Archive for Discourse

Anne Lamott, Bigotry and Pee-Pees


Dear Anne,

Your name has been a sacred one in this house full of writers, with our dog-eared copies of Bird By Bird, Stitches and Traveling Mercies. So it pained me more than many when the transphobic tweet blowing up my Twitter feed this morning was yours. Your response to the hurt and anger produced by your comment on Caitlyn Jenner;”Will call HIM a SHE when the pee-pee is gone”, was to suggest that œwe can agree to disagree. But that’s bullshit.

You don’t get to agree to disagree about someone else’s experience, or negate their existence and NOT be called out for that bigotry.

Perhaps you’™re embarrassed to admit that you are ignorant about transgender people. Maybe you honestly don’™t understand that the dig at Catlyn Jenner is a slap in the face to every single person for whom gender is complicated. Especially those who look up to you. Or looked.

I want to believe that your heart was in the right place but you just didn’t know. Because I don’t want someone to have to think of this ugly incident and your snide misgendering when they read this:

“You need to apologize to your grandmother.”

“Is she going to apologize for being a bigot?”

“Probably not, kiddo.”

She rolls onto her back and shoves her hair out of her face with both hands. “Grandma Jo doesn’t think you can be gay or transgender and a Christian at the same time.”

“Yeah, well she doesn’t think you can be a Christian and a Democrat either. But what one person thinks doesn’t change what’s true. Even if it is your Grandmother.”

I sit on the edge of the bed and start untying her shoelaces like I did when she was little. She lets me, flexing her feet and wiggling her toes when I pull her shoes off.

I say, “Anne Lamott says that ‘You know you created God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do.’ I shared that quote with your Grandma once, and she thought it was great. Maybe one day she’ll realize that her picking and choosing what God disapproves of is the same thing, but we’re never going to win that battle by fighting with her.”

Alice shoves my hands with her feet, and I tickle the bottoms of them until she squeals and pulls them away.

“She loves you,” I say.

“But she doesn’t like me.”

“Of course she does. You just challenge people’s assumptions about things they think they’ve already got sorted out, and that’s terrifying.”

(excerpt from The Complicated Geography of Alice)

I SO hope that you didn’t fully understand how your jokes wound women who will never have access to necessary healthcare, children who hope that one day their bodies will align with their inner selves and the parents, partners and loved ones of those people who fight such ignorance and cruelty every day. Because then, we can fix this. You can take the time to learn about the lives of trans people and perhaps even teach others to be more open and accepting.

The truth is, Annie; I’ve learned so much from you over the years and through your books. But maybe it’s time for you to listen and learn. It’™s okay to make mistakes, as long as we correct them.


Jules Vilmur (aka laurastina)



Within a week, I read two narrative non-fiction books that were deeply connected in theme and evoked a powerful emotional response. Both Man Alive and The Other Wes Moore examine the journey to manhood; what it means and how it is achieved.
For the two Wes Moores, whose stories are traced in The Other Wes Moore, this passage was fraught with peril, poverty and the absence of fathers. Growing up in West Baltimore and The Bronx, the boys had similar struggles and yet their lives diverged greatly, one going on to become a Rhodes scholar, Army officer and accomplished writer/speaker, while the other is serving a life sentence for a heist in which an off-duty police officer was killed.

Do you think that we’re products of our environments? I think so, or maybe products of our expectations. Others’ expectations of us or our expectations … I realize how difficult it is to separate the two. The expectations that others place on us help us form our expectations of ourselves.

A series of letters and visits between the two are the basis of Moore’s analysis as he examines what manhood meant to each of the boys and how they faced the approaching need for responsibility – caring for family, trying to better themselves and their lives, sometimes achieving, sometimes failing.

Thomas Page McBee’s
path to manhood, chronicled in Man Alive is likewise fraught with obstacles. As a female-bodied man bearing the scars of family trauma and reeling in the fresh vulnerability of surviving a mugging, McBee’s experience is unique and his insight, broadly relevant.

It seemed possible to me, in the dry heat of that courtroom, that heaven was a metaphor for the grace of perspective you get when you die.

Through intertwined narratives of past and present, McBee explores both the perception of and his internalized messages about what it means to be a man. In a story that could be full of heroes and villains, we find instead nuance and complexity. McBee comes to terms with the humanity of his abusive father and mugger, freeing him to embrace manhood on his own terms.

I highly recommend both books and hope you will read more about Thomas Page McBee and Wes Moore.


This Sunday, GoodReads will be selecting two winners from the 200+ readers who have entered their Giveaway drawing for a free paperback copy of THE COMPLICATED GEOGRAPHY. There’s still time to get on the list, but if you don’t win, you’re still in luck because we’re kicking off our Kindle Countdown Sale first thing Monday morning.

If you’ve been waiting for a chance to snap up a copy or share with your budget-conscious friends, this is it. You’ll be able to scoop up the Kindle version of the book for $1.99 on Monday, $2.99 on Tuesday and so on throughout the week until it returns to its regular price by Saturday, May 2nd.



Everly_posterI know. it’s early. I probably should have written SEASON, instead of YEAR, but I’m still riding out the tail end of the adrenaline rush I got from Joe Lynch’s wham-bam action flick staring the ever-awesome Salma Hayek. It’s possible I’m harboring an adrenal-bias.

And perhaps you’ll argue that I’m stretching the definition of Chick Flick here. Wikipedia defines the term Chick Flick as pertaining to “films that are heavy with emotion or contain themes that are relationship-based” and Everly is all of those things, while also being funny, gory and one hell of a thrill ride.

Salma Hayek’s Everly has got mother problems, daughter problems and ohmygod you wouldn’t believe the backstabbing bitches she works with. To top it all off she’s got a slave-driving boss who is so demanding that Everly hasn’t had a day off in years. What good are to-die-for shoes if you never get outside in them?

With notable support from Akie Kotabe, Laura Cepeda and Hiroyuki Watanabe, Salma Hayak carries the film effortlessly and it is only when the angelic Aisha Ayamah (as Everly’s daughter Maisey) is on screen, that you can tear your eyes off of her.

The script, co-written with Yale Hannon, is smart, funny and lean in all the right places. Unsurprisingly for fans of Joe Lynch’s previous films as well as The Movie Crypt and Holliston, there’s a horror sensibility at work here, and yet there is also restraint. Near the end, a exquisite scene with Hayek and Aisha Ayamah busts out of any genre mold you try to stuff Everly into. This breathless moment is indicative of that balance. Yes, Lynch grew up in the church of Tarantino but here he has succeeded in carving out his own space and it’s kind of fantastic.

Premiering at Fantastic Fest last September, Everly was released on iTunes and VOD January 23rd in advance of its February 27th theatrical release. In general, the trend of flip-flopping release dates has confused me, until now.

Who’s going to head to the theater to see Everly when they can watch it at home? This girl, and her shoot-em-up-lovin’ sister and every woman we know who’s been done wrong by a bad bad man and will take great pleasure in the vicarious revenge. See, I told you it was a chick flick.

(Jules Vilmur is a former film writer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Occasionally she comes across movies that make her wish she still had that column. This is one of those.)

“Fix society, please”


For two days now, I’ve been preoccupied with Leelah Alcorn. Her death and wrenching suicide note have broken open the carefully contained well of grief I carry. As the bereaved mother of a transgender child, that shouldn’t be surprising. Last night, I scrolled through her tumblr page and much like Ashlie-Alice’s MySpace page, I could see the sadness and anger, but also sweetness and humor – just an ordinary extraordinary child.

For two days now I have watched people put this collective grief into action, spreading Leelah’s story, starting petitions, creating memorials and suggesting legislation. Others have lashed out directly at her family, an action I can’t condone. It is easy to single out Leelah parents, to heap scorn upon them in the midst of an unfathomable grief. But the truth is, our energy is better put into educating those who would act in the same manner, heed the same advices and drive another child to acts of desperation.

We MUST educate, not just LGBT allies but the general public, teachers, parents, religious leaders, social workers and counselors. At the very least, we need to say the following over and over, loud enough that they cannot NOT hear:

+  Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not the same thing. At all.

+  Trans kids are at greater risk than their peers for bullying, depression, drug use, physical and sexual assault, self-harm and suicide.

+  Spiritual counsel and mental health care are NOT interchangeable. Subjecting a child with gender issues to therapy with unqualified counselors can do irreparable harm.

+  Medical interventions like anti-androgens (acting as a chemical pause-button for puberty) and/or hormone therapy can greatly increase a trans child’s chances at a happy/healthy adult life.

+  Resources are available. You (parent or child) don’t have to do this alone.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.  Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.”

Leelah’s words should ring in our ears a long while – until we have done the work she called for.