During the spring, our world was changed with Bruce Jenner's monumental decision to come out of the closet and be his "authentic self." The Olympic athlete on the Wheatie's box became "Caitlyn Jenner" and the world is learning about unconditional love from watching it unfold weekly on "I am Cait" - whether our world wants it or not - it is here.
Having traveled, worked and interviewed many people in the Transgender community, I was so very happy to see him doing this as a role model to help others make this transition.
As an educator - this is also helping the educational community adjust too. This is especially important when we have gender reassignment centers in San Francisco reporting stats of 2-3% of children today reporting feeling as if they are in the wrong gender. Figures for adults estimate at least 700,00 American adults out there reporting that they fell their internal gender identity does not match the gender they had since birth. Many who identify as being born in the wrong gender or who have cross-dressed have attempted suicide, especially those in their formative years that were not given the love/support they needed.
This is something we can no longer afford to ignore. As educators, healers and psychologists we want to be a sensitive to the needs of children and families while presenting support/education in the best possible light with the utmost care as our world transitions too..
When talking to social workers and experts in this area, many young people report wanting to identify or dress in a way opposite to their birth to experiment and try out different roles. Any parenting magazine will tell you this is quite a common occurrence with boys and girls. As we learned in Childhood Development courses, parents should not worry when this occurs, as the vast majority of children outgrow it and are oftentimes trying out different roles as experimentation. Parents often cause more problems when they look too deeply into it.
What is especially important is for parents is to not "assume" that a child is born this way if it goes beyond just dressing as the opposite sex.. as sometimes a child is experimenting and what is not shown in mainstream media is the number of gender change regret statistics out there.
One high profile case in the transgender community was 70s pioneer Renee Richards who doesn't regret the surgery - but regretted the fame that came with it. Some like their gender and are happily married to the opposite sex and only identify with cross-dressing - something one of my interview subjects, child actor Larry Mathews was lead to do after enjoying dressing up at Halloween time. Larry played little Richie Petrie on the old Dick Van Dyke show and was my one and only assignment on the topic of cross-dressing. Despite it being an uplifting story and interview, certain family were not ready for him to "be himself" and though he called my Editors with the idea for the story it ended up leaving him sad and depressed and angry at us for printing the interview. Like Larry, some people only want to dress in different costume, and that needs to be identified too, so that the spectrum of understanding with these differences are noted and understood.
Whether cross dressing or transgender identity are the issues - it takes courage for a person to be themselves and pioneers like Renee Richards were not allowed access to the US Open in 1976 after undergoing re-assignment surgery the year before. Her courageous fight to overturn this decision within the US Supreme Court made her one of the first pioneers for transgender rights.
If your a parent and you are concerned that there is a gender issue beyond playing dress up and experimenting in fashion, It is suggested that you talk to different educators, school psychologists, teachers and other parents to learn as much information as possible to support your child and obtain the best resources to be of help.
Two different studies in 2013 and 2014 looking for the biological "root cause" in gene mutations involved in sexual differentiation found no evidence that a child is born in the wrong body. That is why children expressing a desire to be different or identifying a gender beyond just dressing differently as the opposite sex may have an underlying root cause that needs care. These often include stress or depression brought on by divorce, death of a parent, an unstable or unsafe home life, domestic violence in the home, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, etc.
Therefore parents/helpers again - must tread very carefully and work first with identifying the root cause of a child's desire to change or dress in the opposite gender and be as supportive as possible. For every successful transition of an adult like Bruce Jenner or pioneer education advocate Jessica Lam, there is also stories of those who regret it because they never were treated properly to help identify the "root cause" of their depression/feelings.
Therefore, there is no clear cut answer for a child with gender identity issues. Like anyone else in our society, any child showing confusion and even certainty about their preferred gender should be treated with professional counseling to be sure and with much love/compassion.
In addition to the above interview mentioned, my compassion for drag queens and others in the transgender community started with a few different experiences I had early on in my teens, working as a reporter and while traveling and studying in the I/0 Psychology Dept. at University of Detroit-Mercy.
One experience I had was at 18, when I traveled to the middle east (Lebanon and Israel) through a tour that was cancelled. This was on my way back from visiting my best friend from high school who was from Athens, Greece. Though I didn't have friends or know anyone in Israel, I found my way around and stayed with a beautiful Palestinian family at their family run Bed and Breakfast in the heart of old town Jerusalem right near Bethlehem - south of there in the West Bank.
Though we didn't talk religion or politics, they were the most loving and kind family - and were
sadly treated like "second class citizens" for not serving in the Israeli Army, as required by all citizens living on this land. They were also not allowed to eat or socialize at night in Ben Yahuda square and my first night I saw kids brutally chased and kicked out of the district by soldiers who saw they were trying to pass as Israeli. This was confusing to me at first glance, as ALL the people looked the same to me as a foreigner - there was no cultural difference in my eyes, yet to witness this cruelty and lack of freedom was quite unsettling to me. It was not right, yet if you talk to some Israeli's about this incident today - they will agree that relations are much better and that our world is changing for the better.. May everyone have a heart on this and all land - as all people need love and acceptance and yes, this is historical land to be loved, cultivated and taken care of together with the people in unity.
Back to the story.. What made this family so special to me was the way this particular family embraced Sami -their transgender artistic son with unconditional love. He was not treated any differently for dressing as a woman and his paintings filled his parents entire home and business. Every morning they made fresh breakfast and strong middle eastern Turkish like coffee and treated me as if i was their own daughter.
It was the most beautiful experience for me during my stay in Jerusalem - besides the highlights of seeing other parts of Israel where monumental events occurred in the Bible -ie. Where "David slung Goliath" "Masada" and of course the joy of floating in the Dead Sea and seeing blisters on my feet completely evaporate. So many cultures/religions share this land and you really feel it when you visit different parts. For example, many fail to realize that over a million Muslim people live in Israel along with Christians and Jews. It is truly a melting pot. Yes, the middle-east is truly a beautiful magical place that deserves peace and to be loved/cherished by EVERYONE like every other place on earth.
In my early 20s I was also introduced to the Drag Queen/Transgender community working as a celebrity/nightlife reporter in Miami. My first Editor, Andrew Delaplaine of Wire - gave me my first reporting job while at the University of Miami -and during this particular assignment I stood up for Miami's most well known Drag Queen performer - Kitty Meow -a.k.a. Shawn Palacious - as event handlers in Miami for the grand opening of this new restaurant/bar I was assigned to cover were not treating him right. The event organizers made the well known drag queen performer stand behind a giant Elsie the Cow - hiding her all night from guests in attendance. Something that outraged many of us at the event, particularly my editor, well known publicist Charlie Cinnamon and newspaper staff who all witnessed what had happened and were upset by it. *See photo attached of Kitty Meow today - still performing!
Another experience I had early on with the transgender community occurred when I was 16 traveling with a group of teen girls from Lake Forest - A Catholic School in Lake Forest, Illinois to England. This group trip was arranged through a sister travel program with my high school Cranbrook-Kingswood and included twenty or so wild Catholic girls that behaved as if they were let out of prison! The tour took us everywhere in and around London and Paris before I stayed that summer with my father's first cousins to learn about the Jacobs family across the pond. It was culturally a real "eye opener" for a sheltered young girl like me from Detroit, as I had never been exposed to the transgender community. Though American teens my age were already familiar with glam bands experimenting with make-up like Duran Duran, the androgynous make-up wearing Robert Smith from "The Cure" and bands like the Human League - the scene in London at the time was much different and "dress up" was much more open and accepted there as compared to the states. Our first night off the plane our group had tickets to Royal Albert Hall in London to see Pete Burns and the band "Dead or Alive" In the US, they had their 1 hit song: "You Spin Me Right Round." This song - along with Frankie Goes to Hollywood were huge at the time and the London fashion scene was amazing and so different from Detroit! I was so inspired everywhere I went by fashion and self expression on the streets. What I especially noted was that the music scene was full of bands with these men that were not afraid or self-conscious dressing in drag - something new for Americans except for the underground gothic scene of downtown Detroit - and young boys in my elementary school in the 70s dressing up as Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley from Kiss was the extent of what I was exposed to in the midwest. This new London 80s music scene was new for me and one of many culture shocks our group experienced in London that summer. The other, was the freedom to go explore a big city myself at such a young age - exciting yet with consequences at the same time. One night, an older business man jumped in front of the tube - (the London Underground) before it stopped at the platform. My friend and I were waiting at the station to go to another rock concert at Peter Stringfellow's Hippodrome and the neighborhood we were in to catch the tube was not feeling very safe. Yes, I was traumatized by this incident - and instead of clubbing at a show, my friend and I spent the entire night as police witnesses talking to Scotland yard and a psychologist who insisted on calling my parents to tell them what had happened. The whole incident felt surreal as one minute we were waiting for the train noticing the scary looking gang members/punk rockers waiting for the train next to us, and the next minute this business man in suit and coat jumps from the platform in front of the train. When the blood hit the front of the train - it splattered on the train drivers window and on the platform spraying our shoes. It was like seeing a frog bob "up and down" in a blender. That is the only way to describe it. As I stood frozen on the platform the gang members who appeared so scary to me a few moments before were running upstairs with fear and panic in their faces..while I stood still at the platform - catatonic and traumatized from my delayed reaction to what had just occurred and completely unable to move. Yes, it was quite scary.. My connection to energy was changing me in London - the city my orphaned grandfather called home before he moved to the states had many types of people and strong Native American energy was felt. Earlier that day before the incident, I had purchased my first Native American "healing protection" bracelet at one of the street markets.. and believe it really protected me that day. Facing my fears, I had to go on the train the next day for our site-seeing excursions and somehow I was okay. That's all it takes sometimes to conquer a fear is to face up to it and your healed.
Back to the story about Royal Albert Hall and the "Dead or Alive" concert…. To my surprise we were the only females at the show that night in London, and the only ones who were NOT men in Drag! and long before my past life Hopi Ties with my grandfather Albert came out in healing/training workshops- I realized that … Yes.. these men across the pond in a different country did not feel self-conscious or out of place dressing up as women and were the most beautiful divas I had ever seen.. The "mystique" was taken away - and drag queens were my friends, my confidants and beauties I admired for their self-love, expression, fashion style and self-care. In fact all the music I was exposed to during my formative years that London summer in the 80s during LIVE AID had an androgynous drag queen quality to it that was foreign and misunderstood culturally by most Americans. I attribute many of these 80s cross-gender dressing glam artists and bands as heavily influenced by the 70s glam punk rock scene the decade before with David Bowie and the Sex Pistols.. This produced a whole new group of British Musical Artists in the 80s and many of my favorites were working with EMI and the production team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman who I wanted to work studying voice and learning about what it would take to be A & R woman in a field with very few woman at the time. Songs like "Love and Pride' by King were on the airwaves as were glam bands/artists that included: Adam Ant, Kajagoogoo, Scritti Politti (one of my personal favorites), Boy George and Marilyn, Haysi Fantayzee, Human League, Depeche Mode, the Cure and so many more! What these British artists had in common was that they were all dressing and singing somewhat in an androgynous /drag queen sort of glam way and only a fraction of their songs were making the US airwaves as after all - there was no internet back then to share music internationally like there is today.
Years later - when I delved deep into my Native American roots with Drunvalo and Native American healers here in the states.. I felt the deep connectivity to some of the ritualistic dances/costumes.. particularly in the Native American and Hopi culture and how it related to the British music scene I saw in London in the 80s.. It started with the music of Pete Burns concert /music opening the set that night with the same similar flute playing… it was like one big Hopi "flash back" - only these Native American men and their traditional dress are not part of the transgender definition - nor do they see their costumes, rituals or shaman medicine men as dressing in drag…. yet these artists definitely had some Ancient Native American "past life" in them surfacing in the present with their performances… and we all know music and dance and the arts heals.. we've known that for centuries.. .. sharing many similar traits on stage with their make-up and Scottish-like kilt skirts worn in ceremonial dance that are also on the Hopi Kachina's and worn by Hopi men was like viewing a native ceremony. In fact, both men and woman in many Native American cultures traditionally had roles taking part in storytelling, music, dance, artwork and healing - much like artists do today. Many videos too, like Adam Ant and "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode and this video for "Love and Pride" shown here by King reflect that:
all had a Native American element/vibe to it.. so the connectivity was there.
As our world adjusts to this precipice of change occurring at this moment with a new love/emergence happening for all cultures including the Transgender community - something they have been striving for over the last few decades.. it feels very connected and rooted in past life for me too….
especially for me with connecting events in my present life having a British orphaned grandfather from Germany who was my Native AMerican medicine teacher past life and my first experiences in London related to to my Native American past lifetime and similarities with the Hopis way of life..
There is a "connect the dots" for everyone in this way to cultures they know that surface in the present if they are open to it on their path.
I feel fortunate that I was lead to encounter these wonderful transgender and cross dressing souls during work and travels who agreed to incarnate here on earth at this time. They have worked hard to help raise the vibration of love, peace, unity, tolerance and acceptance in our world and their road up until now has not been an easy one. Any one a little different can relate to that - especially artists.. Only an advanced soul could have taken the amount of rejection, heartache and pain of society to have made it this far leading up to these times of more acceptance/unity and understanding that is upon us.
Pals Around the World represents and stands for diversity in our world. We are a "Bee Hive" of people who see and accept people of all different backgrounds, cultures, career paths and preferences. We represent this diversity - as long as a person is not harming others with their way of life, we must find a way to understand it and accept it.
As society prepares and embraces for more change in our world - our group of educators are along for the ride to help education fluidly help inform and educate - to embrace and accept those different from ourselves in the LGBT community in a palatable and sensitive way that works with our current curriculum/structure for hosting Pals Ambassador visits.
We are therefore working to have transgender Pioneer Jessica Lam as our next Pals Around the World Ambassador. She is an educator, mother and transgender pioneer who made her change in her 20s to female as a young parent to 5 and 6 year old boys. In addition to working full-time as a birthday party planner and Pioneer educator.counselor, she is also the author of the children's book: "The Adventures of Tina and Jordan." Her book is registered in the Library of Congress to help educate our children and help parents too on how to treat those who dress differently on the playground.
In addition to being a pioneer counseling students and speaking to both the Transgender Community and to Larry King Live, she gives high school level presentations about being transgender. We feel honored and happy to share her story and hope our group of educators do too with this becoming a mainstream topic. With movies like "Straight Outta Compton" and the "Danish Girl" coming out this month about the first transgender surgery - both rumored for Oscar nominations - the plights of different people are topics we cannot sweep under the rug any longer.
Like the custom of dress and the Native American flutes playing at the beginning of the "Dead or Alive" concert that took me back in time to Native American rituals lifetimes ago ..in my present lifetime (1980s, London)…. we must look for the similarities in each other ..to better understand and not just to focus on the differences.
Love, Unity and Compassion are key.. I hope by sharing this personal story that people reflect and grow before they make judgement of others or fear them because they are different. A heart really should not have to be labeled by their appearance or gender preference and this community's time in the spotlight is long overdue. They are here to tell their story and educate us to make our world a better more loving place.
Photos with this Story: