President Trump invoked two Native American tragedies to insult Senator Elizabeth Warren on Twitter, causing decent people everywhere to cringe.
At this point, it should be painfully obvious that you shouldn’t use the tragic history of Native peoples as a weapon to attack your political enemies. And yet, here we are.
On January 13, 2019, President Trump shared a clip from an Instagram Live video of Elizabeth Warren, in which she grabs a beer and thanks her husband after announcing that she’s running for president in 2020. Trump commented, “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!”
For those who may not know, Wounded Knee was the site of a massacre in which U.S. soldiers slaughtered 150-300 Native Americans, nearly half of them women and children. And the Battle of Little Bighorn, though a momentary victory for Native Americans, is still a painful reminder of the oppression of the indigenous people of America, which only became more intense after the event.
The largest and oldest American Indian and Native Alaskan organization in the country has denounced Trump’s tweet.
The National Congress of American Indians is “the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country,” and those who lead the NCAI had some words for the president after his tweet.
NCAI President Jefferson Keep said on behalf of the organization:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the casual and callous use of these events as part of a political attack. Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line.”
Rodney Bordeaux, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and NCAI Great Plains Alternate Area Vice President also said:
“The President referenced the Wounded Knee Massacre, one of the darkest and most tragic chapters in the history of the Sioux Nation, to mock Senator Warren. On behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, I condemn President Trump’s racist and disrespectful tweet about this brutal incident, in which an estimated 300 unarmed men, women, and children were rounded up and slaughtered. President Trump should remember that the United States has broken and continues to dishonor the treaties of peace made with our nation and other tribal nations of this country, and he should apologize immediately to the people of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and other Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations for his shameful and ignorant misstatement.”
Others have called out the president’s insensitive and callous remarks as well.
Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer and tribal attorney called Trump’s tweet “cold, callous, and just plain racist.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called him out, saying “It is disgraceful that a President is mocking a massacre that hurt our Lakota People. We are outraged by his ignorance and lack of propriety.”
Other folks on Twitter, Native and non-Native, have pointed out the egregiously offensive nature of this official presidential statement. (As a reminder, all of Trump’s tweets, including this one, have been ruled by a court as official statements and will go down on the historical record.)
Thank you for knowing and acknowledging Wounded Knee. It happened December 29, 1890, and we never forget…and now I will never forgive Trump for using our dead as a joke.
— Storm Reyes (@StormReyes) January 14, 2019
Trump’s tweet is indefensible. The fact that he has not acknowledged that fact or deleted it with a profound apology isn’t surprising—but it should be. We should be shocked by this kind of behavior out of the President of the United States. The fact that it’s barely made a blip on most people’s radars is a clear sign of how far our standards have fallen.Read More
Like him or not, no one can deny that Trevor Noah has lived a fascinating life.
If you haven’t read Trevor Noah’s memoir, “Born a Crime,” you’re missing out. The smart, witty comedian who took over Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” has lived a life few Americans his age can imagine.
Noah was born and raised in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, South Africa, during the era of apartheid. The son of a black mother and white father, he was literally born a crime, since it was illegal for black people and white people to have sex in South Africa at that time. His book is filled with incredible stories of his upbringing, his fiercely determined mother, his experiences in “black church” and “white church,” and harrowing examples of what it meant to live under a blatantly racist system of government.
Some of the stories in his book include his grandmother, who played a big role in helping to raise him. Recently, Noah traveled to Johannesburg and took some time to chat with her and brought his camera crew with him.
One thing is clear: Noah’s “Gogo” is a 91-year-old force to be reckoned with.
“First things first,” Noah said, as he walked up to his grandmother’s house in Soweto. “Whenever you come into an African person’s house, you greet.” Then he called through the doorway, using a Zulu term for grandmother. “Gogo! Gogo! Hello, Gogo!”
She invited Noah and the crew in, and the two sat down to chat. Their conversation veered from her exact age (91 years and 9 months) to Nelson Mandela (“Madiba!”) to the Flying Squads of white police officers who enforced South Africa’s racist laws.
“For young people,” said Noah, “it’s very hard to understand how scary it was to be a black person living in South Africa during that time. But everybody was scared of the police.”
His grandmother said they’d get a knock at the door at 3:00am with police telling them, “Dress up, let’s go!” just like that.
Noah pointed out that some people say since life is hard and some people don’t have jobs in South Africa that it would be better to go back to the way it was, to which his grandmother responded with a quick “No! No thank you. It wouldn’t be better . . . ”
Whistling and shaking her head, she said that back then black people had to work on farms with no pay. Then she explained that if you were picking potatoes and one of the people picking potatoes beside you died of exhaustion, you’d have to dig a hole, bury the deceased, and then keep on picking potatoes.
No, not better.
When Noah asked her about his role in fighting apartheid as a child, she giggled.
Gogo tells Noah that he didn’t know about apartheid growing up because he was just a kid. “You were born a crime,” she told him. “How could you fight apartheid?”
“But I told them that I was an apartheid hero, Gogo,” Noah quipped. “I wasn’t?”
She giggled, then talked about how naughty Noah had been as a child. “When you were here, oh Trevor, you gave me a tough time,” she said. When asked why, she answered, “Because you wanted to play in the street! And I knew the Flying Squad was going to take you.”
She also said kids would run away from Noah because they thought he was “white.” They had never seen a white man before—Noah’s mixed skin was the lightest skin they’d ever seen.
“I feel so special now, Gogo,” Noah joked. “To know that there was a time that I was white.” Noah then tried to get his gran to say he was a good-looking kid, to which she whistled and said, “Energetic and really naughty.”
“But mostly good-looking,” prompted Noah.
“Like hell,” she responded. “Those big bumps,” she said, pointing to her own backside, “they know my slippers.”
The whole exchange is delightful, but it also illustrates how vastly different Noah’s upbringing was to what his life is now.
Looking around his grandmother’s kitchen, it’s clear that she lives a modest life. Some have suggested after seeing the clip that Noah should do more to make life better for his family in South Africa, but he pointed out in his book that his grandmother has refused offers of financial assistance.
She told him in the video, “It’s a pity because I don’t even wish to see where you stay. Flying over the sea, like this? No, not for me.”
When he asked her if she’s ever watched his show, she said the electricity goes out too often. And also that the cable isn’t reliable.
Noah said he must get her a generator, and a fitter for the generator, and something done about the cable for her to watch his show. “I feel like I’ve been tricked into doing a lot of things for you to watch my TV show, Gogo,” he laughed. She laughed along with him.
Watch the segment here:
(P.S. The full episode has more of Noah’s visit to South Africa and is definitely worth watching.)Read More
Ayesha Curry, a former actress and famed cookbook writer and restaurant owner, is a well-known Bay Area favorite.
She also happens to be married to basketball player Steph Curry. The powerhouse couple lead very public lives, and Ayesha has become increasingly cautious about what she says and when. But she didn’t shy away from engaging with musician Kehlani after a recent Twitter shoutout.
Kehlani, a queer musician, thanked Curry on Twitter for using the word “humans” to label the bathrooms in her restaurant instead of separating them by gender.
Curry’s response? She did it herself.
In a tweet that’s now been liked more than 14,000 times, Curry told Kehlani that she put those signs up herself, showing that Curry understands the importance of inclusion in public spaces.
Curry makes it clear that being religious and being inclusive aren’t mutually exclusive.
In spite of common rhetoric claiming that Christians aren’t progressive and accepting of diverse identities, or the reverse — that Christians can’t make space for the fluidity of gender and sexual identity — Curry proves you can in fact be both religious and tolerant.
Curry is not alone: She joins a number of self-proclaimed religious people who are becoming more accepting in public. Magic Johnson frequently attends church and has been accepting and affirming of his son EJ’s sexuality; Stephen Colbert, a devout Catholic, has consistently stood up for queer rights; and even some things the pope has said has signified a shift in how Christians view marriage equality.
These examples illustrate a pretty basic truth: It’s totally possible to be a person of faith and also be accepting of queer people. It’s really that simple.Read More
When two black men were unjustly arrested while sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks, Americans were rightfully outraged.
After weeks of lackluster public statements and an increasingly infuriated public, Starbucks announced it would close 8,000 of its stores for racial-bias training on May 29.
Starbucks will have to grapple with its missteps over time. But as the mega corporation begins what is hopefully a first step toward establishing a more inclusive and welcoming business, thousands of Americans still need a good flat white to kick off their day.
Want to get some good, fairly priced coffee while also supporting business owners of color? We’ve got you covered.
To get through the Starbucks shutdown, we’ve rounded up some incredibly dope coffee shops from sea to shining sea.
Here are some new places to try in each region of the continental U.S.:
Boon Boona Coffee, Seattle
Known for sourcing coffee from East Africa, Boon Boona Coffee works with coffee farmers across the region to develop relationships and support crop sustainability. The result? Some delectable coffee.
Red Bay Coffee, Oakland
Owned by Keba Konte, a former photojournalist and lifelong adventurer, Red Bay specifically staffs women, people of color, and individuals who have formerly been incarcerated. The coffee shop is known for its impressive role in the community and for its ability to make patrons of color feel right at home.
Bison Coffeehouse, Portland, Oregon
Touted as the only Native-owned coffee shop in Portland, Bison Coffeehouse serves up “strong, medium, or light” espresso, in-house baked goods, and other yummy treats. It allows visitors to step into an older Portland while also supporting the folks who were there first.
Watts Coffee House, Los Angeles
A staple in South L.A., Watts Coffee House has coffee, brunch, and everything in between for the bustling, vibrant local community.
Golden Thyme Coffee and Cafe, St. Paul, Minnesota
Nestled in St. Paul, Golden Thyme Coffee & Café offers a chill atmosphere and coffee-based beverages named after some of the world’s most famous jazz musicians. They also sell cakes and treats to appeal to the inevitable sweet tooth.
Crazy Coffee Co., Overland Park, Kansas
Crazy Coffee Co. serves up everything one might need for their java fix. The business specializes in drip coffee and offers a variety of flavors for home coffee makers.
It’s a GREAT morning for coffee! Hope you enjoyed our June flavors’ previews. In the meantime, enjoy our current flavors by ordering online. Link in Bio. #coffee #coffeetime #cupcake #coffeeshop #coffeelover #coffeelovers #cupofjoe #cupofcoffee #flavors #flavoredcoffee #gourmet #groundcoffee #blackcoffee #caramel #almond #chocolate #blackownedbusiness #buyblack #blackowned #blackgirlmagic #coffeebean #drinks #peach #cobbler #cinnamon #kansascity #kansascitycoffee #cinnamon
Rise and Grind Cafe, Milwaukee
A home for the worker bee, Rise and Grind serves up delectable food options and delicious coffee for visitors. They also offer catering for large events.
Whittier Cafe, Denver
Who doesn’t love a good neighborhood cafe? Whittier is just that. With cute sweets, an outdoor patio, a cozy library, and endless coffee options, this is the perfect place to sit, read, and caffeinate before or after a busy day.
Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, Philadelphia
Owned by Ariell Johnson, Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse is a super neat space for comic nerds and coffee fanatics.
The self-proclaimed first black women to own a comic book-coffee shop hybrid in the Northeast, Johnson offers a warm smile and works with her staff to create an inclusive space for those who are comic book experts — and those who just want an excellent cup of coffee.
Busboys and Poets, Washington, D.C.
Owned by Iraqi-American immigrant Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets is a coffee shop, restaurant, bookstore, and bar wrapped into one.
With several locations in the DMV area, Busboys and Poets staff are trained to work with diverse patrons and people of color are visible in leadership positions, kitchen, and bar staff — and everything in between. Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee while reading one of the lounge’s many books by authors and scholars of color.
Serengeti Teas and Spices, New York City
For anyone who prefers tea over coffee, Serengeti Teas and Spices is an excellent option. Located in Harlem, this tea shop serves teas from a number of African nations. Their staff — many of whom are African immigrants — offer advice on how to choose the right tea, and the cozy environment will ensure that you feel as peaceful as possible while enjoying your drink.
Black Swan Espresso, Newark, New Jersey
Black Swan Espresso, Newark’s first specialty coffee and tea shop, specializes in using international coffee beans in all their roasts. The atmosphere is pretty sweet, too.
Tres Leches Cafe, Phoenix
Tres Leches Cafe is owned by Latinx cafe experts. In addition to coffee, the Mexican cafe offers unique treats inspired by Mexican desserts like churros, dulce de leche, and, of course, tres leches.
Kaffeine Coffee, Houston
One of the best ways to get away from the scorching Texas heat is to find a coffee shop that serves up a great iced coffee with lovely customer service. Kaffeine Coffee offers both in the city’s hopping downtown area.
Piñon Coffee House, Albuquerque
Piñon Coffee House offers espresso-based drinks, nitro cold brew, and other options made with their own classic Dark Piñon coffee.
Throughgood Coffee, Houston
A hip new spot in Houston, Throughgood Coffee caters to millennials, but clearly has coffee standards rooted in the old-school methods. It’s staffed largely by people of color and serves the diverse Houston community with respect and Southern hospitality.
Dee’s Coffee, New Orleans
Stationed in a bustling city of world-renowned music, food, and culture, Dee’s Coffee allows people to take a step back from the wildness and enjoy a cozy, safe atmosphere. Owned and staffed by people of color, Dee’s Coffee serves tea, a number of coffees, and locally made pastries.
Cafe Ulu, Atlanta
Atlanta is known for housing businesses with some of the coolest vibes around, and Cafe Ulu handily meets that standard. The cafe centers black culture and the historical influence of coffee and the coffee trade.
Eyyyyyyyyyy! The fresh re-up just went down at @cafeulu! Along with delicious tea from @justaddhoney and coffee from the Motherland, #yourfavoritebakers’ Vegan Bluenotes, Salted Chocolate Chunk cookies and lemon pound cake are available! Shout out to @blackbalancepod for the black on black. #twodoughgirls #blackonblacklove #supportlocalatl
Beyu Caffe, Durham, North Carolina
Beyu Caffee dives into bohemian culture with gusto. In addition to some amazing coffee selections, they offer a full bar and live jazz for patrons.
The Terminal Cafe, Nashville
Perfect for those who are gluten free or health-conscious, The Terminal Cafe offers great coffee with food options like gluten-free waffles and French toast with apples. Lovely vibes are thankfully included.
And these are just a few of the options.
From city to city, state to state, and corner to corner, there are endless coffee shops owned by people of color to match just about any taste. As you explore new coffee and tea shops, support people of color and local businesses by learning, exploring, and opening up to new places.
You may just find some great cold brew along the way.Read More
When my wife returned to work after parental leave, I took my first trip to the grocery with two kids.
Little did I know I would return home feeling like a hero.
On a Monday morning, I pushed the green cart with flame decals through the second set of sliding doors and toward the deli. My 3-year-old son was strapped in the seat and my 3-month-old son was wrapped against my chest.
As a stay-a-home father strolling through the grocery, I felt conflicting emotions — love for caring for my sons and frustration with being an unemployed 37-year-old man.
At the deli, I exchanged pleasantries with a young woman behind the counter and ordered a pound of sliced turkey breast. I was immediately surrounded by a group of female employees. They leaned close to admire my infant son as he raised his bald head from the green cloth wrap.
“I never could get mine to like the wrap,” one said.
“I bet y’all have so much fun together,” another said.
“You are the best dad ever,” another said.
I swelled with pride. Maybe they’re right! Maybe I am the best dad ever.
I soaked in the praise before tossing my sliced turkey into the cart and heading toward the produce.
As I strolled, more comments came from fellow shoppers, and I absorbed them, giving little thought to the reason why I merited heightened attention.
“Nice baby wearing,” a young woman said.
“That is one way to keep ’em warm,” an elderly woman said.
“Man, you are taking this dad thing to the next level,” a bag boy at checkout said.
The series of verbal high-fives inflated my ego and, after receiving the receipt from the cashier, I smiled and pushed our flaming green cart through the sliding doors like a rock star walking offstage.
I had no clue I was benefiting from male privilege.
I enjoy the attention I receive as a stay-at-home dad; it’s nice to have impressed eyes turned on me.
My rationale for basking in the compliments is that I spend most of my time wading through dirty diapers, spit-up, and spilled Cheerios. I deserve some praise, right?
I thought so, until one Sunday morning I sipped coffee and read an article (a rare kids-free moment in the kitchen) about faux male feminists. The article included comments from Tal Peretz, a sociology professor at Auburn University, who described a concept called “the pedestal effect.”
As I read, my male privilege became uncomfortably visible. The pedestal effect refers to when men receive undeserved praise, attention, and rewards for performing work traditionally done by women, like carrying a baby in a wrap.
At the grocery store, I willingly stepped on the pedestal and used my privilege to gain attention for basic child care.
And as I reflected on Peretz’s words, other pedestal moments flashed in my mind. This realization was not something I could ignore.
If you believe in gender equality, it is not hard to understand why it is problematic to place one gender on a pedestal for doing the bare minimum, while another bears the bulk of the child care. Not only is it unfair, but it’s also not in the best interests of families and can place stress on them when parenting roles are unbalanced.
For men who value gender equality and healthy families, assisting in lowering the pedestal is imperative.
After reading Peretz’s comments, I wrestled with how to respond and, hopefully, how to help other dads become more aware of this privilege. I reached out to him to discuss the pedestal effect, and he offered practical ways to counter male privilege.
He reminded me of the complexity of privilege and how it operates on different levels — individual, interpersonal, institutional and structural.
We cannot dismantle institutions and structures by ourselves, but we can start with naming our privilege and giving credit to women wherever it is due.
Naming our privilege through raising awareness is a good place to begin, because men have been socialized to interact with women in particular ways, and it can be difficult for us to see how we are perpetuating gender inequality.
Peretz recommends using resources such as privilege checklists to identify your advantages. These resources can help us move unconscious thoughts and behaviors into the light of awareness. Ideally, this work will lead to interpersonal change.
Men can make the effort to closely listen to women to understand how they perceive male privilege. And, most importantly, we need to believe women.
Maybe you remain skeptical that a pedestal effect exists for fathers. Ask a mother whether she believes fathers benefit from undeserved praise. Her answer might surprise you. Men get attention and praise for doing work women do every day.
Raising awareness and listening are important steps, but I also wanted to know how to best respond when given undeserved attention.
Peretz recommends reacting “with humility and a sense of humor,” while bringing attention and awareness back to the work women have been doing for a long time.
For example, at the deli, I could have redirected the conversation. I could’ve used one of these playful responses suggested by Peretz: “Yeah, I’m really glad that my wife did all the heavy lifting of pregnancy and childbirth so I’d get to enjoy this little monster,” or “I really appreciate that, but it’s nothing my mom didn’t have to do for me!”
I want to do a better job of stepping off the pedestal and challenging sexist beliefs about parenting.
I want to better align myself with the women who have been doing this work for generations and assist them in creating more balanced roles within families. And I want to share the most important lesson I’ve learned while reflecting on this issue, which is that not only should I do this work because it is the right thing to do, but also because I need it.
Men need to be liberated from the rigid forms of masculinity that create a pedestal in the first place. Only when we step off them can we hope to be free.
This story originally appeared in the On Parenting section of The Washington Post and is reprinted here with permission.Read More
What would you do if you had five years to live? One year? A month?
That’s the question Houston-based Isha Desselle asked herself in 1986 after returning from a trip to India, where she saw too many homeless people to count.
One of them spent her nights rolled up “in a little bag,” and Desselle said she looked like her mother. The thought brought her to tears.
“My mother was tough, in a very soft way,” Desselle recalls. “She built our house in Trinidad, mixing water, sand, and stone. She taught us everything, especially charity. She’s the one who instilled that in our life. On the weekends, we would go to the market, and she would feed the beggars.”
When she returned home, she decided to take a hard look at herself and ask “What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do with me?”
It’s a question many of us have asked: You may be thinking it right now as you sit and read this. What do you want to do with your life?
Desselle knew she wanted to help others. The choice she made was extraordinary. After grappling with how she could do the most good, she sold her house and all of her belongings, giving her enough money for a fresh start. But it wasn’t for her.
“I sold my home and everything I had,” Desselle says, “put a down payment on a rundown apartment complex. It was like this is it. It just felt right.”
Her goal? To turn the complex into a safe place for elderly people without a home. But though her intentions were good, Desselle says she was stymied at every turn. “I went to United Way,” she remembers, “and they told me I wouldn’t make it because I didn’t have the experience; I didn’t have the education.”
The rejection didn’t make Desselle weaker. It fueled her resolve. No one was going to tell her what she could or couldn’t do.
So she moved into the apartment complex herself and began to help those who were already living there. When they didn’t have food, Desselle walked to butcher shops and asked for bones. She went to produce markets and asked for vegetables. “We had that every day,” she says.
And then the people came. Soon the elderly homeless residents of Desselle’s neighborhood started coming for assistance. Sometimes she’d have up to 40 people in her tiny kitchen. “And everyone helped out,” she says. Desselle began feeding more than 200 homeless people a day.
America has a homelessness crisis.
According to data collected in 2017, more than 500,000 people are homeless on any given day in the United States. That number includes 58,000 families with kids. As the cost of living gets higher and higher, more and more people can’t afford a place to live. Many are spending nights on the street or in transitional housing.
In Houston, specifically, more than 4,000 people are either spending nights on the street or living in temporary shelters while they work to get back on their feet. The good news is that this number is only half of what it was in 2011. And the answer is often more affordable housing.
That’s why Houston’s commitment to help people get off the street is so important — and why people like Desselle are so instrumental in the fight to end homelessness. They persevere even in the face of adversity, inspiring all of us to work harder to make a difference.
Desselle’s motto is where there’s a will, there’s a way.
That’s what Desselle’s mother used to say. She’s taken it to heart. “I picked that up because I watched her in action.”
Her goal? To change the lives of the elderly people forced to live on the street. Since Desselle first started the Turning Point Center, she’s helped more than 37,000 of Houston’s homeless population.
“They come in with a frown, the destitution in their face,” Desselle says. “And you take them to the clothing room, let them have a shower, change into something new. Their whole outlook changes.”
The biggest thing that the center can offer? Hope and respect for the human spirit. The residents who stay on for lengthy periods of time help out others who live there too.
“We see the person inside,” she says. “They’re not a number. There’s someone in there. There’s hopes; there’s dreams. You give them a chance. You change the outlook of them, and the inside changes too.”
Desselle’s mission should inspire anyone thinking about what to do next. Because our goal should be to bring out the good in this world.
“I don’t think money, power, or position could ever buy what I receive in helping people,” Desselle says. “I made a home where elderly homeless people can go, and I have lived my dream. I’ll probably die with a smile on my face.”
You can help, too.
If there’s one thing we can learn from this story, it’s that all of us have the power to make a difference. No, we’re not all going to sell our belongings and devote our lives to helping others (and that’s OK!), but we must all make a commitment to help our fellow humans and make the world a kinder, warmer place.
Want to help? You can start by volunteering at a shelter, where help is always needed. You could create care kits — packages full of essentials like socks and toiletries — to hand out, especially during the cold season. You can write to your legislators and urge them to support measures that protect the homeless and push for affordable housing. Start small, and you too could be making a world of difference.Read More
The summer before my junior year of high school, I came out as transgender.
I’d been raised a girl, but knew I was really a boy. What I didn’t know was that the person I’d always called “Dad” was about to transition too. The same year I came out as Alexander, Dad came out as “Mom.”
I was driving my mom home, not yet knowing she was, in fact, a woman. I was talking for the millionth time about gender and gender dysphoria and about how shitty I felt training my friends to use my pronouns and name, teaching my school how to deal with transgender folks, etc. She nodded, offering advice on how to deal with the egregious misunderstandings of teachers and students at school. As she spoke, there was a small note of sadness in her cracking voice.
When we pulled into our driveway, I turned toward her. “I’m sorry if this is really inappropriate of me to ask, but have you ever … felt … this way? About gender?”
She looked me dead in the eyes. “I’m not gonna lie to you: I have.”
We sat there and talked for what felt like hours, still buckled in.
She told me about growing up, about when she was married to my biological mother and the strain being a trans woman put on her relationship with her unenthused heterosexual wife. She also recounted a familiar memory of mine from an angle I hadn’t considered — a time when she’d shaven her face clean. I was about 9 at the time and was used to her having a beard and, accordingly, made fun of her for not having one anymore. I told her she didn’t look right without it. She told me that was one of the moments that pushed her back into the closet. It was the closest she’d ever really come to trying to come out to me. I stared straight out of the windshield, seven years of guilt rushing up on me like a freight train.
I began to realize that, all these years, she’d been hiding who she was not only out of self-defense, but also because of how she was afraid I would react.
Finally, she asked me a question I’d been too afraid to broach myself: “Do you want to see pictures of me?”
The first photo was of her up close, wearing a sensible blouse and a huge smile. The second was of her in a sweater dress and short heels, once again grinning at whoever was operating the camera, a long auburn wig gracing her shoulders. I was transfixed.
As she continued swiping through photos I touched a hand to my face, in awe of how beautiful my mother was when she was able to freely express herself. Happiness was something I hadn’t seen on her face in years. I felt as if I was witnessing something secret and sacred.
I asked her if my stepmother knew. She told me that she had known from the beginning of their relationship, and that she had even helped her pick out her name: Autumn. Autumn. She said that with a warm, relaxed smile, as if she was getting to stand up and stretch muscles that had been tight for years. I asked her what she would like me to call her: Mom, Autumn, Autumn-mom?
She replied that she wasn’t sure she was actually going to transition.
Somewhere in my chest, my heart broke a bit. I understood why she might make this decision: an established, higher-level job in factory work; the idea that only young people can transition smoothly; the fact that transgender women are murdered at alarmingly high rates. I knew this was a decision that was hers to make. But no matter the reasons, it still hurt to know that the happy spark I’d been so proud to see was going to be buried yet again.
I brought my parents to my first session with my new gender therapist. Pressing my knees together tightly, I explained my situation, my childhood, how I felt about my body. As my therapist spoke, I began to see something emerge in my mother’s consciousness as she was briefed on the process of gender transition. I spotted longing in her hazel eyes.
Several months, a definitive decision to transition, and two prescriptions for hormones later, my mother and I stood together, engaged in one of our “gender rants.”
“Did you know that estrogen makes you crave salt, like, constantly?”
“Nah, but I know testosterone has me eating way more than I used to. I took home an entire pizza from work yesterday just for myself — as a snack.”
My mom’s problems were very different from my own. Sure, there were some that were comparable — weird hormone side effects, switching names, drama in the trans community — but by the time I was legally changing my name, she was just starting to come out to people. While I was ranting about callous people at parties, she was struggling with the dangers of coming out at her new job, being scared to walk home alone at night while presenting as female, and being told to “keep her transition to herself.” Our lives were very different.
Eventually, my mom was ready to let people see her for who she was, consequences be damned.
As a teenager, I was exasperated at how long she was taking to transition. She was clearly miserable being anything other than who she really was; she was already starting to be read as female in public (she had been on hormones secretly for almost as long as I had been on them). Why not just get it over with?
What I didn’t realize then was that my smooth transition was built directly on the back of her rough one; she had suffered so that I wouldn’t have to. She’d been the one misgendered by the family, she’d been the one to make sure I would be safe, and she was the one who supported me when she felt she had little encouragement herself. She was the fierce support system for me that she never felt she had.
This year, my partner and I went to my mother’s for Thanksgiving.
I’m now 20 and moved out. I have a decent beard and my chest is flat. My stepmother is pregnant, and my mother is happy. Watching her move about the kitchen with a glass of wine in hand, gender dysphoria was far from both our minds. Things had begun to fall into a sort of normalcy again — but this time, it was a normalcy we could both revel in.Read More
The recent “revelations” of rampant harassment in the restaurant industry weren’t exactly a shocker to the women working in it.
Or the men, for that matter.
This isn’t just a matter of a few bad eggs and we all know it. For every John Besh splashed across Page Six, we can assume hundreds, if not thousands, more chefs run kitchens just like the ones his female employees described.
Something’s broken here.
It’s time that chefs and restaurant owners candidly acknowledge the larger culture that hatched all these crummy eggs, and have some hard conversations amongst ourselves that are long overdue.
Let’s start with this:
Assessing a woman as a body, rather than as a person with a mind, character, and talent, denies the full measure of her humanity.
It’s wrong and it demeans us all. Men shouldn’t need to be told this. They shouldn’t need to be told that the high stakes of elite kitchens don’t justify the ugly machismo that runs through so many of them.
There was a stretch in the late ’90s at Gramercy Tavern when all the senior chefs in my kitchen were women. Night after brutal night we faced the same pressured ballet of high heat, 86’d salmon, and tickets spitting out of the printer at a clip too fast to meet.
The only difference was the quiet; the smack talk was gone. These chefs were tightly focused, competing against themselves and not each other. I recall a group of French chefs were visiting at the time who had a good sneer over the male to female ratio in the kitchen. I also recall they shut up pretty quickly once they saw the food.
As men, it’s time for us to take responsibility for the culture of sexism in restaurant kitchens — and to fix it.
My kitchen is hardly perfect.
I’ve let my temper run high and driven the pressure up. I’ve brushed off the leering without acknowledging its underlying hostility. I once called a journalist a ‘rumor-mongering b***h’ for printing gossip that hurt my staff, a gendered slur that I regret.
But, I count myself lucky. I had a father who wouldn’t allow disrespect of my mother, and that lesson sunk in more fully during my formative years than the casual misogyny I saw everywhere else. It made it an easy choice to turn away the high-paying bachelor parties that wanted to rent out the PDR and bring in a stripper, which isn’t an environment my servers signed on for. It made it a no-brainer to fire the creep of a staffer who snapped pictures of his female co-workers in their changing room without their consent. And it makes it easy for me to see that it’s time for men in the restaurant industry to say to each other: enough.
Deep down, men know that sexist shit-talk is just a lazy substitute for real wit.
They know that work is not sexy time. They know that if they have to insist it was consensual, it probably wasn’t. They know that women really don’t want to hear about their boners (and that they shouldn’t say boner because they’re not fifteen.)
I imagine leaders in our industry will now come rushing forward with talk about how women should feel safe and valued in our restaurants. But is it any wonder that this sexist culture persists in professional kitchens when most of the women are gone from the back of the house by the time they hit their 30s? When the ones who remain are paid, on average, 28% less than their male counterparts?
We need to do more than pay lip service to fixing this. It’s not enough for us to ask, “How can we behave differently around our women employees and coworkers?” Instead we should be asking “What barriers to their success do I owe it to them to remove?” Those of us with our own kitchens should be asking “What have I been able to take for granted on my way to the top that women often can’t, and how can I help fix that?”
We all sweated and scrapped and worked damn hard to get where we are, but most of us did it without the added torment of sexual harassment.
A generation ago, American chefs were the young upstarts, bucking old-world conventions and forging a new path. We were the ones to watch. Is this the end of that era? Or do we have a second act in us, one in which we excite eaters more than ever because we’re empowering a new generation of talent?
Chefs are a tough bunch: canny, creative and quick on our feet. That’s why I’m betting our industry can shrug off its leering lizard skin and get this right. I’m betting that we’re smart and confident enough to level the playing field and create real opportunity, or at least learn how it’s done from the new crop of women (and men) running their own kickass kitchens humanely and winning awards, all while parenting young kids. I’m betting we can reinvent our industry as a place where people of all genders feel safe and prepared to lead.
Some aging bros may give us flack for it. But only until they see the food.
This story first appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission.Read More
Imagine you’re cooking dinner while your kid plays on the floor in the kitchen.
You open the oven door to peek at the casserole inside. Hmm … wonder how it’s coming along.
You boldly extend your index finger, completely unprotected, and stick it into the dish. Warm, but not quite there.
As you withdraw your finger, you accidentally make momentary contact with the blazing-hot glass baking dish. SEARING PAIN. Your nerve endings fire emergency signals to your brain. Retreat! Retreat!
Then the words come out: “Ow! Shit!!”
You pull out and slam the oven door shut, immediately bringing your scorched finger to your mouth for some reason. You turn around, and your 4-year-old is laughing maniacally, parroting you:
“Shit! Shit! Shit!”
Congratulations. You have ruined your child.
Just kidding. Mom and blogger Constance Hall recently had a similar experience, and you know what? She says it’s no big deal.
In a viral Facebook post, Hall writes that her young son, Arlo, “has been dropping a few bombs,” after overhearing her.
“Does it bother me?” she wrote. “Not much, meanness would bother me more.”
She explains: Her son is getting to an age where he’s going to copy his friends, no matter what she teaches him. Better that he learns to surround himself with good people than to adhere to a rule like “Never curse!”
“But what we can do is teach them how to recognise qualities that we respect. Point out, ‘how kind was Charley lending you his drink bottle?’ And ‘did you see how Sam helped out that younger kid?’ ‘I love the way Sophia is always making funny jokes.’
So while it’s important to say ‘don’t swear it’s not cool’ it’s equally important to teach your kids to strive to find friends with similar moral codes to your family.
That way when they do ignore you and run off with their mates, they are in good hands, maybe cheeky ones, maybe sweary ones, but good ones none the less.
Because our house hold might be a sweary one, but it’s a bloody kind one and it’s full to the brim with love.”
You can read the full post below:
Hall raises a great point and science agrees: Swearing isn’t inherently bad.
Yelling out the F-word when you stub your toe doesn’t teach your kids much of anything. However, if they see you abusively yelling “F*ck you!” at someone who cuts you off in traffic, that’s a different story.
You could even replace swearing with plenty of other behaviors considered to be “bad.” Does your kid like to sleep in a little too much? Have too much of a sweet tooth?
OK. Maybe those are things to work on. Maybe not.
But remember that one of the best things you can do as a parent is to raise your children to be kind to others and to themselves.
It’s not the only thing that matters, but it helps put all the other “shit” into perspective.Read More