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Opening hearts and minds to trans*

May 17, 2015

Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia 2015!

I signed up for the Hop this year without time for a lot of planning (given a book deadline on the 15th). So I’m just going to talk about what’s in my heart right now, on this May 17th – International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia .

The last few years have seen significant advances in LGBTQ rights, with real hope for equal marriage in Ireland, by upcoming national vote, and in the US, by Supreme Court decision. We hold our breath waiting. We can see the rainbow coming.

There have even been advances in acceptance of gender minority individuals. And fighting transphobia is vital. There’s a statistic that terrifies all of us who know and love someone, especially a teen, who is trans*: 41% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide at least once. Compared to about 2% for the general population.

There are genderqueer folk in my family. People I love. I know the challenges they face every day from within their own bodies. I dream of a time when those challenges are not made worse by the attitudes of society around them.

Good things are happening.
We are seeing a transman poised to be the cover guy for a big national men’s magazine.
We’ve been delighted by an out trans girl elected prom queen
Seen a trans teen model for a major cosmetic product campaign.
We’ve watched a popular androgenous model transition all the way
and show how someone can be gorgeous and stunning at different places all along the gender spectrum.
We cheered as Conchita Wurst proved that talent, style, and world-wide recognition can go along with genderbending style.
We even have a celebrity in Bruce Jenner whose journey from male to female is putting gender identity into the public eye from newsstands to supermarkets.
(Not always presented in a positive way, but just having people understand the possibility is a huge step forward.)

But at the same time, we have public figures like some Republican politicians who want to fine and even arrest trans people for using their gender-appropriate bathrooms. We have preachers spewing hate from their Sunday pulpits. Bullying of LGBTQ people on the national scale, coming from popular conservative spokesmen and opportunistic politicians and evangelical religious figures, enables and encourages bullying at home and in schools. We’ve seen parents’ rejection and peer harassment kill trans kids, quite literally.

Even one child lost to despair is too many, and this year my news feed has been far too full of young people who couldn’t hold onto hope. 17 years old. 15. 18. 12. They are F2M. M2F. Faces of dead children who fought bravely to be who they knew they were inside, but lost the battle to keep going. For them, the world was far from changed enough.

So I find myself caught between hope and pain, between joy at the first signs of acceptance for genderqueer folk in the wider society, and seething rage at those who enable and encourage hate.

On my own, I can’t change the world. I can’t keep it from hurting people I love when someone who might become president of the United States calls them an “abomination” and demands that “normal” children be protected from them. I can’t keep that gay guy in the bar from calling my trans guy a “dyke” and a “fake.” I can love and cherish and support them with my last breath, but it’s not enough to make their lives comfortable or safe.

But luckily, I’m not alone. There are all of you reading this blog. And many, many more, who are changing the world along with me. Some of you may never have knowingly met a transgender individual, or known someone who was genderfluid, or intersex or agendered. Maybe you’re just starting to explore the world of the LGBTQIAP rainbow. But when you accept that there is not one right way to be a woman, or a man, when you open your heart to love of all kinds, and people of all kinds, you take that first step into a world of equality.

I want to encourage you to consciously include support for all gender and sexual minorities in the opening of your heart. You don’t need to know everything, be aware of all the details, understand all the acronyms and labels, to believe we all have worth. Each of us contributes something unique and valuable to the human experience. And for those whose gender identity doesn’t fit the body they were born with, or whose body doesn’t fit the common mold, your acceptance and support matters even more.

If you are interested in learning more, there are websites and books, fact and fiction, to help you move beyond Gay and Lesbian to the rest of the alphabet. If you’re curious, one of the longest list of LGBTQ terms I’ve found is here: http://haveagaydayorg.tumblr.com/Identities (Some of these I’d never heard of, some are not often used, but labels can be useful tools to understand ourselves.) Just a few days ago the LA times wrote a brief but clear piece on trans issues. (http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-transgender-20150512-story.html?track=rss) There are blogs written by people who are living their authentic lives, and who share their thoughts to help us understand them.

Fiction can be another way to understand people better. There are novels which introduce readers to genderqueer main characters. One with a trans main character that I recently enjoyed in the M/M genre is “The Burnt Toast B&B” by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz – a fun gay romance that is neither heavy nor angsty. If you have other favorites with genderqueer MCs I’d love to have you mention them in the comments. And I just finished writing a book with an F2M main character. Carlos will appear in “Chasing DeathMetal Dreams” as a free novel sometime this summer. If even one person reads about Carlos, and finds a better understanding and acceptance of transgender people, that will give this fictional entertainment an added purpose.

The fun part of this hop, if you made it down this far, is a drawing for a prize. In my case, I’m giving away 2 ebooks of any book from my backlist, or ARCs of Life, Some Assembly Required. I’ll do two separate drawings, one here and one on my Goodreads blog, at midnight May 24th when the hop ends. Just comment below – I’ll message the winner.

Below is the link to move on to other places on this hop. Look for the blue bar to the right with the participants links. Good luck winning prizes as you check out what everyone has to say today, and thanks for stopping by. http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com/

Supporting bigotry in high places

May 6, 2015

There’s a crude video game recently released out there that gives players points for protecting heterosexual game characters, by shooting the faggots – the guys in pink shirts, making their heads explode in blood. Oh, yeah, and you get even more points by identifying and shooting the tranny freaks. Like my kids.

You lose points if you shoot the good heterosexuals.

Am I appalled? Of course. And while, yes, this is one person and his gleeful fans, and the big distributor dropped it after two hours (but allowed it up for two hours!) and there will always be haters, that’s a cop-out. What does appall me most is the way this attitude has been fostered, at the highest levels of our society.

“I do not construe homosexual rights as human rights.” – Chris Smith, national GOP congressman, about people being thrown in prison just for being gay

“My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society, and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition. ” – Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidate (note the words “what” they are, gay or bestiality)

Florida GOPs moved an anti-transgender bathroom law forward, stating the need to keep trans folk to the bathroom for their biological sex because “Single-sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism”

Every single GOP Presidential candidate has spoken out against gay marriage, against gay adoption and gay foster parents – to “protect” children and people and institutions of faith.

They have framed equal rights as an attack on “normal” Americans. The LGBTQ folk are a danger and a threat.

And their colleagues have voted that way, time and again, along party lines.

This attitude encourages Americans to feel justified, even proud, of violent bigotry. They are “protecting” their church and their way of life. Sure, these candidates may say, “I never meant it to go that far” if some real person is injured or commits suicide. But with every statement, they encourage the view that LGBTQ folk are less than equal, less than human, less than worthy of protection or the life offered a straight, white, male “Christian” American.

They enable hatred. They enable violence. Their casual pandering to that viewpoint makes me feel ill for the fate of true American values of equality and justice.

I know we authors are supposed to stay out of politics. This might lose me some readers. But I have two genderqueer kids. And the Republican party, if in power, would deny them protection, in jobs or in housing, deny them the right to marry or adopt kids, force my kid who shaves every day to stick to women’s washrooms where “she” belongs. Or potentially face arrest, fines, prison.

I cannot imagine, with a clear humanitarian conscience, voting Republican in America today.  I feel sad for those who wished to work from within the GOP, because you cannot work from within when every major candidate holds bigoted views. I don’t care if they could turn straw to gold and cut government paperwork in half. I don’t care what great ideas they might have. Nothing makes up for encouraging discrimination, bigotry, and hatred against your fellow citizens, simply for who they are and who they love. Nothing.

The HRC keeps a record of “Your Elected Officials.” If you think your legislator is different, look at how they vote, as well as what they say. Too often, even someone who sounds reasonable, votes along party lines when the chips fall. We MUST NOT allow our elected leaders to condone bigotry, and encourage discrimination, on any grounds. Your voice counts.

It’s a long way yet to the election, but the statements our leaders are making, every day, emboldens people who think shooting my kids “protects people from the tranny freaks” and is worth lots of fun all-American points.

It is up to all of us

April 28, 2015

As we wait to see if US law will protect LGBT marriage… As we watch angry people turn to violence against oppression… It is important to remember:

We are all responsible. For bullying. For abuse of power. All of us.

I see people pointing fingers a lot, and talking about how this person or that should have done more to stop an abusive behavior in various venues, and I think, “We all need to actually live like we believe that, if we want it to happen.”

We are a culture, perhaps a species, that values Loyalty over Honesty and Integrity. We can learn to do better, but we need to try.

Bullies thrive on this. In the schools (“don’t be a tattletale”), in the churches (“he’s God’s chosen”), in the military (“obey your superiors without question”), in the police force (“don’t break the blue wall”) and in politics (“hold the party line’).

We don’t reward whistleblowers, no matter how we pay lip service. We vilify them. They often suffer more punishment than the people they report. It is possible to report your superiors for confirmed TORTURE and be the only one who goes to jail.

School bullies get slap on the wrist suspensions, and then are sent back into the school with their victim with no other measures taken. The victim may be equally punished for fighting back. They may even be prosecuted for filming their abuse.

If you tell Americans their privacy has been violated in unthinkable ways, you may have to flee for your life and hole up in a foreign embassy.

I know a gay man who sat in a room full of unaware cops, while one of them explained how a gay cop in his department would be shown Southern hospitality with a noose. The other cops didn’t join in, but they nodded at the idea of murdering someone for daring to be different. I’m sure that cop felt empowered to bully the next gay man he arrested. And if he caused a death, and claimed it was accidental, none of those other cops would speak up. Internal Affairs cops are not praised by other cops for keeping abuses of power in check, they are vilified.

We are taught as Americans to stay loyal, beyond conscience, beyond integrity. “My country, my brothers in arms, my group, right or wrong.”

There’s been a lot of talk of how we should change this in the schools. But we need to change it EVERYWHERE. Kids learn by example. If we don’t praise the cop who speaks up against an abusive co-worker, the soldier who reports his superior, the whistleblower who reports his company for polluting our drinking water and ends up the only person to lose their job, then how can we expect kids to believe they will be protected if they report their own bullying and abuse?

If we agree with covering up the times our military causes civilian casualties abroad, because it “makes America look bad” then how can we argue with the Catholic church covering up child sexual abuse because “it made the Church look bad.” We cannot pick and choose. Our response to someone filming cops doing wrong must not be a bill to make filming cops illegal (Texas). We must value everyone who stands up with integrity.

One of the hardest things to do is to speak out, from personal moral courage, against someone close to us who has done wrong. But until we start applauding and REWARDING that kind of courage, not giving lip service and then allowing consequences to fall when the applause dies down, we have little chance of preventing abuse of power. At every level.

And we will have those who are not in power becoming angry, and frustrated, and despondent. They will turn to violence, against themselves, or others, when we fail them.

It is up to all of us.

Giveaways and more

April 18, 2015

Hey, everyone, I have two things going on today :)

The first is that I’m featured on Prism Book Alliance’s “Retro Reads Author Spotlight” today. They are featuring “The Rebuilding Year” and at the end of the interview there is the chance for one lucky commenter to win either a copy of “The Rebuilding Year” or… an advance copy of the new sequel, “Life, Some Assembly Required.” Your choice.

So go check out the interview, and good luck with the win.
http://www.prismbookalliance.com/?post_type=post&p=29927
.

giveaway poster My second event for today is something dear to my heart – The LGBTQ Push Back Charity Giveaway

This is a charity push to raise support for homeless LGBTQ teens, with 224 prizes on offer. I would love to see a charity push for compassion and caring go really big. Go to the website, read AJ Rose’s little story, and check out the giveaway. Donate to the LGBTQ charity of your choice (we suggest three, but any good cause counts) and enter the drawing for free books and prizes. Authors, bloggers and publishers have gotten together to support this fund drive, so 224 winners will be matched up with a donor. I’m giving someone a backlist book of their choice (including the newest one, “Life, Some Assembly Required” if they choose.) But with charity donations as the goal of the event, everyone will be a winner. Join us!

http://diversereader.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/lgbtq-push-back-charity-giveaway.html

Life, Some Assembly Required pre-orders

April 16, 2015

LifeSomeAssemblyRequired300 Yay!! **happy dances** I got the final pdf, epub and mobi book files for “Life, Some Assembly Required” from Samhain. That means it is going up for pre-order, and it also means I can’t tweak it any more, LOL.

I’m looking forward to seeing what readers think of the second half of John and Ryan’s rebuilding year, with Mark and Torey…

Samhain is so on top of their game that the book is already on ARe (All Romance ebooks) for pre-order (https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-lifesomeassemblyrequired-1784351-149.html) and probably will be up on Amazon within the next couple of days.

It is also now listed on Samhain although they won’t start preorders there until May 10th. https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5461/life-some-assembly-required

All Romance ebooks sale

April 15, 2015

For just one day, today, April 15th, many titles including most of mine, are 25% off at All Romance ebooks. Do something fun with that tax refund (or console yourself for not getting a refund.)

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/

Cover reveal…

March 23, 2015

I’m excited to have the cover for Life, Some Assembly Required – The Rebuilding Year, Book 2. Getting closer to the June 9th release date. :)

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