Allies & Angels keep showing up

Never post anything on the Internet when you’re emotional. That is sound advice I’ve tried to follow because I’ve seen how words can come back to haunt you. Words published on the Internet can follow you for the rest of your life … and can be read by people all over the world. So I try to be very thoughtful and careful about my state of mind before posting to our blog or social media.

The problem is that I’ve written seventeen blog posts during the past month. And if you’ve been counting you know that I’ve published, um, zero. I’ve held back on publishing because I’ve been flooded with all kinds of emotions this month … many of which I can’t find words to express and all of which, I fear, will lead our readers to think I’ve completely lost it.

My wonderful friend, Gloria, is a life coach that recently completed Martha Beck’s Life Coach Training. For the past year she has coached me through my fears (of which there have been many) and helped me create a life that is truly authentic and joyful. She’s so good, that I no longer need to call her and schedule a session … I now hear her in my head. Little does she know that this morning she coached me, calmed me, and guided me through my emotional writer’s block. Coaching sessions in person are more fun because there are often Cosmos, snacks, and floating in the pool involved; however, it’s good to have her voice in my head as an alternate path to sanity.

So this morning when I started to stress about all the exciting, and scary, and emotional, and life-changing “stuff” that is going on … and the fact that I haven’t written about ANY of it on our blog, I heard her calm, reassuring voice in my head. She said, “Terri, relax. First just breathe.” Then she guided me through a series of questions which allowed me to process it all, feel the emotions, and post a sampling of our recent experiences.

Our son is graduating!

Followers of our blog know that our brave, incredible son has inspired us to become passionate allies. I wrote about his journey as an example of how “it gets better” and I wrote a bit about our journey, as a family, in my previous blog post.

This weekend my son is graduating from high school… such a HUGE accomplishment! After three years receiving home-bound instruction due to his suicidal depression, anxiety, and bullying, he then transitioned from female to male during the summer after tenth grade. A strong, confident, hopeful young man was born that summer. After the transition, he transferred to an alternative high school where he attended his entire junior year. (No home-bound instruction needed for the first time since seventh grade!)

My son chose to return to his former high school for his senior year, because he dreams of attending college and knew the alternative school was not providing the academic rigor needed. Although he has only a few friendly acquaintances at the high school, he bravely attended school every day and successfully managed, despite his anxiety and fears. He spent his senior year on the high honor roll and will be graduating with honors. He was accepted into the most competitive program at a prestigious college and has been awarded scholarships to boot! He has a beautiful life of promise and opportunity before him.

So just imagine the emotions that have been flowing through me this month! Gratitude, relief, disbelief, magic, pride, more gratitude, and a knowing that there has been some divine intervention that got us here. The past five years have been so, so, SO difficult and heartbreaking at times. This morning, as I write this, I feel as though the entire struggle has been released.

I will need a VERY big box of tissues for the graduation ceremony.

Sharing our story and holding our breath

Allies & Angels: A memoir of our family's transition

We have been writing our book, Allies & Angels, for a long time. Our lives have been saved and changed by the many brave people who went before us, sharing their personal stories. To give back, and to make something good out of something that was once so very painful, we have chosen to share our story. We hope it will help increase awareness, acceptance, and compassion in the world.

Last month we released a draft of our book for feedback, reviews and testimonials. Then we held our breath for what seemed like an eternity. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vulnerable in my life. Our innermost thoughts, fears, and feelings about such a personal experience were now being shared. What if people don’t like it? What if they think we’re terrible parents? What if they think we’re terrible people? What if they laugh at us or shake their heads and say, “You really shouldn’t have quit your job…” Thank goodness my life coach is also a close friend, because I couldn’t afford all the coaching I needed while waiting for the reviews and feedback to come in.

We survived the wait and were overwhelmed by the testimonials and early reviews. We’ve posted many of them on our book’s website, AlliesAndAngels.com. Our greatest hopes and dreams for the book were echoed back to us in many of the testimonials. I hope you’ll check them out and share with others.

Allies & Angels Indiegogo Campaign and Free eBooks!

Earlier this month we launched an Indiegogo Campaign to pre-sell our book and raise money for publishing and publicity. Less than two days remain… the campaign ends on Saturday, June 22. Please check it out and consider getting an eBook, paperback, or hardcover edition plus many other great perks. Please also share our campaign with others. We have a big dream, and we need your help to spread the word!

Allies & Angels Memoir Indiegogo CampaignWhen we launched the Indiegogo campaign we also kicked off a Free eBook Campaign. Here’s why:

We were victims of a lack of awareness and wish we had been better prepared. Our family, and the experts we called upon, struggled for nearly two years after our son’s suicide attempt to understand what was wrong.

Our desperate efforts to diagnose and manage his depression and anxiety included weekly therapy, numerous doctors and specialists, and many different prescription medications. Although we were supported by a highly qualified team of doctors, educators, and counselors, it took years to connect the dots and recognize that gender identity was the root of the problem.

Ignorance ≠ Intolerance

More often, ignorance is merely a lack of awareness—when good people simply have not been exposed to information and experiences different from their own. We just didn’t know it was possible for our son to have a male brain inside a female body. Many of the professionals we worked with didn’t know either, or they had some awareness but not enough experience to recognize the signs.

Children and their families often seek support for LGBT issues through school counselors, social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, and youth center staff. The likelihood of a strong positive outcome increases when those professionals have experience or awareness of these issues. That’s why we are sharing our story, and conducting this Free eBook Campaign, to increase awareness … and compassion.

The response we’ve already received has been overwhelming. Heartfelt comments have been pouring in from people who genuinely want to learn from our experience and use that knowledge to help other families and young people.

Keep spreading the word! Together we are creating a world full of allies!

And so much more…

The excitement during the past month and in the upcoming weeks is too much to squeeze into one blog post. In the coming weeks I’ll share about our travels to Rochester, Albany, and Philadelphia… and the amazing things that happened there. We’ve got some great ally stories to share which will hopefully reinforce that every one of us, through simple actions, big and small, can be an ally and make a difference in the lives of others.

 

Let the blogging begin!

It’s been nearly three years since my husband and I first found out our daughter is really our son. But it was years before that when a suicide attempt introduced us to a world of struggles, with innumerable sleepless nights, endless fears and lots of tears. Our child did not wake up one morning and profess to us that he was a boy, not a girl. Rather, he endured depression, anxiety, bullying, and torment before he could put words to his inner struggle and understood that his gender identity was the source of his pain.

We confided in few people at first, then slowly surrendered our insecurities to instead arm ourselves with knowledge. This decision … to embrace rather than reject our path … would transform our lives. We supported our son’s transition from female to male. Over the years, our family has transitioned along with him.

Many friends, family, and colleagues have been following our journey offline. We have finished writing our book, Allies and Angels: A Memoir of our Family’s Transition, and with the help of our amazing editor, will be publishing early this summer. We plan to formally launch The Ally Project after the book is published.

It seems many of you are as interested in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, as you are in the product itself (i.e., the book and website). Our experiences, as parents of a transgender youth, have affected us and changed us so profoundly, that we’ve been inspired to do more than write a book and launch a website … we’ve left our jobs to pursue this calling full-time.

Whether we are reckless or fearless remains to be seen! What I know for sure is that it feels authentic and part of a greater plan, which we could either resist or embrace. We choose to embrace.

Fearless is not a word I would ever choose to describe myself. I’m full of fear. It is frightening and uncomfortable to be so vulnerable and share such a personal story. However, many of the fears and difficulties of being transgender (or having a transgender loved one) are compounded by the lack of awareness and acceptance in our society. We have chosen to share our story, despite our fears, to help change that.

As parents, we are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Transgender people, like our son, have been unjustly uncomfortable for far too long.

As it all comes together, we need to focus our efforts. Rather than continue updating friends and followers offline, via email and other means, we will blog about it. I invite you to follow us.

Some of you may want to learn more about how we came to know, understand, accept, and ultimately embrace our son, supporting his transition from female to male at the age of fifteen.

Some of you may want to know what compelled us to take this huge leap … to use our experience and our life with the hope of raising awareness and creating a world full of allies.

You may want to hear more about how we overcame our fears and limiting beliefs, tuning out the critical voices (including our own) that said we’re crazy to leave our comfortable, successful careers and even more crazy to share our story publicly.

You may also want to follow our adventures as we advocate, educate and entertain at speaking engagements, presentations, workshops, and on the book tour.

You’ll hear about these and many other adventures if you follow our blog. I hope you’ll join us on our journey.

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No matter who you are or how you identify, our story will challenge you to find a new acceptance for all, a deeper love for your loved ones, and a life without compromise in a world demanding one. I guarantee you’ll look at your life … and all people … differently.

Power of the Personal Story

I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous) about my first blog post. There’s so much I want to share to generate excitement about the upcoming launch of The Ally Project! We have a big dream and a long list of ideas to make that dream a reality.

To keep you coming back, we have to keep it fun, informative, interactive, and eye-opening. And that’s what we plan to do.

One of the features I’m most looking forward to incorporating in The Ally Project is sharing personal stories. I believe real change comes about when we can see each other as real people…. no more or less important than ourselves. Often we have been exposed to myths or lies or stereotypes about people which simply aren’t true. A well-told story can help us get to know somebody and see the common qualities and shared experiences that bind us. As we get to know people, we can break down the myths, lies, or stereotypes that previously distorted our view of the world.

The Ally Project will be bringing you real people telling their real stories through video, photos, narratives, interactive webcasts and seminars. You’re going to meet some of the most amazing people… people just like you in many ways and different from you in others.

In October I attended the Human Rights Campaign 16th Annual National Dinner and had the opportunity to witness several incredible speakers. Among them was Academy Award Winning Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black who told a personal story, his coming out story. His speech demonstrated so powerfully how impactful our personal stories can be in bringing about change in others.

Dustin grew up in a Mormon home, in a military family from San Antonio, TX. As he put it, the deck was stacked against him… not the easiest place to come out. He travelled home from college one holiday break feeling fear and dread… not knowing how to tell his family he was gay. Before he could say anything, his mom made her feelings known. She started talking about the news of the day which was really bugging her… “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” She went on and on talking about how it really bothered her that gays and lesbians could hide in her army… why these people, these sinners, had any place in her nation’s army.

Dustin prayed she wouldn’t see the look in his eyes… that the tears welling up wouldn’t roll down his cheeks… but they did. When his mom looked down and saw the look on his face and the tears in his eyes, that’s when she knew the truth about her son. Dustin could see the despair… the pain. He saw her questioning what she had done wrong to ruin her baby boy.

Watch Dustin tell the full story to hear what happened that dispelled all the myths and lies and stereotypes that his mom had come to believe.

 

Through stories we can learn and develop compassion, understanding and connectedness to others. Stories can provide an understanding of the inner workings of different types of people. Through the stories of others, we can learn more about ourselves.

Never underestimate the power of telling your personal story. I hope you keep coming back to The Ally Project to see, hear, and participate in the sharing of other people’s stories… and perhaps even your own!