Monday, June 30, 2014

Far From The Tree - A Must-Read NonFiction Book For Parents (And maybe everyone else, too.)

"Anyone with an open heart should know that the world would have ended long ago without the translators who convey male and female meanings across gender's fierce boundaries. It may be a recent phenomenon for that to be an identity, but what has changed is the characterization of such people -- not their eternal merit, not their uncanny, necessary splendor."
- Andrew Solomon

That's from pg. 675 of "Far From The Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity" - Andrew Solomon's brilliant (and epic) nonfiction book about how in most families, a child's identity is vertical - if your parents are Japanese, and you're Japanese, you share that identity and they can help you understand what it is to be Japanese. Hence, the expression, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

But sometimes, the apple DOES fall far from the tree: My parents are straight, and I'm gay. To understand and claim what being gay meant for my identity, I needed to go outside of my family, to a horizontal identity community.

Andrew Solomon, who is gay and dyslexic and suffers from depression himself, started to see parallels between the journeys of parents and their children who had horizontal identities.

At one point, he writes of being gay:
"My own recovery has been from the perception of illness."
and that, in him, his parents had a child who spoke a language they'd never thought of studying.

The book explores deaf children of hearing parents, little people born to normative-sized parents, children with Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Disability, Prodigies, Children of rape, children who commit crimes, and transgender children -- exploring the parallels and insights their experiences collectively offer as to what identity is and how families come to love and accept and appreciate the gifts of children and circumstances they would never have chosen.

Over ten years, Andrew interviewed more than 300 families for the book and the result is brilliant - a must-read for every parent on the planet (and maybe everyone who has been parented, too.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kirith Kirin - High Fantasy With A Gay Romance

Kirith Kirin by Jim Grimsley

In Aeryn, where science has never developed but magic is powerful, the Blue Queen, a usurper aided by a very powerful wizard, has ravaged the land. A boy (Jessex) is called out of his own life on a farm to enter a legendary forest and learn magic in order to help Kirith Kirin reclaim his rightful throne to maintain the balance of order. Jessex grows strong in his magical studies and fighting skills, discovering his crucial role in the battle against the evil that overshadows his land.

And in the course of the adventure, Jessex and Kirith fall in love.

This book won the 2001 Lambda Literary Award for best queer Horror/Science Fiction/Fantasy novel. Add your review of "Kirith Kirin" in comments!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gender 101 Episode Ten Redux: Gendered Words in our Language and Culture

Here's the next installment of our talks on gender with Benji, a Gender Queer Activist and an awesome new friend...

I adore these conversations with Benji. When editing this, I almost cut out the part where Benji says they don't know exactly how to pronounce "Mx." but then I realized it's one of the things I adore best about them and these discussions. Understanding that the lens with which we view gender is so rigid in our society, and the issues of gender conformity so broad-ranging, that even someone as plugged in and on top of things as Benji could have a moment/issue where they still had things to learn, too.

And I think that's a great thing to remember for all of us as we continue thinking about Gender within ourselves and our culture - that we can all continue to learn, and grow, and expand our world-views to embrace gender non-conformity.

Oh, and Benji wanted me to share with everyone that "honorific" was the word they intended to say, rather than "honorarium." No worries, I'm constantly having the wrong words pop out, too, to my kid's amusement (and my husband's eye rolls!)

Lucy also wrote in the comments to the original post that they found someone who pronounces Mx. as "mix." 


Friday, June 20, 2014

Everything Leads To You - A Hollywood Mystery, A Runaway, A Secret Letter, An Inherited Fortune and Two Teen Girls Who Fall In Love

Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour

After being entrusted with her brother's Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn't sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he's gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance.

But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades’ old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love.

Nina writes that this novel began

"In a Minnesota high school's library, talking to the members of its Gay Straight Alliance...who were searching for themselves in the books they read, and for clues to where they might fit in the world."

Add your review of "Everything Leads To You" in comments!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gender 101 Episode Nine: Family and Coming Out As Gender Variant

In this episode we continue the discussion with gender queer activist Lucy, who shares stories of their family and advice on coming out as Gender non-conforming.

You can check out the original post here.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Asher's Fault - A 14-year-old discovers, along with his first kiss with another boy, that the world isn't black and white

Asher's Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He's so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad's plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it's his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher's black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.

Add your review of "Asher's Fault" in comments!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gender 101 Episode #8 Redux: Gender Queer Advice and Resources

This episode includes Benji's advice to other gender non-conforming people and a sample of Gender Queer resources:

And I love Benji's message to other gender non-conforming people:

"You're not alone."

Thank you, Benji!

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You can see the original post here.


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Summer Prince - A YA Dystopian Adventure where the love triangle is two teen guys and a girl!

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June's best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government's strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Named one of the top ten LGBTQ books for young readers published in 2013 by the ALA's Rainbow List. Check out this excellent NPR review by Petra Mayer, and add your review of "The Summer Prince" in comments!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gender 101 Episode #7 Redux: Gender Neutral Bathrooms - And Why They're Important

Lucy brought it up in episode 6, the issue of gender neutral bathrooms. Here we discuss why that's an important safety issue for anyone who's not gender conforming.

I learned about the term 'passing privilege' and frankly was stunned to learn about this issue - one that I've never really considered before.

Here's the one link that's still archived, referencing the stories Lucy and I mention in the video:

The Trans Woman arrested for using the woman's bathroom in Houston, Texas Trans Woman Speaks About Restroom Arrest

Ever since this conversation, I think about the challenges Gender Queer people face each time I have to use a public restroom.

I'm so grateful to Lucy for sharing this with me... and with us.


* * *

There were five comments to the original post:

HumanDuctTape said...
I'm studying in Germany right now and am living in the student dorms, which are entirely co-ed. There is one bathroom and one shower per wing, the shower is single occupancy and the bathroom is dual. And you know, it's really not that awkward for the person in the stall next to you to be a different gender (at least, no more awkward than peeing next to someone of the same gender). Granted, most public bathrooms are still segregated, but no one in the dorms treats it like a big deal. America is way too silly when it comes to keeping the genders/sexes separate. Because, you know, if a guy and a girl are in the same bathroom at the same time, babies will magically appear or something.
May 18, 2011 at 7:31 AM

ivanova said...
Thanks for this great video. I am working on a chapter in my book right now where a trans character gets harassed in the bathroom, and this is just what I needed to see. I give props to the LGBT Center in NYC for having a women's, a men's, and a gender neutral bathroom.
May 18, 2011 at 8:31 PM

Sarah Laurenson said...
Having been questioned about being in the women's bathroom does give me pause on this subject. But I also work with a bunch of guys who do not clean up after themselves in the kitchen and their bathroom habits are less than desirable given what I've heard from the cleaner ones in the group.

I agree that having gender neutral bathrooms would be good in many respects. I'm just not sure I would want to use one given the lack of basic hygiene exhibited by some of my male coworkers.

Maybe I'm in the wrong profession.
May 19, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Benji said...
Single-stall gender neutral bathrooms can be very, very helpful and are far more prevalent. You can be an ally and add to the growing map on
May 22, 2011 at 6:38 PM

Anonymous said...
I was at a queer youth dance recently where they just designated both typical bathrooms gender neutral because it was at a community center that wasn't typically a queer space and there wasn't a single stall one. I was in drag at the dance, so at first I was really relieved when I saw there was a neutral bathroom, but I thought it might be a little weird when I saw that they just made the men's and women's multi-stall bathrooms gender neutral, with multiple people of different gender identities using them at once, but it wasn't awkward at all. At one point I was even adjusting my binding when someone else that was fairly androgynous came in, but it wasn't really awkward at all. As long as there's stalls, I don't think public restrooms need to be gendered. Besides, that would solve the family restroom issue, the uneven lines issue,and the trans or gender non conforming issue if there was just one bathroom with a bunch of stalls.
June 20, 2012 at 8:56 PM

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dr. Maya Angelou - And Still I Rise

In memory of Dr. Maya Angelou, poet, activist, legend.

This video of her performing her poem, "And Still I Rise" is brilliant.

Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, Calypso singer and dancer in gay clubs in 1950s San Francisco, part of a dance duo with Alvin Ailey, colleague and civil rights worker with both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., best friend to James Baldwin, first black Inaugural poet, friend and supporter of lesbians and gay men before it was trendy or popular and when it most mattered–that Maya Angelou died Wednesday morning, May 28 at her home in Winston-Salem, NC. She was 86. 

To learn more about Maya's legacy, read the full tribute at Lambda Literary.

With gratitude for the light she shone, Namaste,