It’s been a few months since my last blogpost, and I felt today was a good day to count my blessings.
Tonight is the 3rd night of Passover, and the day that I used to mark as Easter Sunday. My conversion to Judaism is imminent, and it makes my heart soar to be on this journey.
I don’t see it as leaving anything behind as much as accepting a truth about myself and where my spirit and soul reside, and it is in the faith of my children, my beloved, and my in-laws. And perhaps also in the legacy of my great, great grandfather Moses Ennis, a tailor in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland.
This week, Irish people the world over will mark the 103rd anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Because I stumbled soon after my transition became public in 2013, I feel connected to the bloody rebellion against England. Like me, it at first failed, but ultimately led to the creation of the Irish Free State, a republic that is my ancestral home, and still home to both my mother and father’s families. Which makes them my family.
It was two years ago this summer that the children and I traveled to our ancestral homeland. I look forward to returning to Ireland, perhaps in 2020. Or sooner, if President Trump continues to oppress transgender Americans as he and his administration are doing. Some folks would go to Canada, but it’s Ireland for us.
Our extended family still needs your prayers and good thoughts, as one of our loved ones is ailing. I won’t get into details because they’re not mine to share.
But other than that, life is good. No, really!
In fact, we’re all doing well. Our oldest is in his last quarter of his first year of college. Our middle child is finishing her junior year and we’re starting to look at colleges, and the youngest is a boy scout in seventh grade and studying for his bar mitzvah this fall.
Together we are doing all the planning, and this being my first one without his mom to help us, I’ll admit it’s a challenge. But we have the hall, the cake, the deejay and a theme. Next up is invitations, seating charts and of course, the actual ceremony and celebration!
I’ve been teaching journalism, advertising and public relations at the University of Hartford since January, and I’ll be back in the fall. This week, my students in my Writing for the Media class are almost at the conclusion of viewing “All The President’s Men.”
My News Reporting students are conducting interviews, asking people their thoughts on the redacted Mueller Report. Their assignment: find people on both sides of the Trump divide.
And last week, I signed a contract to be a contributor toForbes.com,starting soon. So, financially, we’re in the best shape we’ve been in since 2016. I still have huge debts, and even with three paychecks, we still struggle, but my head is at long last above water.
Yes, life is good. Our seder was fun and for the first time in the 22 years since I’ve been co-hosting seders, we had a guest, our housemate Kati. Dahlia was there but we missed having our oldest child at the table! In fact, it’s the first time in 20 years we didn’t have all three children sitting with us, and our third Seder since we lost the most important person in our lives. But life goes on.
As it must. And there will be people who will gossip and whisper about the fact that for the first time in a long time I shared photographs of our children here. Well, let them.
It’s proof we are happy, and together (sorta), and thriving. And that’s worth sharing.
Now, things are finally really looking up: Last month I started teaching 5 days a week at the University of Hartford, and I was just announced as the managing editor of the website, Outsports.I’m very excited to finally share some good news!
As I’ve made clear in my social media posts, I’m one of dozens of freelance writers owed thousands of dollars, by this corporate parent company of Out Magazine, among others. Check out the hashtag #OutOwes.
They only owe me $400, but that $400 would bridge the gap between unemployment and steady work, and truly change the lives of my children and me.
Our life savings is gone. With that $400, I’d be able to pay the bill to reinstate my auto insurance policy. I’d be able to pay the bill to reconnect the internet service and basic cable TV. We already have an antenna, but my job requires me to keep an eye on news and sports channels that are only available via cable. I’d be able to pay the cell phone bill. Most importantly, I’d be able to buy groceries for my family; we’ve got enough for today but even with rationing, we’ll soon run out of food.
I hate having to ask. But I’ve asked Pride Media, I’ve even begged, and yet… nothing. Not even a promise of “the check is in the mail.”
The lowest point was earlier this week, when my daughter and I ran out of feminine pads. I asked a woman on the Pride Media team, please take some of the money you owe me, please go to a store, please buy us some pads and please, please, please send them overnight.
Two friends saw my pleas on social media and yesterday they sent us $18 each. That’s “Chai” in Hebrew, and traditionally a symbolic and meaningful gift. Those $36 mean the world to us.
I used it to buy pads, buy some food, and get us through this crisis until Pride Media and my new employers pay me.
Until then, we’re still in crisis. If you are in a position to help, we really could use it now.
That fund won’t help us in our immediate need, but contributions are still very appreciated and most welcome as every dollar goes toward my children’s education.
My oldest son is 20 and studying at the University of Chicago, and he just got a job at the school library; my daughter is 16, sings in four choirs, and just started working at Goodwill, and my youngest is 12, a Boy Scout and studying for his bar mitzvah in the fall.
Thank you, and I hope you find love today, and always!
This time on RiseUP With Dawn Ennis,I’m delighted to have Mary Fay in the studio. We discuss the recent election and its result, being a Republican in a progressive community, Connecticut politics and how she can be both an out lesbian and a Republican.
You might recall that last month, I interviewed her empty chair. She was a no-show!
Well, she showed up this time! And we had a great conversation, even if we didn’t agree on much. She was the first Republican to be my guest, and hopefully not the last.
Watch here, and scroll down for links mentioned in this month’s episode!
And you can find out more about our representative government here in West Hartford, Connecticut, by clicking here.I myself am an alternate representative to the town Democratic committee, representing District 1. Find out about ushere, and please join us! If you’re interested in the Republican committee, they have a website, too.
One of the issues we discussed were tolls coming to Connecticut, and although Ms. Fay told me I was wrong, you can read for yourself that a study shows they will bring $1B to our financially-strapped state. Here’s the report in the Hartford Courant.
And if you’d like to communicate with the woman who beat Ms. Fay for the 18th Legislative district seat, you’ll find Jillian Gilchrest on Twitter. Incidentally, I’ve learned Jillian still has not received a promised call from Ms. Fay conceding the election.
That’s all for our January episode of RiseUP, and I invite you to like, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Also listen to the podcast I’m now doing with Chardonnay Merlot, Before The War. We discuss politics, transgender issues and news of the week.
We took some time off recently because of the holidays, the death of Chardonnay’s grandfather and my own recovery from surgery at Mount Sinai’s NY Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Despite the name of the facility, my surgeon is now performing vaginoplasty surgeries there. I suffered a complication in June from the operation he performed in May, and so my recent surgery was aimed at correcting that. All is well!
Since this is the Christmas season, I thought I’d leave you with three “gifts.” First, two articles just published by The Advocate Magazine, profiling some amazing people I met at the NYC Pride march… Kaia Naadira and Ty Defoe! Click on their names to read!
Then, some politically-inspired carols… (SCROLL DOWN)
And last, the latest video from my BFF Maia Monet in which she wrangled Santa Claus (Dev Zebra) into listening to the Christmas wishes of transgender people! (KEEP SCROLLING)
I don’t want a lot for Christmas There’s just one change we need. I don’t care about Jared or Junior
Let them spend this Christmas free.
I just want #Trump‘s mobile phone
Then let him go to Mar-A-Lago
We’ll end the shutdown, too.
All I want for Christmas
Is a COUP.
Silent night, Shutdown night Everyone’s gone, turn out the lights ‘Round the world, allies gone wild Holy shit, Trump is out of his mind Sleep with porn stars, grab pussy Sleep with porn stars, grab pussy!
We wish you a Mueller Christmas We wish you a Mueller Christmas We wish you a Mueller Christmas and a Happy Indictment Fake Newscasts we bring to you and your kin We wish you a Mueller Christmas and a Happy Indictment!
Closing bells ring, are you listening On Wall Street, stocks are slipping A terrible fright We’re crying tonight Watching our markets crashland. Gone away are our investments Here to stay is a depressment #Trump was so wrong To boast all along While our markets crashland.
Donald the Conman Was a lying racist clown With combover hair and tiny hands And pouting lips in a permanent frown Donald the President Lied ’bout the wall: Mexico won’t pay And his base was surprised when Before their eyes All those promised jobs went away.
You know Flynn and Manafort and Gates and Cohen Kellyanne and Sarah and Jared and Stephen But do you recall The most famous Trumpster of all? Ivanka the President’s Daughter Plays a very shady role And if you ever saw her You would even say she knows More than the other reindeer!
Mueller baby, slip your report under the tree for me Been an awful good girl Mueller baby, and hurry up with your Trump indictment Mueller baby, more indictments, too, for Mike Pence, too I’ll wait up for you, Robert Mueller baby, so hurry to the White House tonight
I really can’t wait (Baby Mueller’s outside) I gotta go to Mar-A-Lago (Baby Mueller’s outside) This term has been (Been hoping that it would end) So very sad (I’ve noticed your hands really are tiny like a toy) Mike Pence will start to worry (Not as much as we worry!)
Just hear breaking news alerts jingling, ring tingle tingling, too Come on, it drives me crazy my phone blows up ‘cuz of you Feels like the sky is falling and friends are crying “boo hoo!” Come on, it’s time for Mueller to finish so we can get rid of you!
‘Twas the Sunday before Christmas, when all thro’ the House, Not a congressman was stirring, not even @RepMikeBost The shutdown begun by the POTUS who dared Hoping his base soon would not care; The children nestled in cages of dread Forget freedom, just don’t let them be dead.
Well, I have a little witness I made him talk today And when the indictment’s ready Then, a video I shall play Oh, Jared, Jared, Jared What you told me I can’t say But when the indictment’s ready Then, #Trump will say, OY VEY.
Happy Holidays and here’s wishing to a fabulous 2019!
The 20th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed on Tuesday, and my friend Kati Ennis and I attended the commemoration in Hartford, Connecticut. You can see some of the very moving program in the new episode of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis.
I was invited by Rev. Aaron Miller to deliver the Interfaith Prayer, which was a poem by Rabbi Rami Shapiro,What To Do. I was humbled by the amazing stories and reflections of the speakers: Regina Dyson, Brianna Johnston, Mia Lozada, Aeryn Grady (audio problems prevented me from including Aeryn in my show), Maeve Martinez and the incredible author, life coach and public speaker, Tony Ferraiolo.
Also in this new episode, what was supposed to be a sit down interview with Republican West Hartford Town Councilor Mary Fay — who ran and lost in the local election for state legislator to newcomer Jillian Gilchrest — turned out quite differently than I had anticipated. Fay, an out lesbian who also won the endorsement of the Independent Party in Connecticut, had agreed to an interview during the campaign, then reneged.
I caught up with her on Election Day as she greeted voters, and she promised to appear on my show. But when it came time to record the episode, Fay again sent her regrets, complaining of a bout with a stomach bug. She’s offered to appear on a future episode. The chair remains empty, so we’ll see. Fay was set to be the very first Republican to appear on my program; instead, she is the very first “no show” in 16 episodes since March 2017.
What you will see instead of Mary is Maggie, or as we now call her, Dahlia. She’s a rescue adoption dog who became part of our family thanks to Scott Turner Schofield and GLAAD, and the team at Litton Entertainment, a Hearst company, that produces a new reality series: Ready Set Pet on The CW.
You can see clips in this new episode of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis:
It’s taken me all week to process this, and share this news. A few days ago, on my mother’s birthday, I got the results of a genetic test following my annual mammogram (#12) and I learned I inherited the BRCA1 gene, putting me at “high risk” for cancer. Most folks have a one percent chance; the odds for me are 50/50.
Given the fact I lost my beloved Wendy, my father and my father in law to this killer, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And it’s not like I’ve been diagnosed, not at all. I am surrounded by fighters and survivors and relatives of those who fought… so I am, at the moment, still on the sidelines… or to use a baseball analogy, I am in the bullpen, warming up.
I’m not going to just sit here; I am heeding this wake up call. The road ahead will be marked by enhanced screenings, a better diet and more exercise. I will fight cancer before it gets its cold dead hands on me. I will survive this as I’ve survived every single challenge and overcome every obstacle in my path. My children and those who love me expect nothing less.
I feel as if cancer is a stalker, or worse: a serial killer. And the cops just knocked on my door to warn me I’m a potential target.
“Get out of town while you can!” they say. So I have bid farewell to the city of bad eating habits and sedentary living. I am running for my life.
If you’ll allow me one more metaphor, I will wage a war through my writing and my social media and my media platforms. And if you have a relative in your immediate family who is either a cancer survivor or was diagnosed, I strongly encourage you to check with your insurance about getting tested. Mine was covered 100% and I’m grateful that I have this knowledge to set the course ahead to healthier living.
Connecticut State Senator Beth Bye took time from the campaign trail to talk with me about her re-election bid, #MeToo, taxes, tolls, Trump and Brett Kavanagh.
And we discussed our wives. Like me, Bye married a teacher, and together they made history as the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Connecticut.
My late wife knew her, since Bye served on West Hartford’s Board of Education and supported her first bid to run for the state senate in 2010.
Watch my interview with Sen. Bye at the link below, and scroll down for links mentioned in episode 15 of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis.
Here is where you can weigh-in on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Click here to tweet to me, or add your comment below. Who do you believe? Dr. Christine Blasey Ford? Or Judge Kavanaugh?
Thanks for reading and for watching! Catch up on prior episodes of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis by clicking here.
One last note: I mentioned my late spouse Wendy Lachs Ennis both here in my blog and during this month’s episode, because she was how I first learned about Sen. Bye, and because I think about her every day ending in “Y.” Saturday would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary… if not for my transition, and her passing.
Despite being gone 2 years and 9 months, she is always on our minds and in our hearts. It’s been especially hard sending our firstborn off to college without her, teaching our only daughter how to drive, planning our youngest’s Bar Mitzvah, mindful of her spirit but missing her presence and participation.
And our financial struggle to support our children’s education is no less difficult, having lost my most recent steady job to budget cuts last month.
If you are not already one of the many wonderful friends and strangers who have generously supported our children’s education fund, I hope you will consider making a contribution. All the money, every penny, goes to our eldest son’s college fund and the bank account set aside to educate his younger brother and sister. You can do so by clicking here for the GoFundMe account
“Does your husband know you’re doing this?” That was one of the questions Democrat Jillian Gilchrest faced when she went door-to-door across West Hartford, Conn., in her first political campaign ever. “Yes, he does, and he supports me 100-percent,” Gilchrest told the skeptical man.
Skeptics were decidedly outnumbered in the August primary in which Gilchrest defeated a 23-year incumbent for his seat in the Connecticut State Legislature, representing her hometown in the 18th Assembly district. Andy Fleischmann’s 12-terms as a strong advocate for West Hartford and most recently as chairman of the education committee were not enough to overcome the wave of momentum Gilchrest had built both online and in person.
Watch my interview with Jillian Gilchrest by clicking the link below, and you’ll find more links and information about this month’s episode by scrolling down.
There has been a firestorm of reaction since the incident.
I added my own comments in response to Mr. McPeek’s tweeted apology:
I want to go on record saying I do not want to see you punished, either by @nlgja or your employer or by anyone, including #trans, #GNC and #NB individuals you offended. What I do wish is that instead of resigning your membership you had pledged to work with those maligned —>
(2) by you and for you to work with your supporters who seem to think the trans community (in the opinion of @SteveFriess) is a bunch of pitchfork-waving wackos and that some of us are less than (in the opinion of @HankPlante) because we blog instead of working in the MSM. –>
(3) I think you are being sincere in this statement. I am eager to both forgive and move on, but you have in your own way opened-up a hornet's nest and only together can we work to eliminate the danger. Will you work with #trans#GNC and #NB folks and your cis gay colleagues –>
(4 of 4) to resolve differences, bring about better understanding and fight transphobia? Or will you side with those who say it was just a joke, get over it, it was a one time slip of the tongue. No it wasn't. You know it wasn't. I extend my hand if you wish to work together.
Just because June is over doesn’t mean it’s the end of pride celebrations. This month on my talk show, RiseUP with Dawn Ennis,we cover a lot of ground, and if you’ll forgive me for boasting… I have a lot to boast about.
This summer has been one big event after another for me, personally. And for my eleventh episode of this series on WHC-TV and YouTube, I’ve decided to navel-gaze, and share some personal milestones:
My children and I welcomed a new addition to our happy home (NO, I am not and never will be pregnant!);
And my selection as a community hero by Heritage of Pride (organizers of the NYC Pride March), which put me front and center at the historic 49th annual event on June 24th, alongside several genuine LGBTQ icons. Click here for the link to the names of all of this year’s honorees.
Hello, imposter syndrome!
Kaia Naadira (left), Emma Gonzalez and Dawn Ennis
Yes, that woman with the crew cut standing to my right is indeed Emma Gonzalez,18, a graduate of Parkland, Fla.’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and survivor of the deadly school shooting rampage on February 14th.
We talked at length about how she’s dealt with all she’s seen, handling haters, her hairstyle and her choice for college. Her mom is a sweetheart and entrusted me to keep an eye on Emma as she walked ahead of the float we rode through Lower Manhattan.
And because I am a journalist first and foremost, I also took time before and after the march to do my job: I interviewed the woman in the center of this photo, the queer-identified gender nonconforming artist and video innovator Kaia Naadira, whose mother Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement. I also spoke with Two Spirit performance artist Ty Defoe, right, who followed Pride with a stint on Broadway alongside transgender icon Kate Bornstein in Straight White Men.
You can read the interviews in an upcoming print issue of The Advocate Magazineas well as watch the interviews in this month’s episode, on YouTube, below. And below the episode, you’ll find links promised during the show.
My friend Kati and I also met one of my lifelong heroes, Billie Jean King, one of the grand marshals.
If you don’t know how she single-handedly changed the world — not just the world of sports — watch this Peabody Award-winning documentary about the tennis and women’s movement and lesbian legend here.
I asked King about “Battle of the Sexes,” the recent movie about her historic 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs, and how producers had suggested they “leave out” that she was lesbian, since at the time she was married to her ex-husband. “You can’t leave that out!” she told them.
King also had this to say, in the Portrait of a Pioneer documentary:
“Even though I get discouraged sometimes, if you’re a girl or a woman, you’re supposed to be really happy when you get the crumbs. I don’t want just the crumbs! I want the cake and the icing. Everybody deserves the cake and the icing.”
Placide, pictured above left with King, is OutRight Action International’s Caribbean-based Advisor and the Executive Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE). She has been an advocate for HIV and human rights, youth and LGBTI issues, for over 12 years. Instrumental in organizing the first OECS regional security and human rights training for LGBT and sexual rights defenders in 2011, she made history co-coordinating the Caribbean’s first International Dialogue on Human Rights in 2012.
Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve the full recognition of the civil rights of the LGBTQ community and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. In the past year alone, Lambda Legal has sued to stop the transgender military ban, defended marriage equality nationally, fought federal, state and local-level discrimination, and continued to advocate for the most vulnerable members of our community – including youth, seniors, the trans community, and communities of color.
Tyler Ford is an award-winning agender advocate, writer, and speaker, whose creative and critical writing on queer and trans identity inspires, comforts, and challenges a diverse spectrum of audiences. Ford is also the Deputy Editor at Condé Nast’s them, a next-generation LGBTQ community platform.
If you’re like my youngest son and you’d like to know more about Stonewall and the 1969 protests and riots that sparked the LGBTQ pride movement (there were several other uprisings, such as in Philadelphia and San Francisco that preceded Stonewall, incidentally), read this history of how it came to be here. If not for Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, it might never have.
I met two heroes who are living witnesses to history, riding along with me on the Community Heroes float: trans activist Victoria Cruz, and Tree Sequoia, who’s tended bar at The Stonewall Inn for decades.
For details about the Center for Transgender Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospitalin New York City, you can visit their website here, and don’t be surprised when you see my familiar mug online! The hospital hired several LGBTQ actors and trans models for their promotional material and in-house videos, me among them.
The New Haven Register reported on my surgery last month, and not for any reason but to raise awareness of the battle I waged. I fought for me, but I also don’t believe it’s fair that I should be the first and last transgender resident of Connecticut to be allowed this oppportunity.
I would never have granted the reporter the interview just to talk about me; I talked about this fight in an episode last fall and you can read about it here. The battle is not over just because I got mine.
Speaking of names in the news, I was interviewed by The New York Times for a story that was published on the same day as the NYC Pride March, about traveling while trans and people around the world who identify as LGBTQ. Or as The Times put it, L.G.B.T.Q. You can read that story here, and although it’s the first time I’ve had my name in the newspaper of record, I hope it’s not the last!
Find out about NYC Pride by clicking here, and make plans now for the 50th anniversary celebration in June 2019!
Outsports Prideis an annual event that anyone interested in sports and equality should definitely add to your calendar!
At The Advocate I earned the nickname “SportsGirl” so this was a genuine honor to be asked to moderate a panel, featuring:
Nevin Caple. The former NCAA basketball player for Farleigh-Dickinson University is a co-founder of LGBT SportSafe, which seeks to build inclusion for athletes and coaches of any sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sarah Axelson. Axelson is a former softball player at the University of Mary Washington. She is currently the Director of Advocacy for theWomen’s Sports Foundation, and:
Clare Kenny. Now campaigns manager at GLAAD and working with campus programs, Kenny is a former volleyball player at Skidmore College and build an LGBTQ inclusion program in her athletics department.
Thank you to Cyd Ziegler of Outsports for inviting me, and for being so generous as to also welcome my friend Kati Ennis, who has been my right hand, my helper, my chauffeur, cook, and co-mom while I’ve been focused on my recovery. She and her dogs have moved in with us at our home in Connecticut and we are all ever so grateful!
Together we met San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers — the first woman to coach in the NFL — and Ryan O’Callaghan, the out former Patriots star. I urge you to donate to his Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation — which supports talented LGBTQ youth with college scholarships. Find out more about their important work by clicking here, Or email Ryan here:email@example.com
If you’re looking for other ways to celebrate Pride in Connecticut, go to CT Visit.com for a complete list, including New Haven and New London Pride as well as details about Hartford Capital City Pride September 7th and 8th.
If Karleigh looks familiar, she was my videographer, editor, producer and brilliant collaborator on the episode last fall we taped in Provincetown, Mass. She’s incredibly talented!
Find out more about New York City’s Museum of Sex by going to their website or visiting them at 233 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, at the corner of East 27th Street.
I heartily recommend the Magic Wand, by the way. It’s great for… massaging.
By the way, we stayed at the Evelyn Hotel just down the block, and had a lovely time! It’s steps away from the end of the new parade route and around the corner from Madison Square Park.
Did you like the “RESIST” tee with the transgender colors — from the flag created by Monica Helms — which I wore during the NYC Pride March, and the recording of this episode? Click here for a link to get your own!
I can also connect you with Nolan Custom Craft on Etsy, who produced the RiseUP With Dawn Ennis Pride 2018 stainless steel water bottle seen in this episode. I own another one, too, as you can see below!
Thanks for watching and for reading lifeafterdawn.com Your comments on the show and my blog are welcome in the comments, and that’s also how you can let me know if you’d like to be our next special correspondent.
Next month: Another candidate in Connecticut’s embattled race for attorney general! Until then… Remember to RISE UP!
My daughter and I took part in last month’s March For Our Lives on the grounds of Connecticut’s capitol. We left our “pussy hats” from the 2017 protest behind, but she did bring along a homemade sign, replete with handrawn blood-drips and the question, “Am I Next?”
There we met teachers, students, mothers and fathers and many, many little children among the thousands who marched and rallied. Also in attendance, this week’s guest on RiseUP With Dawn Ennis: Kevin Sullivan, a legend in Connecticut politics and currently the commissioner of revenue services.
Yes, he’s the Tax Man. And in this episode, he has important advice for everyone still working on your taxes (the IRS extended its deadline until midnight tonight).
Sullivan is also the former mayor of my hometown, West Hartford, a former member of the town council, a former state senator and president of the state senate. And Commissioner Sullivan also served as Connecticut’s lieutenant governor. In addition to safeguarding the state’s revenue coffers, he also serves our town as a leader in the Democratic Party. With his help and sponsorship, I am honored to serve as an alternate representative for my district on the town council. That’s one way I’m rising up.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Also this month, my special correspondent is a mom of six children in Alexandria, Virginia: Amanda Brewer, a military wife who never expected she’d become an advocate for transgender rights. That all changed when her daughter, came out as trans at age 11.
Amanda bravely accepted my invitation to share how she became an activist for trans rights, and I’m so grateful to her for telling her story.
You’ll find helpful links and more information below the link to this month’s show.
Wow, how about that thumbnail of me? Ouch!
Thank you in advance for watching, liking, sharing, and subscribing!
You can support families like Amanda Brewer’s by supporting the American Military Partners Association, which is actively fighting both the Pentagon and the Trump administration on behalf of trans military troops and their families.
To find out more about the March For Our Lives movement, click here.
If you’re interested in learning more about Commissioner Kevin Sullivan or the department of revenue services, click here. And you’ll find information about state tax refunds here.
If you are interested in becoming a RiseUP special correspondent, please contact me via the comments section! All you need is a camera phone and a story to tell about how you’ve taken action in your community. No experience required!
Gov. Malloy talked with me one on one about his accomplishments over his two terms in office, responded to his critics and answered questions from viewers, one of which is: why don’t you just resign now? His answer? “Walk in my shoes” before he’ll consider that viewer’s advice. Malloy told another viewer inquiring about taxes, “Wake up!”
We’ll also look at the newest candidate to enter the competitive race to replace Malloy, former West Hartford mayor Jonathan Harris.
Also in this episode, Sarah McBride explains what motivated her to work in activism and told me what she hopes readers who aren’t LGBTQ will learn from her book, now on sale.
You’ll find links to help you learn more about the people and topics we cover in this episode by scrolling down below the video link! If you enjoy what you see, please like. share and subscribe:
If you’re looking to contact Gov. Dannel Malloy, here’s the linkto send him (or, more accurately, his staff) an email. They are very responsive! And if you have a specific problem or issue you want the governor and his staff to address, click hereto contact the Constituent Services Office.
Watch the governor’s final state of the state address hereand read the transcripthere.
You can read up on Connecticut politics by clicking here for the Hartford Courant’s section devoted to political news coverage.
Find out more about Jonathan Harris’s campaign for governor of Connecticut by clicking here.
Harris, of course, faces some stiff competition later this year in the state primary:
This episode’s special correspondent is Sarah McBride, the national press secretary for Human Rights Campaign(HRC) and the first out transgender person to ever address a national political convention. Sarah is the author ofTomorrow Will Be Different,her memoir which the cover explains is about love, loss, and the fight for trans equality.
Read about Sarah and find out how you can get a copy of her book byclicking here.
Click here to watch a short excerpt from Jennifer Finney Boylan’s powerful interview with Sarah at The Strand bookstore in New York City, on March 6th.
You can also order Sarah’s book on Amazon.com by clicking here.For information about Sarah’s book tour, you’ll find a list of cities and dateshere.
If you would like more information about Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, reform Judaism or about the celebration of Purim and other Jewish holidays, visit CBI’s new and improved website for everything you ever wanted to know, but didn’t know who to ask! And expect to hear more in upcoming episodes about CBI’s 175th anniversary celebration!
Jeffrey Tambor (left) and Dawn Ennis, May 9, 2015 at the GLAAD Media Awards NYC. Photographer: Hannah Simpson
Although what I experienced pales in comparison to what other women endured… this week I finally broke my silence with a post on Facebook. It’s been a long time coming.
The news first broke last fall that award-winning actor Jeffrey Tambor was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by my FB friends Van Barnes, his assistant on the TV show Transparent, and actress Trace Lysette.,who has appeared on that show among others.
Trace Lysette (left) and Van Barnes
I was not among those who were stunned and surprised. Not just because this came amidst the #MeToo scandals rocking Hollywood and big business. Not just because I knew as a journalist that the accusations would need to be investigated before any action would be taken. But as a woman, I knew in my heart that there could be no mistake: the beloved, cherished and much-heralded actor who won Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and more, had crossed the line.
Because Jeffrey Tambor had also fondled me.
He actually did it twice: Once at a star-studded gala at the Waldorf in New York City in May 2015, and a few months later at a Transparent publicity shoot in West Hollywood. I’ll share the details in a moment, but first let me address the bigger question: why didn’t I say anything? If not the first time, why not call him out the second time?
I admit, and I’m embarrassed to do so, that first time it did not even occur to me that I should. And when he touched me, even though this was in front of several other people in both instances, I remained silent, endured his touch, and just waited for it to be over.
I thought at the time, this is the shit that men do. I never said anything… because I thought this was what we did, as women. And thanks to Van, Trace, Tarana Burke, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, and so many more women — and men like Anthony Rapp — I found the strength to detail my own #MeToostory here. No longer should any of us remain silent.
“Dawn Ennis!” shouted the actor with the distinct baritone voice, as he crossed the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria the night of May 9, 2015. “There you are!” said Jeffrey Tambor, as he sidled up to me and took my hand. He was dressed in a men’s suit.
If my jaw hit the floor any harder, there would have been a crater. Here was one of Hollywood’s most well-known character actors, now the star of Amazon’s new streamed series… a straight, cisgender man who ‘friended’ me and several other transgender women on Facebook, presumably to be more “authentic” in his role of Maura Pfefferman… here was Jeffrey Tambor calling my name out in a crowd of celebrities and LGBT superstars.
Dawn Ennis selfie, May 9 2015
I was there at the invitation of my friend and mentor, Jennifer Finney Boylan, then a member of the GLAAD board of directors and a featured speaker at that night’s GLAAD Media Awards. Decked out in a voluptuous violet gown, I was a victim of a Sephora stylist’s really poor taste in brow pencil, But I managed to find the words just as Tambor’s other hand wrapped around my torso.
I could feel everyone’s eyes upon us.
“I cannot believe you recognize me from Facebook,” I told him. Perhaps all those tabloid headlines helped, too. But either way, I stood in surprise, and not just at the recognition, but at the arm that now found its way around my waist. “Oh, I’m a big fan of yours! Your stories, all you’ve been through. Let’s take a selfie!” Tambor said to me, my mind racing. What was happening?
He had found me in one of those rare moments when my iPhone was not in my hand, so a friend snapped our photo as his grip held me tight and close to his body. The cheeks of my face turned bright red as I felt my left buttcheek squeezed, in that moment before the flash of the cameraphone blinded us.
And… then he was gone. I looked around, saw several others following him through the ballroom, my friends smiling at me, happy at the recognition bestowed upon me by a big name celebrity, and I thought, there was nothing I could say about what just happened. If anyone saw it, nobody said anything. I guessed I should just chalk up another first-time experience, being the woman I am. This is what happens, trans or cisgender. I didn’t feel good about the objectification, the fondle or the forced intimacy of his body pressed against mine. I took it as a price I had to pay to be who I am.
Fast-forward to August, and to a soundstage in West Hollywood, where after many, many, many requests, the producers of Transparent invited me — the new news editor at The Advocate Magazine, and its first out transgender editor — to visit a gathering of all the stars.
Photographer’s master sheet of talent from Amazon’s Transparent, August 2015
They gathered for publicity portraits, and to be interviewed by me about the much anticipated second season. It was the kind of exclusive I had hoped for, chatting up the stars behind the scenes, getting to know them and how their characters were about to evolve.
Melora Hardin (left) and Gaby Hoffman
Although I only chatted briefly with Amy Landecker, Melora Hardin and literally bumped into Gaby Hoffman as I helped her wheel her baby stroller in the front door, Carrie Brownstein, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings and the incredible Judith Light spent about 15 to 20 minutes each, examining the work they were doing and how it relates to their LGBT audience, particularly transgender women like me. In addition,
Jay Duplass (left) and Dawn Ennis
Carrie talked about how different this role was from her work on Portlandia; Jay and I laughed about his portrayal of a truly selfish and immature manchild, and the lessons to be learned from playing Josh. Judith and I discussed our love of Broadway, and fulfilling the part of mother figure even off-camera, my worries for my then-ailing wife. And Alexandra, who is trans, shared how being misgendered and being mistreated by cisgender men empowered her instead of debilitating her, and challenged her to persevere.
Dawn Ennis (left) and Judith Light
That is when I got word that it was time to leave, and that I would not be seeing Mr. Tambor.
“Okay,” I said. “We’ve already met,” and besides, I had more than enough material for my readers. I figured what Alexandra and Melora had to say about their characters and their own authentic identities would be of more interest than yet another interview with the star of the show, which had pretty much been done to death.
Alexandra Billings (left) and Dawn Ennis
I was actually leaving the soundstage, when who should come around the bend but Tambor himself, leading an entourage of hair and makeup people. The biggest difference between May and August was he was wearing his wig, fake nails, makeup and a muumuu instead of the fancy man’s suit I’d seen him in before.
Jeffrey Tambor as Maura on Amazon’s Transparent
Van, his “Girl Friday,” had exchanged emails with me, but I really didn’t get much of a chance to talk with her on this busy day.
Yet once again, without me needing to be introduced or get his attention, her boss called out my name. “Dawn Ennis!” he bellowed.
I’m someone who isn’t starstruck meeting leaders and presidents, nor actors and celebrities of all kinds, since I myself was a child actor and model beginning at the age of four. But there was no denying I was again flattered by the fact that Tambor acted as if he knew me — and acted is probably the most important word in that sentence. Given that he grabbed my butt at the GLAAD Awards, maybe he felt he did know me, in his own way.
The memory was fresh, so when he walked up to me, I used both hands to grasp his. And that worked, for a moment.
“Good to see you again, Jeffrey. Thank you for what you do to represent girls like me,” I told him, sincerely. He let go of my hands, clasped my face in both hands, and then used them to firmly grasp my shoulders and pull me in for a tighter than expected hug.
“No, thank you!” Tambor replied, effusively. “Thank you, for all that it is that you do. Thank you. It’s for you and for everyone like you that I do this,” he said.
All the stars had given me a hug of one kind or another. All were meeting me for the first time. Not Tambor. And I thought I was prepared.
As I started to pull my body back, away from his embrace, I could not help but feel his long arms slide down from my shoulders… and his hands find their way straight to my rear end.
“Okay, well, go break a leg,” I muttered as I abruptly took a step back. Not sure if anyone noticed the spring in my step from that double grab… but once again, as inappropriate as it was, I did not exclaim or confront him or ask if anyone saw what he did. If they did, I suspect it probably wouldn’t have been news to anyone who worked closely with him. Just another day, another buttocks.
I thanked my hosts and hightailed it off the soundstage, walking my New York walk of big fast strides to get to the safe harbor of my car.
I told one person, and only one person, and that was my wife, before she died. We had separated since my transition two years earlier, and stayed separated after I resumed my transition, She was intent on eventually divorcing me, and in spite of everything, I still loved her… but we had found a way forward as friends.
Hearing me tell her how a famous actor had treated me like any other woman surely couldn’t have been easy, and neither was hearing her tell me what so many cisgender women say when this kind of thing happens to trans women (and if I’m not being clear, we absolutely HATE hearing this):
“Welcome to womanhood.”
Except in my case, I didn’t feel particularly welcome. Being told this makes most trans women I know feel “othered,” as if we are mere pledges to the sorority and not yet really women. Now, the truth is, I had certainly pinched my wife’s butt more than once, but I was living as a male and we were married almost 20 years. I could not get my mind around the idea that a man felt comfortable groping a woman in that way, or worse.
But even then, I resisted revealing these particular events. Truth is, they were still too fresh, and the backlash against the movement was virulent. I’ve had more than my fair share of tabloid attention in the last five years, and I’m not seeking any more. I do this now because I can no longer deny it happened, and happened again, and because Jeffrey Tambor continues to deny the accusations against him, insisting he was treated unfairly and blames a “toxic politicized atmosphere.”
No, sir: as Van and Trace have said more eloquently than I ever can, you have no one to blame but yourself. I consider myself lucky to have escaped your clutches twice with minimal scarring. And I’ve told you so.
All this just makes me wonder who else has not yet told their Jeffrey Tambor story.
I wish it had not taken me so long. I wish this was something no woman ever had to do. But it is in the telling that we heal, we grow, and we show that we will not be silenced. Never again.
I send my eternal praise and gratitude to Van Barnes and Trace Lysette and Anthony Rapp for inspiring me with their bravery and courage. As Van said, may it be easier for the next one.
Donald Trump Is A Racist. Donald Trump Is A Racist. Donald Trump Is A Racist.
I hear you asking: Why did I bare everything to send you this message?
Well, I recorded this without much forethought after watching a video by the brilliant columnist for The New York Times,Charles M. Blow.
On the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, he spoke on Twitter about people who refuse to call out racism when they see it. This is not to say Mr. Blow inspired me to take my clothes off! Yes, he’s gorgeous, but, no, he didn’t.
I chose to do this for one simple reason, and it’s to send a message that is both succinct and visually clear, without any distraction:
Donald Trump is a racist.
If you already know the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, then let’s skip right to the moral of the story: all it takes to call out a lie, to expose a fraud, and to take down a king, is for one honest individual with no preconceptions to speak out.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know exactly what the president is, why his message resonates so strongly with some Americans, and how he gets away with it.
It is because there are too few people willing to risk everything to call him out. With this, I leave no doubt where I stand, and make no presumptions about the potential fallout. You see me here totally unguarded. I am giving you my plain, honest and unvarnished perspective.
Donald Trump is a racist.
Now, even with all the much-needed efforts to empower women lately, and not treat us as sex objects serving only to please men, there are unfortunately some folks who will only focus on the fact my video reveals part of a woman’s nude body, even if it is just for ten seconds. So, I repeat myself in the video.
Hey! Eyes up here!
Did you miss what I said? Donald Trump is a racist. I am being as transparent as I can here.
That’s a pun, of course.
Apologies if the pendant is also a distraction; I wear it only because I am rarely seen without it. This was a gift from a longtime friend, and its symbols will be familiar to many: male and female, intertwined. It signifies I am transgender, and my very existence and that of women like me is threatened each and every day because of who we are.
After an impossibly horrible year, the first month of 2018 is only at the midway point, and already two trans women have been murdered: one in Southern California and another in New England. I won’t even try to compare the suffering of our tiny community to that of the generations of victims of rampant institutional and individual racism. But we can say that for each instance of these outrageous kinds of human behavior, it is the fear of something different, something other, that fuels hate, violence and oppression. And I will not be silent as it continues.
I may not do more than make a spectacle of myself in sharing this video, and I am willing to accept this risk.
Or, perhaps I will show that there is no justification for accommodation, no reason to cloak the obvious fact that we have as our elected leader of these United States a man who is a proven, unrepenting, lying, undeniable racist.
That’s the naked truth.
Oh, and please note: I usually wear pajamas to bed.
Tonight I will speak of death, and mourn those who lost their lives to hate in 2017. At this annual gathering in Hartford, not far from my home, we will read the names of each transgender individual killed because of who they were, and light a candle in their memory, an action that will be repeated around the world.
But as the transgender community and our allies take time to honor those taken from us on this Transgender Day of Remembrance (more about this below), I am proud to share with you a very special episode ofRiseUP With Dawn Ennis which is timed to coincide with this solemn occasion as well as #TransAwarenessWeek. Scroll down for the link to the YouTube video.
This month’s episode is special for a number of reasons.
First, we shot it entirely on location in the beautiful Cape Cod community of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
We traveled there for last month’s Fantasia Fair, now in its 43rd year.
The weeklong event celebrated gender diversity feature speakers, singers, comedians, fashion shows and provided attendees a chance to make new friends, to shop and be social, and to be the genuine person some people feel they cannot be at home, at work, and/or with their family. And some people bring their spouses so they can show them this side of themselves. You can get answers to the frequently asked questions about the fair by clicking here.
For the first time in the eight months of doing this show, I worked with a collaborator for this episode: Chardonnay Merlot served as videographer, editor, interviewee, as well as interviewer in my absence, once I left P-Town to attend to my children. Last year, the kiddos accompanied me, but given the timing I opted to run up and back from CT.
My many thanks to Chardonnay for doing such great work, and my sincere congrats on the fair scholarship she received to perform the videography duties at which she excels.
“Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is a vehicle for the Gender Spectrum to unify against the violence, oppressive and discriminatory behavior against Transgender, Intersex, Gender Non-Conforming and Non-Binary, Gender Fluid, Two Spirit people and unconventional Gender Spectrum people. This event is a vehicle for all to provide education and awareness. We use this event to connect to this community to help them live authentic and free from violence, addressing oppressive disparities within the health care field, HIV infection and prevention, financial independence and economic prosperity, homelessness, youth, suicide, policy reform, violence and other aspects in life that obstruct authentic living.”
And be sure to not miss my interview with Lorelei Erisis,standup comic, improv, actor, activist and extrovert who is among the loveliest and kindest human beings I know. [Lorelei, please remember to send the check to my home, not the TV station].
Don’t believe me? As she suggests, just Google her name and you’ll see for yourself.
As promised, here’s the link to this month’s episode on YouTube. You can also check it out at 9pm on WHC-TV Channel 5 beginning Wednesday, November 22nd. WHC-TV is a community public access station available only in West Hartford, Connecticut. Scroll down for more links and information!
The list of speakers at this year’s Fantasia Fair was greater than we could show in a single episode, including retired fire captain and GLAAD board member Lana Moore, Lambda Legal’s transgender rights project director M. Dru Levasseur, transgender youth advocate and author Tony Ferraiolo, activist Monica Perez, Nick Adams of GLAAD, and so many more!
During our time in P-Town, we spoke to so many folks, trans men as well as women, spouses, allies and locals who welcomed the attendees with open arms. Thank you to everyone who took a moment to share their stories!
One of them was Heather Leigh, who runs a support group that’s more like a party in New Haven, Connecticut.
It’s called Diva Social and it’s billed as a monthly, friendly, safe and welcoming event for the transgender, crossdressing and queer segments of the LGBTQ community. Contact Heather for more information about the next event in mid-December by clicking here.
What’s the difference between a trans woman and a crossdresser? There are two famous responses, each aimed at eliciting laughter: the first is that a crossdresser arrives home from work and cannot wait to put on a bra… and a trans woman cannot wait to take hers off. The second answer to the question, “what’s the difference between a crossdresser and a trans woman,” is… about three years.
“While anyone may wear clothes associated with a different sex, the term cross-dresser is typically used to refer to men who occasionally wear clothes, makeup, and accessories culturally associated with women. Those men typically identify as heterosexual. This activity is a form of gender expression and not done for entertainment purposes. Cross-dressers do not wish to permanently change their sex or live full-time as women. Replaces the term ‘transvestite’.”
If you’re interested in a great time in Provincetown, consider staying, dining or booking your next event at the Crown and Anchor, where many of the fair events were held, and The Boatslip Resort where many of my friends stayed; even without being their guest, I myself received a warm welcome and generous help from the staff.
Our thanks to the fine folks at the Pilgrim Monument for welcoming the RiseUP team and all the fairgoers and providing us with an incredible space to conduct some of our interviews.
The historic landmark tower and museum is a real treat for all ages, staffed by knowledgeable guides, featuring fascinating exhibits and an amazing view from atop the tower that is well worth the hike!
That’s all for this month. I’ll be back next month with a new episode of RiseUp and I certainly hope to update the blog well before then! Send me your comments here or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter@riseupwithdawn
Thanks for watching, sharing, subscribing and of course, reading! Happy Thanksgiving!
“I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar,” is a quote from Serenity, the 2009 film based on the TV series, Firefly. And I drew great inspiration from it this month as I prepared to record the latest episode of my talk show.
For those who are unfamiliar, the movie reunited the cast of Joss Whedon’s much-beloved but short-lived Fox scifi western, which ran for only 14 episodes in 2002.
Hoban “Wash” Washburne was the pilot of the Firefly-class spaceship, Serenity. I found a post by blogger MyGeekWisdom that deciphered the meaning of Washburne’s inspiring words, as he summoned the courage to fly against seemingly impossible odds.
“It’s incredibly easy to psyche ourselves out when under pressure. It’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing, of even attempting to perform complicated tasks. In order to actually do them, confidence is key. We have to believe in ourselves whenever we do anything. Whether it be relatively mundane activities or extremely complex processes, we have to believe in ourselves that we can actually do it.”
And this month on RiseUP With Dawn Ennis, I summoned my courage to do something I’d never before attempted: I flew solo, recording an entire 30-minute show without a guest, without a script, covering the tragic news of the past week and addressing some of the most challenging times of my life. It’s a packed half-hour, and I relished the challenge.
Scroll down, and you’ll find all the links I mentioned in this episode, as well as links to some prior blogposts, addressing important issues raised in our program this month. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, including criticism if you feel it’s warranted. I went out on a limb this time, and I’m more than willing to learn from my mistakes.
It’s painful, but I’ve learned more from those, than from my successes. Here’s the show:
And now, the links, along with other helpful information:
To help victims of Hurricane Harvey, click here,and click hereto help victims of Hurricane Irma. Those links will connect you with Public Good, which will direct you to vetted charities that are IRS-verified nonprofit organizations. You can donate money, time and show your support online.
Blood donation agencies are urging people living outside of Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia to visit their local blood center and donate blood as soon as possible. All blood types are needed, but there is an urgent need for platelet donations, as well as O negative blood.
The Hispanic Federation is organizing support for the victims in Puerto Rico online at its Unidos portal, where 100% of your gift goes to the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund.
Click hereto make an online donation. And here are several other ways you can help:
Donate Via Text – Compose a new text message for number 41444. Type UNIDOS (space) YOUR AMOUNT (space) and YOUR NAME. (For example: Unidos 100 John Doe) Then press “send” and click on the link to complete your donation.
Donate In Person – Visit any Popular Community Bank branch. Account name: Hurricane Relief Effort. Checking account number: 6810893500.
Donate By Check – Make your check payable to: Hispanic Federation, in the memo line, write Hurricane Relief Fund and mail to: Unidos Disaster Relief Fund, c/o Hispanic Federation, 55 Exchange Place, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10005
Donate Goods and Your Time – You can also support the Puerto Rican relief efforts by donating essential goods and volunteer through efforts coordinated by the New York City and State governments:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an effort to collect critically-needed items, such as diapers, baby food, and first aid supplies. To find locations, clickhere.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also launched the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico to collect donations and volunteer. To find locations, click here.
Nearly 85 percent of the island is still without power, which means millions of people remain without electricity weeks after the storm, says José H. Román Morales, president of Puerto Rico’s Energy Commission, which regulates the island’s electric power authority. And clean water remains a precious commodity, available to only one-third of the island; another factor that has doctors and health experts fearful of an epidemic outbreak spread by mosquitos.
Public Good also provides a portal if you want to help victims of the latest earthquake to strike Mexico. Click here for more information and to donate money.
The victims of the massacre in Las Vegas will benefit from a GoFundMe account set up by Steve Sisolak, Chair of the Clark County Commission, to raise money for those shot and their families. In the first three days, it raised more than $9 million and as this is published the victims fund stands five million dollars short of its goal. Click herefor more information and to donate.
I’ve invited you to tweet your solution to the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. But before you do, read this compelling articlefrom Forbes — by a Republican — titled Ten Lies That Distort the Gun Control Debate.
As for the National Anthem protests, there are new developments: the NFL reportedly changed the rulebook, now requiring all players to be on the field and standing for the Star Spangled Banner. Team owners plan to meet to discuss this and an empty threat from President Trump to take away tax breaks to the NFL… which the league already gave up in 2015.
Interestingly, the NAACP called a pledge by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, to bench players who take a knee during the national anthem, “a public commitment by an NFL owner to violate his players’ Constitutional right to free speech.” A prominent Texas politician of color, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, went a step further in denouncing Jones, calling his order to players an ultimatum “that says, ‘Slaves, obey your master.'”
A different view on this issue comes from Michael Caputo, a longtime Republican who served as a senior adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign and the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and George H.W. Bush. I hope you’ll consider his perspective, in support of his beloved Buffalo Bills and his fellow veterans and their families, which you can read via CNN by clicking here.
As you may have noticed, I heard from a number of guys named “John.” Let me know your thoughts by tweeting me @riseupwithdawn.
I talked a little about detransition in this episode, and my personal experience. My good friend Brynn Tannehill wrote one of the most forceful arguments to attack the myths surrounding this controversial topic a year after my experience, and it holds up well. Click here to read the article in HuffPost, and here to find more of Brynn’s amazing writing.
And you can read more about my personal experience here on lifefterdawn, in this blogpost from last year.
If you have questions about trans people, there are three excellent resources to consider. Click herefor a quick, handy guide from Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and click here for an in-depth Q&A from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). GLAAD put together a list of FAQs as well, which you’ll find here.
What does gender confirmation surgery involve? Click hereto read WebMD’s very simple explanation about the various operations that some transgender people undergo as part of their transition. About one-third of transgender Americans do have GCS, but most never take this step; it is fraught with potential complications, it’s expensive if your insurance doesn’t cover it, or your provider won’t accept your insurance, and the surgery requires an intense amount of recovery time and aftercare. In my personal opinion, all that is worth it, but I respect those who either choose to live without it or cannot have it for financial, health or other personal reasons. As for the corrective work I’m looking forward to having done, that’s nobody’s business but mine.
To find out more about WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, click here for that organization’s website. You can click here to read about the Standards of Care every respected surgeon and health care professional is expected to follow, and you can find out if your provider is a member byclicking here.
Why is it important that your surgeon be a member of WPATH? Let’s take a more mundane example than what some consider the most important operation of their life.
Let’s say your car desperately needs new brakes. Brakes make the difference between you and your loved ones traveling at a high rate of speed, and all of you crashing into something at a high rate of speed. Bobby’s Brakes wants $900 to replace yours, and that’s more than you have. So, you approach Mike the Mechanic on his lunch break, and slip him $450 cash to do it after work. After all, Mike knows how to install brakes, and for him, it’s quick, easy money.
But what happens if Mike makes a mistake? Or if he cuts corners to get home in time to watch the latest streaming episode of Star Trek: Discovery? Mike doesn’t give you a warranty, there is no money-back guarantee, no nothing. So, instead, you shell out the $900 for peace of mind, knowing Bobby stands behind every set of brakes he installs.
If something goes wrong, there are consumer resources you can use to make sure Bobby fixes it. Mike, meanwhile, took your $450 in cash and is on his way to the casino.
And who would want to cut corners on the surgery that’s going to change their life? My advice: choose wisely, and don’t ever accept less than the best for your health care needs.
Click here for the official link to the website of Dr. Stanton Honig of Yale New Haven Hospital, the urologist who is, at the moment, the only surgeon Connecticut’s state-run health care system has authorized to perform surgeries on transgender patients. Be sure to read the reviews his patients left on RateMDs.com, Vitals.com, and Healthgrades.com
Or, if you’re interested in my personal opinion: don’t bother.
You can find links to hundreds of other qualified surgeons here. A warning: this list contains doctors I would never, ever recommend, not even to my worst enemy. As in all things, do your homework, ask around. And avoid any doctor who offers a surgical consultation over the phone. I mean, really? Again, would you expect your mechanic to accurately diagnose what your car needs over the phone, sight unseen? No, you would not.
You can read an article I wrote about the potential complications that can arise during gender confirmation surgery, which is also known as sex reassignment surgery, by clicking here.
If you’re looking for more information about your right to health care, click here.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has gutted healthcare.gov since the new administration took office, but you can see what’s left by clicking here. And HRC has an online resource about health care protections for LGBT folks that you can visit by clicking here.
How about those melons? This photo and a few others are from a promotional shoot for Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, to show off their center for transgender patients. The shoot was in March, when I was a redhead, before my recent breast surgery, and dozens of pounds ago.
If you find yourself the victim of bullying online, don’t allow anyone to victimize you that way. Report them, block them, or send them a strong message if you feel you can resolve whatever issue stands between you. But don’t allow anyone to treat you as “less than.” You have every right to not be bothered. Sometimes, switching off, logging out, walking away is the best solution rather than engaging.
Remember: what a bully wants most of all, whether it’s online or face to face, is to see you hurting. I’ve learned that “hurt people hurt people,” and the best way to stop a bully with their own issues is to not give them any ammunition or fuel to continue their assault on you. I know it stings. But resist fighting a fool, lest anyone not be able to tell the difference. In the meantime, click here for resources to combat bullying from the fine folks at GLAAD.
Spirit Day on October 19th is a great opportunity to show you’re willing to stand up against bullying, by wearing purple and spreading the message on social media. For details, click here.
You can read the latest on Kylie Perez, the 14-year-old trans girl assaulted in her New Jersey school here.
The mom of Missouri trans teen Ally Steinfeld spoke out following the gruesome murder of her 17-year-old daughter. Click here for that story, and read why Missouri law prevents prosecutors from pursuing hate crime charges by clicking here.
You can read more about the gender non-conforming student from Illinois who took his life, Elijah DePue, by reading his obituary here.
And if you wish, you can reach out to his mom and to his dad to send your thoughts through Facebook. Lacy DePue is here, Zachary DePue is here.
I’ve written here about the two times I tried to take my life. I called that post “The Choice” because I faced a decision that appeared to leave me only one option: to die. Thankfully, other options presented themselves, namely, to live. My children and I are so happy that’s how it worked out.
I invite you to read about that in greater detail by clicking here.
Find out more about my BFF Maia Monet, who was there for me when I needed her most, by visiting her YouTube channel. Like, share and subscribe by clicking here! And learn what a gift it is to read the works of my dear friend and mentor, Jennifer Finney Boylan, by visiting her website, which you’ll find here. I’m who I am today, and alive, thanks to these women, and because of the love of my children.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 1-877-565-8860. In Canada, dial 1-877-330-6366. Click here for other information about this organization, and click here to make a donation.
LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Don’t feel like calling? The Trevor Project also offers online chat and text. Find out more by clicking here. You can help save lives by clicking hereto donate.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 is available 24 hours a day to people of all ages and identities. The Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio es 1-888-628-9454. A line is also set up for the deaf and hard of hearing at 1-800-799-4889. Veterans can call 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone who understands their particular needs. And for those dealing with the aftermath of any disaster, call 1-800-985-5990.
If you’re still not confident any of these fine organizations can help you, reach out to me. I’ve been there, and I’ll do my best to guide you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below, or send me a tweet at @riseupwithdawn.
Please note:I’m sorry, but I do not accept unsolicited phone calls, or video calls via Facebook, FaceTime or any other means. Thanks in advance for respecting my privacy.
Thank you so much for reading my blog and for watching the latest episode of RiseUP. Leave me a comment here or on Facebook or on Twitter. And in just a few weeks, I’ll be back with a new episode recorded on location in Provincetown, Mass. at the annual Fantasia Fair. Until then, remember the words of Bruce Springsteen: “C’mon, Rise Up!”
No, this is not a lost “Twilight Zone” episode. Instead of crossing a hypothetical barrier of space and dimension, I took a step on an unexpected journey across a well-worn barrier I call “The No Zone.”
The focal point of my adventure of heart, mind and soul is Hartford Hospital, where my youngest child was born more than a decade ago, where one year ago his mother died, and where I spent time this week recovering from a nasty viral infection that knocked me harder than any blow I’ve ever suffered.
That was Sunday night.
Short of breath, having chest pains, I saw the fire engine lights flashing and heard the police car sirens blasting even before I hung up with the 911 dispatcher. Truth be told, I was more upset that they’d wake the neighborhood and upset my children than I was about not being able to inhale. I knew it wasn’t a heart attack, or so I told myself, because my heart was beating a million miles a second and I wasn’t in pain, just feeling uncomfortable with two elephants sitting on my chest.
Having just had surgery on my breasts three weeks prior, I think I qualify as an expert on the subject of what it feels like to have something heavy resting on my chest.
As the youngest slept, I had already reassured my oldest two children that, as far as I knew, I was going to be okay, and I had talked them through what was about to happen, before I even picked up the phone to call for help. Within minutes, the paramedics whisked me away in an ambulance, an inauspicious means of beginning a travel across time.
Nurses poked, pricked and pumped to perform the tests that would explain the beeps, boops and ding-ding-dings coming from machines all around, patients screamed for nurses, the air hung thick like a South Florida August afternoon and I lost my lunch more times than I can count. If I had been given the opportunity to time travel a second time, I’d have lept forward, right past this part, in a heartbeat.
And my heart, as I had myself concluded even without the benefit of either WebMD or Google, was fine; racing like Secretariat, but healthy.
Talk of white blood cells (no, “all blood cells” do not matter in this case), more unpleasantness in the lavatory and finally the eventual admitting, and move up to a room followed, with an eventual diagnosis of a viral infection.
Eureka! I needed fluids. I needed to rest. I needed to heal.
And so I did. But as it happens, I did more than just watch the TV and chat up my roomie Rita, who is the most wonderful mom of two boys and loving wife to a charming, joyful electrician named Bob. When we weren’t laughing, swapping stories and keeping each other company through the long lonely slumber party in Room 625, I hatched my secret plan.
It was not even something I had thought about, until quite by accident, I stumbled upon an old email to a former TV news colleague, now the head of marketing at the hospital. My mind raced as I reread my last communication with her, about the darkest day of my life. And in the darkness of our room one night, I shared my sad story with Rita.
Rewind to January 20th, 2016. Same hospital. Different floor, different building, and much more drastic circumstances. An indeterminate room in intensive care, where a family stood huddled with friends and the rabbi around a single individual. No machines beeping. No nurses poking. No doctors with answers, or questions, or anything. Just bad news.
This was Room 16. What I know of these events I have culled from the memories of my children and the rabbi at our synagogue.
My wife, my beloved, my best friend and the mother of my children lay dying in the center of that gathering. And I wasn’t there. She was dying from cancer. I had offered to fly home days earlier, when she took a sudden turn for the worse; her answer was, “no.”
Earlier that morning she sent me a text from her hospital bed:
“Think I’m going home today”
And that was the last.
We had separated, our marriage was ending, but we had made peace as coparents and even rekindled our friendship. Just days earlier, we had found it within ourselves to forgive each other… as impossible as that is for some people to believe, even to this day. But it is true.
I was at LAX, trying through sheer force of will to convince a deadset, lock-jawed immutable force known as a Delta Airlines ticket agent to let me board a plane that would get me to Hartford, hopefully in time to say goodbye. It was not to be. The agent’s answer was, “no.”
That turned out to be a blessing.
By not making that flight home, our oldest child was able to hold a phone to his mother’s ear, and let me say goodbye along with everyone else in Room 16, who had had their chance in person.
By missing that plane, I was able to take the call from my children after their mom had passed, and offer them what little comfort I could from 3,000 miles’ away. It was better, I thought, to be a disconnected voice, than to have been totally absent from their earth-shattering grief.
It should have comforted me to know I had helped them in some small way, but instead my disconnectedness haunted me for days, then months. My “not being there” was a cross I insisted I carry. I knew I needed closure.
And as my thoughts returned to Room 625, I realized in telling Rita that my path to closure was a trip across time to Room 16, directly through “The No Zone.”
I emailed my friend in marketing; she couldn’t help me. I phoned the chaplain, who came right up to my room to talk and started by asking if I were “Mister Ennis.”
I also spoke to a nurse making rounds who had the misfortune of asking me if there was anything I needed.
Yes: I needed to see Room 16.
“What will you do there?”
“What are your intentions?”
Those were logical questions.
“Because I need to,” was the lamest, most honest thing I could say.
“Just look,” I told them. “I just need to see what that place looks like,” trying to explain with words what my heart was saying inadequately through tears. “I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy,” I said. “I’m not looking for special treatment or displace anyone or to ask anyone any questions or anything other than just take a moment — ten seconds, tops — to see what is there.”
My mentor, Bill Carey, once told me, “never accept the first ‘no.'”
I typically don’t even begin considering surrender until I’ve heard it three times. And this time, I did not hear, “no.”
I told the friend, the chaplain, the nurse, and my doctor, who must have been wondering if the virus had impacted my brain function: “I’ve actually asked for this before, twice now, and never received any answer. Even if you will just please tell me ‘no,’ I can then go home knowing I tried.”
But I did not hear, “no.”
Instead, the chaplain and nurse made a plan. I was discharged this morning, hours in advance of when I expected I’d be released, and waited in the room with Rita and Bob for the chaplain to come get me.
“It’s time,” she said, appearing in our room and beckoning me to follow her; I hadn’t counted on the chaplain being this dramatic, as we set off on our mission. After she escorted me through the hospital’s labyrinth to the ICU wing where Wendy died, we walked down the corridor where my children were led, not knowing what they were about to witness, expecting to see their mom ready to go home, and finding instead only her unconscious body.
I stood frozen directly outside Room 16, where a privacy curtain shielded someone else who desperately needed the excellent care of this amazing team of healthcare professionals.
For a few seconds… I stood there and just took in what it must have been like to be there. Where the kids sat. Where my mother in law and her sister and Wendy’s cousins stood. Where the rabbi led them in song.
Where she took her last breath.
Feeling whole, I took in my own, long, deep breath. I thanked the chaplain and we quietly made our exit.
A few steps later I encountered an unanticipated side effect of this form of time travel: I broke down in tears. At least I was able to hold it in until we were far from the wing where such important work is still being done to save the living.
And upon my return to present day, I realized that this is where my focus must remain. On a new day. A New Year.
Coming as this does on Rosh Hashanah, the day Jews mark the beginning of their new year, I feel blessed to have taken this journey to another time and place and no longer feel it is alien to me, and unknown. I have in my mind’s eye what I have longed for: a place where I, too, belonged.
Instead of the blank canvas I’ve carried around inside my mind, now I can celebrate the life and death of this incredible woman with a concrete memory, and the thought that if she could send me a message from beyond time, it would likely be:
“Okay, you got your wish! Move on, already. There’s work to be done. And don’t tell me ‘no!'”
That thought came to me as the Uber driver taking me home from the hospital stunned me by driving directly to the cemetery where her remains now rest, on our way to my home. So ends my journey across time, across the uncharted wilderness of…
To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go… mad… on the internet.” If you’re like me, you know Social Media can be not so social, whether it’s because of the knock-down, drag-out debates over politics, religion, civil rights, race, heritage, privilege or identity, or all of these divisive issues. It’s a no-win scenario, where everyone believes the other guy is the troll.
So aside from blocking those who enrage us, or abandoning the online world altogether, what can you do?
Meet David Ryan Polgar, a “tech ethicist” — he says that means he explores the “ethical legal, and emotional impact of social media and tech” — and he is my guest on this month’s episode of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis. Polgar joined me in the studio earlier this summer to talk about online solutions, best practices and offer insight into why the internet can so quickly turn into the angernet.
In addition to television appearances, Polgar writes for BigThink. One column focused on something called Cunningham’s Law, which holds that “the best way to find the right answer online is to post something wrong and then get corrected.”
You can follow Polgar on Twitter and network with him on LinkedIn, or catch him on stage in New York City doing improv with comedian Joe Leonardo in a series of shows called Funny as Tech. Their act is aimed at unpacking “our absurd present and uncertain future.”
Here’s your link to this episode of RiseUP (and what’s got me angry is that someone not me misspelled the word “not” in the title “Not So Social Media,” and I can’t do anything about it! But I will survive). Please scroll down to learn about my latest special correspondent, Kristen Browde.
Kristen, who also goes by Chrissie, is a transgender woman living in Chappaqua, N.Y., a neighbor of Hillary and Bill Clinton, a powerhouse attorney and a former television journalist who is now running for political office. She and I go way back. I mean, waaaay back.
Our paths first crossed in the 1990s, at Fox5, WNYW-TV in New York City. That was the first TV station where I worked as a writer and learned how to be a copy editor and producer. Later that decade and into the new millennium, we worked more closely across town (literally) at CBS, where she was a network correspondent for TV and radio and I worked at “The Deuce,” Channel 2, WCBS-TV, which was at times called 2News, CBS2, CBS2NY, The CBS2 Information Center and my favorite, News2… as in, “If it’s News2 you, it’s news to us!” That name, umm, didn’t last very long.
The reason I mention all those names is because neither Browde nor myself stuck by our original birth names either. Neither one of us knew the other was hiding a secret two decades ago. We laugh sometimes thinking what it might have been like if either one of us had confided in the other, or if we had come out all those years ago.
I don’t mind posting pre-transition photos of myself but I’ve opted to not share them of Chrissie here, because to me, that would be the same as me posting a bare-butt picture of her as a baby. Sure, it’s still her, but it’s hardly representative of who she is today.
My favorite story about our friendship is that we connected online in October 2015, two and a half years after I came out, and seven months before she did. And until the day she came out, I somehow did not catch on that Chrissie Browde had been that “guy” I worked with at Fox5 and CBS! Duh.
To say I was floored would be an understatement. And we had a great laugh about it when we finally met face to face as our authentic selves one year ago this month.
My only defense in not recognizing that this Browde was that Browde is that I don’t waste my energy trying to find out who trans people were “before” they found themselves. It’s of no value to me, and I didn’t even give it a thought, even when she told me we had worked at the same places. That, or I am just dumb. But the lesson here is, there is absolutely no reason to ever ask a trans person their “real name.” Because Kristen Browde is her real name.
And she is running for town supervisor in New Castle, N.Y., a northern suburb of New York City. She and two other candidates are running under the banner Stronger New Castle, and have the backing of three political parties including the Democratic majority.
Browde isn’t the first transgender political candidate in New York — that honor goes to our friend and living legend Melissa Sklarz, who was the first out trans candidate elected in the state. But Browde is the first to have the backing of the state Democratic party for a townwide office, and if she wins, will be New York State’s first-ever transgender Town Supervisor.
My daughter is home from a lovely two nights with her cousins, and their moms. They visited a lake, went hiking, did girl stuff and visited a local art studio where they volunteered their time to craft beautiful handmade clay pendants, like the one above.
Each one says, “Be Kind.” That is the motto of Ben’s Bells, whose mission as stated on its website is “to inspire, educate, and motivate people to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby strengthening ourselves, our relationships and our communities.”
“Recent research demonstrates that kindness benefits our physical and mental health, and that recognizing kindness in others increases a person’s happiness and satisfaction. But just as solving a calculus problem requires advanced math skills, the challenges of daily life require advanced kindness skills. By focusing on kindness and being intentional in our personal interactions, we can improve our ability to connect. The mission of Ben’s Bells is to inspire individuals and communities to engage in kindness education and practice.” — from the Ben’s Bells website.
We have a windchime from Ben’s Bells on our front door, which was a Hanukkah gift from one of my late wife’s cousins, to my children. I’m grateful for this gift, and for how much my wife’s family loves my children.
These chimes and jewelry and other items are a great idea, and you can find out more about Ben’s Bells by clicking here.
I’ve decided I’m going to order one of the “Be Kind” pendants for myself, since the cousins didn’t invite me to take part in their girls-only adventure, something they surely would have done for my beloved.
I won’t lay guilt on my daughter for not thinking to get me one, as this was a gift from her mom’s cousins, and it would have been inappropriate for her to ask. Instead, she did bring home a second one to give to anyone she comes across who acts with kindness. I love this idea!
We discussed who might be worthy candidates, and although I was flattered that she asked me if I’d like this one, I insisted that she give her spare pendant to someone else, perhaps her girlfriend.
To me, the message here is ultimately ironic. “Be kind.” Wow.
I was told earlier this year by my former in laws that they now consider me “divorced” from them, given that one year had passed since the death of my wife, and thus they were done pretending to be kind to me. They did so with the explanation that, since she had planned to divorce me, but her lawyer postponed the proceeding, and so it was not finalized before her death, that they considered us “divorced in every way — except for legally.” Um, yeah, that’s sorta the most important part of that sentence.
Soon after, I learned from my mother-in-law that she and “Wendy’s family” had taken steps to take custody of my children away from me in those early days following her passing (but they stopped, because — in her words — “it’s really hard to take children away from a custodial parent, and it’s very expensive.” Also, I said, it was against what Wendy herself wanted and had put in writing to avoid exactly that from happening).
“Be kind” indeed. They say “of course this is not about you being transgender.” They defend their rejection of me as being about how I “treated Wendy.”
Do they mean how I treated her when she called me “the bitch who killed her husband,” and told me the very sight of my feminized body filled her with disgust?
I moved out at her demand, rather than put out the mother of my children. I guess that’s how I mistreated her?
Maybe when I took a job across the country to help support her and our kids? Or when I quit that job and moved back the day she died, instead of uprooting them to Los Angeles?
Or when I badgered her to see a doctor about her stomach pains in November 2014, and for long after, until eight months later, she finally did and was diagnosed with stage four cancer?
Or when, upon learning that diagnosis and repeatedly after, I offered to quit my job in L.A. and move home?
Do they mean when I called her doctor behind her back on a Friday night so he would urge her to go to the ER? She had refused and she said she’d call him after the three-day weekend, then, a few days later, wound up in shock and died in intensive care? Had I treated her the way she wanted to be treated, she’d no doubt have died at home before the weekend ended.
How about when she screamed “There’s a man in the ladies room!” at our town pool because I was passing through, fully-clothed?
When she tore my wig from my head in anger one night before I left for work, and left a permanent scar down the side of my face that I still see every single day?
When she unexpectedly withdrew all the money from our joint bank account, leaving me with nothing, and “took over responsibility” for the utilities and mortgage — and then for the first time in the dozen years we lived in our house, the lights went out, the cable got turned off and the mortgage company filed for foreclosure?
Maybe it was when I paid-up all those utility bills and reached an agreement with the mortgage company to save our home?
It must be my fault that the house was infested with mice and sorely lacking in everyday maintenance, while I was 3,000 miles away. Was that my fault, too?
And when she borrowed money from family, it’s of course my fault that I did not repay those loans (which were at the time considered gifts, but magically turned into loans after her passing).
Lastly, was it the day I agreed to bind my breasts and present as “Don” one more day for our daughter’s bat mitzvah, so she could have the illusion of me as her husband once more? It broke my heart to keep my word, but it made her happy, and so I did. Two days later, the police were at my house because I went back to living authentically and she was furious.
I mean, I get it: she needed someone to hate for wrecking our marriage, for dashing our dreams of growing old together and for the cancer that ravaged her body. And no, I wasn’t perfect or blameless. I wish I had done more to help her, if she’d have let me. Instead, she put all that anger on me, and told her family everything was my fault.
So, I’m the villain. But of course, it’s not because I’m trans.
My children’s response to me being excluded from the family Passover Seder, and disinvited from a cousin’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, was to send a message, one that their mother had said to her cousins, after I transitioned: “We are a family and wherever one of us is not welcome, none of us will attend.” I love my kids. They are the very best of their mother and father, and I am doing my damndest to be a loving, supportive although single parent. I am a dad who does the job of mom. It’s not easy. It’s without doubt the toughest job I’ve ever loved.
Despite this standoff between us and “Wendy’s family” — I’ve told them, we are the ones who really are Wendy’s family — I firmly believe it’s important for the children to keep in touch with their cousins and their mom’s relatives. Although I set all their cell phone numbers in my contacts to “Do Not Disturb,” I encouraged the kids to call their grandmother often and to text with the cousins. I’m not the one trying to keep them from seeing their relatives; that’s on them, for not respecting their mother’s wishes, and mine.
I encourage them daily to “be kind.”
So after I suggested this sleepover, and they accepted, imagine my discouragement when one of the cousins asked if instead of having me drive my daughter down to meet them, that I would instead send my oldest, who is 18 and a licensed driver. He also works two jobs and doesn’t really need to add a road trip of at least one hour each way to his day. In addition, he’s still very angry over my exclusion and decided on his own to stop communicating with them. I told him I understood his reasoning but strongly urged him to reach out to them when he feels comfortable doing so. Thus far, he hasn’t. So I’m not going to give them the excuse not to face me and in doing so impose an extra burden on my firstborn.
We agreed on a date and time to meet, which was not only generous of them but allowed them to keep me from entering their house. But then, the cousin tried once more to do an end run around my kids’ firm insistence that where I was not welcome, we would not go. It’s all of us or none of us, with the exception being a sleepover. I felt that was different from a family gathering.
I was stunned when the cousin emailed again, asking once again to turn the sleepover into a family gathering after all, ignoring what I had already made clear, that my oldest had to work and had no desire to see them or even text with them.
“I will text and see if he would like to (if he is not working) come with his little brother on Friday to pick up his sister and hang by the pool for a little.”
Really? What part of “my children don’t want me excluded” is hard to comprehend?
When does the urge to “be kind” kick in?
The cousin concluded her email with a response to my plea, promising to not bring up the issue of my exclusion with my daughter, given this is a matter for adults. I asked that we at least be civil to one another if they cannot see fit to treat me as a member of the family. She agreed and then added one, clear-cut, unkind comment:
“That said, our position has not changed.”
The “position” she speaks of is one in which they treat me, not as the widow of their cousin, or the single parent of our children, but as a divorcée to be kept at a distance; a facilitator to provide them with access to “Wendy’s children.”
What surprises me about that is that even if they want to label me as such, that does not remove me from my role as the kids’ parent! I’m still their dad, even as a woman, and because of the gender roles our society places on us, I have learned to embrace being a mom. I don’t dare claim to be their “mom,” a title we hold dear out of respect for their mother. But my kids have seen how I have grown into this role and how much I enjoy it. And, probably to the in laws’ chagrin, I am good at it, too.
I am proud to boast that my children are resilient, strong, score at the top of their class, have friendships with good, upstanding children and are loving to just about everyone. Even people who are mean to me. And most of all, these kids have learned from the example their parents have set: my children are kind.
I think the same of my in laws’ children. But I wonder what lesson my wife’s cousins are teaching them when they treat me this way? Someday, my children will tell their children about these times, and I am certain that the shame their parents should feel will instead be inherited by these innocent kids.
All I can do is continue to do as I say and as I do, to be kind, even to those who are not. And I pray for their hearts to be turned. Which reminds me of the Irish proverb:
This month on RiseUP with Dawn Ennis, meet a longtime lawmaker who is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ causes and her constituents here in Connecticut, as well as a new Air Force recruit, a country music lover, a man who races sailboats and a gay journalist who is helping raise awareness of long-hidden racism in his hometown.
Activism, advocacy, service, song, and sailing: they’re very different experiences, for sure.
But what each of these folks have in common is their passion.
My passion for 34 years has been storytelling. I’m at a crossroads right now as I post this, but I can honestly say that even if I were to never ever publish another word, I’ll still pour most of my passion into the most important work I’ve ever done: doing the job of mom and being a dad to my three motherless children.
One of them makes a cameo in this episode: singing is her passion. I hope you’ll watch and share!