Archive for Discourse

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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.

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dfqAnna Meade of Nine Muse Press is kinda brilliant. And beloved. She is Queen Mother to a loosely assembled writing community known collectively as her Minions. This year, she put together a gift guide stuffed with books from writers in this community. I am pleased to have “The Complicated Geography of Alice” among them.

“Tis the season to support indie authors and show a little #indieluv. For your shopping pleasure, I have compiled a list of minion books. These are hard-working, talented people and if you can’t buy their stuff, sharing this post so that other shoppers can find it will be so appreciated.”

Please take a moment to peruse the gift guide. You might well find enough good books to finish off your Christmas list.

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lifes-that-wayIntensely personal stories often illuminate universal truths. Writer and actor Jim Beaver’s memoir is one of those. In October 2003, his wife Cecily was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. In an effort to keep loved ones abreast of the situation, Jim began sending a nightly e-mail to 125 friends and family members. These messages, eventually reaching an audience of nearly 4,000 and spanning a year, are the basis of “Life’s That Way”.

Jim writes: “I’ve attempted to flood the path with light where I could, and where I could not I’ve wanted at least to hold up a candle so that others coming this way might not stumble too painfully.” And indeed he has. The first 1/3 of the book traces the course of Cecily’s illness, painting her so vividly that her death in early March is a punch in the gut, even to the reader who met her a mere 125 pages earlier.

The remaining 2/3 of “Life’s That Way” deals with the aftermath in a way that is immediate and intimate. Beaver continues the nightly e-mails, processing his experiences, sharing the struggle of raising a young daughter alone and mourning his beloved wife. “I will bear this grief. I will endure it. I will reach a point where it doesn’t kick me down an abyss whenever I turn my back on it.”

As someone who still deals with the abyss of grief on a daily basis, I found this beautiful book wrenching and yet somehow hopeful as Jim Beaver weaves wisdom and humor into his story and their lives. I recommend it highly, not only to those who have faced such grief but to anyone who someday might. As Beaver so pointedly writes: “Some kind of Providence keeps us blind to the intensity of suffering so as to keep us sane, until that day when the suffering is our own or that of someone we love beyond imagining.”

But taking this journey with Jim, Cecily and their daughter Maddie has made me more acutely aware of the necessity for life beyond the grief. 

[You can find “Life’s That Way” now on Amazon or GoodReads.]

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This is an open letter to the transphobic group Privacy for All Students which has been working overtime to repeal California’s new law protecting transgender kids in the schools:

I get it. You’re trying to protect your children from a perceived threat. Some of you are even willing to file false reports of transgender kids doing the things you imagine they’d want to do so you can get the ball rolling. I’ve lied to protect my child. I understand the urge. But the reality is that your children aren’t the ones in danger.

Our transgender children are routinely harassed, humiliated and violently violated by sweet little darlings like yours. Our transgender children are singled out, attacked and shunned by those good little boys and girls you’re raising to be ignorant, hateful and terrified of anything they don’t understand.

Your misplaced indignation and transphobic rhetoric is a real and present danger to our transgender children and your obsession with peeking over stalls honestly freaks us out to the point that we wish we could keep YOU out of the restrooms our children use. Quite honestly, you are the reason a law like this needed to exist in the first place.

Our transgender children deserve the right to use the restroom in which they feel safest, because they are subjected on a daily basis to small-minded, cold-hearted, bigoted little bastards like the ones you’re raising to be just like you.

sincerely,

one pissed off trans-parent

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1113In Writing News - I’m one week and 16,000 words into the new novel. I owe much of that word count to a handful of Twitter friends, busting out word sprints of 20 – 30 minutes throughout the day. There’s something about the joint effort, even with virtual strangers, that is motivating. Because writing is, by nature, a solitary act, we can get mired in our own muck and talk ourselves out of exciting and productive work. I’m trying to keep myself accountable this time around – to myself, my NaNoWriMo buddies and most importantly, to my novel.

I had a serious slump on Friday, writing next-to-nothing and Saturday wasn’t much better. But today, I jumped over the stuck point and was able to push through three more chapters. With the exception of the nagging feeling that I’m telling the story from the wrong POV, I’m feeling good about the progress I’ve made and how the story is unfolding. My shitty first draft (a la Annie Lamott) is well on its way.

In Reading News – I’m 2/3 of the way through Jim Beaver’s “Life’s That Way”, a memoir spanning his wife’s illness and the aftermath of her death. Because it was written as a series of e-mails to loved ones as the events were taking place, there is a rawness to the writing that is wrenching. Incredibly engaging and some seriously brilliant thoughts on grief. 

To balance out the intensity of Beaver’s book, I’m finishing up Christopher Moore’s “Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” and starting in on Diana Rowland’s “My Life As A White Trash Zombie”.

In Other News – My oven has been repaired, I’ve acquired a cat named Fraidy and I get to see my godchildren in Monterey next weekend. How about you?