Latino Heritage Month

In the United States, September 15 – October 15 marks the month-long celebration of Latino and Hispanic communities, issues, and contributions. While it is important to practice active inclusion all year, we honor this time to pay special attention to the many ways in which Latino and Hispanic communities and individuals have strengthened who we are as a country.

My family is multiracial and multiethnic: both of Asian American/Filipino and Latino/Puerto Rican heritage. Therefore, it is important to our family that we continue to honor and appreciate the rich diversity within the Latino and Hispanic communities as well as highlight important contributions of Latinos and Hispanics in the United States. Oftentimes, these contributions are left out of history books, and it becomes increasingly important that we send positive messages — and provide opportunities for critical thinking — to enrich their perspectives.

Below are just a few ideas that you might also include as we focus on Latino and Hispanic communities, issues and contributions in the United States. These are divided up by age group, but each activity provides rich opportunities for dialogue, discussion and engagement.


  • Include books during your reading routine (or begin to establish one if you do not have one) that include issues impacting Latino and/or Hispanic communities or feature characters from Latino and/or Hispanic backgrounds. Some great suggestions that we have loved are Abuela by Arthur Dorros; Grandma’s Chocolate by Mara Price and Lisa Fields. Yes, I admit. We’ve also read and included episodes from Dora and Diego or Maya and Miguel. My children loved those growing up! (Me? I think I’ve seen enough episodes of purple backpack to last me a lifetime).
  • Play music during your commute or when you are home together. Or if you are a teacher, have some music playing in your classroom. One of my favorites can be found on iTunes called “Cumbia Essentials” which is a great mix of different music.
  • Most children at this age are familiar with piñata. Print out sheets for them to decorate their own piñata and share with the class what they made and why.

Grades 3-6

  • Great opportunity to introduce different people from Latino and Hispanic heritage who have made an impact in our lives. You can introduce them by categories (e.g., sports, science, entertainment, law, gender identities, country of origin, contributions) or connect people with the fields you are studying or that correlate to your current curriculum.
  • This list here are Latino and Hispanic Americans who I really think of/look up to, but of course, there are hundreds and hundreds more who others would put on their lists.
    • Dolores Huerta, co-founded the United Farm Workers labor union
    • Justice Sonia Sotomayor, first justice from Hispanic heritage on the U.S. Supreme Court
    • Carlos Santana, musician and pretty much his music has been on rotation in my favorites since I was a teenager
    • Gloria Estefan, musician, I’m a child of the 80s and 90s, so yes, I know all of her music by heart
    • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate author of Colombian heritage
    • Isabelle Allende, writer, I recently read her book House of Spirits which was a riveting, haunting and beautiful novel
  • Again, lots of great book series that provide biographies of Latino and Hispanic individuals

Grades 6-12

  • has a great list of documentaries on their website — short clips that highlight an individual from Latino or Hispanic heritage that are so worth watching! You can find them at
  • Great printables and activities can be found here from PBS as well
  • This age group is ready to talk about immigration and the impact of policies on people in the United States. One more advanced opportunity is to ask students about systemic oppression — what are rules that keep people out of opportunities? You can connect that same theme to their lives related to sports, school, clubs, and even “friend groups” of who gets in and who is left out

College +

  • One of my favorite discussion questions always gets at “first messages”. One good one for this month is “What were your first or earliest messages about Latino and/or Hispanic communities? What were your first messages about people who identify as Latino or Hispanic? Where did you get those messages? What did those messages mean?”
  • When I worked with college students, the homework I always gave out was “Go through a whole day – start to finish. Who do you notice or see who might identify as Latino or Hispanic? Where were you going? Where did you see people? Where do you not see people? What does that say about your community? Your commute? Your destination?”
  • Find good opportunities to interrogate stereotypes or existing ideas and ideals

This is just a small list of great ways to engage your family or students! And, remember, we hold this time to highlight and focus on issues impacting people and communities who identify as Latino and/or Hispanic. However, we must integrate and include experiences, issues, and critical thinking about privilege, oppression, systemic racism, and inequity throughout the entire year and throughout our entire education!

What ideas have you implemented?

Peace, love and inclusion,

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9910-quinoa-tabbouleh-mYes, you read that right. Quinoa hates me.

A few years ago, my sister-in-law, Jenny, made this amazing dinner: avocado, tomato, corn, red onions and quinoa. As the lone vegetarian in a household of caveman-like meat eaters, Jenny was always trying to get my family to eat healthy vegetarian.

I ate bowls of it.

Loved it.

It was filling, the texture was crunchy and smooth, and the red onion gave just the right kind of zing.

A month or so later, I decided to make it myself. Huge bowl. I’m talking like a week-long festival of just eating this creation.

Two bites in, however, my stomach began to feel all wiley (my autocorrect tells me this isn’t an actual word, but, this is exactly the sound my stomach was making). I managed to still eat it, but went immediately online to see if anyone had the same problem.

All I came up with was how amazing quinoa was. How awesome it was for people who had celiac disease (which I don’t have) finally find a grain-like food that they could digest easily. Pretty soon, pop articles about the benefits of quinoa, the miraculous nature of quinoa, and the flexibility of ingredients with quinoa flooded my facebook feed.

So, what did I do?

You know it! …. I made those recipes….

And, each time, my stomach hurt. Just a little bit.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times, four times, five times … well, I’m a dang fool.

About a year ago, I was on a flight to Los Angeles. As a new airline-sponsored card member, I had just found out that I got a huge percentage off of my in-flight meals. Guess what I bought? Nope, not the roast beef sandwich. Nope, not the cheese plate. Nope, not the spicy cold noodles.

I bought the fucking quinoa.

Within a few minutes, (I see you shaking your head), my stomach seized up into a knot. I unbuckled my seatbelt, thanked God I was in an aisle seat, made my way to the bathroom, threw up massively, and spent the rest of the flight sweating in my seat and eyeing the white, lined bag in the seat pocket in front of me.

Damn you, quinoa.

That brings us to today.


Just minutes before I was to give a brief presentation in front of my new colleagues in my brand new job talking to them about the brand new position that I had stepped into, I ate quinoa. Delicious, savory, buttery quinoa.

Yes, feel free to judge.

I cleared my plate, walked down the hallways, and made my way to the front of the auditorium. Oh no.

Our Head of School began his welcome to the faculty, and but all I heard was the sound of voices past saying, “You idiot. Quinoa? Really??”. Then, I felt my stomach leap out of my body. I leaned over to Jorge, who was on the schedule to present after me, and said, “Uh, if I’m not back, you do your presentation next. I’m about to hurl.”

Thanks to poor lighting and a background in performance, I’m told that no one noticed that I had just hurled 1 minute before I stood up to speak. Whew.

I’ll spare you all the major details, but it did involve me thankful that no one was around to hear my post-quinoa wretching and then laying in the fetal position on my office floor.

Needless to say, if you ever, ever, ever see me reaching for a bowl of quinoa, feel free to just kick me in the stomach. It’ll hurt less than the 7 hours of pain I will be in if I eat it.

Peace, love, and quinoa free,


PS: there was only one blog post that I found that mentioned this type of pain and quinoa, which makes me think it’s pretty uncommon. Some say it’s because of saponins. But, frankly no one had any suggestions or solutions .. I mean… other than stay away from the damn thing.

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Lest the title of today’s post fool you, I am not talking about a pair of jeans or a new skirt. So, feel free to keep reading as I gnaw on my never ending container of Starburst.

This morning, while skipping my daily 5:00am run, I sat on the couch and enjoyed a cup of coffee. I had already done my daily creep of Facebook and Twitter. Already let the dog out, only to let him back in again 5 seconds later. And, I had begun to check my email.


And in my email were all these messages (which, reminds me, I need to unsubscribe to those messages) about the elusive work-life balance.

Ah, good old work-life balance.

I actually hate that term.

Balance what?

For me, I’ve always talked about and lived work-life integration. Maybe it’s my work style. Maybe it’s my personal style. But, it’s likely the result of doing race, diversity, equity and inclusion work as a person of color. So, yes, the work is the life. 

But this July, I started a new job in a somewhat new field. This meant the perfect time to redraw the map of work and life.

Back to my coffee….

After I had deleted all the work-life balance emails, I turned on a TEDx Talk by Nigel Marsh. You guessed it, it was about work-life.

But this was different. This speaker was asking us not to figure out how to “fit” our lives into our work, but how to create, from scratch, the kind of day you want to have. Not the kind of day you DO have. The kind of day you WANT to have.

This TEDx talk was also on the heels of a conversation my husband was telling me about. A friend of his got so tired of others saying, “Oh, I’m so busy” that his response to them was, “Well, then get out of my office and go do what you need to do.” Sharp? Yes. But, it also made people think about why they felt the need to lead with “Oh, I’m so busy.”

So let me spare you the day that I DO have. And, here is a peek into the day that I WANT to have:

5:00am – Wake up and work out

5:30am – Get ready for work

5:45am – Write my dissertation (15 minutes a day!)

6:00am – Kindly wake up the children 

6:15am – Be present with them as they eat breakfast 

6:30am – Begin commute to work

8:00am – 5:00pm Fully engage in my work life and responsibilities

5:00pm – Commute home with the family

6:30pm – Fully engage in children’s activities/sports/lessons

7:00pm – Dinner

7:30pm – Talk about homework and school assignments

8:30pm – Send the children off to bed with a book or a 1:1 talk

9:00pm – Hang out with my husband and watch a show

9:30pm – Go to bed, sleep 8 hours

Is that so different from what I do now? Hell yes. My old “what I do DO” was filled with multitasking of checking email, yelling at people to hurry up, eat while doing something else, text message or make phone calls while the kids are in sports/lessons, get angry that no one finished their homework, shout “go to bed!” from the table as I finish up emails, and fall into exhaustion only to do it all over again.

But, this schedule is what I WANT to do. Will there be exceptions? Of course. However I’m starting with this. I’m starting with my priorities. I’m starting with expectations of who I am and what I believe is important.  Note that it doesn’t mean I’m not as productive, functional, or responsible at work. This just means I commit to focusing on what needs to be focused on.

What is the schedule that you WANT? Do you run around and tell others you are “busy”? To what end? For what purpose?

And, though we tell others we are “busy”, what do we signal to those who benefit from us the most?

Peace, love and making it fit,


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A few months ago, Joli and I took a trip to see her ocularist — the wonderful and brilliant professionals who created her prosthetic eye. It had been nearly 10 years since she first received her prosthetic, and it was time to create a new one.

Ten years.

It has been ten years, today, since the day she was diagnosed with cancer.

Ten years.

A full decade.

Back then, life was simpler. Joli was our only child, and as the first grandchild, there were plenty of hands to help out. Since her cancer diagnosis, we have added on to our family (two more children, and many more nieces and nephews). She has added new Aunts and Uncles by way of marriage. New cousins. There have been new houses, new pets, new schools and new friends. New fashions (including the blue hair she is currently rocking). New technology (e.g., FaceTime, iPads, Sirius Radio). And even a new President.

So why does the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis never get old. 

On the day that Joli was diagnosed, Jorge had just begun a new job. He hadn’t made many friends or connections in his first few weeks because all of the teachers and most of the staff were on summer vacation. Yet, within weeks of starting, we were hit with Joli’s diagnosis. Quickly, strangers became friends.

Now, ten years later, after a few years of moving around to a different state, our entire family is now at this school. It’s funny how life brings you back to where you belong.

Ten years ago, today, I was rocking my 2-year old back and forth as we waited for a second opinion. We were told she needed to have her eye — the one that had been destroyed by cancerous tumors — removed. We were warned that she may need to have both eyes removed.

I remember the feel of the cold, grey waiting room. I remember her wet tears pooling in the shallow of my collar bone — her cries begging for food that we could not give her. “Just in case we have to operate this afternoon, she needs to have an empty stomach,” we were told.

I remember the feel of her soft curls tickling just under my chin. Weeks later, I would remember the sight of those soft curls on the top of my pillow case, slowly dying off after chemo treatments.

I remember the feel of the newly installed carpet as I kneeled down next to the bed. Praying that God would give me her cancer. Praying that I would wake up from this nightmare.

Praying that I hadn’t, somehow, caused it. Maybe it was the time I fell while walking the dog. Maybe it was the time I drank two cups of coffee. Maybe it was the time I ate too much sugar. Got too deep a massage. Was too angry. Maybe.. maybe.. maybe.

I’ll never understand why it happened, but I do know that our lives are better because it did.

Because of cancer, my 12-year old daughter is the kindest, strongest, most compassionate person I have ever met. Because of cancer, my child has become my teacher. Because of cancer, my girl has learned how to cross boundaries, to engage with different types of people, and to look past the physical characteristics of others.

Because of Joli, my fear that I had done something wrong is fading.

And the reality that something — someone — so right is present.

Peace, love, and wishing Joli a happy cancerversary,


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It’s been a while, friends. I know. The great news is that I actually took a vacation (which I promised myself I would unplug as much as possible) and started a new job. It’s been a fantastic transition, and I’m so thrilled to start this new adventure.

But, of course, starting anew after over a decade of predictability and stability was certainly a risk. A calculated one, no less, but a risk. I had spent over 16 years working in higher education and building a solid career. With this move to secondary and elementary education, I was leaving familiar waters, familiar boat mates, and familiar routes. But, I had never imagined how tired my soul was until I arrived at my new job. Within three weeks, I have felt a renewed sense of spirit, of community, and of hope. I didn’t know it was even missing.

For the past few months, I have been regularly waking up at 4:45am and meeting my running buddies to start our day with a commitment to ourselves. While I still sluggishly roll out of bed and fumble around for my sneakers in the dark, I always feel better during and after my run than when I started. Most days, we head up to an empty parking lot where I bring my dog, KoD. In that lot, I let KoD run off leash and he just takes off (KoD spends most of the day laying on the couch or walking around our small, fenced-in yard. It’s strange to say this, but nothing brings me more joy on those mornings than seeing my dog sprint back and forth across the parking lot — his legs whipping underneath his small body, the tags on his collar jiggling as he picks up his pace, and his ears perked up ready and alert.

At 5:00am, the world is still quiet. The birds are not quite chirping. My busy street is empty. And I can hear the sound of my cushioned sneakers striking the pavement.

But, one sound I do not like is the sound of rain.

I hate rain.

I hate running in rain.

In fact, I don’t run in the rain.

Last night, my running buddies and I did our usual check in. This time, however, it included: “So, if it’s raining, you know it’s an automatic rest day, right? Let’s check-in in the morning and call it.”

5:05am: it’s not raining. But the sky is a thick grey and the sun can’t seem to rise behind the clouds.

“Yes? No? It’s not raining now but will eventually downpour soon,” I typed into my phone.

“It’s your call,” she replied. “If I say yes, it will pour. If I say no, it won’t rain at all.”

“Damn it,” I texted back. “Let’s just do it.”

For most of the run, I focused on the sky, wondering when I would be caught in the storm. It is going to rain? Am I too far from home? How messed up will my clothing/phone/watch be in this rain? How smelly will my dog be after being caught in the storm?

In the middle of the run, the clouds seemed to disappear. The sun finally made it’s way into the sky. The air felt cleaner. I felt stronger.

As I rounded the corner, I saw this beautiful sunrise.

5:40am sunrise

5:40am sunrise

And I thought about how much we miss when we never take a risk.

Peace, love, and dry clothes,


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h/t to my former student, Cliff Mason II of

h/t to my former student, Cliff Mason II of

This past week, my husband and I have been like two ships passing in the night. I had spent 3 days out of state doing equity and inclusion training in Vermont, and my husband has been busy with end-of-year, late night school events. But, last night, we finally sat down and talked. When we do sit down to talk, our conversations usually include something about the latest television show about zombies or science fiction that he loves (and that I, as he knows, would likely hate); a project that one of us is working on; or a ridiculous conversation that we had or overheard one of the children saying.

And, far too often, including last night, we have been talking about tragedies in our country that have continued to render people of color — most specifically people who are Black — as less than human, less than equal, and less than valued.

But, c’mon people, this is not a new pattern. Not a new behavior. Not a new mentality in our country. It’s just that I’m tired — fatigued — from the same shit happening again and again with no change.

Oftentimes, I am asked to facilitate trainings, workshops and dialogues around the country. Whenever I do the pre-consultation with the organizers, I always ask, “What is it that you want to get out of this? What are your outcomes?”

Nearly every time, the answer is “Tell us what to do to be better” or “We only have an hour so, you know, whatever you want to do is fine.” That’s usually when I answer, “I’m probably not the person for you. What I do is about understanding our personal connections to oppression and how it influences our work/job/lives.”

To fulfill those 1-hour workshops or delivering a “to do” list like that simply means that I am collecting a paycheck. Sure, I can tell you what to do, but it won’t actually make any change in your organization, department, behaviors, and lives. And, as above, me telling you doesn’t equal you understanding.

And, understanding takes time. Like, real time. Like, active, engaged, difficult, ugly, painful, raw, terrifying time. My process involves asking you about what you believe and how you got there. My process involves asking you to think about your identities and how they influence who you are, how you treat people, and how you see people even before you see people. My process involves asking you what parts of your identity serve as barriers to engagement and what parts bring you closer to engagement. And, if it feels $hitty and horrible and ugly and terrifying, then it’s likely worth doing.

One of the most brave things that I have seen came from my friend Emily (read her beautiful blog here). This morning, after many articles circulated social media calling for allies who identify as White to stop listening and start doing, Emily posted publicly on my Facebook wall. She published with intentionality, knowing that she couldn’t possibly be the only person who was struggling with how to move from listening to doing in a way that made sense. And, given the number of likes and comments, Emily is not alone.

Emily, like many of my socially-just minded friends, identifies as an ally, has active conversations with her children, openly challenges race and racism among friends and family, and shares posts about race and justice on social media.

Does this sound like you, too?

If so, then you’re likely one of the ones struggling, too. Struggling with how to go deeper, move further, and engage more actively.

This is for you. It’s not comprehensive. And, I’m actually writing this with a particular group in mind — a group of people who live in racially White homogenous communities; who go to school along side and who play soccer/swim/neighborhood tag in communities that are homogeneously racially White; and who aren’t going to uproot the family and move to a racially diverse community for lots of very valid logistical reasons (note: living in a racially diverse community doesn’t mean that positive racial interactions happen, either. I live in a racially diverse city and still manage to, every single day, hear racist comments and witness racist behaviors).

What do I (because, I don’t speak for all people of color) need you to do?

I need you to make your commitment visible. 

I am quite confident that people know where I fall on certain issues. Even given my identity as a practicing and faithful Catholic; even given my identity as a heterosexual woman; even give my identity as a cisgender woman; even given my identity as an Asian American who neither benefits from White privilege nor who experiences violence as people in the Black community experience; even given my identity as an emerging scholar; even given my identity as a practitioner; even given my identity as mother/wife/parent — it’s pretty clear and visible what my views are on just about every social issue.

I have made my commitment visible.

I have made my mistakes visible.

I have made my questions, my struggles, my journey visible.

I have publicly interrogated my own beliefs and values about nearly every issue from race to gender to sexual orientation to gender identity to class to education to activism to injustice to service to parenting … and so on. I have moved beyond listening, which I still do intently, and have made my journey visible.

But, I have not attended a march. I did not get on one of the many buses from Boston to Selma to walk the bridge. I did not carry a sign at a rally. I have not chanted and demanded justice by protesting in front of a store or a business. I have not participated in a die-in nor a walk-out. But, every ounce of me has wanted to, emotionally, but it’s just not authentic for me.  I am thankful for my many brothers and sisters for whom this avenue of activism is authentic. I have watched you from afar, wept openly at your commitment, and prayed for your protection from harm.

I have been visible in other ways.

The way that I have understood is authentic for me is through written word. I showed up in my news feed and in the news feed of others. I made my beliefs and struggles visible when I blogged, tweeted, or updated my status. I engaged in public conversations and private conversations. And, when I am feeling brave and willing to risk being criticized, I have shouted.

I spoke quietly, firmly, and honestly to my children. I made visible the reality of our world so that they can create their own authentic responses.

I cried on a couch with my co-worker.

I sat in silence, in a community circle, and listened to the breathing of others as paid attention to the Light within.

I broke bread with a friend and talked well above a whisper about identity and Blackness and discourse of performing identity while at a public restaurant.

I pinned a rainbow heart on my bag, my lunchbox, and my backpack in addition to having the only outward-facing rainbow flag on an office window at the Catholic college where I worked.

I ask people for their preferred pronoun(s) and smile when they look at me confused, mostly because they have had the privilege of never being asked.

I openly and regularly use language like “partner” or “parent/guardian/support system” or “place you consider home”.

I use people-first language and both role model and correct others when they do not.

For a while, I tied a black string around my wrist whenever there was violence perpetrated against someone who was Black. People asked me what it was. I told them. And then, soon after, I ran out of string.

I am the first one to bring up race in a conversation, making it visible before there is time to diffuse or shift it to something else.

Sometimes, when I believe that it might matter, I challenge a comment someone writes that may be classist or sexist or heteronormative or racist or veiled notions of all of the above. Sometimes, I stay with the conversation and we both grow. Most times, yes, even in my own friend group, I end up being attacked and marginalized and told that I “have offended someone by implying they are racist.” Then I remember how deep, pervasive, and well-oiled the machine of Privilege and racism is, and how that successful operation has made it possible for them to be offended.

On days when I have more energy, when my heart is less broken, and when my soul is less weary, I do more than “share” an article. I comment, I highlight, and I interpret and interrogate it in my own lens. Hitting “share” is too easy. Actually articulating why I’m sharing it is making my journey visible.

And, yes, none of this is possible unless you listen. I do listen. I listen with my whole being. I begin listening with this one statement that I repeat over and over to myself: “For this person, this is true.” I believe in their truth. I believe that their truth is informed by their life. And, if I am given the gift of this testimony, I take it with me and hold on to it tightly.

But, it is time to move beyond listening. It is time to stop calling ourselves allies and, instead, ask ourselves what it means to ally.

I’ll write that again.

I don’t need you to BE an ally. I need you TO ally.

In the world of my children, I have heard them say time and again, “So-and-so is my friend.” My follow up question is usually, “Oh, that’s great. Well, what makes that person a friend? What does that person do to show you she/he is your friend? What has that person done to demonstrate what it means to be a friend?” 

It’s the same thing here, Allies.

I need you to understand what it means to ally. I need you to understand it for yourself. I need you to figure out how you can make yourself visible. I need you to figure out how to make your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, struggles and journey visible for others to see in a way that is authentic for you. I need you to be brave. I need you to move into spaces that are uncomfortable so that you aren’t just listening but you are participating.

If I asked any one of your friends what YOUR opinion, stance, belief, or value was about any of the social issues you say you privately care deeply about, would they know what it is? Would they know where you stand? Would they know what you believe?

What will they say you have done?

In true definition, we do not individually claim Ally. Rather, a community claims you as an ally. The community with whom you are working towards solidarity says you are an ally.

If you call yourself an ally to the Black community, would the Black community — people who are Black — say you are?  Would they say you show up? Would they say you make visible your commitment to them and to issues impacting the Black community?

Would they say anything about you at all?

If not, then what will you do?

It’s time to do some real soul searching. It’s time to ally. 

Peace, love and using my strength in the service of my vision*,


*”When I use my strength in the service of my vision, it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  — Audre Lorde

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“My friend is mad at me.”

Usually when my daughter comes home from school, she ignores me or, at best, answers me in one-word sentences. I knew to run quickly into this open door.

“What happened?” I asked, anticipating her middle-school answers of “She thinks I like this other person” or “I wouldn’t sit with her at lunch” or “We wore the same sweatpants and people thought we matched on purpose.”

“She’s mad at me because I think people who are transgender are normal.”

I wasn’t expecting that. Yes! sang my inner activist-Mom-soul.

“Tell me more,” as I swung the door of conversational opportunity wide open.

“Well, she asked me what you did for a living. I told her you do diversity stuff. She asked what that meant. So, I said that you try to end racism and sexism. I said that you talk to people about privilege and that you try to make the world more fair for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

This is awesome. Why? Because when my other daughter was 5-years old, she told people that I did aerobics for a living. I have no idea…

“So my friend said that she thinks transgender people .. and I corrected her and said ‘people who are transgender’ … but anyways, she said that she thinks it’s disgusting and against God.”

“She said it was against God?” I asked. I, myself, had just come from church that afternoon, and that comment hit me in a particular way. “Okay, that sounds interesting. What was your response back to her?”

“Well, I told her that everyone has a right to their religion, but that I was taught that God made us and chose us for a journey that we were meant to have.”

“Wait, wait,” I interrupted. “Can I film this? Because, for real, I think you’re about to drop some serious knowledge and I want other people to see and hear you say this. Can I?”

“No.” There’s the one-word answer I was looking for.


“So, she then said that God doesn’t make mistakes and so if God made you a man you should stay a man.”

I held my breath. I couldn’t believe my 11-year old was having this conversation at lunch.

So, I told her that when I was in your belly, that God gave me cancer. And, when I came out of your belly, I had cancer. And, when I was two years old and finally realized I had cancer, I had to do something or I was going to die. I had to take out my entire eye — an eye that God gave me — so that I could live. If I stayed the way God made me, I would be dead.”

I began to cry. She’s eleven. 

And, I told her about how many young people who are gay have killed themselves because they felt that God made them and that they shouldn’t be gay. And they weren’t accepted by their families. And, they died. If I didn’t change the body that God gave me, I would be dead, too.”

I can’t even….

She continued, “If someone is born in a body that God gave them, but that body isn’t right. Then they might make a choice to change something about their bodies so that they can stay alive. That’s what I had to do. If someone is transgender and they need to be in a different body, then they should do it.”

Okay, then what happened?”

“She said, ‘No. They should just deal with it.’ She got really mad at me and then she walked away. I wasn’t mad at her, but I know I had offended her.”

I couldn’t speak. I was overwhelmed. My heart, my soul, and my spirit were overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by her sadness. Overwhelmed by her compassion. Overwhelmed by how readily she could articulate faith, gender, acceptance, and understanding.

“I’m really sad that she’s mad at me, Mom. I’m sad that she’s mad about me not agreeing with her. I know that you do this kind of stuff for a living, but I am going to do it for my life.”

That’s exactly why I do it, too, Joli.

Peace, love, and brave conversations,


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