Monday, January 9, 2017

Bring it, 2017.

Originally posted on January 1, 2017.

#2016bestnine is super fitting today. 

Today, this courageous, authentic New Year's baby is 10 years old. She made me a mom and has taught me everything I needed to know along the way. Her bright spirit and huge heart lead the way as we continually navigate the unplanned and unexpected. She knows who she is. She cares deeply about injustice. She never stops dancing, singing, and making music. She works hard at everything she does, continually striving to be better and do better. And at the end of the day, whether she succeeded or failed, whether it was good or bad, she knows snuggling with her family, where she is safe and loved, makes it all okay. Unconditional love and abundant grace.

Of course, that tattoo in the middle isn't Rebekah's. It's mine. The mountains. The mountains we will find, climb, and move. The peaks and the valleys we are certain to experience.

We don't know what lies ahead in 2017. The future is filled with uncertainty. But we're going to fight with everything we've got to make this world a safer and more welcoming place for Rebekah and every other transgender and gender non-conforming kid.

And Rebekah... she's going to keep changing the world, just by being who she is and living her truth.

#rebekahturns10 #protecttranskids#thisiswhattranslookslike #bringit2017

Seeing Ourselves in the Divine

Originally published on December 18, 2016.

My daughter was assigned the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the church Sunday School Christmas program this morning. 

When I reminded her it was today, she touched her hair still in braids from the night before, "oh I forgot.... well I hope Mary had curly hair.... curly blonde hair??"

I laughed, " um, no. Mary was not blonde-haired blue-eyed with pale skin...."

She looked at me confused. She said, "but that doesn't make sense since Jesus was...."

And so I explained to her and her brother. I explained what people who lived in the time and place of Jesus looked like. We looked up pictures.

She was confused, "but how come in the pictures I always see he doesn't look like that." And so we talked about how when people first began to make depictions of Jesus they made him look like themselves, everyone wants to see themselves in God. I pointed to the different nativity sets we have depicting people from different places and cultures.

And we talked about how why the blonde-haired, blue-eyed depictions of Jesus persist today and why that matters, what it says about and informs how we view the "other", and what is our responsibility in light of that...

When we finished talking, my son said "thanks for the pep talk, now can we have breakfast?" Of course. They are used to me and my "pep talks". But I can see that it sinks in, and it informs how they process the world around them, how they begin to become more aware of their own privilege and think about the lives they are called to lead in this world.

We ate breakfast, headed to church, and my transgender daughter played the role of Mary beautifully... seeing herself in the story of Jesus's birth.

#raisethemright #ourstoriesmatter#welcomingchurch #transkids

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

Originally published November 21, 2016.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed yesterday, Nov. 20. People gathered all over the world to name, honor, and remember those whose lives were taken in acts of anti-transgender violence. They gathered in community sharing their grief, outrage, and fear. They gathered in solidarity in the face of the hatred, violence, and discrimination. And I sat as a witness, overwhelmed and humbled. I read names aloud. I absorbed the horrific details of their deaths, rage-filled and terroristic murders that reverberate beyond the individual, attacking and degrading the entire community. I hugged strangers and heard their stories, stories of struggle almost too great to name, but they named it. I stood in awe and deep, deep gratitude for their strength, authenticity and resilience. 

I was asked to speak, to share our family's story, and to be honest, I felt like I was crashing a party that wasn't mine, a party that was no party at all. I'm an outsider to this community, standing in the doorway looking in for the sake of my kid, my kid who has been so incredibly fortunate in her life this far. But if I could express one ounce of gratitude, if I could share about the large and growing communities of parents of trans kids also filled with gratitude and ready to fight for this community, if I could share hope... that because of all of those who came before her, my kid lives a life where acceptance, love, and support are the norm... well, I was willing to try to do any of that. 

{Here's video of what I did end up saying}

I'm still not sure I belonged there, not up in front talking for certain, but I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to connect and share space with this beautiful and fierce community of people.

Our Stories Matter - Our Family

I believe telling our stories is one of the most important things we can do in this world. Knowing people's stories opens a door for understanding, empathy, love, and grace. If you've followed my page for long, you know a bit of our story. My 9 year old daughter is transgender. For more of our story, check out my Facebook page or click around the blog here. 

For Transgender Awareness Week 2016, I'm chose to introduce other members of our family via Facebook. This journey as Rebekah's family has impacted us all, taught us what it means to be an ally, and changed the way we see the world. I wanted to share those stories here, too.

First, I'd like to introduce you to our middle child, E. At 7 years old, he is authentic and brave. He watched his sister grow, change, and articulate her truth. He wholeheartedly accepted her and advocated for her without thinking about it or even realizing he was doing it. He continues to be a bold example of what it means to be who you are and love others for who they are. He comes home from school often frustrated that other kids don't understand that there aren't "boy things" and "girl things", but he keeps telling them. He will happily wear all colors of the rainbow, his sister's hand-me-down shoes, and pink and purple winter hats. Pink's not his favorite color, and he doesn't prefer typically girl things over typically boy things. He just truly understands that he doesn't have to limit himself based on our society's expectations. He loves painting his nails, and if I ever cringe at the unconventional (whether based on gender, fashion or pretty much any other norm) outfit he's sporting, he reminds me "Mom, I like it. It doesn't matter what you think. It only matters what I think." And I can't argue with that one bit.

We get a lot of credit from friends, family, and strangers for being such "amazing parents" to Rebekah. She scoffs at that a bit, and honestly so do we. We appreciate the love and support, but we just can't take that credit. What I can say is that as a family, we're just doing the best we can, messy and imperfect, to love ourselves, one another and the world.... and these small humans are leading the way.

This is Oliver. He's 2 and a half years old. He doesn't have an opinion on having a transgender sister. He doesn't even know he has a transgender sister. When I was pregnant with him, we thought we had two sons, and everyone couldn't wait to see if the baby in my belly would be the first girl of the family. I got so annoyed by the questions and the expectation that I walked around a lot saying "oh, I'm sure it's a boy. I'm just meant to be a mom to all boys." I cringe now when I remember that, and I wonder what Rebekah was thinking when she overheard me say it. Oliver was born, and he was assigned male at birth. As far as we know and, yes, as far as we assume, he is a boy. Rebekah has always had a special connection with her little brother. It was a strange thing to think when she transitioned socially to live as herself right before Oliver's first birthday that he would never remember her being anything other than Rebekah. When he sees pictures of her when she appeared as a boy, he doesn't know who they are. He doesn't point at them and say "Beba" like he does to all the pictures of his sister now. It's strange, but also beautiful. Of course, he will someday know that his sister is transgender and will come to understand what that means. But what a beautiful gift to have someone so near and dear to you, someone who loves you so deeply who has never known you as anything other than yourself, someone for whom the label transgender is a footnote instead of a preface.

Oliver gives us perspective. When the transgender thing begins to feel like it starts with a capital T, when it's something that feels heavy and challenging... he's the one who reminds us that Rebekah being transgender is such a tiny part of who she is, so tiny that he has lived with her since the day he was born, and he is completely unaware. Her smile, her joy, the way she snuggles, her love of books, her willingness to play even when she really doesn't want to... these are the things Oliver sees and cares about.

This is my husband, Rebekah's dad. He is a Lutheran pastor (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). As a public figure in the community, he's out there. Standing up front. Visible. Vulnerable. Looked to and looked at. There is expectation that comes with being a pastor and a pastor's family. As a "pastor's wife" I have always pushed back against those expectations, but that's easier for a spouse than a clergy person. So as Rebekah's gender non-conformity intensified, he was the lucky recipient of regular Sunday morning text messages from me about our kid, who at the time everyone understood to be a boy. (Sunday mornings being his busiest and most stressful time of the week). The text messages would read something like "hey, FYI, coming to 8:30 service, B is wearing pink nail polish, 7 sparkly bracelets, ballet flats, and barrettes in his hair. Just a heads up." So amid worship preparations, sermon fine tuning, and conversations with every person who walked in the door about everything from the budget and the building, to sick loved ones and pastoral needs... amid all of that, he would receive the text, take a breath, send a quick "ok" and go on with his morning. Never once did he say, "no". Never once did he say we have to consider what people will say or think. Never once did he say, hold on, we need to slow down. He never chanced sending the message to our kid that we love and support you, but we need you to stand out less, fall in line more.

As we came to understand that Rebekah is who she is and went about revealing that to the world, he was deeply aware that not everyone was going to be okay with this. It's no secret the challenging relationship the LGBTQ community has with the Christian church. There was never any question for us, as a family of faith, that God made our daughter to be exactly who she is and that God loves and claims her as a child of God. And we were blessed with support from colleagues in ministry and denominational leadership on all its levels, but we still knew we were in sticky territory. We don't live in a particularly progressive area. We weren't just church members. He was the one standing up in front. We couldn't simply stop coming on Sundays. And even if our church was supportive, we knew there could repercussions in the community as the word got out that the pastor at that church down the road "was letting his son be a girl" as some who don't understand might say. But none of that stopped this man from proudly, publicly loving and supporting his daughter.

And I have no doubt that it's because he never let church be a reason to hold her back, that she confidently answered a psychologist who asked her to explain what it meant to be transgender, "it's being who God made me to be." And by the way, our church... our church welcomed her with open arms.

This is me, and I'm ready to fight.

We're fans of Hamilton: An American Musical in our house. Every time, especially lately, I hear "Dear Theodosia" my heart gets stuck in my throat. And every time, I see this picture of me and my kid, I can't help but hear the words echo. 

"I’ll do whatever it takes
I’ll make a million mistakes
I’ll make the world safe and sound for you…
…will come of age with our young nation
We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you
If we lay a strong enough foundation
We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you
And you’ll blow us all away..." - Lin Manuel Miranda

I'll fight for her. I'll fight for all my kids and all kids everywhere that they don't grow up in fear, in hate. I'll fight so they know their worth and the worth of every person around them, regardless of race, color, religion, ability, immigration status, gender identity, sexuality, or appearance. I won't be quiet and small. I will stand up loudly, I will call my representatives, I will march, I will protest, I will implement policies, I will write my truths, and I will share our story. I will show my kids that being brave and kind matters more than anything else in this world... more than stuff, more than accomplishments, more than grades, and more than money. They will know that being quiet in the face of evil, standing by as fellow humans hurt, is no different than doing evil.

We will make it right for them. And I have no doubt that they'll blow us all away...

The Day After Election 2016

Originally published on November 9, 2016.

I told E, my 7 year old son, the news, and he asked if we could move to Ohio. After some clarifications about, you know, countries vs states, he asked if we could move to another country (which we haven't spoken about in our home for the record...).

Me: No. No, we cannot move. There is much work to be done. We have to be BRAVER and KINDER than ever before. We have to stand up for and stand with the most vulnerable in our country.

E: like Rebekah and Jaxon?

Me: Yes. Trans kids like Rebekah and kids like Jaxon whose skin isn't white. And people who aren't the same religion as us, people who are Muslim... People who speak different languages.

E: like Spanish?

Me: YES! Like Spanish and so many others.

So we will not move. We still stand up for the most vulnerable. We will declare Black Lives Matter. We will continue to fight for LGBTQ rights. We will love our neighbors who are Muslim, who are Latino, who are immigrants. We will be a voice for refugees. We will fight for women, their worth, their rights to their bodies, their rights to their lives. We will LOVE. We will build peace while others work so hard to build walls.

First, we mourn. Oh, the mourning.

But then, we get to work.

I Will Vote for My Daughter

Originally published on November 8, 2016.

It's Election Day. My 9 year old daughter's already announced that depending on results, she may never come out of her room again. She has a plan. She'll stay in her room, she'll withdraw from school, and she'll never come out even after our family moves from this house. 

This isn't typical tween dramatics. And this isn't because she listened to too much election nonsense, we've actually kept most of it out of our home to protect her. But she knows.

She knows deep in her gut that as a transgender girl, as a member of the LGBT community, her rights and safety and the rights and safety of so many like her are at stake.

She knows it the same way she knows that some day one of her friends will find out she's transgender and will no longer want to be her friend because of it.

She knows it the way she knows that if it's not her friends, it could be their parents, our neighbors, church members, teachers, or strangers on the street. She knows that just because she is who she is there are people who believe she is a danger to their families and communities.

She knows it the way she knows that her just going to the bathroom in a girl's bathroom, like all her friends, is nothing short of a revolutionary act. And that there are people trying to take that right from her.

None of that changes who she is. In the face of all these things and more, she knows this who she is and she refuses to betray herself to make others feel more comfortable or to make less waves. Her bravery and authenticity leave me speechless.

So today, I will vote. I will vote against hate. I will vote for my daughter. And regardless of the results of this election, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep her safe and give her hope. I will remind her that brave and kind is all we can be, and there are millions of people out there who have her back.

#LoveTrumpsHate #transkidsmatter

(Posted with my daughter's permission. I don't ever post about her without permission.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Raising My Rainbow

Originally published on September 30, 2016.

I was going through old school papers and filing them this morning. I came across this. This is a picture my girl drew in the beginning of first grade. A year and a half before we understood she was our daughter, before she started living as herself. She never told us this was her, but now it's all I can see. That's my girl, and I'm so grateful we get to see her rainbowy smile everyday. Not all day by any means... shes a fourth grader, a tween... and a spirited thing with all sorts of big feelings that come out in big ways (geesh, I have NO idea where she gets that from 😬)... but not a day goes by that we don't get to see that bright, shining, authentic rainbow smile and that is a beautiful thing.

#bewhoyouare #transkids #raisingmyrainbow