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!
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.
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 email@example.com 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!”
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:
The other widow sat across from me as our kids played in another room, sharing stories of coping everyday with loss, and life as it is.
“Life is what happens when you make other plans,” we said in unison, laughing at our shared experience of grief mixed with good times.
Her life, at least, has more hills than valleys now: she’s remarried, and working full-time. My own remains a struggle, ever since coming out, but it’s one I make a constant effort to turn around.
She told me that when times got tough after losing the love of her life, she wrote a letter to the Universe, spelling out what she wished for, hoped for, and what she needed.
Then she said, “And it worked.”
I was trying to understand what she meant by “it worked,” when she added: “What I asked for came true. All of it.” And she urged me to give it a try. “What have you got to lose?” she said.
Not a thing, I thought. Right now? Absolutely nothing.
Now, I have spent many a Sunday on bended knee in prayer, and admit to asking God for more than I’ve spent time thanking. I’m working on that, because I do have a lot to be thankful for. Still, there are things I need right now, and believe me, yes, I have prayed on this, too.
However, I haven’t written a letter like she’s described since my mom tore apart some brown paper bags from the supermarket and handed one to me with a crayon, to use to write my annual letter to Santa Claus.
But as I recall, that also “worked,” so here goes.
Hi. It’s me, Dawn.
No. The other one (I know a LOT of women named Dawn, and I want to make sure there’s no confusion. And to its credit, the universe has been calling me “Dawn” consistently without stumbling, not even once).
So… I am writing to you today to spell out my wishes, hopes, dreams and needs. Not in that particular order, mind you; but my life would be a lot better if you, the universe, could find a way to fulfill these, even one at a time is fine.
First off, I need a new job to support my children. As you know, I have six part-time jobs writing the news. But my main gig, where I worked full-time hours for part-time pay, let me go on Friday because of budget cuts. They “loved” me, they said; I was doing a great job, they said, and still somebody had to get the axe. And I wasn’t the only one. At least they’ve agreed to pay me what they owe me.
But this job is what I’ve been doing to support my three children since their mom died, and without something in its place, we are really in trouble. We are getting by, barely, but not for much longer if I don’t find another job soon.
And as for what job you find me, I’m not picky; I’ll do anything that earns enough to make it worthwhile and will make me feel fulfilled by my efforts. Just a few years after coming out and losing my six-figure job in network TV news, I’ve struggled to stay in journalism, and I realize it’s probably time to move on and stop depending on a fast-shrinking industry to support us. Already I’ve applied for 50 positions, received my first two rejections and a lot of dead silence from the rest.
Also: is there any chance you can get the bill collectors off my back while I job-hunt? I will pay them but right now I have to save every penny in case the worst happens. Maybe just ask them to call back in a few weeks. Hopefully, your help with my number one problem will help me with this one.
Once the job is sorted out, I am eager to have some surgery that is right now in the planning stage, and all I’m asking is for it to be covered by my insurance and to be completed without major complications. It’s hard enough being a sole caregiver for three kids, but I need to recover as swiftly as possible so their lives aren’t negatively impacted, nor is mine. So universe, peek over the shoulder of the surgeon and make sure all goes well, and maybe give a little push to the backlogged paperwork at the insurance office. That would be appreciated, too.
So what else? I might as well ask for your help in maintaining my health. I’m exercising, eating better, and feeling better about myself. I just need encouragement to not slack off and feed my emotions, which is how I got to be so fat in the first place. I know you know, but it bears repeating. And hey — stop looking at me that way. It’s creepy.
Since I’m healthy and happy (and once I am employed), the very next thing I need from you, universe, is to keep my kids on track. They, too, are healthy, and for the most part, really happy. We all have learned to live with a hole in our hearts ever since the death of their mom, but we go on, together. My primary task on this earth, as I see it, is to provide for them and their well-being. Help me help them, please? I love them more than life itself.
Finally, if I could have one more wish, universe, it would be to find love again: a man to love me for who I am, and not in spite of it. I am looking for a person who will be my world, and I will be his. I want to find someone to help me solve these problems as a full partner, to make me feel loved and give me an opportunity to show my love; a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, and the other body parts that are standard equipment would be much appreciated by this particular lonely woman.
But let me set you straight: this is not something I’m pining for right away. In fact, I cannot even begin to think about dating right now, given all I have to deal with! So do not mess with me, universe, by sending Mr. Right to my door when I’m still not showered and dressed. Go away, you! That would be just my luck, too.
Of course, if you chose to send along a brand new car, a million bucks, maybe even a puppy, I wouldn’t complain. That’s up to you. Not asking, just sayin’. I wouldn’t say no.
Thank you, universe.
Now: does anyone know what the universe’s email address is?
It’s June, which in the U.S. and countries around the world, is the month lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer-identifying individuals celebrate our love, our authenticity, our existence and our right to be who we really are.
To work as we really are.
To live where we wish.
To love who we love.
I asked my neighbors in West Hartford, Connecticut what gives them Pride. The answers were uplifting, and I had to shake my head at the relative few who decided to not respond when asked the question. Thankfully, I found many people were happy to participate, including another mom I haven’t seen in a decade. My best wishes to her family, who like mine is celebrating a rite of passage this Spring: High School Graduation!
Sunday is Father’s Day, and yes I do celebrate that day with my kiddos. I may do the job of mom, but I’ll always be their dad.
Also this month, we mark a more solemn occasion as we remember 49 people who lost their lives because of hate.
I ask that each of us direct our energy to the cause of ending this kind of violence, unspeakable tragedy and outright hatred.
For decades, hate has been directed at an organization that provides essential healthcare services to millions of Americans, mostly women but not just women. This group, through its chapters nationwide, provides abortions — but not just abortions.
As organizing and training specialist Patrick Comerford explains in this month’s episode of RiseUP with Dawn Ennis, Planned Parenthood’s doctors, nurses and counselors devote about 3 percent of their time, energy and effort to the legal and safe practice of abortion.
The other 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s mission is to provide comprehensive healthcare, counseling and medical services to patients. In fact, Planned Parenthood is the number one provider of healthcare to transgender men and women and gender nonconforming individuals.
But many of our leaders in Washington and our friends in the conservative movement want nothing less than to choke the life out of Planned Parenthood, to slash its funding and leave those who rely on its essential services no choice in their healthcare but Christian-run facilities.
Comerford, the first gay man I’ve welcomed to my show, talked about how he sought out Planned Parenthood as a young man, determined to be sexually active before coming out to his parents.
His mission on behalf of this institution is to raise awareness of our political process and how people can get involved in their communities, in their governments and, as I like to say, RiseUP. You’ll find links below to help you do just that.
This month’s special correspondent is award-winning blogger and Houston native Monica Roberts. A pioneer and living legend in the transgender community, she is a firebrand, a force to be reckoned with in the state legislature, as well as a proud Texan.
Her blog, Transgriot, reminds us that June 12th marked not only one year since the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, FL, but also the 50th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which outlawed bans against interracial marriage.
In a few days we will be remembering the two-year anniversary of the high court’s ruling on marriage equality. And Roberts is in the midst of what is shaping up to be a real dogfight, a legal battle over trans rights on her home turf: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session of the Legislature to decide where transgender students can go to the bathroom.
Read more about that fight and you’ll find other items Roberts and Comerford mentioned, below the link to the show via YouTube. West Hartford viewers can watch RiseUP on WHC-TV Channel 5 beginning Friday June 16 at 9 p.m..
Here are some of the links Pat Comerford mentioned in the show to help you get involved in local politics here in Connecticut:
Thank you for watching and please keep sharing and sending me your comments!
A special shoutout to one of the wonderful young women who helps me bring RiseUP to you every month: director Meredith West (left) is leaving Diana Chin and WHC-TV — and me — and moving to Atlanta for a new challenge. She will be missed! We wish her well.
This month, yes, the TV show Transparent does figure in our various discussions, but given that season four is still several months away, that’s not all we’re talking about.
We begin this episode of RiseUPwith a look at faith — not necessarily the religious kind, but if that works for you, then yes, that’s one kind of faith that we address. And I will confess to having my own crises of faith, and not just in my religion, but in my extended family, now distant friends, even strangers who judge me without knowing who I am or where I’ve been. And I feel many of us believe our elected leaders have let us down, or are not giving us a reason to have faith that our world will be better.
As Episode 3 debuts, the president of the United States has given clergy of all faiths a free pass to politicize their sermons and what they see as their holy work. No longer threatened by the tax man who warned them they might lose their tax-exempt status, every priest, reverend, minister, bishop, clergyman, rabbi, imam, shaman, and nun can now tell you that a vote for candidate A will save your soul, while a vote for candidate B will send you to eternal damnation. Political speech is to be protected, even if it’s anti-LGBTQ, says President Trump, because he believes the shepherds will say “only good things” and “what is in your heart.”
A lot of those hearts have no use for someone like me, and consider me evil, an abomination, and someone “delusional” or mentally ill who needs to be “cured.” Or told to go to hell. And they have free reign to say these things because of this executive order.
God help us all.
To fight oppression, especially faith-based oppression, we need faith in ourselves, and in our cause. Likewise to stop inequality on the job, inequity in housing, homelessness, and racial injustice. Learn more about the guests in this month’s episode, below.
First up is scholar and author Stephen Fuchs, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Connecticut, someone I’ve known for more than a dozen years.
He’s an LGBTQ ally, a husband and grandfather, and an amazing individual who is an inspiration to many in my hometown. He has traveled the globe to educate about scripture and bring people together in love and understanding,
You can read more about Stephen on his website, rabbifuchs.com and if you’re interested in the books he discusses on the show, you can find them at that website as well as at amazon.com.
The other incredible person we meet on RiseUpthis month is Gillian Cameron, an actress, artist and educator as well as an accomplished storyteller in Southern California.
For five years, Gillian has been sharing the tales of a knight from the time of King Arthur, but no ordinary knight is he. Calogrenant is the story of a man magically transformed into a maiden, and despite the steep learning curve and oppression of the era, as well as her own human foibles, she blazes a trail for #girlslikeus long before our modern era.
You can find her web comic each and every Sunday night at calogrenant.com and her first two books collecting all the work she’s done so far are for sale at the Calogrenant Shoppe on her website.
Gillian also can be found on television, on the movie screen and on stage, depending on where you look.
She’s appeared on TV’s I Am Cait and Amazon’s Transparent, and is featured in The ‘Carol’ Support Group— about fans of the Oscar-winning movie Carol who love it just a little too much.
We’ve been friends for a long time now and remains my West Coast BFF. Even 3,000 miles apart, we find new ways to support one another and offer guidance, laughs, tears and support.
I’m so grateful that she is in my life, and I wish I could be the friend to her that she is to me.
I’m honored to share her with you this month and hope you adore her as much as I do.
If you’re someone who needs a friend, or is having a crisis of faith, or identity, or just feel like at you’re at the end of your rope, you’re in the right place.
There are resources here for you, and they won’t cost you a dime.
I know what it’s like to feel depressed, like giving up, and that no one in the world understands how much pain you are in. So many of us experience this, and it’s not uncommon that we feel that there is no fix, or solution, none that doesn’t end in death. I’m here to tell you as a survivor that it won’t necessarily get better soon, maybe not for awhile. But it will not always suck. There will be a hill after the valley, and you can take it from me that you are not alone.
If you are a transgender or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities. Please take a moment to talk to one of these fine people, who will listen without judgment, and offer an ear without telling you “what you need to do.”
And I’m here, too. Find me via the comments section here, or on Facebook or Twitter.
Lastly, a small glitch caused the audio in this month’s episode to be somewhat fuzzy, or to use a technical term, overmodulated. It cannot be corrected until Monday, and so I thank you very much for your patience and understanding.
Thank you for watching RiseUp and for reading about my lifeafterdawn. See you next time!
Four years ago this morning, after working all night gathering news for a major TV network, I was headed home to my family in Connecticut when I got a call asking me to divert to Newtown.
There were reports of multiple gunshots there.
My boss was candid: “You’re going to be our first eyes and ears on the ground. We are hearing, and it’s unconfirmed, there are a lot of people dead, and the worst part: many of them are children. Just get us some solid info. Be safe,” she said.
I drove into town before all the barriers and roadblocks were set, to keep curious onlookers and predatory media away from the crime scene.
I found myself on a street outside a firehouse, where eventually a couple emerged, and before I could ask the woman what had happened, her eyes locked with mine.
It was clear to me in an instant what had happened.
I saw in those grieving eyes the worst nightmare any mother could imagine. The look of someone whose entire world just ended.
I didn’t ask her a thing, not her name, not the circumstances of the tragedy still unfolding. I knew why I was there, what I was supposed to do, and what I was told to do: find out what happened and report back.
My instructions did not include making this family’s day worse. I mouthed the words, “I’m so sorry” to this mom whose eyes met mine, and let her pass.
I would work until late that night, walking all over town with a camera, interviewing witnesses, doctors, police spokesmen, and securing a live location for both the evening news and a special report, from which to broadcast live: a church that was holding a prayer service for the victims’ families and first responders.
My memory of that day is a bit like swiss cheese, with lots of holes, but I recall that I wasn’t out to everyone yet, and I remember how much I cried later that night, released from the burden of holding in the tears for so many hours.
And that wasn’t the only thing I had to hold in. Another woman working for a competitor and I went knocking on the door of a family down the road from the gunman, not to ask questions but to use their bathroom.
“At least you could pee behind a tree,” she whispered to me, as we waited for a response.
“That’s the privilege of men,” I said to her, “and that’s not who I am.” She mistook my meaning, but her message was clear when she responded.
“Well, yeah, this is more civilized and practical, and who knows, maybe they’ll even talk to us.”
Actually, no, and they wouldn’t let us use their bathroom, either. Another neighbor did, but they claimed they had no idea about the gunman, his mother, or the families of those murdered.
We thanked them for their kindness and agreed to not tell anyone else about it, for fear their bathroom would become, in their words, “Grand Central Station.”
Every TV news truck within a hundred miles converged on sleepy little Newtown that day. Reporters and field producers and network correspondents and anchors and guest bookers and camera people and truck engineers and black car drivers, dozens and dozens of them.
And several hours after the sun had set and the world had seen what we had learned, I finally got to go home and hug my own first grader, tighter than I ever had before.
I did so for every one of the parents in Sandy Hook who could not do that, and I thought of the mom I had encountered… as well as all 20 moms and 20 dads, and the families of the Sandy Hook school employees, whose world ended that day in a hail of senseless gunfire.
I tried to avoid thinking about it. I wanted to not make a big deal of it. I pretended you weren’t in my mind at every minute of every hour.
Instead…I focused on our children. I focused on their grief. I focused on our home, cleaning it and stocking its cabinets. I put my time and energy into our kids’ needs, wants, desires.
They in turn helped me mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance and honored me by participating.
I spent time with each of them today, by their side, showing them my pride, my love, my devotion. Honoring my promise, fulfilling their dreams, putting wind in their sails. They are so like you, so strong, so beautiful and so very wise. And loving.
And after making their dessert, as I turned to close the door of the fridge, my eyes caught a glimpse of one of your pictures that I placed there, and everywhere, in your kitchen.
And… I lost it. I miss you so!
“Always and everywhere,” we always wrote on every card for twenty years, and even ten months later I am no less heartbroken, no less despondent and still grieving, as we prepare to mark Thanksgiving, one more holiday with an empty chair at our table.
That was supposed to be mine; it’s so wrong. That should be my empty chair. You should be here, having cast me out of our home and your heart. But like so many things, including a cure, long life, secure finances and a man for a spouse, you didn’t get what you wished for, counted on nor deserved.
The thing is, even after our rough times, in the end there was forgiveness, friendship, and we forged a strong connection bound by our children. Yes, even though we parted “before death do us part,” I didn’t let you return that part of my heart that I gave to you.
And so today, I lived another day with that hole in my heart. Tears are the accessory I’ve worn most often this year, accompanied by a fresh packet of tissues wherever I go. But whenever the healthy release of bottled-up emotions ends, I try to focus on this quote from ever optimist Zig Ziglar:
“We hear tears loudly on this side of Heaven. What we don’t take time to contemplate are the even louder cheers on the other side of death’s valley.”
On Saturday, the event organizers of the 42nd annual Fantasia Fair invited me to deliver a keynote address on the subject of my choosing. Here is that address:
Lies, Sex and Journalism: Refocusing the Media’s Perspective of Trans Americans
Yes, I am THAT Dawn Ennis.
If you don’t know me by my name or reputation, let me explain. At the start of May of 2013, I became the first journalist to come out as trans in a network TV newsroom. That made headlines. One tabloid reporter in particular seized upon an very unusual aspect of my childhood that was stolen from a confidential book manuscript I had pitched to publishing houses. I learned the hard way what it was like to be the target of the news media.
Talk show hosts and shock jocks made me the butt of their jokes. Reporters hid in my bushes, and ambushed my wife and oldest child, visited the homes of my mother, my mother in law and sister. One went up and down my block, asking my neighbors what they thought of the “tranny next door.”
Despite this, life was good. I was accepted at work, by my children and had reached that rare thing married trans women long for with their spouses: peace, co-parenting, friendly coexistence.
In late July, I suffered a seizure that cost me everything: my successful transition, my good name, and a lot of support. This time I learned what it’s like to have your name dragged through the mud. I found out the price of being someone who detransitioned, even as briefly as I did, as deluded as I was that I could declare, “I’m not trans.”
The truth is, despite a 30 year career of digging for the truth, of reporting the facts, I realized: I was lying to myself. I had lied to myself before I transitioned, and I lied to myself after I detransitioned. I had lied to the love of my life, too. But just a month later, all became clear. I awoke from my delusion, resumed my transition in private, then public, without alerting the media. And just when I felt strong enough to be me, I made headlines one more time, by getting fired… hard as it may be to conceive, in this day of wide acceptance.
In the two years since, I have found a new career in the world of LGBTQ journalism, becoming the first trans staff editor at The Advocate. I’m the reporter who earlier this year asked Caitlyn Jenner if she wanted to be Ted Cruz’s “trans ambassador.”
But I gave up my life as an L.A. woman, walked away from the red carpets and Hollywood hunks, the day I became a widow. Now I’m a mom to three children, who call me “dad.” I’m a YouTuber and I hold down a half-dozen jobs which allow me to work from home. You can see my videos at The Advocate, I’m assistant editor at LGBTQ Nation and I also write for NBC OUT, BuzzFeed, OutSports and Logo’s website NewNowNext.
Unlike the career I led at ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN as well as a half-dozen local TV stations, I’m now an advocacy journalist. I report to our community and beyond from the LGBTQ perspective. I don’t hide it, and I’m proud to declare it. I believe I report fairly, but fairness requires that I do not ignore the fact that our civil rights are more threatened than ever before.
In August, a man on TV called the rights of transgender Americans a “boutique issue” that should be put aside until after the general election.
Here we are 16 days out.
And the outcome will surely determine our fight to be treated equally as Americans. Our fight is about more than just the right to use the appropriate bathroom, although that has been the focus of much of the media coverage this year.
Here are the facts the mainstream media ignores every time it reports on bathrooms and locker rooms. We transgender Americans face:
unprecedented levels of poverty
endure employment discrimination and get fired
are denied housing
and are murdered, at a disproportionate rate, just for being who we are.
Who you are, is up to you. Some of you here may not consider yourselves transgender. That’s not for me or anyone to say, except yourselves.
Those of you who have struggled with gender identity and dysphoria, like I did, know exactly who we are.
I am one of the statistics: when I lost my job I tried to end my life. I had gone from earning six figures at ABC to being ridiculed by the tabloids. I got a “pink slip to go with my pink slip.” One news manager said he “didn’t want my drama” in his newsroom.
But the tide is changing: Jen Christensen, the president of the NLGJA, the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association, works at CNN’s Washington bureau. She told me she feels inspired by the transgender staffers working there. Staffers, plural. My heart leapt at the news.
I find it interesting that the vast majority of people on that list and those here are predominantly female identified. It’s gotta be hard living as a woman who feels she is male, experiencing that second class existence only to face discrimination all over again as a transgender man, as so much attention and focus is heaped on trans women. About the only group that gets less media attention than trans men are trans people of color.
One reason the media, both the news and the entertainment branches, overlook us, trans men and especially trans people of color is because there are so few of us in their newsrooms. With 1.3 million trans people in America, I would hazard to guess we might have a few dozen transgender journalists in America. If those making the decisions about who to hire or who to cast had more first-hand experience with trans folks, it wouldn’t be such a rarity to have trans reporters and actors.
And when there is no job, some of us turn to the only thing we have to sell to survive: Our bodies. It’s the job that can kill you, just for being you. And in the news media, those who have been preyed upon as victims of crime are all too often robbed of the dignity the dead deserve. Why? Because they rely on a biased local law enforcement authority that insists the only identity that matters is not what name a transgender crime victim used but what’s printed on a license. We need more advocates to work with the police departments in our cities and towns and have them recognize our needs, not just when we’re living but for those we lose.
And I believe that the Perception of Deceit is what drives this discrimination. Be who you are, but if you are perceived to be dressing up by a cisgender person — meaning someone not trans — your life could be placed at risk. Lawyers tried cooking this up as the “trans panic” defense, as if murder and violence was justified given the shock of finding out the girl you took to bed was assigned male at birth and has had no surgeries to change that.
GLAAD and other advocacy groups have helpful guidelines for both our allies and the news media to help them avoid stereotypical mistakes and mischaracterizations.
But what I hope you will take away from my talk today is a mischaracterization of the profession I love: Journalism.
Friends, and I hope you’ll all follow me on social media, send me a friend request, so I can truly call you my friends… I need you to understand the most basic rule I’ve learned about being authentic. Here it is:
The Media Is Not Your Friend.
Are there friendly reporters? Sure! Will you be thrilled to meet that nice guy or sweet lady you see on TV? Yes, and they’re probably just as nice when the camera isn’t rolling.
But they’re not your friends. They have other stories to tell and their mission is to get this one done so they can either get to their next assignment or dinner or home.
The big interview you prepare for, get your hair and nails done for, that you DVR and tell all your friends to watch, is likely to be fewer than 2 minutes on TV or 500 words on a website. I won’t deny that it’s a thrill to see your name in print or broadcast on TV, just that you must recall that when it’s done, they move on. News is, by and large, a Profit Game. Reporters are not interviewing you to be altruistic. It’s not a priesthood. And if it’s a scandal, or controversy, don’t bet your pumps that the way it’s told will necessarily be how you see it, or even to your advantage.
Ask any lawyer on the planet: Hey, Lawyer Larry, before we go to trial I was thinking maybe I’d give an interview to NCF-TV… WhereNewsComesFirstFollowedbySportsandWeather27.
What do you think?
Lawyer Larry will in almost every case remind you that the risks outweigh the value. The exception, to me, is when you are fighting our government. This week, I helped an American trans girl who is stationed with her family in Germany win the right to use the girls bathroom. I did that by asking questions at the Pentagon and at Ramstein Air Force Base, which put officials on notice that they needed to avoid the appearance of discrimination. That’s a rare thing.
So how can you use the news media and avoid letting them use you?
Find an advocate. Who’s working in public relations at your local LGBTQ center? Start with someone already on our side, and then become their friend or follower on social media. Find out if there is an LGBTQ journalist in your area, and if not, seek out the ones who are at least allies. Google them and see what events they attend on their own time. Seek out mentors, and if you feel so inclined, offer to be one.
Remember – The Media is Not Your Friend. But don’t presume the media is your enemy, either. I know that most people have a negative view of the media, which is not altogether undeserving. But like us, members of the media are Americans, with families and friends and biases and perspectives.
Jenny Boylan who spoke here earlier this week often says what we need to remember:
No One Hates You Who Knows Your Story.
You are the best one at telling your story. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer character references to be interviewed when a journalist comes calling. My advice remains, talk to your lawyer first.
If you’re thinking of writing something to public about you, be smart. If it’s a memoir, recruit or hire someone to help you craft your story, like an editor or ghostwriter. Be prepared to wave at the start of every performance you do and take a curtain call. Telling your story comes with benefits as well as drawbacks. And the magical thing is, if it doesn’t sell — and some of my friends in the business have done this — you can always self-publish.
But even there, watch your back. Your reputation, your story, even your face can be at risk of being stolen or told in a way that does not represent your view.
I sincerely believe that with the exception of Breitbart, FOX News and the other right-wing nut sites, there is no plot against us. They just don’t recognize that we are fighting for our lives. Not special rights, equal rights.
Your mission, whether you decide to accept it or not, is to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your story.
Because in the end, you have only one person you can honestly rely upon when faced with an unknown journalist or media representative. YOU.
I believe our efforts now should be to stop playing into the hands of penis-focused opponents. I suggest we work to move the conversation away from phallus obsession and toward the brain.
Just as the same-sex marriage fight was won by changing hearts and minds and focusing on the value of love, instead of the physical manifestation of same-sex love, why cannot we redirect the argument away from our genitals and nudity, to the real issue of identity and equal rights.
Let’s stop trying to win a war over dicks with ignorant dickheads… and instead overwhelm our enemies with the uplifting stories of more than 1 million successfully transitioned, happily secure and sane trans women and men. Let’s dispel the predator myth by refusing to engage them when our enemies stoke fears without actual crimes or incidents to base them upon.
We can choose to lose at their game, or win at ours.
Below is a link to the trailer for the documentary about me and how my life has changed:
This morning, shortly after I woke up, I posted some “New Rules,” a la Bill Maher, but not to support him, rather to match my own thinking… and I’d like to expand upon one in particular before I turn in.
This new rule is something I myself have worked to fully incorporate into my life both online and in the real world, and I am making strides but it’s not something I think I will ever say, “Ah, well, cross that one off the list; it’s done.”
Here it is:
I am a woman of white privilege, and no matter how hard I try — and I do — I’ll never, ever, EVER be able to grasp what it means to live as a black person in America. Or any person of color. Especially not a trans person of color. Especially not a trans woman of color.
My new rule of “STOP” means this: when a person of color shares with you their experience, and what life decisions they make accordingly, do not judge them and add your two cents — about anything.
Even if you struggle, too.
Even if you disagree or have another point of view.
Even if your first thought is, “well, from my perspective…”
What every single white person I know does is immediately think, “that’s not my experience.” I do it, too. And what should, in my opinion, happen next, is for us to go:
Think on it. Ponder. Share. Let your action be to raise up the voice of someone who doesn’t have your privilege. Not to point out the difference between us.
‘Cuz I’ve learned one thing: they already know the difference. There is no need nor any point to be made.
And to those who dismiss someone using the term “violence” to describe how someone feels when they are oppressed, even though it may be verbal or through an action not typically associated with physical violence, I encourage you to take the time to understand and grow, rather than reject out of hand something that does not come from your experience.
“It’s oppression on top of oppression to dictate how oppressed people should rebel.” — Unknown.
The thing I’m talking about here is intersectionality. As Sherry Hamby wrote:
“The burden of violence and victimization remains markedly unequal. The prevalence rates, risk factors, and consequences of violence are not equally distributed across society. Rather, there are many groups that carry an unequal burden, including groups disadvantaged due to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, place of residence, and other factors.”
It must STOP.
I do not write this to rant or pontificate but to raise up the voices of others. I’m not going to name names, but when I tried to share one person’s insight and solicited the thoughts and comments of my friends, that person fled, feeling attacked. She told me she felt victimized by violent and racist comments.
Not one of you will agree that your comments were racist.
Not one of you will agree that your comments were violent.
Not one of you will agree that you attacked her.
STOP. LOOK. LISTEN:
The point is not whether you intended to be racist, to be violent, to attack someone. Perception is reality. And I can see how these comments hurt her, but I was powerless to add my voice to support her because before I could notice there was an assault on her, she withdrew the post I had shared from my wall, blocked those of you who offended her, and blocked me from seeing it now. That is her right; it’s hers, and she felt attacked, and is justified in responding to those attacks as she sees fit.
I did see at one point the accusation that she played “the race card.” Several folks said to me that she “introduced” race into the conversation, and that you didn’t see it as an issue of race.
And let me just point out to you one thing each of you who said that to me share: every one of you, including me, is white. To sum up, the black woman said she felt the comments were racist, and the white women and men told her, “it’s not racism.”
There is no “race card.” Race is not something you get to deal, or fold, or shuffle so that you wind up with a better hand. It’s not the same as gender, because even though most of us are stuck with whatever we’re dealt, at least we who are transgender are at long last able to tell the dealer they made a mistake. It doesn’t improve our hand all that much, but
I can only imagine what it is like to be both transgender and a member of a race that is oppressed. What I am learning is to not judge, and to listen instead of speak.
And that, in my opinion, is a good place to start.
On this date in 2013, my world, such as it was, fell apart. The New York Post published an article based on an ill-advised email I had sent to “friends,” following a medical catastrophe.
I had just been discharged from a hospital where I spent a week recovering my memories and trying to figure out so many things: what year this was, who I was, why did my driver’s license have a picture of me wearing a wig, a gender marker with an F, and this other name that people called me.
Dissociative amnesia, I am told, was the result of a seizure that struck one night at the dinner table in late July. On that same night, as my wife rushed me to a hospital, my mother’s second husband died at a hospital in Florida. It was a bizarre, hard to fathom experience that I still have trouble explaining.
And that’s the worst thing I could have done: tried to explain. It was diagnosed as “transient global amnesia” at first, which spawned endless puns, and the doctors advised me upon my release that I needed to be cautious and not make any hasty decisions.
So, of course the first thing I did was tell my job I was returning to work as the man I once was.
File this under, “Things You’ve Done You Wish You Could Take Back or Do Over.”
Reaction among most of my “friends” and supporters was just short of Salem, only instead of burning me at the stake, I was set ablaze on the internet. Thank God for those of you who stood by me, then and now. And those of you who returned as my friends, I cannot blame you for joining the witchhunt, or standing by as I twisted in a tornado of my mind’s own creation.
To this day, I cannot explain what happened to me other than that I was clearly not as ready as I thought I was to continue my transition. One doctor compared it to a circuit breaker snapping, or a fuse blowing, when too much energy was required than it could handle.
Through that date, I had come out to my wife, to my children, on the job and to the world. I wasn’t regretting a thing, except of course the end of my marriage. That was devastating, but understandable and anticipated. There was no going back, no putting the genie back in the bottle.
And yet, for all of August 2013, that was what happened. I lived as Don again. A man with a generous set of moobs. A man who peed sitting down as that was the only way. My identification, which I had been told had been quite easily switched to “Dawn” and “female,” was not so easily changed back, however, given I could not get a doctor to write a letter that I was undergoing a gender transition from female to male. I ran into roadblocks that I could not overcome and decided to just lump it and explain it as best as I could, should the subject come up, like when I had to present a driver’s license to a cashier.
Those kinds of quiet explanations are understandable. However, telling my “close friends” at work what had happened, in writing, was the height of stupidity. I had no idea at that time who my enemies were, and how or why anyone I called a friend would leak my email to gossipmongers and tabloids.
If only I had just kept it all to myself. But if you know me, you know that’s like asking a shaken soda bottle to please not explode when you open the cap, pretty please?
I was under enormous pressure to get back to work, and earn the money we counted on for survival. I felt obligated to prove I wasn’t this “transgender woman” the identification papers and newspapers and websites said I was, and I wanted more than anything to be with my wife and children, not living separately from them with a couple of gay guys an hour away.
And then, slowly, I started to realize, every time I looked in the mirror, the face staring back at me wasn’t the one I thought it would be. Where did she go? Who was I, truly?
My nights were plagued by dreams of being this other person, a woman. My days were filled with embarrassing moments such as walking into the ladies room while still presenting as a male.
And I wasn’t sure what to do with all those shoes, and clothes, and wigs… until I decided, actually I do want to go back to the lovely guys who took me in when my beloved kicked me out. I chose to move this time. And when that letter came, that fateful letter, it clicked.
To: Dawn Stacey Ennis
From: National Institutes for Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland
It said in part: “The patient is a successfully transitioned woman, born male, who…” I stopped reading. That’s ME, I thought.
What the hell happened? Memories flooded back. I realized what I had done in my deluded state and cried, and hugged my roommates, unsure what to do. I had killed and buried Dawn Stacey Ennis, and I had not the slightest clue how to bring her back to life. How to resume my authentic life.
I realized the delusion was not that I was trans; it was that I could be anything but.
By September, I would be back on HRT and by October of 2013, I resumed my presentation as my authentic self, in secret, away from work and family. I was further back in the closet than I had been when this all started.
It was not until May of 2014 that I finally came out, again, and have lived true.
I have tried to be a voice for those who do voluntarily detransition, to stand up against those who would shame them, for fear it taints all of us. What I learned was except for those very few who never were trans, that no one transgender ever really detransitions; they stop presenting, they can deny who they are, but they are always, endlessly transgender. And sadly, closeted.
Three years later, I cannot say I don’t have regrets, but I am a better person, a happier person, a more authentic person than I ever was when I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.
I like to think it took nothing short of a medical catastrophe to make me think I could be him again, and that when I got better, the truth came out. I am a successfully transitioned woman named Dawn Stacey Ennis, a woman born male.
And although the road to me has not been easy, there’s not a woman alive who can say that it ever is.
“One is not born a woman, but becomes one.” – Simone de Beauvoir
You’d think today would be a day in which my youngest son would be riding a cloud after a successful first session of hockey camp. Instead, he just crawled into my bed (currently doubling as my “home office”), looking for hugs because, in his words, fighting back tears: “my children will grow up without a grandma.”
He’s nine, and he’s thinking about his future offspring. This is the child who feels with his heart, not his fingers or toes. Everything he does, he does with all of his heart.
Embracing him, holding him tight, we lay in the bed Wendy and I once shared, arm in arm, holding on tight.
“I’ll be their grandma,” I told him, trying to be reassuring, “although I recognize it won’t be the same. But I promise, I’m going to be the best grandma I can be. And I’m sure Grandma Debbie will stick around a long time so she can be a great grandmother to your kids, just like Grandma Sophie was. Don’t worry, buddy, it’s going to be okay.”
In two days it will be six months since he lost his mom.
This is what it is to teach a 9-year-old to live with the hole in his heart. We are all learning.
ADDENDUM:I want to thank everyone who is helping get the word out that me explaining the concept of “transgender” to children, in response to a straight dad’s question, is NOT child abuse. It’s good parenting. I was up most of the night after posting this, emotionally wrecked by the idea that someone could be so callous as to think my efforts to educate constitute abuse. But thanks to my friends and allies, those who seek to oppress the truth, to block positive messages like mine, will not win. Thank you, friends!
And thank you, Steve, for your question!
Send YOUR question to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them here as a comment!
Don’t believe me? Post anything involving politics, race, religion or criminal justice on social media… and count to ten.
Let me state at the start, I’m no psychologist (not yet, but that is most definitely my next career, after my kids finish college). That said, I consider myself intelligent, insightful and well-educated, and willing to put forth my own analysis with the full knowledge it is informed opinion, and not fact; I stand ready to receive criticism, commentary and challenges to my thinking.
And my thoughts of late are WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?
In just seven months, I count 14 incidents: mass shootings, murders of police officers, police-involved deadly shootings and mass killings by terrorists and military clashes around the world. Here’s the toll since January:
6 murdered in Chesapeake, VA.
5 murdered in Glendale, AZ.
5 murdered in Pittsburgh, PA.
5 murdered in Kansas City, KS.
8 murdered in Piketon, OH.
5 murdered in Moultrie, GA.
49 murdered in Orlando, FL.
290 murdered by bombers in Baghdad, Iraq.
Alton Sterling killed by police in Baton Rouge, LA.
Philandro Castile killed by police in Falcon Heights, MN.
5 police officers murdered in Dallas, TX.
84 murdered in Nice, France.
265 killed in failed military coup in Turkey.
And today, at least 3 police officers murdered in Baton Rouge, LA.
That’s at least 93 dead here in the U.S., 462 overseas, a total of 555 lives lost. The last seven of those incidents above happened all in the space of the last two weeks, and the massacre in Orlando was just a little over one month ago.
Amid all that bloodshed, we live in a world that is more divided than ever before. Isolationism is catching fire around the globe. The U.K. voted to quit the European Union, the leading Republican candidate for president in the U.S. wants to build a wall on our border with Mexico and put a halt to legal immigration by those of the Muslim faith, the Black Lives Matter movement is marching for social justice, police officers nationwide are under fire, literally, and those opposed to transgender rights have encouraged followers to oppress, restrict and even shoot to kill anyone who dares to use a bathroom matching their gender identity.
Social media right now is a cesspool of opposing views, anti-Hillary Clinton, anti-Donald Trump, antigay, anti-LGBT, anti-BLM, anti-police, anti-Obama, anti-foreigners, anti-Democrat, anti-Republican, anti-establishment, anti-Wall Street, anti-politics, anti-government, anti-white, anti-Mexican American, anti-Muslim, antisemitism, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-religion, anti-feminist, anti-men, anti-Ghostbusters… anti-anybody who doesn’t think the way I do.
Posting an opinion online is equivalent to lighting a firecracker in your hand: no matter how great an idea you think it is to do it, be aware: you’re likely to wind up hurt.
And the question I see most often asked is, “why?” Why are we like this? What is behind this spate of rudeness, disrespect, hatred, divisiveness, violence, murder?
We humans have had differences of opinion since Adam and Eve, since the first Cro Magnon man beat the shit out of the second Cro Magnon man, since Ren fought Stimpy.
The late Rodney King, the man whose beating by police was caught on video, said it best:
So it’s not new: we don’t get along. Too many of us don’t play well together.
I believe there is no one cause, or one person to blame, but in the background of all of this divisiveness is the rising empowerment via technology of fringe or alternate opinions, outside the mainstream, which has fueled a new, unrestricted mindset. We are connected in a way with the rest of the planet that gives everyone with access to the internet an opportunity to speak our mind, no matter how arcane or antiestablishment our views are.
I see the seed in this development in the evolution of the internet troll. He or she is afforded total anonymity with which they can speak from a virtual soapbox. They are attracted to cultural icons who boast, berate and bellow via reality television, who win kudos for being rude and “speaking their mind.” I think a significant segment of our society has decided it’s okay, even better, to be divisive. Perhaps, they consider finding compromise a sign of weakness: better to “stand your ground” against “others” unlike “us.”
The “others” are not just strange or different, they are dangerous. They must be stopped. They must be defriended, denounced, denied rights, and ultimately, denied life. The world is not big enough for “others.” Their existence threatens my own, goes the thinking.
It’s reminiscent to me of survivalist mentality, as if an entire population of our nation has decided we are at war. And so we are.
The Nice, Baghdad and Turkey incidents may seem unrelated to this mindset, but to my mind, there is a connection: terrorists commit mass murder to advance a cause against “others,” military juntas overthrow governments because they see their leaders as representing views other than their own.
And Brexit was a democratic, non-violent reaction to that same principle. How far will we, as Americans, go?
Will our next leader pull us out of the United Nations? Will our economy suffer because of whom we elected? Will we shutter our borders to certain foreigners who are deemed “too foreign?” Will we become the Earth’s policeman and go to war in Syria, with Korea, or China? Will a new record for low turnout be set, tainting our next presidential election, given the negative opinions we have of our leading candidates? How will whoever wins govern a country that stays home on Election Day out of disgust for the choices available?
How can any man or woman heal the rift that is now wider than at any point since our civil war? My friend Jennifer Finney Boylan — professor, writer, author, mentor and oh, she happens to be a transgender woman like me — has long advocated love as the proper response to these times. I don’t disagree, we need more love. But I believe we need something more.
I looked to the words of Abraham Lincoln, and those of John F. Kennedy, two beloved presidents separated by a century, unpopular in office but revered and hallowed following their assassinations.
Abraham Lincoln “won the presidency in 1860 with just 39.8% of the vote and was considered so offensive by half of the polity that the country split in two because of him,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” said Lincoln.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future,” declared Kennedy, who also said: “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”
Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960 with a 0.17% margin of victory, the narrowest of the 20th century, according to the L.A. Times. And his popularity plummeted each year he was in office. But he is now revered, in part because of the stand he took for civil rights:
“Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence… those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality… A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.”
I close with Lincoln, whose words are as timely today as when he first delivered his Lyceum address, in 1838. He’s commonly quoted as having said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” But the actual quote, far darker, is below:
“If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
I am taking up Jenny Boylan’s challenge to love more, and to raise my voice to call for a better way forward, for my children and yours. My hope is that we “live through all time,” even this time, and together find a way to heal the rift, and end The War of 2016.
A trust has been established by Wendy’s brother, Robert Lachs, to assist with furthering the education of the Ennis children. Anyone wishing to donate to the fund may send a check, payable to “Ennis Family Scholarship Fund Trust” to Robert Lachs, 1729 E Prairie Ave., Wheaton, IL 60137, or click here to donate via GoFundMe.