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Red State Rural Organizing: More Casseroles, Less Contempt

Top left, casserole in wicker basked, right heart shaped american flag, bottom stripe is red, Jan Moore logo top right

Red State Rural Organizing: More Casseroles, Less Contempt. The title of the session spoke to me. I was at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive, and I was determined to dig myself out of the hole of fear, anxiety, and depression weighing down all parents of trans kids these days. The presenter, Sara Burlingame, was from Wyoming Equality; let me say, it was everything.

Genocide Begins with the Othering of a Person

I think you would be hard-pressed to find a parent of a transgender person who does not think their child is being erased; I know I do. And it is time that we come together and strategize how we will elect officials who see their value, humanity, and worth. The status of politics is that we match “their” contempt with our own, dehumanizing the opposition. We are caught in a culture war of rhetoric inside a culture of contempt and are on a slippery slope. Backlash is inevitable; it is time we take charge and create change.

In the Political Arena, we Match Their Contempt with our Contempt.

Sara brilliantly made the case for de-escalation as a path toward humanity. And here is where the casseroles come in. Casseroles are as big in Wyoming as crabs in Maryland, oranges in Florida, and chili in Texas. Casseroles bring people together and are an expression of community and welcome. It is time we extend a hand to the “small c conservatives” and try to discuss things we agree with freedom, liberty, manners, and the beauty of the place you call home. It is time to have a driveway party and gather in opposition with those who share our values and talk about it, even if they are not on our political “side.”

We Can All Agree on Freedom, Liberty, and Manners

Sara said plainly, “our children are seeing suicide, self-harm, and drug and alcohol abuse as a viable alternative to living in this world.” She is not wrong; data show that 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth (National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020, The Trevor Project). Over half of LGBTQ youth (56%) used alcohol in the last year, including 47% of LGBTQ youth under 21. Over one in three LGBTQ youth (34%) used marijuana in the last year, including 29% of LGBTQ youth under 21 (2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, The Trevor Project).

This means that it is vital that we reach across the aisle. Start focusing on our similarities rather than digging into our differences. “I want to apologize to you if you woke up one day and were called a bigot after being told gender is a construct, we didn’t do a good job educating you,” she said. I took a deep breath for this one, bile gurgling in my stomach. She shared, “I know people who wouldn’t let a gay person at their dinner table but would fight legislation that would limit their civil liberties.”

More Casseroles, Less Contempt

Does this mean we must invite those who treat our families or children with contempt into our home? That is a hard no. Boundaries are healthy. They are necessary to protect the mental health and well-being of our children. But I heard Sara, and I believe she is right. We need to have casserole parties. We need to break bread with our neighbors and be the change. Politics have ruined friendships and divided families. It is time to get back to seeing the humanity of each other. Time to sow the seeds of community to have a dialogue to push the needle. It is time to organize and be intentional. Now is the time for change.

Who’s down for a casserole party? My place, 5 pm.

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International Day of Families

Top right, Jan Moore logo. Bottom right, two hands holding a brown piece of paper with the word family printed. Left, a couple gazing lovingly while embracing.

May 15th is International Day of Families. So it got me thinking. What is a family? Webster defines family in several different ways, but the one that I relate to the most is “a group of related things.” The very first definition states that a family is a parent and child. I could not disagree with that more. But that is a post for another day, so let’s just focus on thinking of a family as a group of related things.

We are lucky in my house. Our immediate family is loving, accepting, and safe. Perfect? No. But we do try to make sure that each member feels like they can be their authentic self. That is not the case in all families. And I am not 100% sure, but my bet is that one of the number one ways to make a person feel “seen” is to accept them as they are. And this starts in the home.

I was recently at a conference, and I spoke at length with a woman who is involved in the foster care system. She shared with me that in her world, 1:3 of foster kids identify as lgbtqia2s+. She and I discussed the repeated trauma inflicted by children placed in homes that are not affirming and the child having to be placed again and again and again.

The stark reality is that not all people belong to a loving, safe, and accepting family. And that is why we need to widen our lens when we answer the question, what is a family? To kick off this important topic, I thought it might be nice to highlight some books that focus on MY definition of family. Let’s highlight stories that shed light on the different kinds of families and their value to society.

Books that Answer the Question, What is a Family

Hopefully, these books will inspire you as you ponder the question, what is a family? Do you have any titles to add to the list? Please share with us in the comments.

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Transgender People in the United States Seeking Asylum

I went to the screening of Las Abogadas film at Filmfest DC. What does this have in common with transgender people in the United States seeking asylum? Read on to find out.

This crucial independent film has won various awards as it travels across the United States and beyond. In the movie, three immigration lawyers are documented on the front lines of migrant camps across the Mexican border. Footage of caravans of refugees from Central America travel with nothing but a backpack, many pushing strollers or carrying babies. In short, the film is essential, the stories are devastating, and the problem is real.

Transgender People in the United States Seeking Asylum

I was stunned by the words printed on the screen, “refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” Please reread that passage and let that sink in. There was the actual definition of refugee and asylum from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. I grabbed the arm of my companion and took a deep breath. Transgender people in the United States are forced to seek asylum in their own country. They are refugees.

Governments Seeking to Erase Segments of Society

The courageous documentary shared interviews and footage of people accused of being separatists because they refused to march in parades or participate in activities that support governments seeking to erase segments of society. It provided footage of people leaving their homes to protect their children. The film traced the lives of people in danger because they do not agree with the government in their country or are fleeing violence. Some people were running to seek medical attention or reunification with family. All of the refugees were seeking liberty and freedom. They left behind everything they knew, their families, community, and belongings, to flee from oppressive governments and violence.

Civil Liberties and Freedom Under Attack

I met three families in Denver for the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive in April; this is just the tip of the iceberg. Two fled Texas, and one is leaving Montana to escape legislation that strips their civil liberties. In addition, our dear friends are fleeing Florida in June; they, too, seek freedom, liberty, and the right to raise their children in safety and peace.

For the many families I have encountered who have moved or are planning to move, I hope it is their last. However, I grapple with the gravity of the 2024 elections knowing that even in our safe state, a federal ban on transgender healthcare, sports participation, bathroom usage, ability to self-identify, and access to diverse literature is on the line. Let me repeat it: this country’s fundamental values of civil liberties and freedom are under attack. The desperate refugees outside of the United States have no idea that the ideals upon which our country was founded are being decimated one piece of legislation at a time.

You Don’t Have to Look Outside the US for Refugees

In the quiet moments in my brain, I strategize to ensure we stay one step ahead. My husband and I discuss what we could be forced to do to protect her. I have heard mumblings in parent groups that Canada is making a move to grant refugee status to transgender people and families. Yet, I also recognize the enormous privilege of having those choices; so many are left to find a path forward while living with bathroom bans, the inability to access lifesaving healthcare, and classroom banned from acknowledging their existence.

Friends, you don’t have to look outside the United States to see that families are being ripped apart and civil liberties stripped away. To track bills nationwide, visit the Trans Legislation Tracker or sign up for Issue Voter to follow legislation in your area.


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When Our Kids Are Attacked- Instinct Kicks In

We can all agree. When our kids are attacked, instinct kicks in.

I have a flower box hanging outside of my dining room window and every year I fill it with beautiful plants and flowers. This past spring was like most others in that I planted some sweet seedlings with the intention of marveling as they grew. But this spring was also a little different. As a result of the pandemic, I had more time to watch these little plants. It was fascinating, really. I always say that we can learn a lot from nature. After all, it just does what it is supposed to do. Instinctively.

As time went on, I begin to notice a little bird visiting my flower box throughout the day. After inspecting the box, I am delighted to see that she is building a nest. Piece by piece, the little bird built a home for her precious eggs. I watched as she worked tirelessly for days on end. All by herself. Bit by bit and piece by piece. Motherhood is like that, isn’t it? Tireless work and unending sacrifice. Finally, that little momma lays her eggs. She does not rush. As a matter of fact, it takes her almost a week to lay 7 precious eggs. 

I continued to watch as she tended to those eggs. The motherly instinct really is a wonder, isn’t it? After many long days and lots of careful plant watering-can’t drown the little eggs-I finally saw some cracks. Those baby birds were an amazing source of entertainment with their wobbly legs and wild feathers. Such fun to watch. They were getting very curious and spending quite a bit of time exploring my window box. As a result, I knew it was almost time for them to leave the nest, as all babies do.

One afternoon, I noticed that the momma bird was fluttering around the box in panic. There were other birds attacking her babies! I quickly ran to the window and crouched down to see why these birds were attacking these precious babies. To my knowledge, birds didn’t normally do that. Shockingly, the birds were not, in fact, attacking the babies. The birds were helping the little momma because a snake had slithered into her nest and was eating her babies. And I had a front-row seat for this massacre. 

It took me a long time to get over that. Watching the momma build a home for her babies and then having them taken from her in a blink of an eye. The way her community rallied around her and fought to help protect the innocent. The way she came back to her nest to look for them for the rest of the day. I imagine their smell was still fresh in the nest. Friends, we can learn a lot from nature. The instinct to protect our babies is real. The need for community is even more real. The snakes are out there and waiting to prey. We have to look out for one another. We have to be vigilant. 

I like to think that the momma bird feels comfort that her bird community rallied around her and struck against something far more powerful than they were. There is strength in numbers and those birds knew it. When our kids are attacked, instinct kicks in. After all, if it’s good for the birds, why not us?

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Mental Health Minute

It’s time for a mental health minute. What do you do when:

Everything changes.

Routines disrupted. 

School closes. 

Businesses board up. 

Surgeries are canceled. 

People start to die.

Next, the air is sucked out of the room and panic seeps into that space.

Thankfully, here we are a year later with more light at the end of the tunnel than we have seen in a while. The loss and devastation are widespread and I think it would be tough to find a single person who has come out of this unchanged. Part of the work that I want us to do together in this space is to heal from our hurt. So, from time to time, we will take a mental health minute. I want to check in on your hearts and let you know that I am listening and here for you as we all begin to heal.

So friends, how are you? Let’s talk. Please, drop a note in the comments and check in. Take a mental health minute. I have been speaking out and contributing to the conversation on Clubhouse. It is a great opportunity for community if you feel alone. You can find me @allarewelcome. You can drop me a DM on Instagram if you would like an invitation.

If you are in crisis, seek help.

All are welcome. 

If you or someone you know needs help please seek help without hesitation:

Support Homepage

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Maintaining Friendships as an Adult

Maintaining friendships as an adult can be challenging. This is my story.

The silent hum on my wrist alerts me to her presence. Hurriedly, I finish up what I am doing and sprint out the back door. She bounds towards me, carrying the elixir of life. Coffee. Not just any coffee but the coffee that she hand roasts for her small business. Elixir. I am grateful because she blesses me with her kindness almost weekly and we steal moments together connecting over shared stories and her restorative tincture.

To clarify, I have a slight addiction. It became clear when Duncan Donuts and Starbucks began tasting burned on my palate. I had officially turned to the dark side. Like tasting different flavors in a wine, I can now taste the chocolate, berry, and citrus in her coffee. We talk as we sip, sharing stories of crazy encounters with employees and clients, the tightrope of schooling children during a pandemic, balancing our careers, and the constant feelings of coming up short as mothers. Sometimes we walk in circles in the parking lot frantic, worrying about what the future holds for our children, our country, and our community. In the end, we sip and walk and talk and breathe. 

Like me, she believes in community and the greater good. She teaches her children and runs her business by those principles. Our friendship is not featured on the pages of Facebook or Instagram; it is not played out in combined vacations. It is a Friday evening text asking if I’m okay or me asking about her mom. Above all, my true addiction is to our friendship, for she is my community. It is that simple.

Together we are stronger. To clarify, many friends cheer me on and lift me up from behind the scenes. It doesn’t need to be a public act or overt kindness. For these people, I am incredibly grateful. Foremost, for my friend with the coffee, the elixir of life, I owe you so much gratitude for walking me through kids, the pandemic, small business ownership, and for always being in my corner. To conclude, maintaining friendships as an adult can be overwhelming. Thank you, my friend, for making ours easy.