It’s been a few months since my last blogpost, and I felt today was a good day to count my blessings.
Tonight is the 3rd night of Passover, and the day that I used to mark as Easter Sunday. My conversion to Judaism is imminent, and it makes my heart soar to be on this journey.
I don’t see it as leaving anything behind as much as accepting a truth about myself and where my spirit and soul reside, and it is in the faith of my children, my beloved, and my in-laws. And perhaps also in the legacy of my great, great grandfather Moses Ennis, a tailor in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland.
This week, Irish people the world over will mark the 103rd anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Because I stumbled soon after my transition became public in 2013, I feel connected to the bloody rebellion against England. Like me, it at first failed, but ultimately led to the creation of the Irish Free State, a republic that is my ancestral home, and still home to both my mother and father’s families. Which makes them my family.
It was two years ago this summer that the children and I traveled to our ancestral homeland. I look forward to returning to Ireland, perhaps in 2020. Or sooner, if President Trump continues to oppress transgender Americans as he and his administration are doing. Some folks would go to Canada, but it’s Ireland for us.
Our extended family still needs your prayers and good thoughts, as one of our loved ones is ailing. I won’t get into details because they’re not mine to share.
But other than that, life is good. No, really!
In fact, we’re all doing well. Our oldest is in his last quarter of his first year of college. Our middle child is finishing her junior year and we’re starting to look at colleges, and the youngest is a boy scout in seventh grade and studying for his bar mitzvah this fall.
Together we are doing all the planning, and this being my first one without his mom to help us, I’ll admit it’s a challenge. But we have the hall, the cake, the deejay and a theme. Next up is invitations, seating charts and of course, the actual ceremony and celebration!
I’ve been teaching journalism, advertising and public relations at the University of Hartford since January, and I’ll be back in the fall. This week, my students in my Writing for the Media class are almost at the conclusion of viewing “All The President’s Men.”
My News Reporting students are conducting interviews, asking people their thoughts on the redacted Mueller Report. Their assignment: find people on both sides of the Trump divide.
And last week, I signed a contract to be a contributor toForbes.com,starting soon. So, financially, we’re in the best shape we’ve been in since 2016. I still have huge debts, and even with three paychecks, we still struggle, but my head is at long last above water.
Yes, life is good. Our seder was fun and for the first time in the 22 years since I’ve been co-hosting seders, we had a guest, our housemate Kati. Dahlia was there but we missed having our oldest child at the table! In fact, it’s the first time in 20 years we didn’t have all three children sitting with us, and our third Seder since we lost the most important person in our lives. But life goes on.
As it must. And there will be people who will gossip and whisper about the fact that for the first time in a long time I shared photographs of our children here. Well, let them.
It’s proof we are happy, and together (sorta), and thriving. And that’s worth sharing.
It’s taken me all week to process this, and share this news. A few days ago, on my mother’s birthday, I got the results of a genetic test following my annual mammogram (#12) and I learned I inherited the BRCA1 gene, putting me at “high risk” for cancer. Most folks have a one percent chance; the odds for me are 50/50.
Given the fact I lost my beloved Wendy, my father and my father in law to this killer, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And it’s not like I’ve been diagnosed, not at all. I am surrounded by fighters and survivors and relatives of those who fought… so I am, at the moment, still on the sidelines… or to use a baseball analogy, I am in the bullpen, warming up.
I’m not going to just sit here; I am heeding this wake up call. The road ahead will be marked by enhanced screenings, a better diet and more exercise. I will fight cancer before it gets its cold dead hands on me. I will survive this as I’ve survived every single challenge and overcome every obstacle in my path. My children and those who love me expect nothing less.
I feel as if cancer is a stalker, or worse: a serial killer. And the cops just knocked on my door to warn me I’m a potential target.
“Get out of town while you can!” they say. So I have bid farewell to the city of bad eating habits and sedentary living. I am running for my life.
If you’ll allow me one more metaphor, I will wage a war through my writing and my social media and my media platforms. And if you have a relative in your immediate family who is either a cancer survivor or was diagnosed, I strongly encourage you to check with your insurance about getting tested. Mine was covered 100% and I’m grateful that I have this knowledge to set the course ahead to healthier living.
William Tonghas already made history. But if Connecticut voters choose him on August 14th, he’ll be on his way to making history again.
Tong, a native of my current hometown, West Hartford, Conn. and a state representative from Stamford, is running to be Connecticut’s next Attorney General. He has already won the endorsementof the state Democratic party and of fellow Democrats here in his original hometown of West Hartford, including our prior guest and his former competitor, assistant attorney general Clare Kindall. Other famous names on Tong’s bandwagon include Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., the United Auto Workers and the Working Families party.
Those endorsements are significant because Tong is the first Asian-American in state history to win that level of crucial political support. He was already the first Asian-American elected to the state House of Representatives, and if he wins the upcoming primary and the general election in November, will be the first constitutional officer in the history of Connecticut of Asian heritage.
Who is Tong? His biography reveals he studied under Barack Obama before he became president, and he is the son of immigrant parents:
“The Tongs owned a Chinese restaurant where William worked alongside his parents before going to Brown University and then the University of Chicago Law School where he was taught by then-Professor Barack Obama. He is currently a lawyer at Finn, Dixon & Herling LLP, one of Connecticut’s leading law firms where he practiced law for 14 years… William lives with his wife, Elizabeth, their three children and many pets in Stamford. Elizabeth is Vice President of Tax for North America for the Diageo Corporation.”
Tong and I sat down this week for a wide-ranging interview on RiseUp With Dawn Ennis, the talk show I’ve been hosting on WHC-TV and YouTube for about a year and a half. We discussed immigration, politics, President Trump, civil rights, the second amendment and 3D printed guns as well as Republican candidates’ calls to abolish the state income tax.
Hatfield, like Mattei, has experience as a prosecutor, a job Tong claims is not relevant to the post they are all seeking, since the A.G. doesn’t deal with criminal law so much as civil law. Hatfield won the Republican party’s endorsement.
The primary is August 14th, the general election is November 6th, and the online deadline to register to vote in Connecticut is August 9th, but you can register in person right up until and including August 14th. Details on how to do that are right here.
The issue of transgender rights remains contentious across America. The ACLUoutlines how that battle was won in Connecticut, but for those who live elsewhere, being trans can be a fireable offense, a reason to be evicted, and too often makes people a target for violence. See how your state stacks up by clicking herefor a look at the Equality Maps from the Movement Advancement Project.
Later this fall, I’ll share more details about the reality show taped in West Hartford last month, that connected my family with the Connecticut Humane Society. With the help of producers from The CW we adopted a 7-month-old Labrador/Retriever possibly German Shepherd mix who we have named Dahlia.
Finally: August is typically a “hiatus” month for West Hartford Community Television, so I am very grateful to WHC-TV Executive Director Jennifer Evans for making an exception for this election-focused timely episode! See y’all in September with a new episode of RiseUP With Dawn Ennis.
Just because June is over doesn’t mean it’s the end of pride celebrations. This month on my talk show, RiseUP with Dawn Ennis,we cover a lot of ground, and if you’ll forgive me for boasting… I have a lot to boast about.
This summer has been one big event after another for me, personally. And for my eleventh episode of this series on WHC-TV and YouTube, I’ve decided to navel-gaze, and share some personal milestones:
My children and I welcomed a new addition to our happy home (NO, I am not and never will be pregnant!);
And my selection as a community hero by Heritage of Pride (organizers of the NYC Pride March), which put me front and center at the historic 49th annual event on June 24th, alongside several genuine LGBTQ icons. Click here for the link to the names of all of this year’s honorees.
Hello, imposter syndrome!
Kaia Naadira (left), Emma Gonzalez and Dawn Ennis
Yes, that woman with the crew cut standing to my right is indeed Emma Gonzalez,18, a graduate of Parkland, Fla.’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and survivor of the deadly school shooting rampage on February 14th.
We talked at length about how she’s dealt with all she’s seen, handling haters, her hairstyle and her choice for college. Her mom is a sweetheart and entrusted me to keep an eye on Emma as she walked ahead of the float we rode through Lower Manhattan.
And because I am a journalist first and foremost, I also took time before and after the march to do my job: I interviewed the woman in the center of this photo, the queer-identified gender nonconforming artist and video innovator Kaia Naadira, whose mother Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement. I also spoke with Two Spirit performance artist Ty Defoe, right, who followed Pride with a stint on Broadway alongside transgender icon Kate Bornstein in Straight White Men.
You can read the interviews in an upcoming print issue of The Advocate Magazineas well as watch the interviews in this month’s episode, on YouTube, below. And below the episode, you’ll find links promised during the show.
My friend Kati and I also met one of my lifelong heroes, Billie Jean King, one of the grand marshals.
If you don’t know how she single-handedly changed the world — not just the world of sports — watch this Peabody Award-winning documentary about the tennis and women’s movement and lesbian legend here.
I asked King about “Battle of the Sexes,” the recent movie about her historic 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs, and how producers had suggested they “leave out” that she was lesbian, since at the time she was married to her ex-husband. “You can’t leave that out!” she told them.
King also had this to say, in the Portrait of a Pioneer documentary:
“Even though I get discouraged sometimes, if you’re a girl or a woman, you’re supposed to be really happy when you get the crumbs. I don’t want just the crumbs! I want the cake and the icing. Everybody deserves the cake and the icing.”
Placide, pictured above left with King, is OutRight Action International’s Caribbean-based Advisor and the Executive Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE). She has been an advocate for HIV and human rights, youth and LGBTI issues, for over 12 years. Instrumental in organizing the first OECS regional security and human rights training for LGBT and sexual rights defenders in 2011, she made history co-coordinating the Caribbean’s first International Dialogue on Human Rights in 2012.
Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve the full recognition of the civil rights of the LGBTQ community and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. In the past year alone, Lambda Legal has sued to stop the transgender military ban, defended marriage equality nationally, fought federal, state and local-level discrimination, and continued to advocate for the most vulnerable members of our community – including youth, seniors, the trans community, and communities of color.
Tyler Ford is an award-winning agender advocate, writer, and speaker, whose creative and critical writing on queer and trans identity inspires, comforts, and challenges a diverse spectrum of audiences. Ford is also the Deputy Editor at Condé Nast’s them, a next-generation LGBTQ community platform.
If you’re like my youngest son and you’d like to know more about Stonewall and the 1969 protests and riots that sparked the LGBTQ pride movement (there were several other uprisings, such as in Philadelphia and San Francisco that preceded Stonewall, incidentally), read this history of how it came to be here. If not for Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, it might never have.
I met two heroes who are living witnesses to history, riding along with me on the Community Heroes float: trans activist Victoria Cruz, and Tree Sequoia, who’s tended bar at The Stonewall Inn for decades.
For details about the Center for Transgender Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospitalin New York City, you can visit their website here, and don’t be surprised when you see my familiar mug online! The hospital hired several LGBTQ actors and trans models for their promotional material and in-house videos, me among them.
The New Haven Register reported on my surgery last month, and not for any reason but to raise awareness of the battle I waged. I fought for me, but I also don’t believe it’s fair that I should be the first and last transgender resident of Connecticut to be allowed this oppportunity.
I would never have granted the reporter the interview just to talk about me; I talked about this fight in an episode last fall and you can read about it here. The battle is not over just because I got mine.
Speaking of names in the news, I was interviewed by The New York Times for a story that was published on the same day as the NYC Pride March, about traveling while trans and people around the world who identify as LGBTQ. Or as The Times put it, L.G.B.T.Q. You can read that story here, and although it’s the first time I’ve had my name in the newspaper of record, I hope it’s not the last!
Find out about NYC Pride by clicking here, and make plans now for the 50th anniversary celebration in June 2019!
Outsports Prideis an annual event that anyone interested in sports and equality should definitely add to your calendar!
At The Advocate I earned the nickname “SportsGirl” so this was a genuine honor to be asked to moderate a panel, featuring:
Nevin Caple. The former NCAA basketball player for Farleigh-Dickinson University is a co-founder of LGBT SportSafe, which seeks to build inclusion for athletes and coaches of any sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sarah Axelson. Axelson is a former softball player at the University of Mary Washington. She is currently the Director of Advocacy for theWomen’s Sports Foundation, and:
Clare Kenny. Now campaigns manager at GLAAD and working with campus programs, Kenny is a former volleyball player at Skidmore College and build an LGBTQ inclusion program in her athletics department.
Thank you to Cyd Ziegler of Outsports for inviting me, and for being so generous as to also welcome my friend Kati Ennis, who has been my right hand, my helper, my chauffeur, cook, and co-mom while I’ve been focused on my recovery. She and her dogs have moved in with us at our home in Connecticut and we are all ever so grateful!
Together we met San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers — the first woman to coach in the NFL — and Ryan O’Callaghan, the out former Patriots star. I urge you to donate to his Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation — which supports talented LGBTQ youth with college scholarships. Find out more about their important work by clicking here, Or email Ryan here:firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re looking for other ways to celebrate Pride in Connecticut, go to CT Visit.com for a complete list, including New Haven and New London Pride as well as details about Hartford Capital City Pride September 7th and 8th.
If Karleigh looks familiar, she was my videographer, editor, producer and brilliant collaborator on the episode last fall we taped in Provincetown, Mass. She’s incredibly talented!
Find out more about New York City’s Museum of Sex by going to their website or visiting them at 233 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, at the corner of East 27th Street.
I heartily recommend the Magic Wand, by the way. It’s great for… massaging.
By the way, we stayed at the Evelyn Hotel just down the block, and had a lovely time! It’s steps away from the end of the new parade route and around the corner from Madison Square Park.
Did you like the “RESIST” tee with the transgender colors — from the flag created by Monica Helms — which I wore during the NYC Pride March, and the recording of this episode? Click here for a link to get your own!
I can also connect you with Nolan Custom Craft on Etsy, who produced the RiseUP With Dawn Ennis Pride 2018 stainless steel water bottle seen in this episode. I own another one, too, as you can see below!
Thanks for watching and for reading lifeafterdawn.com Your comments on the show and my blog are welcome in the comments, and that’s also how you can let me know if you’d like to be our next special correspondent.
Next month: Another candidate in Connecticut’s embattled race for attorney general! Until then… Remember to RISE UP!
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.
The sci-fi franchise goes where no gays have gone before.
This is in part a repost of my article first published on the LGBT silo of nbcnews.com on October 13, 2017.
This blogpost includes original content not included with the article on NBC Out, and here appears in bold.
The fact that for the first time in the 51-year history of “Star Trek,” out gay actors are playing gay characters in love, is not something CBS, its stars or its creators are either hiding or promoting. But it is something they’re celebrating.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of ‘Star Trek’ TV’s first gay couple,” actor Anthony Rapp of “Rent” fame told NBC News. “I can’t say how much that means to me personally as a fan of the series and as a member of the LGBT community.”
Rapp plays the prickly, grumpy genius anastromycologist Lt. Paul Stamets, which basically means he’s the foremost expert on fungus. And fungus gets far more screen-time than his same-sex relationship on the CBS All Access streaming show, which is just fine with Rapp.
“I’m proud of the fact that none of that really matters in the show,” Rapp said, describing the portrayal of their relationship as “alive, truthful and human.”
His on-screen partner and costar, Wilson Cruz, who plays Dr. Hugh Culber, called Rapp his “space boo” on stage at New York Comic Con. They’ve been friends since they starred together on Broadway two decades ago. “We’ve worked together for 20 years, so it was so easy to create this together, because we have so much back history.”
Cruz won applause during the evening event at the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan, when he spoke up for transgender rights, called out violence based on gender identity and called for more LGBTQ representation in entertainment. “These stories we tell are really important, so that people understand who we are, what our lives are like, and perhaps they will understand us and not hate us.”
Cruz was quick to denounce the actions of the Trump administration to rollback LGBT rights and attempts to erase protections against discrimination.
“I’m livid,” Cruz told me before Saturday night’s panel at the Paley Center. “We have a president who cares very little for LGBT people,” he said. “His words mean nothing and his actions mean everything, and he’s saying everything he really believes in his actions.”
“It saddens me that this continues to be the case,” Rapp told me, saying despite the government’s actions, he remains encouraged. “The backlash that comes is only possible because of the progress. So it is in direct opposition to progress. It’s like the last gasp.”
The “Star Trek” franchise, said actor Jason Isaacs, is inclusive of “all genders, all sexualities, all flavors, not just of humans, but in our show of [other] species as well. The point being, things we are told should separate us, actually unite us.”
“The original series was borne out of troubled times, “ Isaacs continued, ”the birth of the civil rights movement and feminism, and I think there’s never been a time where a story like this, with a positive view of the future — even though we’re at war in the show — has been more necessary, than when division is being sown by some really toxic elements.”
President Trump and his Justice Department’s newly announced policies threatening LGBT rights, and the administration’s continued efforts to curtail reproductive rights and threats to immigrants, were as talked about on the red carpet as were the Discovery’s groundbreaking spore drive, Vulcans and Klingons.
“Star Trek: Discovery” Executive Producer Akiva Goldsman said the franchise has “always been about inclusion.”
“We’re not value-neutral when it comes to the issues of people being isolated, separated, not understood, ostracized,” Goldsman explained.
Citing proof of the show’s inclusivity, Alex Kurtzman, also an executive producer on the series, said the team behind the scenes is an even mix of men and women. He also revealed the show’s producers decided a refocus was necessary following President Trump’s unexpected election victory. That included a not-accidental nod to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, by giving the show’s antagonists, the Klingons, a new rallying cry: “Remain Klingon.”
Cruz was swift to point out that from sexual harassment of women to racial inclusion, Hollywood has a lot more work to do, especially from his perspective as an industry trailblazer. He was the first out Latino actor on network television, playing the first openly gay teenager on TV: the character of Rickie Vasquez on “My So-Called Life” in the mid-1990s. Times have changed, Cruz said.
“But the fact of the matter is,” he told fans, “most of the LGBTQ characters now on TV are still gay white men. The work that needs to be done now is to diversify the picture of LGBTQ people, so that people can see that we come from all races, different genders, we have trans people.” Cruz’s character on the U.S.S. Discovery is only the second regular “Star Trek” character of Latinix heritage, following the half-Klingon, half-human B’elanna Torres played by Rosario Dawson on “Star Trek: Voyager.”
As gay actors, Cruz and Rapp have tremendous allies both on the screen and in front of it, largely thanks to social media. “Star Trek: Discovery” is the first installment of the franchise since the creation of Twitter and Facebook.
“The ‘Trek’ community is so profoundly engaged,” Rapp said. “We’re all in this together. Yes, I’m the one in the show, and you’re the one consuming the show. But we all care about it, and we get to share in that.”
Although CBS boasts the show has boosted subscriptions to its streaming service, a lot of the online chatter is centered on criticism of the network’s decision to hide it behind a paywall. Isaacs, who plays Discovery’s sexy, mysterious and mercurial Captain Gabriel Lorca, told Comic Con fans that controversy is not something the cast wants to address, and directed the question to “the other end of the panel.”
Executive producer Kurtzman took the bull by the horns, and didn’t mince words. He told fans paid content is where television is going, following in the footsteps of Netflix, Hulu, now Disney, and of course the pay TV granddaddy, HBO.
Another topic of internet speculation concerns Mary Wiseman’s character, Cadet Sylvia Tilly. Is she more than just a talkative space rookie, perhaps someone on the autism spectrum?
“In terms of the script, no one’s put a label on it,” Wiseman told NBC. “I think the idea that someone would see Tilly and recognize part of themselves in that performance, or that they would feel represented, is deeply moving to me, and gratifying.”
Series star, the stunning Sonequa Martin-Green who rose to fame in The Walking Dead, told us her favorite part of playing mutineer Michael Burnham is her character’s desire to better understand other people.
“I’m on a journey of self-discovery and I have an issue of arrested development because of what I’ve gone through,” she said, alluding to the challenges no woman in the franchise’s history has ever tackled: Burnham is an orphan raised on Vulcan as an adopted member of Spock’s family. Her actions set in motion the war between the Federation and the Klingons.
Speaking of Klingons, Mary Chieffo plays the imposing L’Rell, a character she describes as more than just intimidating; the six-foot-tall beauty revealed L’Rell has a quality Star Trek fans have never before seen in a Klingon: vulnerability.
“I really hope,” she said, “whether it be LGBTQ, or anyone who sees themselves as ‘other,’ is able to relate to the Klingons, to L’Rell. I think there’s a lot there that I relate to, as someone who’s never felt quite in the vein of what other people wanted me to be.”
Just as Rapp and Cruz hope to convey their humanity in their performances, Chieffo said she, Martin-Green and Wiseman aim to be strong female role models for girls.
“You don’t have to be fully-armored,” she said, “to be badass.”
Want more? Watch the videos from my Facebook Live stream by clicking these links!
Thanks to CBS, startrek.com and justjared.com for the photos appearing here.
Special thanks to New York Comic Con and the Paley Center for Media for welcoming me to cover these two events for my readers here and at NBC News!
“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?
This month on RiseUP with Dawn Ennis, meet a longtime lawmaker who is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ causes and her constituents here in Connecticut, as well as a new Air Force recruit, a country music lover, a man who races sailboats and a gay journalist who is helping raise awareness of long-hidden racism in his hometown.
Activism, advocacy, service, song, and sailing: they’re very different experiences, for sure.
But what each of these folks have in common is their passion.
My passion for 34 years has been storytelling. I’m at a crossroads right now as I post this, but I can honestly say that even if I were to never ever publish another word, I’ll still pour most of my passion into the most important work I’ve ever done: doing the job of mom and being a dad to my three motherless children.
One of them makes a cameo in this episode: singing is her passion. I hope you’ll watch and share!
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.
In the new episode of RiseUP, my new talk show on West Hartford Community Television and YouTube, I’m fortunate to give you a look behind the scenes of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The national organization has started an effort called People Power to challenge the Trump Administration’s efforts to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and other attacks on Americans’ civil rights. Learn more about how to get involved here.
Among the issues the Connecticut chapter is fighting for:
If you would like to know more about me, you can find the links here on lifeafterdawn.com including this overview of the key events of my transition and moment of fame, or infamy, depending on how you look at it.
Tonight, the first episode of my debut talk show airs on WHC-TV, West Hartford Community Television, as well as on YouTube. I’m so excited to share this with you!
The show is called Rise UP with Dawn Ennis and our first episode is “Forward March.” My goal is to focus on politics and culture, guiding viewers to stand up for ourselves, for our beliefs. I, myself, am a progressive, but I hope viewers of all backgrounds will find information of interest.
This blog that I have been writing for eight years now will serve as a resource for viewers, until I start a webpage dedicated solely to the program.
Below, you’ll find links to the events and groups I mention in the show, and to prior blog entries that expand upon my own story as I introduce viewers to my “Life After (becoming) Dawn.” Scroll down for these and other important links!
Here it is: episode one, shared with permission from WHC-TV’s YouTube Channel.
Due to time limitations and to keep from boring our viewers, I introduced you to part of my story — my child acting career — which was the subject of a lot of tabloid headlines in 2013 when I came out, because for almost five of the 12 years I worked as a model I worked as a girl. I was earning $100 a day when I “retired” from modeling in 1980, at the age of 16.
Here and here are two blog entries that expand upon that experience. And I’ll share more about my life in future episodes.
If you’re looking for information about the West Hartford Board of Education2017-2018 Budget, click here for the town site and here for details on proposed spending and cuts that could decimate the education our town provides our children.
And below are the dates of upcoming meetings, and note that at some of these, you can not just listen but also be heard.
Budget Workshop #1 – March 15, Town Hall, 7 PM
Budget Workshop #2 – March 21, Town Hall, 7 PM
Council and Board of Education Forum – March 23, Charter Oak, 6 PM
Board Public Hearing – March 29, Town Hall, 7 PM
Budget Workshop #3 – March 29, After Public Hearing
Board Budget Adoption – April 4, Town Hall, 7 PM
Town Council Adoption – April 25, Town Hall, 7 PM
The BOE has also set up an email box for questions, suggestions and complaints related to the budget proposal and process. Send your sentiments to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re interested in Swing Left, the non-profit group working to take back the House of Representatives from Republican party control, then click here. Interested residents of West Hartford are being asked to focus on New York’s 19th Congressional District, stretching from the area east of Binghamton to just outside Albany and Schenectady. Information about that effort is here.
But as you can see from the map below, there are many, many other districts being targeted, more than 50, and if you’re invested in wresting control from the GOP, enter your zip code here and you’ll be linked to a district near you.
If you’re looking for a non-partisan organization that welcomes both Republicans and conservatives as well as Democrats and liberals (and Libertarians and Working Party members and LGBTQ Americans, and so on), then check out the League of Women Voters.
And no, you don’t have to be a woman.
West Hartford residents should click here for information about the Greater Hartford chapter, and here if you’d like more information about how to join. The membership application is here. And if you’re looking for one where you live, here’s a link to the national organization which will direct you to the chapter in your area.
Dues are nominal (just $45 for new members), and one of the issues the league is working hard to support is to change our process of electing a president and eliminate the electoral college.
Tonight’s guest, Sarah Hambrick, spoke about an issue she is personally invested in: the Aid in Dying movement. Six states currently have legalized this way of ending life when the quality of life is no longer viable: Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Colorado and Vermont. You can learn more about those states here. If you’d like more information about this, click here for an overview from the University of Washington, and Connecticut residents should click here for a January article from the Hartford Courant that reported it’s unlikely to be presented for action by the state legislature this year.
And you can learn more about my special correspondent Hannah Simpson by checking out her website, her Facebook page and following her on Twitter: @hannsimp
Please “like” our page on Facebook and follow our Twitter account, @RiseUPwithDawn. Send questions for Sarah or future guests by tweeting them to us or adding a comment here or on Facebook, and we promise to answer each and every one.
Next episode: the head of the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union joins us to discuss what they are doing here in the Constitution state and across the nation to advance its cause, and give us some info on how you can become more involved.
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.
As big, burly, ex-marine Max took me in his tattooed arms and pulled me close, nearly off my barstool and toward his liquored lips, I felt… something.
Not his hand, moving slowly, up my skirt, although that did distract me for a moment.
It was time. It didn’t slow down, as time does in the movies and the romance novels. Instead, it rewound, pulling my concentration away from my corner barstool in the little Irish pub where we nine widows met regularly for wine, cocktails, and conversation.
And more wine.
I could sense the presence of Jackie, the only one left after many, many rounds, turning her eyes, her whole body, away from Max and me, this hunk of a man who sidled up to two moms at the bar, to chat us up and maybe have a little fun. And as my mind rode a tilt-a-whirl of memories, I accepted that’s why I was after, too: an escape, a thrill ride, a temporary diversion from grief.
My thoughts got lost in the spinning sensation sparked by my lips making contact with other lips, the process of thinking slowing to a stop until I was living in the moment. Excitement got my juices flowing and ignited a warm fire that started down below, the flames reaching up and rekindling my heart, gone cold.
Ten months. It’s been that long since my life changed, losing the love of my life, my spouse of almost 20 years, to cancer. And not long after that loss, I found something I’d never had in all my years: genuine, goodhearted, girlfriends.
Jackie, Sam, Karen, Cait, Erynn, Michele, Debbie, Laura, Dani and me: the ten of us had met every other week at a local grief support group, some of us for months, some had been going for years. But it wasn’t long after I joined that we soon branched out, having emptied the tank of all our stories of struggle, crying through the many milestones together and lamenting why this was our cross to bear.
We felt as if we had graduated, and needed to find a venue that better fit our needs. Most but not all of us were weary of having to repeatedly reintroduce ourselves and retrigger our grief as new widows joined the group. Don’t get me wrong; I do think it is helpful to have those who’ve been around the block, so to speak, share their experience and guide those — like me — as they take their first steps into our horrible world.
Horrible because sooner or later, friends and family step back, unsure what to say or how to help, uncomfortable when we tell them, “yes, it’s still hard.” Hard because we are so used to having our other half to share the load, to make the memories and to hug away the hurt. And hurt, because there are holes in our hearts that will never, ever, be filled. Our job as single moms is to be everything to our kids, and show them how to learn to live with a hole in their hearts.
Not one widow’s story is like another’s, especially mine, I guess. We are each survivors of deadly accidents, fatal illnesses, suicides, overdoses and hearts that fail. But as much as wish to give back, there comes a time each of us has decided we need to practice self-care, and that includes going out.
It was in June at a noisy restaurant in Manchester, Connecticut, at my first-ever GNO — girls night out — that my cisgender (non-transgender) widow sisters finally felt comfortable to ask me about being transgender. And it was fine, we laughed, and they didn’t once make me uncomfortable. I hadn’t mentioned being trans that very first time I attended the widows group, for fear of being rejected.
“Sam had said to me, ‘there’s something different about her,’” Karen confessed. We laughed, but I made a confession, too: I had worried about how they might react.
Before I joined, one of the grief counseling leaders warned me that there might be resistance to me joining the group. And when I asked why, I was sure to look this woman in the eyes, so there’d be no mistaking how blown away I was, to suggest my grief might not hold the same value as other widows. “It’s just that, well, you said you two were separated, and that may not go over so well.”
Whew. Well at least it wasn’t “the trans thing.”
I paused, continuing to lock eyes with this usually kind, smiling soul who was going to stand between this group and I. Feeling determined, I decided a softer, quieter tone was what was required, even if I did want to scream.
“I am grieving. I loved as much as any one person can, and now I’m alone. No matter what else we are to one another, won’t that be something we can all relate to?”
My words resonated in just the way I had hoped, and so I began attending the group. We took turns telling our stories and truth be told we laughed more than we cried, but there were still plenty of tears. We bared our souls and found in our shared experience new friendships that evolved into GNO trips to comedy clubs, concerts, psychics and energy healers and drinking and dancing (and drinking) at our Irish pub in Plainville, Connecticut.
“Wowww,” said Max, pulling his face from mine, his stubble rubbing my smooth cheek in a way I’ve rarely felt before. The sensation knocked me back into reality. Meeting his eyes with mine, I whispered back. “Wow? Is that all you have to say?”
“Well, yeahhh,” said Max, quietly, looking at me with his beer goggles firmly affixed. “I guess it’s just that I’ve never kissed someone transgender before.”
“Oh? Really?” I said, straightening my back in my seat, using my body language to speak volumes that I dared not utter with my mouth. I restrained myself from making a scene but glared at Jackie to my left.
“So, uhhh,” Max leans back in from the right, to deliver his second stupid statement of the evening, er, morning. “You’ve had the surgery?”
And just like on that old episode of Grey’s Anatomy, when McDreamy died? I’m done.
“Baby,” I cooed, as I put both my hands on his unshaven cheeks. “Your hands already know the answer to that question. Besides, you didn’t hear me ask about your prostate exam, hmmm?”
Jackie laughed, and it slowly dawned on Max he should join in the laughter.
That’s when I stepped gently but deliberately from my stool, and I extricated my body from his hands and made some excuse about needing to use the ladies room.
In the film version, I imagine Jackie jumping off her seat, too, and huffing off as we make our way to the bathroom, our heads held high, widow sisters forever! Woot!
But this is reality, and Jackie was glued to her seat. Before I left for the ladies room I whispered in her ear, out of Max’s earshot, that I wanted to leave, and why. That question, oof! Couldn’t he have pretended a little longer that he hadn’t clocked me?
Whatever. I just wanted to pee and go, and to my surprise, Jackie wasn’t budging. We are widows after all, and my disentanglement presented an opportunity. “It’ll be fine,” she told me. “I could use a good fuck! I can handle him.”
“Okaaaay.” I had never had a wing woman before — nor lost one. So, I broke formation, took care of my business and made my exit, but not before asking the bartender to keep an eye on Mr. Grabby Hands as he made the moves on my friend.
As I sat in my car, I reflected on the night: I’d kissed a boy, made-out in public and in front of a friend, and had one too many drinks, but not too many that I couldn’t drive. I’d laughed, a lot. And I’d been clocked, in the worst way possible. I was about to drive off when I decided instead to wait for Jackie, just in case.
After all, that’s what a widow sister does.
This is a different version of an essay that first appeared in NewNowNext. Some names have been changed to protect privacy.
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.”
OPENS with music: PUSSY PEOPLE (Been Disgusting So Long)
Adapted from lyrics by David Bowie (hoping to obtain actual permission)
See your face so orange
Feels like it’s been a thousand days
Creepier than Ted Cruz
And you think your dick is so long
Feel our blood enraged
It’s just the fear of electing you Don’t want to say your name Wish you would say, “so long”
And you’ve been putting out fire with gasoline
See your hair so… Red? Red like the flow from our… wherever From the pussy you grab (no! Never!)
Fool the bigots and wash their minds
They don’t see you’re so wrong
Scarier still is Mike Pence
Knowing he could be prez in a heartbeat
Don’t say “sorry” to us We just can’t believe what we’ve been through
Think your fingers are so long? Well, they’re not so long
And you’ve been putting out the fire with gasoline Putting out the fire With gasoline
See the money so green
Your heart’s three sizes too small, like the Grinch
Taxes you never paid, so mean!
And you think we’d suck your angry inch?
See your tweets so petty We can’t stand your thousands of lies Just be quiet already We can’t believe what Melania’s been through You’ve been lying so long
You’ve been disgusting so long
And you’ve been putting out the fire with gasoline Putting out fire with gasoline
Disgusting so long
Predator so long
Well, it’s been so long
Lying so long
I’ve been putting out fire
Fingers not long
Well, it’s been so long
Running so long
Been putting out fire
Say so long
It’s been so long
Say so long
Been putting out fire
Say so long
Say so long, so long, so long
Say so long, so long, so long
Been putting out fire
Say so long, so long, so long
Been putting out fire
Say so long, so long, so long
I bet you’re worried. I was worried. That’s why I began this project.
I was worried about Donald Trump. I was worried what we think about Donald Trump. And I was even more worried that we don’t think about him.
I was worried about pussies. They need protection. And a parody song. A parody play. A community and cultural response from women with pussies and also those without.
There is so much darkness surrounding Donald Trump’s treatment of women. In the first place, it’s nearly impossible to avoid Donald Trump these days.
Women have gone days, weeks, months, and no matter how much they try, they cannot avoid him. I chatted online with a high-powered businesswoman and she told me she doesn’t have time to protect her pussy.
Avoiding him is a full day’s work, she says. “You’ve got to shut down all your social media, turn off the TV and radio, avert all glances at newspapers and magazines, and of course avoid the gold-plated building on Fifth Avenue between East 57th and East 56th Streets in Manhattan. Trump Tower. And you can’t look directly at it.”
Since she was too busy, she risks going unprotected.
But I was undeterred and decided even without her help, I needed to do this project. It was Time for thePussy to Grab Back. It started with a casual suggestion on Facebook. And it turned into The Trump Monologues.
I enlisted the help of other women: young women, older women, married women, pregnant women, women who are moms, lesbians, queers, transgender women, single women, college professors, corporate professionals, actors, sex workers, African-American women, Asian-American women, Hispanic women, Latinas, Native-American women, Caucasian women, Jewish women, Christian women and atheist women.
Not one woman was reluctant to talk about Donald Trump. Women love to talk about Donald Trump. They do. They really do. Mainly because we’ve been talking about him for more than a year and now people are finally paying attention.
Let’s just start with the most horrific thing he’s said — that we know of — so far:
“Grab them by the pussy.”
Them, being us. Women.
The Vulgar Video
A presentation requiring two voices, as presented by NBC and the Washington Post
DONALD TRUMP: “I moved on her. Actually, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
BILLY BUSH: “That’s huge news!”
TRUMP: “Nancy, no this was… and I moved on her. Very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture’. I took her… I moved on her like a bitch. I couldn’t get there and she was married. And all of a sudden I see her. She’s now got the big phoney tits and she’s totally changed her look.”
BUSH: “Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.”
TRUMP: “Whoa! Yes! Whoa!”
BUSH: “Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!”
BUSH: ” It better not be the publicist. No it’s her, it’s…”
TRUMP: “Yeah that’s her in the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
BUSH: “Whatever you want.”
TRUMP: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
(More than) 23 Things Donald Trump Said About Women
As reported by Cosmopolitan and the Telegraph
“You know, it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.”
To a female lawyer who asked for a medical break during a deposition, to pump breast milk for her 3-month-old daughter: “You’re disgusting.”
“Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again — just watch. He can do much better!”
About Megan Kelly of Fox News: “ “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” And “Fox viewers give low marks to bimbo Megan Kelly will consider other programs!”
Later, he asked her: “Did I say that? Excuse me.” Then followed with “you’ve been called a lot worse, wouldn’t you say?”
About Arianna Huffington: “Ariana is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left for a man — he made a good decision.”
He repeated the attack three years later: How much money is the extremely unattractive (both inside and out) Arianna Huffington paying her poor ex-hubby for the use of his name?”
To New York Times columnist Gail Collins he sent a copy of one of her columns with her picture circled and a note that read: “The Face of a Dog.”
“Sarah Jessica Parker voted ‘unsexiest woman alive” — I agree.”
To Celebrity Apprentice contestant and former Playboy playmate Brande Roderick: “It must be a pretty picture. You dropping to your knees.”
“Bette Midler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.”
And of course, then there’s Rosie O’Donnell:
“Rosie is crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb — other than that I like her very much!” He followed up by saying she deserved those insults “and everyone would agree and she deserves it” because of how “vicious” she’s been to him.
“Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting, both inside and out. If you take a look at her, she’s a slob. How does she even get on television? If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’
“We’re all a little chubby but Rosie’s just worse than most of us. But it’s not the chubbiness – Rosie is a very unattractive person, both inside and out.”
“Rosie’s a person who’s very lucky to have her girlfriend. And she better be careful or I’ll send one of my friends over to pick up her girlfriend, why would she stay with Rosie if she had another choice?”
In 2013, he replied to a tweet asking him how much he’d want to make-out with O’Donnell: “One trillion, at least!”
About wives who expected their husbands to change baby diapers: “There’s a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife and you know there’s a lot of husbands that listen to that. So you know, they go for it.”
About Gold Star grieving mom, Ghazala Khan: “Look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card.”
What should Ivanka Trump do if she faced sexual harassment on the job? “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.”
On women seeking abortions: “There has to be some form of punishment.”
Trump called NBC campaign reporter Katy Tur “Little Katy” and a “Third-Rate reporter,” and tweeted that she “should be fired.”
When Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields filed a criminal report against a Trump aide alleging assault, Trump said she had “a larger pattern of exaggerating incidents,” called her “terrible” and told Fox News host Geraldo Rivera “Maybe I should file a report, she was grabbing me.”
Heidi Cruz was his target when Trump tweeted that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” And he retweeted an unflattering photo of their wives side by side.
Trump called Sen. Elizabeth Warren a “fraud,” “goofy” and “Pocahontas:” “Pocahontas is not happy, she’s not happy. She’s the worst. You know, Pocahontas —I’m doing such a disservice to Pocahontas, it’s so unfair to Pocahontas — but this Elizabeth Warren, I call her ‘goofy,’ Elizabeth Warren, she’s one of the worst senators in the entire United States Senate.”
When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Trump a “faker,” he tweeted “Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot — resign!”
About Mika Brzezinski, he tweeted she “is off the wall, a neurotic and not very bright mess” and suggested she is dating co-host Joe Scarborough, calling her “his very insecure long-time girlfriend.” He also called them “Two clowns.”
Trump used “neurotic” to describe the DNC’s former chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, too: “The highly neurotic Debbie Wasserman Schultz is angry that, after stealing and cheating her way to a Crooked Hillary victory, she’s out!”
About Kim Kardashian, Trump said “she’s gotten a little large” during her last pregnancy and “I don’t think you should dress like you’re 125 pounds,” then blessed her clothing choices when prodded by an interviewer: “Well, I think that’s great. If she feels good about herself, A.J., do it Kim.”
Trump Through the Decades
from The Telegraph
1990: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
1997: “There are basically three types of women and reactions. One is the good woman who very much loves her future husband, solely for himself, but refuses to sign the agreement on principle. I fully understand this, but the man should take a pass anyway and find someone else. The other is the calculating woman who refuses to sign the prenuptial agreement because she is expecting to take advantage of the poor, unsuspecting sucker she’s got in her grasp. There is also the woman who will openly and quickly sign a prenuptial agreement in order to make a quick hit and take the money given to her.”
2004: “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”
2005: According to one woman who appeared on the show, Trump told her: “I bet you make a great wife.” That soundbite never aired. Hmm, I wonder why?
2006: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
2007: “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.”
About Angelina Jolie: “I really understand beauty. And I will tell you, she’s not – I do own Miss Universe. I do own Miss USA. I mean I own a lot of different things. I do understand beauty, and she’s not.”
Trump pitched a new reality show that was never produced, called “Lady or a Tramp” in which ‘”out of control” party girls would be sent to charm school to learn some manners. Because as the Telegraph reported, “God forbid a woman should be anything but demure.”
2008: Trump speaking of Anne Hathaway: “So when he had plenty of money, she liked him. But then after that, not as good, right?”
In 2009, Beauty queen Carrie Prejean revealed the ‘Trump rule’ at the Miss USA pageant, which required the women to parade in front of him so he could separate those he found attractive from those he didn’t: “Many of the girls found this exercise humiliating. Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after [he] left, devastated to have failed even before the competition really began,” she wrote in her book. “It was as though we had been stripped bare.”
2010: Contestant Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy claimed that during taping of The Apprentice: “So much of the boardroom discussion concerned the appearance of the female contestant – discussing the female contestants’ looks – who he found to be hot.
“He asked the men to rate the women – he went down the line and asked the guys, ‘Who’s the most beautiful on the women’s team?’”
Financial adviser Gene Folkes said: “I think it was most uncomfortable when he had one contestant come around the board table and twirl around.”
2012: The Miss Universe pageant kicked out contestant Jenna Talackova for not declared she is transgender. Attorney Gloria Allred declared that no one had asked Trump to “prove” he was a man by showing his anatomy. In response, Trump told TMZ Live that when it comes to his penis: “I think Gloria would be very impressed.”
He attacked Cher on Twitter after she accused him of wearing a “rug.” “Cher, I don’t wear a ‘rug’ — it’s mine. And I promise not to talk about your massive plastic surgeries that didn’t work.”
2013: Trump reveals he knows why there are so many victims of sex crimes in the military: “26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military — only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
2015: Someone handling Trump’s Twitter account tweeted “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
Trump told The New York Times: “ “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.”
Trump insulted fellow Republican candidate for president Carly Fiorina about her looks: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?
“Can you imagine that, the face of our next next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
And: “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”
About Hillary Clinton,this year: “Bill Clinton was the worst in history and I have to listen to her talking about it? Just remember this: She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler.
“And what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful. So put that in her bonnet and let’s see what happens.”
“She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina.”
Of former Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, whom he called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” Trump tweeted: “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” The Republican presidential nominee told Americans they should check out a sex tape, which does not actually exist.
He did, however, admit to watching Paris Hilton’s sex tape, in an interview with Howard Stern unearthed this year: “Now, somebody who a lot of people don’t give credit to but in actuality is really beautiful is Paris Hilton. I’ve known Paris Hilton from the time she’s 12, her parents are friends of mine, and the first time I saw her she walked into the room and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’”
Stern asked him: “Did you wanna bang her?”
Trump replied: “Well, at 12, I wasn’t interested. I’ve never been into that … but she was beautiful.”
Apprentice Producer Katherine Walker told the Associated Press Trump frequently talked about women’s bodies and said he speculated about which female contestant would be “a tiger in bed”. While a crew member who asked not to be identified, recalled: “We were in the boardroom one time figuring out who to blame for the task, and he just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, ‘You’d fuck her, wouldn’t you? I’d fuck her. C’mon, wouldn’t you?'”
That revelation came out the Monday before the release of the video of Trump’s vulgar remarks about former Access Hollywood host Nancy O’Dell, who now hosts Entertainment Tonight. O’Dell summed up how many American women feel:
“Politics aside, I’m saddened that these comments still exist in our society at all. When I heard the comments yesterday, it was disappointing to hear such objectification of women. The conversation needs to change because no female, no person, should be the subject of such crass comments, whether or not cameras are rolling. Everyone deserves respect no matter the setting or gender. As a woman who has worked very hard to establish her career, and as a mom, I feel I must speak out with the hope that as a society we will always strive to be better.”
4. Not All Guys
By Jennell Jaquays
In the past, I was able to work stealth in all-male environments in the entertainment industry that might as well have been those boys clubs, those “locker rooms” used as excuses for Trump’s talk and actions (and I’ve been stealth in some locker rooms as well). Some men did talk in private like Trump does. More, actually many more did not.
It was always uncomfortable to be around such decidedly unprofessional conduct with the ones who did. It makes me sad to even think about my daughter or step daughters having to work with, or work for, or even date men like this.
So I’d like to finish with a quote that came into my feed by way of Rebecca Wald “If you have a male friend explaining right now that ‘all guys are like that in private,’ he’s telling you something important about himself. Believe him.”
Now it’s your turn!Add your own monologue in the comments below, or email them to me at email@example.com, trying to keep it to 200-500 words each. Focus on what Trump’s comments about women mean to you. ALL feminine-identified people are invited to participate! Thank you!
My latest YouTube video is dedicated to the wonderful women of my widows group, who have helped me to feel human again by getting me out of the house and connecting with them outside our biweekly sessions to explore our grief.
We all went out recently, had a few drinks, had a lot of laughs at a local comedy club, and bonded. I’m so grateful to them for including me and making me feel welcome and a part of their sisterhood.
Not one of us would give up a chance to have those we lost back in our lives, but since that’s not possible, we have each other. And my video this week is really for every person who feels cut off, and alone. It’s important to get out, make new friends and find connections. To find time for ourselves to grow and be with other grownups once in awhile.