Pride & PFLAG

Welcome to the letter “P” in our weekly blog of LGBTQ Resources A-Z. This week we’ll talk about why the term Pride is so important to us, and why PFLAG is such an amazing resource, especially in Wisconsin!

June is Pride month for the LGBTQ community. According to Wikipedia, Gay pride or LGBT pride is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a social group. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT rights movements. Here is a link to one of my first articles on Pride.

https://www.wgtd.org/sites/wgtd.dev/files/images/news/GAY_0.jpg

Unfortunately, the rise of social media has spawned an increase in hate-filled attacks on virtually every marginialized group. It can be tempting as an LGBTQ individual to live a life hidden in the shaddows, not sharing who we are and who we love for fear of the types of social media attacks that are rampant across the Internet.

Pride plays an important role in sharing ALL of who we are as individuals. Pride to me means greeting my wife at the airport with all the affection and love that a straight couple shows. It means coming out to my students at the beginning of each semester without fear of losing my job for being gay. And it means being accepted by everyone, family and stranger alike. Unfortunately, not all of the above are true for me, and those are especially not true for all LGBTQ people both in the United States and around the world. Luckily, we have allies like you advocating along side us every day.

In the Madison area, we have one of the best farmer’s markets in the midwest. A staple on the farmer’s market square is PFLAG. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays = PFLAG. These people epitomize what unconditional love is all about, Charlie Brown! Check out their Facebook page! Thank you, https://www.pflag-madison.org/

According to http://www.pflag.org, PFLAG nationally has 500 chapters and more than 200,000 members. The concept of PFLAG began in 1973 when the mother of a gay man marched in New York’s Pride Parade to show public support, pride and love of her son. She urged parents to unite in support of their gay children. The Madison chapter started about 20 years ago.

PFLAG lives its three part-mission: First and foremost, to support parents and families of lesbians, gays, transgender, and bisexuals who are having problems accepting their relative’s sexual orientation. Additionally, they support the spouses of newly out LGBTQ people. Secondly, they strive to educate themselves and others about LGBTQ issues. Thirdly, they are visible advocates for issues affecting the LGBTQ family, such as discrimination in the workplace and housing. They work for equality of all their civil rights.

Your call to action this week? Thanks for asking! If you live in the Madison area and if you visit the Dane County Farmer’s Market on a Saturday, please thank the volunteers from PFLAG for their advocacy. If you don’t live in the Madison area, please spread the word about PFLAG and the Positive work they Provide! Reach out to them for yourself or a friend that needs their support — or to expand your ally-ship even further! Thank you!

My guess is that my mom would have been a Proud PFLAG mom! (I love you, Marlene!)

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Out and Proud

Welcome to the letter “O” of LBGTQ Resources A-Z. As a disclaimer, everyOne Owns their Own coming Out story, I will give you a glimpse into my story. Thanks for Opening this article.

In the LGBTQ world, we are born this way (just ask Lady Gaga), yet some of us stay in the closet for safety and to not be Ostracized. Coming Out is a process, not just a one-time event. The privilege I have is the color of my skin and my lot in life. I don’t HAVE to come Out to people. You can’t see gay like you can see skin color or ability. That’s where the being in the closet comes in.

From Urban dictionary, in the closet is a term used to describe a homosexual person who has not told anyone of their sexual orientation. I was in the closet until my sister told me I was gay. Yep, true story! It was Thanksgiving 1996 and I was 27 years old. Kind of a late bloomer — I know, I kno!. All I remember is that my sister said, “That’s because you’re gay. Please pass the carrots.” I started crying. It actually made a lot of sense after I stopped to think about it. The END. Well, not really. I like carrots!

Please read my blog on Coming Out for more information!

A rainbow road…a true journey

For a long time I wasn’t OUT to my students as a middle school counselor. After having a 7th grade student tell me it was easier pretending to be a boy than it was to be gay in the small town we were in, I needed to do something differently. The difficult part for me was being afraid to lose my job because I was gay. I was also a girl’s basketball coach and refused to ever go into the locker room so I wouldn’t get accused of anything. I wanted people to respect me as a school counselor…who just happened to be gay. Every time a started in a new school district, I had to do my research to see if they were open and affirming of my lifestyle. This was Not always fun!

I am happy to say that I am now OUT and proud, which isn’t to say that everyone I meet knows I’m gay. Being LGBTQ means that you have to come out daily — potentially every time you meet someone new. The stress can be too much to bear for some people. My goal with this blog is to save lives by offering resources to support our LGBTQ population. I am excited to expand my speaking career on my birthday as well as my TEDx talk on February 13th, 2019. If you’re in the area, please join us!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. My call to action is to NEVER NEVER OUT anyone else — it’s their story to tell. So, if someone asks you if someone is gay, bisexual, transgender, etc…you tell that person to ask the source. Even if you know, it is NOT your story to tell. NEVER out anyone!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Non-binary, Non-conforming & gender Neutral bathrooms

Welcome to the letter “N” in this week’s edition of my LGBTQ blog. These are terms you might have heard, if not, you will. Let’s nudge our way into the definitions…ha ha, that Never gets old! NEVER!

How many of you have ever gone through a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant? I loved taking my niece and nephew when they were younger. When we would order a meal that made us happy, the worker would ask if we wanted a toy for a “girl” or a “boy.” A heavy sigh from Aunt Lisa, every time as my non-binary radar was alerted. Can we just have a non-binary, non-conforming gender neutral toy? Gender binary is the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine, whether by social system or cultural belief. (Wikipedia,2019)

If you remember, I was an early non-conformer when it came to stereotypical gender toys. A tractor & my G.I. Joe were my favorites. Why can’t there just be one toy that ALL kids can play with? And how about not making them pink or blue? Boys can play with dolls and girls can play with trucks! Right? Think twice before you buy that baby a new toy, please?

Another truth about Lisa. I did NOT like wearing dresses nor the color pink. Shocker? So, growing up on the 70’s I was called a “tomboy.” My favorite role model was Peppermint Patty and her sandals. Why did Marcie call her “sir?” Here’s more information on why Charles M. Schulz added PP during the women’s liberation movement.

Non-binary is an umbrella term who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely female nor entirely male. It’s ok if you don’t understand what this is, I’m just glad you’re still reading! You’re an ALLY!

When I wear a tuxedo to a formal event, I am an example of gender non-conforming. The older I get, the less I enjoy wearing “left-handed” zippered trousers. Most of the world would know them as female trousers. I prefer to wear dress pants that I get at a thrift store in the men’s section. Have I lost you yet?

Lisa in her tux & her friend, Becky from Missouri

During my time as a middle school counselor, I had one student who identified as gender-fluid. I would greet the student at the door in the morning to determine their identity for the day. I would say, “Good morning, __________?” and wait for the student to give me their identified name for the day so that I would then send out an email to the student’s teachers informing them. That was a tricky one!

Gender Neutral Bathrooms make sense to me. Think about going to a concert, or an event in a big stadium. How long are the lines to the women’s restrooms compared to the men’s. If you haven’t noticed the lines, you probably haven’t stood in the LONG line.

As more people become comfortable with their identities, we will see the need for more inclusivity in the workplace. It used to be that middle school students would start by saying they were bisexual if they we’ren’t sure of their identity. Then the term questioning/queer came along. Queer is still here, most often used in genderqueer. Now, I believe more and more young people will identify as trans in the coming decade. As more and more famous people come “out” as trans, we will see more teens identifying as non-binary and non-conforming. As Rachel Maddow would say, “Watch this space.”

Thanks for learning more about the letter “N” this week! Please feel free to share this article and maybe save a life!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Microagressions

Hello friends! Did you notice I didn’t say ladies and gentleman? In the LGBTQ+ world, greeting a group of people with “Ladies & Gentlemen” can be considered a microagression. Yes, I know it’s what we were taught to say, but maybe it’s time to be more inclusive!

As a former middle school counselor, it always bothered me when I would hear teachers greet a class by using “boys & girls.” How about using the term, “Scholars” or even “First hour?” So, that is in a school setting, how about in a workplace?

This past week, I was honored to keynote the Iowa School Counselor Association Conference. Their theme was “All In.” What a fantastic group of school counselors learning how to go “All In” for their students! After the Keynote, I presented a workshop called “Equitable Treatment of ALL Iowa’s Students in Three Steps.” Let’s learn more about microagressions, shall we?

According to Wikipedia, Microaggressions have been defined as brief and common daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental communications, whether intentional or unintentional, that transmit hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to a target person because they belong to a stigmatized group. Did you know there are three types of Microagressions? I didn’t until writing this article.

Microaggressions seem to appear in three forms: microassault, microinsult, and microinvalidation. Almost all interracial encounters are prone to microaggressions; …. literature that represents various racial groups.  My main goal is to not greet with gender specific labels like “Ladies & Gentleman” or “Boys & Girls”.

I have been called a man, or sir, more times than I can count. I used to let it go, but now, I will correct the person and remind them that girls can have short hair. After being labeled as male, the shock on their eyes when I turn around is always the same. Call it gender non-conforming, call it whatever you will, I call it being my true self! When you aren’t sure of a person’s preferred gender, just call them, “Friend.”

Thank you, friend for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to share it. Maybe you’ll save someone’s life!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Legislation & LGBTQ+

Let’s give it up for the letter, “L” this week! What a Lovely Letter that has Literally Labled Lisa (me) as a strong Lady! In case you didn’t know this, my mother named me after a soap opera…true story. Eileen Fulton, played the character Lisa Grimaldi on “As The World Turns.” Lisa was a strong female character, and that’s what my mother wanted me to be…BINGO! Looks just like me, right?

Eileen Fulton stars as Lisa Mitichell Grimaldi in AS THE WORLD TURNS. Photo cr: Danny Sanchez/CBS ©2010 CBS BROADCASTING INC. ALL RIGHS RESERVED

Lesbian is the first “L” in LGBTQ+. Raise your hand if you know where that term derives from. It’s ok, I can’t see your arms, but if you played along, you’re FUN and LIVELY. Let’s travel to the Northeastern Aegean Sea to find the third largest of the Greek Islands, Lesbos.

Lesbos within the North Aegean
Coordinates: 
39°10′N 26°20′E (trust me, it’s in there, it didn’t come through in the copy)

The word lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos, home to the 6th-century BCE poet Sappho.[3] From various ancient writings, historians gathered that a group of young women were left in Sappho’s charge for their instruction or cultural edification.[6] Little of Sappho’s poetry survives, but her remaining poetry reflects the topics she wrote about: women’s daily lives, their relationships, and rituals. She focused on the beauty of women and proclaimed her love for girls.[7] Before the mid-19th century,[8] the word lesbian referred to any derivative or aspect of Lesbos, including a type of wine. Cheers to Wikipedia!

Sappho of Lesbos, depicted here in a 1904 painting by John William Godward, gave the term lesbian the connotation of erotic desire between women.

Pop culture lesson = Check! Geography Lesson = Check! History Lesson = Check! Now, let’s go into some modern political lessons. Let’s start with a Law called Title VII (that’s a 7 in fancy Roman numerals) of the Civil Rights Law of 1964. Stay with me, sometimes we have to know our history as to not repeat it…thanks for still reading along. You’re LOVELY!

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 provide protection against sex discrimination in the context of tenure. Title VII is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, as well as race, color, national origin and religion. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, covering all staff and students in any educational institution or program that receives federal funds. https://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/legal-resources/know-your-rights-at-work/title-vii/

United States Map
  • (Dark Green) State law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (21 states, 2 territories + D.C.)
  • (Strike through Light Green) State explicitly interprets existing prohibition on sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and/or gender identity (see note) (2 states, 0 territories)
  • (Light Green) State law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation only (1 state, 0 territories)
  • (Tan) No explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state law (26 states, 3 territories) this is the scary one
  • (Gavel) State is in a federal circuit with a ruling that explicitly interprets existing federal prohibition on sex discrimination (under Title VII) to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  (26 states, 3 territories)

What does this mean having Wisconsin in Light Green with a Gavel? According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, I can’t be discrminated in hiring or firing for being gay…Hooray! Here’s your human resource lesson for the day! If you are reading this and you don’t live in Wisconsin, please check out your state in the aformentioned information. Thanks & I hope you still like our cheese! https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/er/civil_rights/discrimination/sexual_orientation_protection.htm

Sexual Orientation Protection

Overview (WISCONSIN)

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits employers, employment agencies, labor unions, licensing agencies, and other persons from discriminating against employees, job applicants, or licensing applicants because of their membership in specific protected categories, including sexual orientation.

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law defines “sexual orientation” as having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference or being identified with such a preference.

What actions are covered?

When an individual’s sexual orientation motivates the decision related to an employment action or licensing action, it becomes unlawful discrimination.

Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination in recruitment and hiring, job assignments, pay, leave or benefits, promotion, licensing or union membership, training, lay-off and firing, and other employment related actions.

How does the law define sexual orientation?

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law defines “sexual orientation” as having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference or being identified with such a preference.

Who is protected?

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law applies to all private and public employers, regardless of the number of employees, except for federal government or tribal employers.

Can an employer refuse to hire a person because of their sexual orientation?

No, the law prohibits discrimination because of being identified as a relative, friend or significant other of someone with a particular sexual orientation.

May an employer ask about an applicant’s sexual orientation?

The Fair Employment Law prohibits any inquiry that implies or expresses any limitation because of a protected basis, including sexual orientation. Marital status discrimination is also prohibited under Wisconsin law and questions about marital status that are designed to detect a person’s sexual orientation may violate both marital status and sexual orientation provisions of the law.

Is an individual protected if an employer thinks the employee’s sexual orientation is different than it really is and acts on that perception?

Yes, the definition includes being identified with a preference for a particular sexual orientation. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone based on perceived sexual orientation, even if the perception is wrong, for example, it would be a violation of the law if an employer assumes a man is homosexual because he is effeminate and discharges him because of that perception.

The Supreme Court heard three cases earlier this month that ask whether it is legal to fire workers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Title VII). That alone is enough to make those three of the most important employment discrimination cases in many years. But there are additional layers to these cases, layers that could imperil all workers regardless of whether or not they are LGBTQ. Only 22 states prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and only 21 prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. So if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the employers in ZardaBostock, and Harris Funeral Homes, millions of LGBTQ workers will be left without legal protections. Read on, my friend. https://www.vox.com/2019/10/2/20883827/supreme-court-lgbtq-discrimination-title-vii-civil-rights-gay-trans-queer

Let’s see, Lisa was named after a soap opera and might lose protections because she’s a lebian? Looks like a little scary scenario to me and for my other LGBTQ+ friends. Why do we need to legislate kindess and decency? That is a direct quote from my wife, Angela. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

My call to action this week is to think about how you would feel if you were fired for having brown eyes instead of blue? What if you lost your health benefits because you were left-handed? I was born this way, who says Little Lisa from Loganville should be legislated against? Please show your rainbows, please stop homophobic jokes, and please register to vote!

Mahalo,

Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Let’s Explore the Letter “K!” Oh, and Koenecke is my last name…it starts with “K.”😊

This week’s blog will not be a long one, but rather paying homage to Kevin Jennings who founded the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Oh, and he was a school counselor! YEP, that’s right, a school counselor. He is just one of the famous LGBTQ+ activists we can learn about during this month, OH, that’s right, October is National LGBTQ History Month. Click here to learn more about our famous people! Kool!

https://lgbthistorymonth.com/

Kevin, as I like to call him, went to Harvard, no big deal, and in 1988 he started America’s first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at the Concord Academy in Massachusetts. Today, there are thousands of GSAs in our schools. There are other names for GSAs including Gender Sexuality Alliance and many others. Read on to learn more about Kevin Jennings in these exerpts from the National Education Association’s, Cindy Long.

An Interview with Kevin Jennings, Founder of GLSEN: Safe Schools for Everyone (full article linked)

By Cindy Long, NEA Sr. Writer/Editor

When Kevin Jennings taught history in Rhode Island 10 years ago, he saw students verbally bullied and harassed to the breaking point. It reminded him of the torment of the endless name-calling he suffered when he was in school.

But when the bullying among his students began to turn physical, he decided he had to do something to make school a safer place for everyone. That’s when he founded the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

GLSEN is a national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN works with educators, students, and the community to help children learn to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

https://www.glsen.org/

I have used GLSEN for numerous resources and applaud the organization for celebrating our community, especially the youth. Here is my article on GLSEN, “Geez, That’s alot of “G’s.” The “S” in GLSEN stands for straight, without our straight allies, we would be facing an uphill battle every day! In 2015, I was a national semi-finalist for GLSEN’s National Educator of the Year…how’s that for a fun fact? Sorry I didn’t win…oh well.

Kevin Jennings was named Lambda Legal’s CEO in 2019…watch for more on that maybe next week as we explore the letter “L”. Lovely! See what I did there?

Short and sweet for the letter “K” this week. Your call to action? Please learn more about famous LGBTQ people during October. Let’s get some of them in our school curriculum, right?

https://lgbthistorymonth.com/

Please check out GLSEN’s website for free resources, to register your school for educational materials and to mark your calendars for these awareness weeks:

Oh, and if you’re still reading this, I was selected to do a TEDx talk in February. Kool, right? It is a bucket list of mine…Hooray! More to come on that…Happy LGBTQ History Month!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Knational Coming OUT Day & KCNN Equality Debate

Lisa A. Koenecke

You might have noticed the title includes the letter “K.” Knope, Knot a typo, just letting you know that this week’s blog is meant to be brought to you by the letter “K,” but there were other more important messages to share.

October 11th every year is National Coming OUT Day. If you know my story, you’ll remember that my national coming out day was Thanksgiving of 2016 when my sister told me I was gay. Oh yeah, and “Please pass the carrots.” Can’t make that up, and of course I cried, and then ate my carrots.

National Coming OUT Day is a significant observance for the LGBTQ+ community as well as for our families, our allies, and our communities. On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (history linked). This year celebrates the 31st year of this auspicious…

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Knational Coming OUT Day & KCNN Equality Debate

You might have noticed the title includes the letter “K.” Knope, Knot a typo, just letting you know that this week’s blog is meant to be brought to you by the letter “K,” but there were other more important messages to share.

October 11th every year is National Coming OUT Day. If you know my story, you’ll remember that my national coming out day was Thanksgiving of 2016 when my sister told me I was gay. Oh yeah, and “Please pass the carrots.” Can’t make that up, and of course I cried, and then ate my carrots.

National Coming OUT Day is a significant observance for the LGBTQ+ community as well as for our families, our allies, and our communities. On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (history linked). This year celebrates the 31st year of this auspicious holiday. Thank you to the Human Rights Campaign for their advocacy(videos) around this rite of passage for some, or perhaps another day to stay in the closet for some. This is why school counselors are vital to creating safe spaces for all of those marginalized souls.

I was in the closet for so long because I didn’t know that being gay (and ultimately happy) was an option. Being raised Missouri Synod Lutheran didn’t offer a great deal of hope for females, let alone, females loving other females. We used to volunteer to clean the church on Saturdays. I would always volunteer to go with my mom for the main reason of being able to stand in the pulpit and “preach” whatever was on my mind. You might want to sit down (if you aren’t already) for this next part…I wanted to marry a pastor. Not a female pastor, but a male one. YIKES! What was I thinking? Oh, right, that’s what was modeled for me. As I grew older, I gained more confidence in myself as a strong female. After all, my mother had named me Lisa after Eileen Fulton’s character on the soap opera “As The World Turns,” because she wanted me to be a strong female. Careful what you ask for, right?

Once I realized that I could be the pastor and that I didn’t have to rely on a man. I wanted to volunteer at church to be an usher. All of my uncles were, so why not me? It was then that my relationship with the church, it’s heirarchy and hypocricy changed my views. My aunt was the treasurer at our 100 member tiny church on the hill. I was related to half of the congregation. In fact, if our carload of cousins was late to Saturday/Sunday school, they would wait for us to start. When I told my aunt that I wanted to be an usher, she told me that women weren’t allowed to hold leadership positions. WHAT???!!!??? I’m shaking my head as I write this. So, again, when my sister told me I was gay, I had to face my own coming out rite of passage. My church had let me down. Now what to do?

You go to college, hang out with all of the female athletes, that’s what you do! Too bad I didn’t know what coming out meant my freshman year at UW-LaCrosse. October 11th, 31 years ago would have been the first National Coming OUT Day. I wonder how my life would have turned out differently if I had been true to myself? To every season, there is a reason. Who would have thought 31 years ago, that there would be a presidential debate focused soley on LGBTQ+ issues? That is exactly what happened on the eve of National Coming OUT Day (NCOD).

Cable Network News (CNN) hosted the first ever Equality Town Hall. CNN worked with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) by inviting 9 of the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to discuss our issues. Just the fact that we are seeing these discussions and advocacy in my life time gives me hope for the future. Check out the 9 Takeaways from CNN’s Equality Forum. For those of you wanting a chuckle, watch Saturday Night Live’s take on the CNN LGBTQ Forum. You’ll need to watch some of the original footage to understand the SNL skits.

WOW, this was an emotional week for me and writing this blog was quite cathartic as well. Thank you for taking the time to read and maybe even you watched some of the videos I linked for you. My Call to Action this week is realize that the Supreme Court of the United States will decide whether a landmark 1964 civil rights law bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status. We can be fired in half of these United States based upon who were are and for whom we love. Please be our ally and wear your rainbow ribbons, share your stories and together we can shape our policies to become more inclusive.

Mahalo!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

Jazz Jennings Just being Jazz

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter “J” and the amazing Jazz Jennings. Jazz, in her own words from her Facebook page, “My name is Jazz and I’m transgender which means that I was assigned male at birth but was a girl right from the start. I expressed myself as a girl to my family by gravitating towards dolls, dresses, sparkles, and everything feminine. I didn’t just like girly objects, but I heavily insisted that I WAS a girl. All my family wanted was my happiness and they assured that by providing me unconditional love and support. As kindergarten approached, I would be heading to a new school and a fresh start was coming. We took this opportunity to begin my transition as a girl. I finally blossomed into my authentic self. Although this seems like it might’ve been the end of my story of me finally becoming a girl, it was only the beginning…”

I was lucky enough to meet Jazz in Portland, OR, at the Human Right Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” conference. She was coming back from Voodoo Donuts with her mom as we were heading out to get our own donuts. She was poised as gracious when I told her how proud I was of her. And of course I had to hug her! Why didn’t I get a picture with her? ARRGGG, I guess I thought these otters were cute…

Times are changing, but I still can’t imagine the strength, courage and support Jazz had and still has to this day. She knew she was born in the wrong body when she was 6 years old. When I was 6, I was playing with my tractors and my G.I. Joe, not appearing on television next to Chaz Bono. Read on to see how Jazz and Wisconsin crossed paths…

In 2015, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on the reading of I am Jazz in the small Wisconsin town of Mount Horeb, population 7,421:
MOUNT HOREB — In a turnout that stunned organizers, nearly 600 people filled the library here Wednesday night to hear a public reading of a children’s book about a transgender girl, with many in the crowd expressing strong support for a local family with a transgender child.

The library event — and another reading at the high school on Wednesday morning that drew about 200 — followed the cancellation last week of the reading of the book “I Am Jazz” at the Mount Horeb Primary Center, a public elementary school where a 6-year-old student had just transitioned from a boy to a girl.

School staff said they sought to read the book to the girl’s classmates to help them understand what was happening to a fellow student, and to help the girl feel safe and accepted.

The school canceled the reading after a conservative Florida-based group threatened legal action.

The centerpiece of the library program was the reading of “I Am Jazz” by its co-author Jessica Herthel, who flew in from California to support the family. As a straight parent, Herthel said she wrote her book with Jazz Jennings, a transgender girl who stars in a TLC reality show, in part because she felt there were not enough resources for parents like her to teach their children about acceptance.

She said she was overwhelmed by the community response in Mount Horeb.

“I think it’s a barometer of where we’re at as a society,” she said in an interview. “I think we’re more ready to hear about this issue from a child’s perspective, because we know a child isn’t making a political statement or rebelling against society. Kids don’t know not to tell the truth, and we’re getting more comfortable with that idea.”

“When people take the time to read the book, they realize that ‘I Am Jazz’ is about identity — who you are. Not sex — who you are attracted to. And the book’s message of ‘Be who you are, no matter what’ applies to all children,” Herthel said. Read the full article here.

Two Eleanor Roosevelt quotes come to mind when I think about Jazz’s journey: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” and “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” Jazz knew who she was at a young age, she is a courageous trailblazer.

Want to learn more about this amazing person? You can read her children’s book I am Jazz, you could watch her on YouTube, or check out I am Jazz” on the TV channel TLC. In 2017, the Tonner Doll Company announced plans to produce the first transgender doll. Please notice we use the term transgender and not transgendered. A person is a noun, not a verb! Right now in 32 states there is no state law protecting transgender people from being fired for being who they are. Only 18 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, IA, MA, ME, MD — effective Oct. 2014, MN, NJ, NM, NV, OR, RI, VT and WA) and D.C. currently prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Transgender FAQ from the Human Rights Campaign.

In our every day lives, you will hear more people identify as transgender or trans and becoming their true selves — comfortable in their skin and their bodies for the first time in their lives. You’ll have multiple opportunities to embrace and enhance your ally-ship, and I invite you to turn to me with any questions along the way. Ask questions, and share resources like this blog post with others. Please check out the book I am Jazz, or buy it and donate it to a school library. Thanks in advance!

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)

ALLY Week Sept. 23-27, 2019

Given the events scheduled for this week, we’re taking a break from our usual posts to bring you a special announcement. (I’ve always wanted to say that!) For those of you playing at home, perhaps you were expecting the letter “J” today? I promise you will have information on Jazz Jennings next week. Stay tuned…

This week’s contribution is brought to you by GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network). Learn how to be an Ally to LGBTQ Students, Trans and Gender non-conforming students, LGBTQ Students of Color & LGBTQ Students with Disabilities. I encourage you to register and learn more at GLSEN’s site. Did I mention it’s FREE? Get some cool swag and stickers to show your support as an Ally. Need a refresher on what an Ally is? Check out my blog “Ally or Ally.” from July 15th. Note that these tips can apply to any marginalized population, not just LGBTQ. We are also celebrating Latinx Heritage Month (September 15-October 15). Because Bi Awareness Day is on Monday, September 23, let’s kick off Ally Week by being in solidarity with Bi Net in bringing visibility to bisexual identities! (glsen.org/allyweek)

Ways to Be an Ally to:

On Your Own:
Intervene when you hear anti-LGBTQ language or remarks. Be conscious of your privilege and speak from your own experiences, rather than assuming the experiences of LGBTQ students and other marginalized folks. Sign up for GLSEN UP to take policy actions in support of LGBTQ students on the local, state, and national level.
In Your Student Club:
Create a student bill of rights describing the climate of respect and inclusion you’d like to see at your school. Create a bulletin board to display at school about what allies can do to support LGBTQ youth. Do an inventory of LGBTQ-inclusive resources at your school, like Safe Space stickers. Talk to your advisor about how to bring more resources to your school!
As an Educator:
Collect LGBTQ-inclusive books for your classroom/library. A shout out and HUGE Thanks to Mande Shecterle and Laura Frost for always being amazingly LGBTQ supportive Library Media Specialists and providing a rainbow of resources for staff and students. Need suggestions? Check out the American Library Association’s Rainbow Lists and Stonewall Awards. Learn about how to become an advisor to your school’s GSA or other LGBTQ student club. Learn about the experiences of LGBTQ students from GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey.

Here is the Student Guide resource for everything you need to know plus ideas for organizing your Ally Week!

Student Voices

I would love to hear how you used these resources to become and even better ALLY! Thanks for sharing this article with your friends.

~Lisa from Wisconsin (Lady Rainbow)