Changing Our Social Landscape: The “New” Faces Of Trans & Genderqueer People

Also published at Medium

No, they’re not new per se. What’s new is how we’re seeing their faces more broadly, as symbolic sledgehammers of society, breaking down walls that have for decades stood in the way of authenticity.

Jacob TobiaJeffrey MarshHarry James HansonHunter SchaferCJCharlie. Get to know these (and hundreds more like them) as the lovely human beings they are. These gifted souls are brave enough (or just don’t give enough of a damn what others think) to live authentically, however that may look, despite some level of public shaming they’ve endured.

Whether they’re subjects of harassment and bullying, legal battles over public restroom facilities, or simply weird looks from strangers on the street, these expected social aggressions are unfortunate daily truths lived by our current generation of young trans and genderqueer people. (And by current generation of young trans and genderqueer people, I mean younger and way cooler than my generation, or I, could ever hope to be — as a middle aged, white, 40-something, cishet, boring mom of three — the youngest of whom happens to be trans, non-binary, AMAB, feminine presenting, and uses “they/them” pronouns).

I don’t mean to imply it’s just the young folks, either. I recently received a letter from a 70 year old trans woman who only now, at age 70, found the courage to come out of the closet where she masked as a cis man for decades.

These people are a force to be reckoned with. And they are only on an uphill climb as they gain larger platforms across media outlets, much to the relief of trans and genderqueer youth everywhere in America. With time as the eternal sculptor, it’s certain that one day we’ll come to a place where daily micro and macroaggressions are no longer an expected thing for trans and genderqueer people. As they are becoming more visible and culturally mainstream right before our eyes, they are going to change the social landscape.

Blurring the lines of gender, folks like those mentioned above are slowly trickling into mainstream culture and readily embraced by the hungry, open arms of Generation Z, who’ve proven time and again that they will fight for a better, more diverse and welcoming world than the one my generation has haphazardly left them. The Stoneman Douglas High School students, in the wake of the Feb. 14th Parkland shooting, are a prime example. They have shown us what it looks like when a group of young folks gives a damn, becomes “woke,” for lack of a better word (though my kids will *hate* I used that word), and ultimately, when they demand a better future.

Most of us watched the horrific Parkland, Florida tragedy unfold through our TV screens and we felt — once again — devastated, heartsick, and powerless. But something else happened; we also bore witness to the moment these amazingly strong, resilient, young members of society collectively realized their power and influence. In the face of unimaginable devastation experienced at way too young an age, the grit and determination of the Parkland students, shouting truth to power, blew most of us away. ThatAmerica, unlike the current America of trumpery, machismo, and bravado, is the America that rings true to me.

As reported by WashPo, the Parkland kids have risen to the occasion because they’ve had to, but also because they have the necessary skills and aren’t afraid to use them. The Columbine High School shooting took place before social media, and the Sandy Hook survivors were too young. “We’ve had iPhones since we were out of elementary school,” said Jaclyn Corin, the 17 year old class President turned gun control activist.

GenZ (a.k.a. iGeneration, or Post-Millennials) are mostly considered babies born around 1995 through the mid-2000’s, and they are amazing to behold. Sure, maybe I’m biased; my three kids were all born between 2000–2006 and I’ve always said they were going to change the world. But it’s not just my partial mom opinion. Many influential business and tech savvy people, and even global media outlets like Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and The Atlantic are also echoing the reverence for post-millennials and what they can bring to the table.

It is widely predicted that Gen Zers will change the future of business, technology, politics, social progress, and global care, for the betterment of everyone — not just for me, myself, and I. It’s said that by 2020, they will account for one-third of the U.S. population, certainly worth paying attention to. Gen Zers, born into a world of fast-paced and continuously updating technology, have also evolved as highly attuned experts at cultivating both community and entrepreneurship through social media, which is actually pretty brilliant. And yet, they are still capable of being socially keen and fast-thinking in face-to-face discussions and debates.

Additionally, Gen Z has grown up with and therefore expects social and cultural diversity. Combined with their lightning fast-paced learning style, open-minded nature, and desire for authenticity, it stands to reason they are automatically accepting of an ever growing gender-bending culture. Specifically, they’re okay with tearing down the patriarchy, evolving our language, and putting an end to senseless violence — especially when committed against people just trying to live comfortably in their skin.

As Human Rights Campaign lights another candle for the violent murder of another trans victim, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable. Gen Zers are in tune with all of this. Trans people are their friends at school, their siblings at home, their part-time co-workers. It’s personal.

boy crying rainbowTake Gen Z and the current young population of trans and genderqueer people, and you have a whole generation of folks giving a collective middle finger to a patriarchal society ruled by cishet men who’ve imposed arbitrary rules and sanctions on gender roles and gender expectations.

Why is Gen Z so against these arbitrary gender rules and sanctions? There’s an awful lot to unpack there, but in a nutshell, because they’re arbitrary. And outdated. And, because it really sucks that cisgender, heterosexual males — especially cishet males with unchecked white privilege — continue dominating American institutions, culture, politics, professions, wealth, etc., etc., in spite of their bad behavior (think: the election of Reality TV show host and snake oil salesman, Donald J. Trump, to the highest, most respected office in the United States Government.)

Look at the current Republican party, specifically, the older white men in D.C. who are supposed to be representing their people. This isn’t the Republican party. It’s the party of Trump, and it looks nothing like the Republican party I once knew. It’s no coincidence that it’s these same type of males who are propagating the heteropatriarchy — they’re in their death throes; they’re smoke and mirrors, they’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as it sinks.

It’s these males who, from childhood, are shaming and squashing the uniqueness out of anyone with feminine tendencies. It’s these males who are man-spreading and taking up room that almost certainly should go to someone else more talented, who is not a cishet, white male. After all, a whole lot of success in America rode in on the shoulders of giants who never gave their consent in the first place.

Or, maybe it’s that Gen Zers are just fed the hell up with homophobia and transphobia and sexism and misogyny. Maybe it’s just that simple. As succinctly communicated by Charlene Incarnate, in a recent article featured on BuzzFeed:

“Most straight people still can’t see the difference between a drag queen and a trans woman. They see effeminate gay men, drag queens, and trans women — all ‘faggots.’ In a straight man’s world, there’s no need to tell us apart.” — Charlene Incarnate


Of course, women buy into the patriarchy as well, and many are happy to keep it that way. It’s sort of an unexpected reality, like how there’s transphobia running rampant within the LGB community. But, it seems that is all beginning to change for the better with Gen Z. They are sick and tired of racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and the like, proudly parading around Washington D.C. like a three ring circus. And it has only been one year. (And did I mention these kids are mere teenagers?) Kids born in 2002 and earlier will be eligible to vote in the next Presidential election for the first time in two more years, my oldest two included. These kids are already thinking and talking about it like a rite of passage not to be taken for granted.

Look around a bit and you’ll likely begin to notice gender nonconformity becoming more the default iconic look than Disney princesses or Marvel superheroes. Whether with TV show characters like Eleven from Stranger Things, or video/online games like Minecraft and Roblox, there’s equal appeal for boys, girls, and non-binaries. Whether it’s the world of haute couture and the showcasing of supermodels like Leyna Bloom and Casil Mcarthur, or the world of human rights activists, speakers, creators, and authors like Buck Angel, or Janet Mock, there’s equal appeal for every gender and a universal message for all people.

Now is the time. Do you feel like your gender is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole? Now is the time to do yourself a favor and start living your gender authentically, however that looks to you, however much it goes against the expected, traditional, stereotypical gender norms. It could be now or never. No more hiding in the closet. No more bowing down to fear.

And my fellow cis folks who might think anything outside the notion of stereotypical boy or girl is just plain ridiculous, or maybe just the latest “P.C.” adventure? Buckle up. For that matter, come along for the ride! These kids will one day be taking care of us, and it’s never any of our business what genitals they have underneath that Utilikilt. But that’s what we’re really communicating every time we ask, “are you a boy or girl?” What we’re *really* asking is “what genitals do you have?” because that’s how we categorize things, neatly, into one of two boxes.

We forget (or don’t realize) that gender, like many things in life, is a spectrum. Gender is not binary. There are endless possible combinations. For the record, biological sex isn’t binary either — intersex people are the proof. Gender is many things, but it isn’t binary. It is born in the soul and developed in the brain. Unfortunately, this is hard for many folks to understand because the way we’ve been taught to define and understand gender is merely as an arbitrary, social construct. It wasn’t that long ago that pink was the designated color for boys, blue for girls, and high heels were originally designed for men. Gender diversity is nothing new. Many other cultures and religions have always recognized more than two genders.

Now is the time to claim back gender for what it really is. Now is the time to stop shaming people who are brave enough to live and express their gender authentically. The walls are coming down. Gen Zers are not interested in facades. And now is the time for anyone who just doesn’t (or refuses to) “get it” to just sit and simply listen.





If I Hear The Circular Argument “Guns Don’t Kill People; People Kill People” One More Time, I’m Going To Get Sick

Originally published at Medium

Y - Calligraphy letter Y


all. Please stop debating whether guns kill people, or people kill people. The two are not mutually exclusive. Here’s the reality: People with guns kill people. We can’t just simply separate the two. The fact that this debate is still going on is like banging your head against the wall. Will common sense ever filter into this discussion? Your fellow Americans are grieving in overwhelming proportions of unimaginable pain, which most of us — God willing — may never know. Do we really need to argue semantics and philosophy here?  Continue reading

DeVos, Severino, And The “Religious Freedom” That Will Harm Our Most Vulnerable

A later version of this story published on Medium

Meet Mimi Lemay, an amazing Mom, trans youth advocate, and someone I’m proud to know through the wonders of technology. Mimi did this MSNBC interview in May, 2016, after the Obama era guidance was issued regarding transgender students in public schools. That guidance clarified how to best support transgender students in schools across the nation, in light of more trans students being “out.” Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released in 2016, under President Obama, joint guidance to help provide educators with the information they needed to ensure that all students could attend school in an environment free from sex discrimination, and that in no uncertain terms included transgender students.  Continue reading

There’s No ‘Right’ Way To Be Trans: 5 Things Parents Need To Know

“Insistent, persistent, and consistent.”

Parents of trans kids are typically familiar with this trinity of words; they’ve been considered the guiding principals in determining whether a child is actually transgender, or just going through some sort of phase. When parents rush to the internet, often frantically, searching for resources because their child is showing or telling them that they are different from their sex assigned at birth, the “insistent, persistent, and consistent” mantra shows up more often than not. Those words are the foremost, foundational concept that research regarding trans youth has built upon (considering not much research on trans youth – specifically, the Gender Affirmative Model – really became more available until around 2013). Continue reading

Holiday Letter 2017

Another Christmas has come and gone – this one so quick I’m left dizzy in its aftermath. Didn’t finish the Christmas baking. Didn’t finish the cleaning and reorganizing I’d hoped to accomplish. Didn’t do any writing, as planned, with a solid week off from work. But now, I’m taking a moment to sit down and attempt to catch up at least a little, before I take my daughter to the threshold of hell the mall to spend her Christmas gift cards. Continue reading

#MeToo: A “Very Special Time?”

Sad depressed woman from backIn the midst of the #MeToo movement (which Trump bizarrely dubbed “a very special time” for women), we are seeing two types of men emerge: “guilty,” or “innocent.” (The quotations are there because I have a tiny amount of skepticism with a few people on each side, as much as I hate to admit that). I can’t wrap my head around why the movement finally sprouted wings when Hollywood superstar Alyssa Milano took it to Twitter. Though most people had no idea, #MeToo was originally started over ten years ago by black social activist, Tarana Burke. Regardless, it is now like nothing our generation has ever seen before. Milano had merely hoped to give a sense of the magnitude of the problem, if only every woman who’d ever been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote #MeToo as their status. Burke wanted something more than a viral trend, but was happy to see the cause finally getting the attention it deserved. Continue reading

The Kind Of Racism You Don’t Even Know You Have

Also published on Medium, with audio version available to Medium members.

Look, I get it. I totally understand your reluctance to discuss racism. I know that even hearing the words racism or worse, racist, feels accusatory – offensive, even. I hear you saying, “I’ve never personally owned a slave; why should I be held responsible for things that happened so long ago?” I also know how much you hate it when people “play the race card” to take away things you deserved, like that job promotion. I mean, since Affirmative Action discriminates against white people, that is reverse racism, right?

I get it. I get it because I used to think like that, too.

I never thought of myself as a racist. I’d always had black friends. I grew up adoring Michael Jackson and Prince. The Cosby kids, Gary Coleman… all staples of my youth. I revered the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., I hoped to have the bravery and fortitude of Rosa Parks. I voted for President Obama, twice. How could I be complicit in any kind of racism, and furthermore, why was I being held accountable for it? The cognitive dissonance was strong.  Continue reading

One Year Under A Trump Presidency

One year ago last night in the mountains of NC, on a mini vacation we’d been hoping to make for years, my husband and I sat at our cozy dinner, in silence. Above the small, roaring fireplace next to our table was a big screen TV, monitoring the 2016 election results as they rolled in. State after state turned red and projected Donald Trump as the potential winner. I looked around, contemplating asking for another table, but TVs were everywhere, and they were all broadcasting the same thing. Five years of anticipation and planning for our 3rd, private, without kids getaway in 17 years of marriage had led up to this moment, and I felt disgusted. Continue reading

Thoughts And Prayers Are Meaningless Without Action

Sunday, November 5th at 11:20 a.m., a deranged white man donning all black, a ballistic vest, and an assault rifle casually walked into the First Baptist Church in small town Sutherland Springs, TX. There, he opened fire on the unsuspecting congregation as they were waiting for the Sunday sermon to begin. Devin Kelley managed to kill 26 people between the ages of 5 and 72, and he injured 20 more. With this act of domestic terrorism, we now have the largest mass shooting in the history of both the state of Texas, and in a place of worship. 

As details emerged throughout the day on Monday Nov. 6th, we learned that Kelley was 26 and twice married.Though a motive wasn’t yet named for his actions at that time, Kelley reportedly had a domestic situation with his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist Church. He had previously served in the air force before being court-martialed in 2012 on one count of assaulting his wife, and another count of assault on their young child. Continue reading

Rules For Halloween

Another Halloween has come and gone, leaving us almost within reach of the big feasting holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but still with enough left over trick-or-treating candy to bridge the gap. For the past couple of years (aside from enjoying the pieces nobody wants) I’ve done some post-Halloween reflecting. It is, after all, a great opportunity to practice developing social skills in real life, and I’ve enjoyed watching my own three kids evolve over the years. They’ve gone from shy, scared, young tots too afraid to utter “trick-or-treat” to confident young people who prefer handing out candy over receiving it, for the most part.  Continue reading