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Wed Dec 31, 2014 at 02:03 PM PST

Fix Society Please

by laurustina

(H/T to Akadjian for the initial reporting on Leelah Alcorn’s death as well as must-read follow-ups from Rserven and Virally Suppressed)

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. Last night, I scrolled through her tumblr page and much like my Alice’s abandoned 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, social workers, pastors and school 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.

[note: The title of this diary is a quote from Leelah's suicide note]

The Complicated Geography of Alice has finally hit the Amazon shelves. After doing a little dance of joy and before you run off to grab a copy, I’d like say a couple of things.

Publishing this book is an inherently political act, much like posting my first Daily Kos diary. I would not have done it without all of you leaving the door open, welcoming me when I wandered in, responding passionately whether you agreed with me or not, and supporting me in so many ways when I was at the end of a seriously frayed rope.  

Of course I hope that you will read the book, consider donating a copy to your local LGBT Center and help spread Alice’s story far and wide. But even if you do none of these things, I want you to know that I am profoundly grateful for the acceptance, encouragement and real-world support this community has given me. I will continue to strive to give the same right back.


Sun Nov 30, 2014 at 06:20 AM PST

What Your Reading List is Missing

by laurustina

Historically, transgender people have been talked about but not listened to; written about but not read. As I prepared to publish The Complicated Geography of Alice, I became acutely aware of my own cis (non-trans) privilege. While I have written extensively about the trans people in my life, I do not pretend or intend to speak for them. For this reason, I added an appendix featuring some amazing transgender writers for readers to explore. I encourage and challenge you to seek out works by some of the writers listed below and get to know them via their own words. If I've left someone brilliant off the list (because of course, I have), please add them in the comments.

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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.


one pissed off trans-parent

[cross-posted at]


“A father for six years, a mother for ten and for a time in between, neither, or both … a parental version of the schnoodle or the cockapoo...” Jennifer Finney Boylan's parenting credentials are unusual to say the least, and her newest book Stuck In The Middle With You; A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders is extraordinary.

The book explores Boylan's experiences as both father and mother to her two sons and as daughter and son to her own parents. Within that framework, she examines parental roles on a wider scale. The naked adoration and accompanying holy terror shared by most parents is evident and immediately relatable.

The flow of the book is broken up by three sections of conversations with other writers (Richard Russo, Ann Beattie and Agustin Burroughs among others) and a handful of other parents with extrordinary stories to tell. I expected this format to be jarring but found it quite the opposite as she weaves these conversations into her own narrative with a deft hand and they inform the bigger picture rather than detract from it.

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Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:57 PM PDT

FYI: Your Transmisogyny is Showing

by laurustina

I'm sick of having to explain to people who should know better that “tranny” is a despicable slur.

I'm tired of having to change the channel because some sitcom ran out of ideas and threw in a transvestite or a transsexual woman for laughs.

I'm pissed of when I hear people say that they're all for LGBT rights when honestly, they're only supportive of the LGB and to hell with the T.

I am mad as hell at lazy liberals who take the shortcut to an Ann Coulter joke by trampling over trans women.

It's always women and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Transmisogyny is just misogyny X2.
And the prevailing theory appears to be that it's ok because it only affects a small, already-marginalized group of people.

This may be what angers me most – that few of us even notice the casual transmisogyny which pervades our culture and even fewer bother to speak up – step up – and make it clear that such things will no longer be tolerated.


Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 12:11 PM PDT

Her Shiny New Vagina

by laurustina

Last Sunday, I attended a local production of The Vagina Monologues. I read the monologues back in college and have had a copy on my bookshelf for more than a decade. Still, I wasn't prepared for how it would make me feel.

It had already been an emotional week. I'd finished off my manuscript and sent it out to the prospective agent and editor. Alice's story is now out of my hands and at the whim of strangers which is an unexpectedly terrifying feeling. So when we settled into the second row in the tiny theater I was already emotionally raw.

Which is perhaps why I wept from beginning to end.

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I had a job interview on Friday morning, my first in nearly two years. It's been five years since I worked in a traditional full-time position and I almost can't remember how it felt to be comfortably, gainfully employed. While we've learned to live on a great deal less, it is a constant struggle to keep our heads above water. The possibility of another income would be amazing, to the point that I can't let myself think about it too long. In fact right after the interview, I try to squash any hopefulness because the disappointment might be too much to bear.

I picked up groceries on the way home from the interview and was stocking up the cupboards when I noticed a pair of short, fat cans on the top shelf. It gave me pause, made me think of how far we've come and how much we've survived. These cans, you see, are a piece of our history. I frequently tease my 23 year-old son that these cans are his inheritance and my legacy.

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Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 10:12 AM PST

Pride And Shame

by laurustina

In September of 2008, my 16 year-old daughter Alice shoves her way onto the planning committee for Modesto's 3rd annual LGBT Pride Festival. She takes to carrying around a notebook into which she scribbles ideas, suggestions and plans to propose to the group. I get the sense that they tire of her “In Santa Cruz, they do it like this...” but then these are people who understand Modesto's queer history in a way that Alice does not. The fact that there's a festival at all is progress.

My sister Ruby joins Alice and I on the morning of the festival, and Modesto's most stately park is already buzzing with activity when we arrive. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are camping it up in the amphitheater, while the BBQ pits are starting to smoke.

A Bounce House has been erected near the play equipment and is already filled with screeching children. There is a nice mix of street food, and slew of booths selling art, books, crafts and paraphernalia. Mixed in among the vendors, is a smattering of booths for non-profit orgs, a couple of churches and the Democratic Party of Stanislaus County.

For weeks now, Alice has been reminding her grandmother of the time and date for the festival, and begging her to come. My mother has avoided committing herself to a YES or NO and I decide to make one last ditch effort for Alice's sake.

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Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 10:27 PM PST

To Watch Her Bloom

by laurustina

I used to say that the only time I ever wished I'd had daughters instead of sons was when I saw one of those ridiculously cute little dresses with fat layers of tulle and lace edging. Then at fifteen, my youngest child pronounced herself a daughter rather than the son we'd taken her for and it was much too late for princess dresses and fussy bows. She did however, express a deep desire to shop her teenage heart out.

“Is everything alright?” The wide-faced woman folding sweaters at the entrance of the Target dressing room asks.

“Oh no, we're fine.” I assure her, standing in the narrow hall between dressing rooms, while Alice cries loudly within the stall.

The woman looks unconvinced.

“Teenage girls and jeans.” I explain, rolling my eyes. Then I lean against the door and whisper. “Al, put your pants back on and bring everything out. We can do this another day.”

“B ...bu ...but I need jeans.” she wails.

“Ok, then we can do it at another store.”

The weeping downgrades to sniffles and I hear her moving around behind the door. I smile at the attendant, pacing nervously while I wait.

It was brave of us to try this in the first place, just march into the dressing room, daring anyone to try and stop us. What we hadn't counted on when picking out the items to try on, was that Alice has shot up another couple of inches, and thinned out in the last few months, so every pair of jeans she took into the dressing room is too big, too short or doesn't fit in the crotch. We don't talk about Alice's crotch much. Mostly we talk around it, a thing which must be managed for the time being, but too intimate to be discussed freely.

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Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 10:00 AM PST

The Honey And Vinegar of Pronouns

by laurustina

High on the list of things I wish I could explain to people about children like mine, is the importance of pronouns. In general, we don't think about them all that much, but for those like my daughter Alice who spent fifteen years being labeled as my son Jordan, pronouns are incredibly important.  Respect, acceptance and kindness can be demonstrated or withheld in the simplest of terms.

He or she.
Him or her.

Continue Reading
In June of 2008, we celebrated my daughter Alice's 16th birthday at the Santa Cruz Pride Parade. We'd enjoyed the parade from the sidelines for years, but until four months ago, Alice was still hidden inside her Boy Suit and in many ways, this was her Coming Out party.

My son Max's girlfriend June took Alice shopping earlier in the week and she skipped out of the house on this particular morning in a flouncy black mini, tall shoes and striped stockings. A little black tank, her favorite hoodie and a smattering of chunky candy jewelry completes the outfit.

Max and June are equally splendid in their attire,  June having donned a red party dress with a matching parasol and Max,sporting a bowler, a natty vest and oddly enough, a raccoon tail. On our way out of town, we pick up Samir, a Persian boy who is in Alice's trans-support group. He is inexplicably dressed like a pirate and wearing a delicately-pasted beard which fills out one of the few parts of his face not cluttered with piercings.

My slouchy gray t-shirt and jeans are frowned upon by all.

Alice rides shotgun and therefore Gwen Stefani sings us through the valley, over the mountains and down Highway 17, which dumps us into downtown Santa Cruz with twenty minutes to spare. We may have moved away more than a year ago, but Santa Cruz is still MY town and I prove it by scoring one of the few unregulated parking spaces downtown. The kids spill out of the car and are rushing towards the commotion a block away when Alice turns back.

“How do we get into the parade?” She calls out, stumbling momentarily in her tall shoes.

“Go down to the end of Pacific Avenue and find a group that'll let you join in.”

She grabs Samir's hand and they're off. Max and June head up Cooper St., her parasol bobbing above their heads and his raccoon tail bouncing along behind them.  I catch up to them near the Del Mar Theater just as the Dykes On Bikes roll out onto the street to clear the Parade Route. The sound of their engines makes me tear up. It always has.

The motorcycles are followed by the Grand Marshall, roller-derby girls and a pair of seven-foot-tall drag queens. A group of Latin dancers from up at the college put on a hell of a show and then The Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (a huge support system for local cancer patients and those living with HIV) rolls onto the scene with my old friend Mario atop the float, shaking his El Salvadorian ass in short shorts and sporting a giant platinum afro wig.  I squeal like a delighted child as he throws a string of glittery beads my way.

Things mellow out a bit when the churches take the street, another entrance which makes me teary year after year. We're just a few months out from the election and California's Prop 8 vote so there's a lot of Marriage Equality support in these groups. I let out a big graceless “Woo Hoo” as my friends Tad and Greg pass our corner. Always calm and collected, Tad smiles and waves his “God Is Still Speaking” sign in my direction.

The churches are followed by stilt-walkers, The San Francisco Cheer Team and a smattering of state and local politicians, including the Mayor in a beautifully-restored Woody. A random group of boys in tutus and girls with tiny dogs follow the political crowd and then I hear a blaring bass and look up the street to see an approaching contingent dressed all in red with the exception of one bright green pirate and a girl in a flouncing black mini and striped tights.

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