time utterly disarming.

I wish, of course, that I could run down the hall and press this book into Ashlie-Alice’s hands. I wish that I had known enough to cloak her in that kind of armor the moment she burst into the world as my daughter. I imagine she might have reached out to connect with the grande dame of the gender revolution. And I suspect that she’d have received the same generosity of spirit with which Kate addressed Chelsea Manning in an open letter she published last year …“In closing, baby girl, remember that you have brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles all around the world who are so proud of you. Thousands of us, in fact. Think of us, and breathe.”

Big love to the cute and quirky Gender Outlaw.

Visit the blog.

Get the book.

 

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 I’ve been working with badass Bradley on revisions for The Complicated Geography of Alice and I just cut the following chapter from the manuscript. It’s always wrenching to tear stuff out, so I’m sharing it here to soothing my psyche. Honestly, it’s more about my general distaste for the carrot and stick method of providing services to needy people than it is about Alice. Still, there are little bits of her – of us – in here that still make me giggle. 

 

Grandma Jo has been trying. I’ll give her that. A couple of months ago, she let me drag her to a PFLAG meeting where Alice’s support group leader Elizabeth spoke on transgender awareness. It was basic stuff, and I’d hoped it would be enlightening. Mostly though, my mum sat and stewed about a man in the group who had been rude to her in some other venue. She is trying to change her language to appease us, but it’s becoming clear that she has no interest in changing her mind. This is just a phase that her grandson is going through and she’s going to wait it out patiently, pretending all along that it’s no big deal.

For this reason, I’m surprised when she invites Alice and I to join her for High Tea at a local homeless shelter. The event is a benefit for the women’s program at the shelter, which provides temporary housing, healthcare and education opportunities along with financial and spiritual advising. The thought of making food and shelter conditional upon the acceptance of spiritual advising makes me queasy, but I try to set that aside because Alice is excited to have been invited to such a gloriously girlie event. Especially by Grandma Jo.

When she arrives to pick us up, Alice has just finished applying her thirteenth layer of lipgloss and I’m still struggling to run a comb through my hair.

“You both look so nice,” Grandma Jo says as Alice dashes past her towards the car.

“SHOTGUN!” she shouts, diving into the passenger seat, leaving me to climb into the back. On the ride to the bad side of town, my mother explains everything as she is prone to do.

“Now there’s going to be tea, sandwiches and desserts, and then a fashion show. Do you remember the women in my bible study group? We’ve got a whole table to ourselves.”

We arrive at the mission, disembark and meet our little circle of ladies in the parking lot. My mother’s Bible Study Lady Friends are the kind of women who arrange casserole duty for grieving families, send encouraging little notes to one another with bible verses written in them, and structure the bulk of their gossip in the approved “prayer request” manner. They’re nice enough, some more so than others, but a generally congenial group.

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