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(from the 2009 archives) I open Facebook this morning and scrolled through to see what I’ve missed in the night. Tucked in among the status updates, links and game requests is a reminder that today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

They’re having a candlelight vigil in Santa Cruz tonight and I wish I could be there. I click on the reminder and it takes me to the page of the organization which founded the event, intended to raise awareness of violence against trans-people. There’s a downloadable spreadsheet on the site where someone has meticulously cataloged the names and dates and violent deaths of more than five hundred transgender men and women worldwide. It is a sobering read. In California alone, there have been 57 violent deaths this year.

The first trans-person I ever knew was not my friend The Poet, though he taught me more than anyone about gender identity. The first trans-person I knew was a woman I worked with in a little greenhouse company here in the valley, during my sophomore year of college. She was the daughter of the company’s founder and the sister of its CEO. To their credit, they did not ostracize her completely. To their shame, they tucked her away in a back office and kept her out of the public eye. She was in her mid fifties, a seemingly sad and awkward woman and the butt of many an office joke. Even then, knowing as little as I did about, well much of anything, I thought it was a horrible way to treat someone who so obviously had been through so much.

I count myself lucky to have known and continue to know my share of strong and lovely trans men, but somehow this day reminds me especially of the brave and beautiful trans women whose paths have crossed mine, of Edna, and Dax,  of my friend who I like to call The Queen of Dangerous Shoes.

Though I cannot be at the clocktower in Santa Cruz tonight, I am there in spirit. I honor and mourn with them at the loss of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands, wives, parents, lovers and friends.

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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. 

 

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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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