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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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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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Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Parents of Transgender Kids

What will you do today in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Day? Random acts of Kindness Day is an opportunity to elevate our community and regain power for our transgender children. Here are some random acts of kindness ideas for parents of transgender kids.

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Parents of Transgender Kids

  1. Write a thank you card to a teacher, neighbor, or pastor who has actively supported your child’s journey. Many people support us on our journey. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion teacher at my child’s school regularly connects with me about relevant topics. My fellow parents support me when I stand firm against parents who push their views contrary to my kid’s best interest. A small acknowledgment note for this support goes a long way.
  2. Bring a gift card to a librarian. Literally, this can be for a cup of coffee or gas. Our libraries are under attack. Locally we have parents who are “reviewing” all school library books and attempting to ban them. Our librarians consistently impress me. They stand firm that all people should be represented in libraries.
  3. If your child is in counseling, this is a great opportunity to show appreciation to their counselor. For example, ask your child to draw a picture or write a note telling them how they appreciate them.
  4. Affirming healthcare providers are in short supply. Whether they be your endocrinologist, orthodontist, or pediatrician, we must reinforce what they do right. If you would like a free Narwhal Magic Kindness window cling to give, please visit here and enter code KINDNESS for one free cling.
  5. Remember the kindness rocks people paint and leave in random places around town? Get some rocks and paint and spread some trans love around town. You never know who will see your rock and have a better day for it.

These are just a few random acts of kindness ideas for parents of transgender kids. Above all, kindness begins at home. Consequently, by setting the example, we instill a sense of value, good, and empathy in our children. Our news streams are filled with anti-trans legislation and hateful articles. Today is an amazing opportunity to take back our power and show kindness to those who work to build up our kids.

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Body Shaming

“Love your children, celebrate their bodies; they are beautiful.” His words echo in my mind as our children struggle with body image and self-acceptance. Affirming our children is so important even when they cannot see it in themselves. On the other hand, body shaming is not.

I had a delightful conversation with a group of parents of children who are transgender. Each had children of different ages, and we were all in varying stages of our parenting journey. One of the moms described having gone to the beach with her young children and a couple of friends. As they prepare to leave, she pauses, her mother’s words echoing in her ears, “you all have the same parts, just hop in and change out of your sandy clothes.” The woman panics. She had her child change in the back and the other children in front of the vehicle. Other parents chimed in with similar issues with car camping.

To clarify, body shaming is a tricky monster that can slip in without intention. I can certainly relate to the story described and my bias as a parent of a younger child who identifies as transgender. All these years later, I can see another side I was blinded to all those years ago.

To protect our children, we can inadvertently cause shame. We do it with our cisgender children as well. Body shaming is part of chaste and piety. In my life, I remember going from being a little person to someone who had to change behind closed doors and was no longer allowed to shower with or near my parents. As the parent of a transgender child, I do not place those restrictions on our children (I’m sure sometimes they wish I did- ha!). Showers and bath time are for cleaning; we shouldn’t shame our kids or force them to hide.

Children are sexualized from a very young age, especially our children who identify as trans and gender diverse. From the youngest ages, bathrooms and locker rooms are suddenly breeding grounds for groomers and pedophiles. Remember that our four, five, and six-year-old children are just that- children. Sexuality is not present until sex hormones kick in for these children or your cis children. Bathrooms are for peeing and sometimes changing. Creating shame around bathrooms and bodies is harmful regardless of a person’s age.

I ask this: be mindful of the words and actions you choose when segregating your child from others. Think carefully about avoiding body shaming, especially in your home. Be comfortable with the fact that some girls have penises, and some boys have vulvas. I am not suggesting that we intentionally expose our children’s bodies to their peers or expose them or others to create conversation. To sum up, I am simply cautioning all parents to consider the power of shame in relation to their body image and do what they can to avoid doing the same to their children.

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Transgender-Owned Businesses for Your Holiday Shopping

With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to offer five options for transgender-owned businesses for your holiday shopping. 

  • Other Is A Myth clothing: founded by my good friend Cyrus, Other Is A Myth is a staple in my wardrobe. The clothes are soft and well-made. By ordering from Other Is A Myth, you are taking steps toward one of my favorite phrases, “Ally Is A Verb.” 
  • LeesPridePals on Etsy: These adorable, hand-made bees come in various affirming color combinations. In purchasing these crafty bees, you are directly supporting our fantastic community. 
  • Music can be therapeutic. Consider giving the gift of affirming music written and performed byJulie Be. I have had the great honor of seeing Julie perform live and watching my daughter laugh and dance to her music. Julie’s lyrics and incredible musical talent are a gift that keeps giving. 
  • How about a bit of bling? Dragun Beauty by Nikita Dragun does not disappoint. My favorite is her TRANSformation Face Powder! Unfortunately, her products can be hard to get because they sell out fast. I’ll be on the lookout for Black Friday deals for this one.
  • Bye Genderis a community-based organization whose mission is to help trans individuals access the funding they need to survive. I love their logo as much as their mission.  

Consider transgender-owned businesses for your holiday shopping this year. If you know of a transgender-owned business that we should highlight, please drop their website in the comments. Happy shopping! 

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Loneliness of Being the Parent of a Gender-Diverse Child

I want to acknowledge the loneliness of being the parent of a gender-diverse kid. Before you advocates get your lightsabers out, please listen. I am as fierce as they come. I am out there trying to slay every day to make this world a better place for my extraordinary children. But I need to pause for a moment and take stock of another reality. Loneliness.

Tonight, I was waiting for my son’s soccer practice to end, it is a Friday night, and I don’t particularly want to be here. The football team just finished a scrimmage and people are pouring out of the stands. Being a regular, I park myself front and center to wait dutifully for my son. From behind the ticket booth, they emerge. You know them, the very dear friends who just walked away. Here starts the loneliness of being the parent of a gender-diverse child.

If you are the proud parent of a transgender or gender-diverse kiddo, I know you know who I am talking about. The people who were at every birthday party, Superbowl and you got together to decorate Christmas ornaments that perhaps still hang on your tree. They were there for the birth of all your children and in my case through cancer. But when the time came to accept our daughter, they simply vanished into thin air. Here‘s the thing, while she wasn’t my bestie, he was my husband’s.

As much as I want to dismantle the patriarchy and tear apart the binary, I do need to acknowledge that my partner in life is in a lonely place. It is lonely being the parent of a gender-diverse child. His friends have walked away. He had the guts to call my passerby earlier this year and ask why he disappeared. The response is what we expected, because of her. Let me just make this perfectly clear. They walked away from the little person they had visited days after her birth, celebrated, and cuddled. They walked away from the person who ran through the sprinklers and swam in their uncle’s backyard pool at a birthday party. The little person who placed their dripping wet, painted hand on a foam cutout of a Christmas tree, yes, they walked away because of that person.

I am sure they would tell you that they walked away not from her, but from us and our parenting. Perhaps we do not fall in line with their values or don’t want us influencing their own children. I guess that is why they all fell away and the landscape of our lives is so dramatically different. Be they friends or even family, we have lost many. My husband has lost the most.

To those of you who have continued to support your children, grandchildren, or even the kids in your classroom through opposition, my hat is off to you. When all of your friends have quietly exited the room, I see you. If you have had to grapple with the difficult decision of going all-in with your kid or losing your parents, I cannot fathom the depth of your despair, it is real and it really sucks.

I want each of you to know you are the kind of brave written in movies. To place your child’s best interest above the opinions of others is not an easy choice. Again, there is loneliness in being the parent of a gender-diverse child. The easy choice is to blow it off as a phase. To closet your child or cast aside their identity. The real work is in recognizing the beauty in believing people when they tell you and show you who they are. In seeing them not through labels but as human beings. While my stomach ties in knots as they pass in front of my car and tears flow, I know that I can be grateful that I can truly see who they are. They have shown me, and I believe them.

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Is Being Transgender A Mental Illness?

Is being transgender a mental illness? Before I met my daughter, I did not know a transgender person. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Sally Jessy Raphael would flaunt her red glasses and Maury Povich would sensationalize people under the guise of an interview. In these seemingly polite, congenial conversations, transgender people who transitioned later in life, discussed their transition. In addition, family members, usually their children, would march on stage to answer questions about how the person’s “choices” harmed them.

Now seeing through the eyes of a parent, I witness the shame and harm levied against the transgender community. In fact, on a recent Super Soul Podcast Oprah described feelings of remorse for her contribution to tabloid television and committed to never “demean, diminish embarrass or dehumanize others.” I appreciate Oprah’s willingness to acknowledge the past and commitment to uplift my daughter and her peers. I too want to uplift our transgender community by highlighting four truths:

1) Transgender people are not a circus act. The majority of transgender people just want to feel comfortable in their own skin. Just like their cis counterparts, some transgender people choose to perform in the arts, on stage, and in public. To stereotype transgender people as flamboyant or attention-seeking is a generalized, oversimplified idea of a particular type of person. Simply put, it is irresponsible to further a narrative that dehumanizes any group of people. To calls into question their value to society. Further, promoting this farce strips transgender people of their uniqueness and humanity and encourages violence.

2) Transgender people do not have a mental illness. It is a learned misconception that transgender people “choose” to be trans. It is a degradable, deleterious narrative to label transgender people as crazy or mentally ill. Labeling others in this manner cements the idea that a person’s very existence is criminal and should have access to fewer rights and privileges. We see this harmful rhetoric play out time and again against marginalized communities.

3) Identifying as transgender is not rare: According to the Williams Institute, in 2016, approximately 0.6 percent of adults in the United States identified as transgender. This translates to just over 1.3 million adults. Centers for Disease Control data from 2019 reveal that 2% of students surveyed identify as transgender. These numbers are believed to be underreported for fear of reprisal due to transphobia and discrimination.

4) Shaming is harmful to everyone. Each of us has the power to listen instead of casting shame or judgment. To seek to understand those who are different from ourselves and relish in the beauty of diversity. It is time to acknowledge the enormous burden of manipulative and intentional shaming, even when it is subversive. To speak louder than those in power who use humiliation and the criminalization of the transgender community as a rally cry to their constituents.

As Oprah stated in her podcast, “what we dwell on is what we become.” It would be difficult not to dwell on the overt discrimination, segregation, and criminalization being placed on transgender youth. Elected officials have the audacity to debate their right to play sports, use an affirming bathroom, right to medical access. It is killing our transgender community. Literally.

If you are looking for resources or book suggestions, please visit our website at Narwhal Magic Kindness or the Human Rights Campaign‘s Guide to Supporting Your Gender Nonconforming Child. Please also feel free to reach out to me directly at

So, is being transgender a mental illness. If you know me at all, you probably didn’t need to read this post to know the answer. But, I hope you walked away feeling more empowered to challenge someone who believes it is.