New ABC Family Series “Becoming Us” about families with a transgender parent

From the ABC Family web site:

“Becoming Us” follows Ben, an ordinary Midwestern teenager, going through a unique situation. After his parents’ recent divorce, Ben learned that his dad is transitioning into a woman, Carly. In the series’ opener, “#WelcomeToMyWorld,” Ben is struggling in school, and his parents, Suzy and Carly, are not happy about it. Ben’s girlfriend, Danielle, would like to introduce Carly to her father, who is also transgender, leading to an awkward shopping trip for the four of them. And Ben’s sister, Sutton, returns home to Evanston to plan her upcoming wedding.

“Becoming Us” is produced by Ryan Seacrest, Eugene Young, Rabih Gholam, and George Moll for Ryan Seacrest Productions, as well as Paul Barosse.

The Spectacle of Bad Faith in Matters of Equality

What is “bad faith” in matters of equality [and stereotypes]

 “…it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner. Nonetheless, I doubt that any of us who does so is totally without the knowledge that something is wrong.

  • To slide into decisions without allowing oneself to realize that one is making any;
  • to feel dimly that one is enjoying advantages without trying to become clearly aware of what those advantages are (and who hasn’t got them); 
  • to accept mystifications because they’re customary and comfortable; 
  • cooking one’s mental books to congratulate oneself on traditional behavior as if it were actively moral behavior;
  • to know that one doesn’t know; to prefer not to know;
  • to defend one’s status as already knowing with half-sincere, half-selfish passion as “objectivity” –

This great, fuzzy area of human ingenuity is what Jean Paul Sartre calls “bad faith.” When spelled out the techniques use to maintain bad faith look morally atrocious and appallingly silly. That is because they are morally atrocious and appallingly silly. But this only shows when one spells them out, i.e., becomes aware of them. Hence this one effort among many to do just that.”

Russ, J. (1984) How to Suppress Women’s Writing, London: The Women’s Press.

The Spectacle that is Jenner

JennerPlayboy_pe2By Helen Hill MA MFT

The “celebration” of Caitlyn Jenner (noticeably, spelt without the signature Kardashian “K”) that
took place on the recent cover of Vanity Fair had enormous potential to open minds, alter perceptions, and glaringly challenge the status quo of what it means to be a “man,” a “woman,” and that mysterious third category—“trans.” And yet it did not. Not only did it not live up to its potential in breaking societal male/female constructs, but it came strikingly close to a celebration, not of Caitlyn Jenner, but of the 1950s female pinup archetype.   (It seems not a coincidence that the Jenner Vanity Fair cover looks astoundingly similar to a 1950s Playboy bunny.)  Or, as we know it, what some sexists (both male and female) in Hollywood think a woman “should be.” Why am I not surprised? Jenner, Vanity Fair, and the business that is the Kardashian family is, at its core, pure Hollywood.  And that, in itself, should be a concern.

To me, the Caitlyn spectacle is currently no more than a Hollywood-celebrity-guy becoming a Hollywood-celebrity-girl whose “transformation” has played strongly to rigid gender and sexuality stereotypes standard in the Business, and whose femininity was oversexualized by a magazine catering to a traditional celebrity aesthetic. And I am shocked at how easily some applaud the pursuit of extreme stereotypes of gender as some kind of reflection of the acceptance of transfolk into the greater culture.  It seems that, in America, as in Hollywood, image is truly everything.

There are thousands of transfolk whose body types don’t fit the “normal,” much less the celebrity-desired aesthetic. These people have not been offered TV shows, high profile interviews, or thousands of notes of support. Far from it! These people have faced rejection over and over and over again; they have lost jobs, housing, health care, families, neighbors, religious communities, and more because of their departure from “normal.”   Many have lived homeless despite having PhDs or other graduate-level degrees, highly-sought after skills, and excellent ethics and work habits.  Coming out as their true selves put them in an “untouchable” caste to be ostracized and set aside.  It cost them everything.

So many paid dearly. I paid dearly.

Most of all, my children and my ex paid dearly.

In other words, the people I love most paid the highest price for me to finally face myself and become a real human being, and, hopefully, a kind and decent one too.  And it is on me to honor them by working hard every day to be that good and loving person they believed in when I didn’t believe in myself.  I can never tell you what I owe them.  They are truly the best part of me.

I am one of the lucky ones. I can put a roof over my head. I have some friends who love and accept me. I don’t ask for much, just please don’t hurt me.

But seeing how willingly young men and women accept this celebrity culture aesthetic and ignore the rest of us who don’t fit it, leads me to believe nothing has really changed.

With this new Caitlyn media craze and the related information and perceptions (and misinformation and misperceptions) now inserted into our cultural discourse, I and other “normal” transfolk have to again confront our own ideas of gender and how we manifest our gender in this world. I question myself to make sure I am me. And I strive to express myself safely so that I am not harassed, bullied, jobless or homeless.

As of now, everything I’ve seen about this messy business with Jenner is about adopting extreme gender roles—first as the ultimate male (Olympic champion), and now the ultimate female (sex and glamour). Someday Jenner will figure out what is really the best manifestation for herself. It almost seems as if it is a caricature, a set of extreme ideas of gender being manifested.  It seems unreal and I cannot relate.  The celebrity trans norm cannot help promote safety and security for “real” transfolk without the cadre of supporters or the backing of millions of dollars. But then again, this transformation was about Bruce and Caitlyn. It was not about me or you.

Jenner could not be where she is without the fact that thousands of us have gone before, without fanfare, without support, and without acceptance, must less tolerance.  We’ve trudged through when it wasn’t popular, newsworthy, or safe.  No awards are given to those of us who have survived horrific conditions to build our lives anew.  But then again, we weren’t looking for any.  It is the height of irony that Jenner is receiving an award for what thousands of transfolk have done for years, and continue to do, sacrificing everything in the hope to live in quiet and simple dignity.

Transfolks continue to be bullied, harassed, sexually assaulted, and murdered.  Even this week. None of what Jenner is doing, nor what the celebrity culture is promoting, has or will change that, in my opinion.

In all of this, the celebrity class divide has remained such a chasm that Caitlyn and her supporters still don’t see the rest of us, must less muster any empathy or compassion for our plight. Where are our voices in all of this? Where is the support? Where is our story?

As of now, it seems that Jenner and Hollywood haven’t changed a damn thing about gender stereotypes. And that they may have done more harm than good with the sexualized Vanity Fair spread.

I would ask that, and continue to have hope that, as time goes on other trans celebrities or leaders will welcome the monetary and emotional support that they receive and give it back to the cause and their peers who are still suffering deeply each day. Donate photoshoot fees (I’m speaking directly to you, Ms. Jenner) to clinics, housing services, job advocates and other services that reach out to those transfolk who do not fit gender stereotypes and who are not welcomed by society with open arms. Do your part to help those who helped pave the road before you. Be a good and kind girl, guy, man, woman, trans person. Honor all humanity.

Call Her Captain Katie


She breaks sound and gender barriers as the first female pilot in the Navy’s Blue Angels!

“I saw the Blue Angels fly when I was a young kid,” Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins said. “I was definitely inspired by that.”

Higgins is a third-generation military aviator and the first female pilot in the team’s 69-year history.

“My dad was an A-7 pilot initially, and then he transferred to the F-18 Hornet, which is actually out here on the line,” Higgins said. “It’s a great family legacy to have, that’s for sure.”

Now, she’s providing the inspiration.

“I think by including a lady on the team, that just shows little girls and guys that women can do whatever they put their mind to,” Higgins said. “Little girls have told me that they didn’t even know that ladies could fly aircraft, that women could be in the cockpit.”

They’ve been in American military cockpits for more than 20 years, but it’s taken this long for a woman to become part of the Blue Angels team.

“We do a very thorough interview where they get to know each one of us and find the right person for the team next year, and so it just so happened that they haven’t had a female pilot that has fit quite perfectly,” Higgins said.

Capt. Tom Frosch is the commander of the Blue Angels and said, “it’s not that we weren’t ready, we were just looking for the right person.”

He was one of 17 officers that voted Higgins onto the team and said they haven’t had any challenges integrating a female pilot into the unit.

“Any female can fly any aircraft in our inventory,” he said.

For more about Captain Katie Higgins, see the article on the CBS News website:

A home for homeless women in East Los Angeles

Homelessness in Los Angeles is a significant and chronic problem.  It is so much more challenging for homeless women to find safe shelter for themselves, their children, and away from addicts, violence, and sexual predators.  The new Guadalupe Homeless Project Women’s Shelter in Boyle Heights is a facility designed for exclusive use of homeless women.  The following article by Maya Sugarman of KPCC (89.3 FM) provides an excellent write-up of the shelter itself, and insight into the challenges facing homeless women in East Los Angeles.


For more than six years, Vickie, a 63-year-old homeless artist, did most of her sleeping on Los Angeles’ public buses.

“Nobody’s going to rape me on a bus,” says Vickie, who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy. “It’s the safest place for a woman to be. The only problem is you never get to lie down flat.”

Fear of rape, violence and theft had kept Vickie off the streets at night. But she says that fear also kept her away from homeless shelters, where she could have gotten a bed.

“Some of them have bad reputations,” she notes. “The ones that have outstanding reputations are always full.”

What finally coaxed Vickie off of buses was the opening of a women’s-only shelter in Boyle Heights, one of a very few in Los Angeles, and the only one to cater to older women like her. The Guadalupe Homeless Project Women’s Shelter has 15 beds arranged in a converted classroom that used to house an after-school program. It’s run by Proyecto Pastoral, a nonprofit under the auspices of East L.A’s Dolores Mission. Most of the women are in their 50s and 60s. The oldest is 80.

Raquel Roman, the shelter’s director, says the need for a women’s shelter in East L.A. became clear last year, when the body of a 36-year-old homeless woman named Lorenza Arellano was found floating in the lake at Hollenbeck Park. Arellano had often eaten dinner at a men’s shelter that Proyecto Pastoral has run in the community for decades, recalls Roman, but because its beds were not open to women, she slept in the park. Police said she died of a drug overdose, though how she ended up in the lake remains a mystery.

“Her tragic death was a shock to all of us,” Roman says, “and I was really compelled to say, we need to provide services to women in our community that are in the same situation.”

Amy Turk, program director for the Downtown Women’s Center, a day center for homeless women, says that other than the new Boyle Heights shelter, she knows of only two other women-only shelters in Los Angeles, totaling roughly 300 beds.

Yet the need for them is great, she adds, because the fear of violence often keeps women away from traditional shelters, much as it did with Vickie. A majority of homeless women recently surveyed by the center reported being victims of sexual abuse or other violence. A vast majority said they preferred women-specific homeless services.

And yet “we hardly ever see any funding geared solely toward unaccompanied women who are experiencing homelessness,” Turk says. Women trying to escape abusive partners have more options. So do homeless women with underage children, but they tend to be younger, and overall the population of homeless women is getting older.

As they age, Turk notes, they’re getting sicker faster than the housed population, which makes it harder for them to stay on the streets.

Those challenges are evident among the women at the Guadalupe Homeless Project, where each evening they do daily chores before being taken by van to a nearby school cafeteria where they’re served dinner.

Carlette Luka, a 59-year-old from Hawaii, has an easy smile and a jovial demeanor, but suffers from high blood pressure and a bad hip. She uses a walker. Before arriving at the shelter, she says she often slept in a graveyard to avoid trouble.

Another 59-year-old, who sings in her church’s gospel choir and asked not to be named, treks out on foot every morning to look for work but is slowed down by plantar fasciitis and pre-diabetes. Several women are getting treatment for mental health issues.

The goal of most of these women is to eventually find a job and an apartment, a task made difficult by the reluctance of many employers to hire older women, according to Roman. Some of the women at the shelter face the added complication of being in the U.S. illegally.

But some of the women are starting to get back on their feet. At 53, Eva Gonzalez is among the shelter’s younger residents. She once had a business designing and selling dresses for quinceañeras. For reasons she’ll only hint at, she lost the business, and then her home. She stayed in hotels and with friends, then finally heard about the shelter and secured a bed there.

For weeks, she struggled to find work.

“They told me I was too old,” she recalls. Gonzalez finally found work selling dresses in downtown L.A.’s garment district, adding that she’s saving money and plans to get a place of her own.

Unlike some of the women living with her in the shelter, Gonzalez says she still has time to start over.