Episode 12: Gender and Authenticity

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson with Ellie Krug & Tamara Grady

Release date: April 24, 2022

In episode 12, Chris and Emma were joined by Ellie Krug and Tamara Grady for a discussion of gender and authenticity. Ellie is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013), was a trial lawyer and has extensive experience providing training on diversity and inclusion. Tamara is an Osseo District School Board member in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and she is a proud mom of children who are a part of the LGBTQ community.

This conversation centers on authenticity, and the challenges faced by people discovering and becoming their authentic selves, through the lens of two personal and touching stories. We didn’t talk explicitly about Dąbrowski’s theory in our discussion but instead focused on the lived experience of Ellie and Tamara on their journeys of personal growth and development. Through these stories, we explore acceptance, unconditional love, and compassion—not only for others, but for oneself—in the context of the struggles faced by transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people.

Ellie's Bio: In 2009, when she was a civil trial attorney in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (US) with 100+ trials, Ellen (Ellie) Krug transitioned from male to female; she later became one of the few attorneys nationally to try jury cases in separate genders. The author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013), Ellie has trained on diversity and inclusion to court systems, law firms, Fortune 100 corporations, and colleges/universities on more than 1000 occasions.

Tamara's bio: Tamara Grady is an Osseo District School Board member in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and she is a proud mom of children who are a part of the LGBTQ community. Tamara has a master's degree in gender studies and anthropology and recently earned a Master's in Advocacy and Political Leadership. 

Resources:

Ellie’s website

Ellie’s book: Getting To Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change

Ellie’s Facebook page

Ellie on Twitter

Tamara on:

Twitter

Instagram

LinkedIn

Study dispels harmful gender dysphoria myth (“ROGD” is not a real thing)

Advice on how to use gender pronouns

Transcript:

Emma: Hello, happy listeners. Welcome back to the podcast and welcome to Positive Disintegration, a framework for Becoming your Authentic Self. I'm your host, Emma Nicholson, and with me is co-host Dr. Chris Wells. Hi Chris. 

Chris: Hey, Emma. Good to see you. 

Emma: It's good to see you too. And I'm looking forward to a lazy day today. 

Chris: Well, that must be nice. I wish I knew what a lazy day was like. Maybe I'll have one tomorrow, maybe. 

Emma: But more because we've got two guests unusually on. So I'm hoping to listen to some stories butt out of things and learn and sit here and drink my coffee while we allow our two guests to enlighten us on the subject of gender and authenticity. 

Chris: I'm looking forward to it too. So I met Tamara in 2017 at the SENG conference, supporting the emotional needs of the gifted, and her son had just come out as trans a couple weeks before, and it's really been an honor to have been a part of Tamara's life, for these past several years at this point. And I just am grateful for her friendship because at that time when we met, I was kind of going through my own gender questioning. It was that summer when I remember I put that I was non-binary in a Twitter profile long before I was ready to actually say it in my actual life. And so now I just have only recently started, well living as my authentic self and as a non-binary person. And so I'm really grateful that she's with us today. And she had her friend Ellie, come on with us as the other guest. And I read Ellie's book in preparation for the episode. It's called Getting to Ellen. And it is incredible. And so I'm really excited to have both of you with us today. 

Emma: Let me introduce our listeners to our guests. So first of all, we have Ellie Krug. In 2009, Ellie was a civil trial attorney in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with a hundred plus trials, when she transitioned from male to female. And she later became one of the few attorneys nationally to try jury cases in separate genders. She's the author of the book, as Chris mentioned, getting to Ellen, a memoir about love, honesty, and gender change, which is published in 2013. And Ellie has trained people on diversity and inclusions in court systems, law firms, fortune 100 corporations and colleges and universities on more than 1000 occasions. So firstly, welcome to the podcast, Ellie.

Ellie: Thanks so very much, Emma. I'm thrilled to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to your listeners.

Emma: We're glad to have you on. We also have Tamara Grady, and Tamara is an osseo district school board member in the suburbs of Minneapolis. And she's a proud mom of children who are part of LGBTQ community. Tamara has a master's degree in gender studies and anthropology, and recently earned a master's in advocacy and political leadership. Welcome, Tamara. 

Tamara: Thank you so much for the invitation. It's great to be here with you all. 

Chris: We're so glad to have you with us. So we'd love to hear more about your journeys. Ellie, reading about your story in the book was amazing and it's hard to even know where to start. We centered this podcast around a theory. It's really a theory about becoming your authentic self. And when I read your book, that's exactly what came through in your story. In particular, I was just struck by, you came from a traumatic background or your father died by suicide. You've been through so much and to read about the unfolding process of you knowing that you had this part of you, that you were denying and eventually just coming to a place where you were ready to be yourself. Can you just talk to us about what it has been like for you to become Ellie?

Ellie: Well, sure. I think the place to begin with is that I grew up in the sixties and the seventies when the word transgender really hadn't been invented. And society was, I mean Stonewall occurred in Greenwich Village in 1969. And at that point, I was 11 years old going on 12. And it was a way, way different time. And the idea that your brain couldn't match your body, it was just way outside of the realm of I think, most people's consciousness. So I did what most people in that era did who are trans, and that is that I suppressed. And I thought naively that it would go away. I really did. I thought, oh, this is just a phase you're going to go through. Don't worry about it. It'll go away. I fell in love with a girl when I was 15 years old. I thought it would go away then. It didn't but she turned out to be my soulmate. 

I tried to tell her about what was in my head about gender, and she freaked out. And I learned an important lesson that most trans people learn, which is, if you ever allow people to know about the true you, you will lose them. And so she and I never talked about it again for 30 years. I ended up going to law school. She followed me to Boston where I went to law school. I graduated, I took the last final on a Thursday, and she and I got married on the next two days later on Saturday. And we built this incredible life with me presenting as a man. It was the kind of life that most people would just give their right arm for. We ended up living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the US, in the best neighborhood in a beautiful house that we rehabbed three times. Three cars in a four car garage, two beautiful daughters. 

So the importance of things, I'm not giving to you in the right order here. I had all kinds of social stature. I was a very well-respected trial lawyer. And I just knew that if this stuff in my head ever came out to the world, I knew that I would lose everything. And so I suppressed, I went to therapy. I asked therapists, well, I commanded therapists not to figure me out, but to just help me to stay married, give me some kind of a mantra, some kind of a thing I could yell at myself in my head whenever the dysphoria that is the discomfort because your brain does not match your body when the dysphoria got too intense. And I went through therapists because they kept telling me that I needed to tell my wife, what was in my head, or that I would kill myself. And then eventually I had a moment of truth on 9,11 where I realized on that evening that someday I'd be laying on my deathbed and I would regret my entire life for having been a coward. 

And it was on the night of 9/11 that I decided that I would go and be me, whatever that was going to be. Because I didn't have a full clear idea. It took three years to leave my wife. It took another five years for me to transition and everything that I thought would happen did happen. I lost my wife. I lost a daughter. I lost my law firm. I lost a social stature. And it sounds like we're starting on a negative note, but let me make sure that your listeners understand this. I don't have a regret whatsoever about becoming me. Not at all. The studies show that the top regret of the dying in hospice is that they didn't live a more authentic life. That is the top regret. It's not like, oh, I wish I had saved more money, or I'd wished I worked more. I wish I had a thinner TV to [08:46 inaudible] a commercial that's on right now for Expedia or something like that. But the top regret is I wish that I had been more authentic to myself.

And so I've learned the difference between loss and regret. Loss fades over time. Yes, I still miss my ex-wife. I still love her, but it is faded. And by the way, I also actually just want to date men now. So that's a whole different story. But the loss fades, but regret burns far hotter over time. And the reason it burns far harder is because you have less time to fix whatever it is that you are regretting. And it took me a long time. I mean, I had to write the book to understand the difference between loss and regret because I used to think they were the same thing. Not at all. I am so much more at peace as Ellie Krug, even though I'm alone. And even though, so many things happened, by the way, the daughter that I lost came back. And she and I are good now.

Chris: And it really, another thing that came across in your story is that you, I mean, you did have all of these loving relationships and you had so much support throughout your life too, which is obviously a beautiful thing to see.

Ellie: I've been best friends with somebody for 52 years. He was the quarterback on the football team. I was the frontline guard. And he's like a man's man. But he never ever left me. He totally accepted me, and thank God that he did. His name is Dennis Thorpe. I call him Thap. That's the nickname for him. And I am so incredibly thankful that he didn't leave me and my brother didn't leave me. My brother Mark, my brother was calling me sister and using female pronouns before I came out to anybody. I did have support. I was very, very lucky. And a lot of trans people who transition don't have the kind of support that I did or privilege that I did. And I want to make sure I acknowledge that. Let's make sure we make it clear on this podcast. I am in the top 0.05% of transgender people. I have resources, I have education, I pass if I don't open my mouth. And I'm darn lucky, and I know that. Because I have that privilege. There are things I'm trying to do in the world for others.

Chris: So, Tamara, tell us about your journey of being the parent of a trans son.

Tamara: Well, thank you for that question. Well, it all started right when we met Chris. And I was sort of in a state of shock. And it wasn't like I had any intention of not supporting my child, but it was like, what do I do with this information? Because at that time, I was at SENG because I was learning, continually learning how to advocate for two gifted girls. And everything that I learned in advocating for them completely got flipped on its head trying to figure out how to advocate for a transgender child in this environment.

Chris: Yes, I remember that. I have to tell you though, that throughout all of this, you have just impressed me with the way that you have been there for both of your kids. And I mean, you're really an inspiration to me as a parent.

Tamara: Well, thank you. I centered myself and my practice on unconditional love. And at that moment, I had to realize there are a lot of things that I don't know now, but I do know that I love my child. And no matter what, if it means laying my body down in the street, I will do it in order to make sure that he is able to continue to go through adolescence as his authentic self. And not just him, but all these other kids. Ellie already touched on this, the privilege. I acknowledge my own privilege and the privilege of my children, is that so many children don't have the support that they need at home. They don't have the support that they need in society. Many of them lose friends. I do have so much hope seeing things get better than they were a generation ago. But it's still a significant challenge trying to find a safe and welcoming space, whether that be at school or at home, or in their larger community.

Emma: One thing I wanted to ask is, Ellie mentioned the difference between loss and regret. And I'm guessing that for anyone to be themselves that fear of making a change in your life and the fear of the loss is quite powerful, although, obviously in the long run, not as powerful as the regret of not being your authentic self. And Tamara, you talked about unconditional love in your practice and Ellie mentioned best friend and the brother who provided that unconditional love. Do you think that once that change is made to being more authentic, that sort of brings out or draws out the unconditional love or the support in your life and makes the structure around you also more authentic?

Tamara: I think that I really intentionally built myself and watched my son build himself a community of support where people are authentic. I think it was sort of like the great sorting hat kind experience at first because I just made a very clear choice anybody who supported my children was going to be in our life, even if they weren't perfect. And I drew a line on people who were having a struggle with understanding is that you will respect my children's names and pronouns when you are with us. And so it just sort of set like a clear boundary about what was acceptable behavior and what was not, and then also learning to really meet everybody else and their imperfect humanity around that because we all make mistakes. We all have misunderstandings.

Misgendering happens at times, unfortunately. And we just kind of all have to learn and grow together through all of our journeys. And I think a lot of our journeys, even the journey of being a teenager and raising teenagers, I mean, there's some loss there when they're cute little cherubs, you can imagine the world for them. But at some point we all become really real stinky human beings with our own frailties and imperfections and our dreams and this unfolding as Ellie mentioned, the unfolding of self that continues throughout our lifetime, even in middle and later ages. 

Chris: I mean, I feel like I've had a whole lifetime of being misgendered, and it really resonated, Ellie, when you said that, I mean, growing up in the sixties and seventies, that you have seen all of these changes take place during your lifetime. And me, I mean, I'm almost 49 and I feel like that too. When I was in high school. I mean, there was nobody in my high school that would've come out as gay or lesbian, and I graduated in 91. And now we've seen a lot of progress throughout our lives. Like now it's more accepted to be gay or lesbian, but it feels like the trans community now is kind of the target more so than, you know what I'm trying to say. Like, they're kind of the new target.

Ellie: We are the target and it's because we're not organized. We don't have an act up version for transgender people, for listeners Act Up was gay men in beginning, in the early late seventies, early eighties, and well into the eighties when the AIDS crisis started to evolve and come to fruition. And gay men weren't having it, that the government wasn't funding research, and they got very vocal about it. The trans community does not, we don't have that. And part of it is because the numbers are fewer, although I do have a specific theory that there are far more trans, non-binary people in the world that anybody could possibly realize. But we're not organized. And we're an anomaly and we're an easy anomaly to attack. And we don't fight back.

I mean, we really don't. Yeah, there are rallies and people come and they've go the signs and the bullhorns and all of that, but we don't fight back. I mean, Act Up was throwing fake blood at politicians to get them to pay attention. Maybe the trans community needs something like that. I don't think I am the one to lead that because I am a unifier, not a divider, but I fear something that will become even worse before it gets better. God forbid here in the US that the elections that take place in November coming up in 22, that the Republicans and again I'm not trying to divide, but that the Republicans take office because the handwriting is on the wall that  one of the very first groups they will go after are transgender people. They're already doing it at the state level. They will start to do it at the federal level again as the Trump administration attempted to do with some success.

Tamara: Yeah. And they're using these tactics of fear, especially, this is so egregious on transgender non-binary and gender expansive youth. And this is what I think is particularly difficult at this stage of transgender rights, is that there are so many. Right now, the studies are like 3% of high school students are, like I said transgender, non-binary or gender expansive. They're trying to deal with adolescents in a high school full of homophobia and transphobia. And I think one of the challenges we have is that we ask people when they are oppressed to advocate for themselves. And I made a conscious choice and a commitment to be the advocate for my child in the larger world because I felt like his role was to be himself. And there's enough work to be done with that. So I think that the fear tactics against parents and LGBTQ youth and gender nonconforming youth are particularly egregious because it's a really traumatic time to try to turn out advocacy when you're just trying to get through a lot of changes.

Ellie: And let's just be clear about this, okay, underlying all of this is the idea that being trans or non-binary or Tamara, thanks for the gender expansive phrase is a choice that you don't really need to do this. I literally think that that's why people feel so free to marginalize my community. And the gay and the lesbian community, they fought this battle back in the nineties, eighties and nineties. You know, well, hey, it's okay that you be gay or lesbian, but you can't have sex. And maybe you can be that way in your head. You choose not to have sex. Society largely has gotten past that kind of thing. But the problem with trans and non-binary people is that, I say that, I have a saying that we're all trying to survive the human condition.

I don't care who you are. But our survival, trans and non-binary people, our survival is far more public. And because of that, we're an easy mark. Even the religious kind of objection to transgender people. I've had more than one person when I've presented on transgender topics, more than one in audiences, who stand up and say, Ellie, you sound like a nice person, but God doesn't make any mistakes, you're really still a guy. And so what they're really saying is, you didn't have to be this way. You're just choosing to be this way.

Tamara: Well, I'd like to continue on this idea of choice, because what it really mounts to when other people are in opposition is they are a racing transgender identity. There are racing transgender lives. What they're saying is that you don't exist. And that is so harmful. It's the worst kind of discrimination. And we really need to work more on that as allowing people to live their authentic selves is what unconditional love and parenting should be about and needs to be about, and not about children going through some sort of phase because we are harming our children by denying them their rights to their identity.

Chris: I wish when I was a kid that non-binary had existed as an option, but it didn't. There was never a time when I was a kid where I thought that, I mean, I think that for one thing, we're lucky now that, I mean, our kids are growing up and they see that there are options, and it is okay to be this way, and it's a blessing. I am really discouraged by the way that, like this ROGD, this rapid onset gender dysphoria, it's a pseudoscientific term. It's not real. And yet people keep making claims that it is real. And the people who buy into it, of course, are parents who have trans kids, and they're like, oh, well, this is new. It must be, like, it's only new because your kid is only telling you about it now. I can see that parents are afraid, and that's why they're buying into this. But I mean, you can see that it's being used also as a tool to deny these unfortunate kids who have parents who've bought into it. And so, when I see this, it's really obvious to me that it's just a bullshit way of denying kids their authenticity.

Ellie: Well, it's in the same category as transgenderism. It's an ism, it's not real. It's a fad. The kids picked it up from somewhere, that kind of thing. 

Chris: Social contagion thing. Yes. 

Ellie: So I have a saying, so if your listeners are going to take anything away from Ellie Krug, this is the one thing to take, and that is this, the human authenticity will not leave you alone until you listen to it. Whether it's about gender or sexuality, or whether it's about you being a writer or an artist or an actor, or a musician or a singer, whatever. I mean, authenticity shows up in so many different ways, and we have blinders on as a society as to what authenticity really is. We can't spot it. Sometimes when we see it, we believe it's a problem. I mean, in schools, you've got the kid that wants to just do music and play the music all the time in the classroom, it's making a problem and all of that stuff. Well, you know what, the kid's trying to have his or her or their authenticity, they're trying to find their place in it and expand in it. But we as a society, we are adverse to understanding what authenticity is.

Tamara: That is beautiful, Ellie. Human authenticity will not leave you alone. And so this rapid onset gender dysphoria, or calling your child's identity a phase, really gives parents a way to feel like they're good parents, but ignore the problem in front of them and not support their children. And it's devastating for children to not be supported. Same thing when parents send their children to conversion therapy to try to change them back or help them revalue and find their heteronormativity. And their binary sense of gender identity is it circumvents their growth. And like I said, it gives parents a way to feel like they're good parents when really they're really so painfully hurting their children. And what I do see that's very powerful is so many leaders of faith talking about how all God's children are perfect. And the more we see of that, the more options we provide for parents so that they can feel like they can love their children and still have their relationship with religion.

Emma: It kind of shows though how deep the problem of socialization goes. The society telling you what you can and can't and shouldn't be, because it shows itself in the transphobia. It shows itself in Biphobia where bisexuality is just a phase. You'll get over it. Telling people that you'll never make any money out of being an artist. Like at every turn it seems that society is structured to tell you who you should be and not let you be who you are authentically. And it seems to be such an uphill battle just to be yourself.

Ellie: I agree a hundred percent. The answer of course is to understand that it's all a journey. It's not a destination, to be very cliche. I do think that when people see authentic humans show up, it's contagious. I do, not to say that I'm anything great. But I mean, I speak across North America and one of the comments that I hear about why people like me, and like my style is because they believe that I'm authentic. And once they believe that you're authentic, they believe you're truthful. In my work around diversity, equity, and inclusion, it's about trying to motivate people to expand their perspectives and to see the world a different way, and to be more inclusive to humans who are different or quote unquote “other.” And they have to trust you. That is a journey for them, that they themselves should take that journey. Because I'm saying it's a good journey for them to take. And I think that, I mean my downfall, my achilles heel of course, is that I look like a chick and I sound like a dude, but somehow that draws people in. It does. And I'm grateful in that sense. It doesn't get me a date, trust me. But I'm grateful for that.

Chris: Ellie one thing that really struck me in your book was the way that people told you they liked you better as a woman, that you were softer and kinder, and that you had been like more aggressive and angry when you were a man. And I just wonder if we can talk about that for a moment, that as you became your authentic self, and of course part of that too was finding Buddhism. And so can you talk a little bit about how your path to authenticity also kind of made you become a softer, kinder person in the world?

Ellie: Well, Chris, absolutely. I mean, so psychology of 1 0 1, frustration, aggression. So when you're suppressing, okay, you are tamping down your authenticity, you're telling your authenticity to stop, that you don't exist, that it doesn't exist, that it's wrong. And I kept telling myself that if I only did X or Y, I could choose to still stay a man.

It made me incredibly angry at me and at the world. And I tried to be this perfectionist, to be a perfect man, which of course, around me, I mean, I ran a law firm and I went through people, kind of like coffee filters. Because they had to be perfect just like I was. And of course, no human is perfect, but it lended. I mean, I was a trial lawyer, a civil trial lawyer representing railroads and trucking companies, entities that maim or kill people, and they would get sued, and they wanted an attack dog lawyer to fight back. And I was that lawyer for them, and they loved how aggressive I was. Once I transitioned, they didn't love that so much because an aggressive woman, well, we have a different phrase for that. And so once I got to be me, once I didn't have to fight myself anymore, once the frustration was gone, oh, and let's throw in a little bit of estrogen, didn't hurt whatsoever.

My brain chemistry changed. I became softer and gentler because, you know what, and I know this sounds hard to believe, but I was always actually a kind and gentle human. I really was. The attack dog thing was a front because it was the only thing that I knew, the only way that I knew that I could make my way by denying myself. But once I stopped denying myself, it was like, no, no, no, we're not going to do this attack dog stuff anymore. I did, I quit being a trial lawyer. And I went on to do work as an idealist because I'd always been an idealist. Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, both of them were murdered when I was 11 years old. But before they went, their words had sank into me. And they had told me that we have an obligation to make the world a better place but I could not do that. I could not be an idealist while I was fighting myself. But once I stopped fighting and I got to be me, it was time to be an idealist. 

And then Buddhism, just to finish this, I had a person, an important person in my life turn me onto Buddhism. I had to get past some negative impressions of it. I thought it was a voodoo religion, which of course, it's not even a religion. It's a way of living life and seeing the world. But what Buddhism taught me was about the value of living in the moment, but also living truthfully and understanding that we are all interconnected. No one is separate from anyone else. We're seeing that right now play out in Ukraine. We are connected to the Ukrainians. And that's a good thing.

Tamara: I think that one of the things that's brilliant about Ellie's book is that through her writing, she invites people to be a part of her journey. And by showing her authenticity, it feels like you have a stake in supporting that journey. And I think about that with my children too, is just meeting people and being really authentic and my ignorance and my need for help. And that along the journey, at that first moment when I met you, Chris, I mean, I was terrified at the kind of hate that could be thrown at myself, my family, my children, and terrified of what it would be like for my son in the midst of that hate that so just permeates, so much of politics and divisiveness and discourse. And I really felt like it was important to bring people along with the journey. And along that way, the real delicious treat was being able to meet so many idealists, sensitive, intelligent, idealist people on their journeys and being a part of one humanity. And it actually, rather than the experience making me feel like the world is full of hate, I feel myself more connected to a community of love and support.

Chris: One thing I wonder about Tamara, is what words of wisdom would you have for parents who discover that their children are trans? I mean, are there any words that you would have that you'd like to share from your journey?

Tamara: I would say focus on unconditional love. Feel comfortable with not knowing everything and not being at the right place at the right time with everything. Because everything happens asynchronously. It's not a linear journey. A lot of things happen at once and then nothing. And then more again. There are twists and turns through the journey. Find the experts. We had experts with us at every step. And they were so delightful and it was so wonderful to surround ourselves with truly self-actualized adults that showed us what this journey could end like. And I am thrilled to say my son is thriving right now.

Ellie: And can I add, so whenever I give a talk, I don't use PowerPoints. There's a handout. I always have handouts for every talk I do. And at the end of every handout, there's a paragraph that says my standing offer and what my standing offer is. I explain in the handout, and then I say verbally, I'm willing to speak to any human in a public place or on the phone or [36:19inaudible] for up to an hour. And I don't watch my watch to talk about anything about being trans or a family member being trans, or being gay or lesbian, or simply about surviving the human condition. It's nothing to do with gender or sexuality. And by the way Chris and Emma, I'm making that offer right now to all of your listeners. They can contact me, just go to Elliekrug.com and they'll be able to find my email.

But two weeks ago, this is Tamara, in response to what you just said. Two weeks ago, I had someone contact me. They had gotten my offer by way of someone else. I also tell people the offer is transferrable. They don't need to use it, but they can give it as someone, and it was the mom of a trans 11 year old trans girl, and they were just starting the journey. And she wanted to talk with me, the very first thing to find out if this was real. That was the very first thing she wanted to ask about. And then secondly to get some resources, which I gave her. But it was interesting because the very first thing I said to her was, you need to have a therapist. You have to have a therapist for your child as well. You might need a separate therapist for you and your husband. She didn't sound like she was all that keen on therapy. And that scared me for her child, it really did because no one should go through this. No one, I don't care what age you are, whether you're 10 years old or 75 years old, and I know of people transitioning in their seventies and eighties without a therapist who knows what they're doing. 

Tamara: I think that's great advice, Ellie. And it's also not the easiest thing to do to find healthcare that addresses an individual's need in this environment. I know all of these institutions are really struggling right now, but there are some amazing people out there who really want to help at every level, at every step of the journey.

Ellie: But we have telehealth and I think that needs to be expanded. And I'm sorry to say there are a bunch of therapists in Texas right now that aren't getting utilized.

Chris: But Ellie, I want to thank you so much for making that offer to our listeners. And I think it's wonderful that you do that at your talks too, that's amazing. It's wonderful to make yourself a resource like that.

Ellie: I tell people it's not because I think I'm like someone special, come look at me. It's just because I am an idealist. I am a student. I am a student of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, and what they said is that we have an obligation to make the world a better place. And it's not something you fit in between yoga and take out sushi. My standing off is actually one of the ways that I try and make the world better. People always just want somebody to listen. They really do.

Chris: It's funny for me because I feel like I'm just at the beginning of my gender journey in some ways. And the others, it's been my whole life like this, of not feeling right as who I am. I mean, now that I'm being more open and saying, yes, I am non-binary, and I'm using she, they pronouns because I've spent all of these years being, she, it's not easy for me overnight to use they, and it's frustrating for me too. I mean, I have people in my life who are like, ugh, I don't want to use they pronouns. Like I'm still caught up on the grammar of it. And it's like, you have to let go of that. If the APA says they and them pronouns are okay, or other, like, if these style guides are willing to embrace it, how can you possibly continue to make it an issue?

Tamara: Well, and the thing that I think people don't realize about pronouns, it's not about grammar. It's about recognizing somebody's identity, their truths. And when people laugh it off, as I'm having a hard time with my grammar, what you're really doing is laughing off the seriousness of a person's growth.

Chris: Exactly. And so, yeah, I would encourage everybody, if people tell you what their pronouns are, use them. Don't make a comment about them in terms of grammar. 

Tamara: It baffles me from a business perspective because when we try to make inclusive workplaces when we're talking about, you know, developing e-learning modules and you don't want to refer to your suit of professionals as either she or he. That's the direction that a lot of places are going anyway, in a professional setting in order to try and be more inclusive of everybody in the workplace. So when people say it can't be done, that kind of gets up my nose. I mean, you don't walk into a networking event and read what's on someone's name tag and start calling them by some other name because you can't be bothered learning who they are. It's seen as unprofessional. It's not something that's new, to call people by what they tell you. If someone tells you they're a doctor, you call them doctor. So that kind of seems to me just to be making excuses.

Ellie: I have a saying that pronouns can be weapons or they can be gifts. And I have been the recipient of many, many gifts. But I've also been the recipient of pronouns as weapons. And I can tell you I know the difference. When I train and speak about what it means to be trans and how to be welcoming, one of the things I talk about is intent. 99% of trans people are going to understand if your intent is good. Okay, you made a mistake on the pronoun, don't worry about it, especially if you say sorry. I mean, that's always helpful if you screw up on the pronoun, but you can also tell the intent is not good with the way they say the pronoun and with the way they look at you. And when that happens to me, and it does not happen, all that, I mean, I get misgendered all the time because I sound like a dude as I'm sounding right now to all of your listeners. 9 times out of 10, it's okay. The 10th time it actually kills me. But when the intentional misgendering occurs, it angers me and it hurts my heart to the enth degree because I have then been deemed invisible.

Chris: I know what you mean in terms of. Most people it's very unintentional. I mean, again, I've been misgendered my whole life, and so I know that people are calling me, sir because they're looking at me for a half a second and I have short hair and they're just assuming I'm a man. But I'm sure a whole different story when it's intentional and hurtful and it doesn't have to be like this. I wish that we could move to being a less gendered society in general. I mean, do we have to always call people ma'am or sir, can't we make a shift so that it's not that way? It just seems like it would be easier. My son has long hair and I can't tell you, I mean, how often we'll be out in public and I'll get called sir and he'll get called miss by people waiting on us in a restaurant. And it's hard to live like this, to be constantly misgendered in society, except that I've made the choice to not let it get to me. But yeah, I don't know what the answer is in terms of like changing society and their genderedness. And of course it's cultural too in the south. People are more trained than they are in the north to be like ma'am and sir for everybody.

Ellie: Everything is moving in a direction. It's moving in the direction of more egalitarianism, it's moving in the direction of more acceptance, with some notable exceptions. And I think that, just like here we are in 2022, you were talking about the early nineties and how different it was. GTive us to 2040s, which I'm sure I won't be around, but I'm sure that it's going to be a much different world. Look at the statistics. I mean, Gallup did a poll too, came out a couple of weeks ago about 20% of Gen Z people are identifying as LGBTQ. I mean, that's astronomical. That might be the very first real poll, realistic poll that's ever come out. With that of course, means that you're going to get a whole lot more people that are going to be pronoun proper, a whole lot more people. They're going to be accepting a whole lot more people, they're going to understand the value of diversity and inclusivity for all humans, which is a wonderful thing. We just got to make it to the 2040s. That's all.

Chris: You're right, you're right. That is encouraging. It's true. But as you brought up, I mean, in Texas, like we really are facing a lot right now in the US where we have states that are conservative and trying to like, take their stand when it comes to trans rights. It's very disheartening.

Ellie: I think the proper word is that it's horrendous. And in the long run, what it will do, is it will drive people out of Texas. It will drive smart people out. It will cause people to decide they don't want to move to Texas. Just like I so much wanted to go back to Iowa two years ago because I'm an Iowan. It's in my blood. I mean, I live in Minnesota now, but it's in my blood. I wanted to go back to Iowa, that's where I wanted to take my last breaths. But the election went so red and then the Republican senate leaders said, well, we have a mandate now from the voters. Well, if you're transgender and you hear the word mandate come out of the mouth of a politician, Tamara, you know this, right? You hear that word come out of their mouth, that means among other things, they're coming after you, transgender people. And so I decided not to go back to Iowa, and instead I bought a house invested in furniture and all kinds of things in Minnesota. The state of Iowa, lost all of those dollars. Plus they lost my brain.

Tamara: I think you make a really good point, Ellie, it's their loss. I guess I try to keep my focus on building the community that I want to see and working on, just like Ellie is doing diversity and inclusion trainings. Last, one of the reasons that I ran for school board was so that we could pass a gender inclusion policy, which was a policy that outlines students use of restrooms, their right to their pronouns and name changes. And the process I think was frightening for the community in some ways, because it opens up divisiveness. But I was really overwhelmed with the amount of support that we had from the community. And if the hateful rhetoric does nothing good, except it does clue people in to how tough it is to be LGBTQ, especially transgender in today's world, even though there are tons of resources and experts and supports and so many generations that have gone before this. I think it was interesting for me to watch a lot of people through the process have their eyes open to how much hate does get thrown towards transgender people. And it really activated a lot of those people too, to take a much more public stance in the support of transgender kids.

Ellie: I have a saying that 98% of all people have good empathetic hearts, 2% total sociopath, but the other 98% are good. It's just that we're either not paying attention to exercise or empathetic hearts. But I moved from downtown Minneapolis out to, I'm not even in the suburbs. I'm in the exurbs and I'm in a very, very conservative area with many evangelical religious people, and I've gotten to just know them a little bit, and they've gotten to know me a little bit. And you know what? They're okay with me being transgender. For me, that is the epitome of the work that I do, which is the power of human familiarity, the power of getting to know another human understanding that they're trying to survive a human condition just like you are. I'm proving it out here in a place where I am absolutely the only transgender person, visible one, at least from miles around.

Chris: I'm glad to hear that. That's encouraging. Tamara, I want to say to you and I don't want to gush because I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but I want you to know that it's been really amazing for me to watch your journey, to see you not only support your children like you have, but to run for school board and win. I was so excited on election night to see that you actually won and for you to go back and get your master's in advocacy and political leadership. I mean, it really has been inspiring to be your friend, and I just want to acknowledge that it's just been cool to watch your process and to see you make these changes in your life and be an advocate for your kids and to help them.

Tamara: Well, thank you. I mean, it was a really pivotal moment when my son came out because I realized that if he was going to have the courage to live his authentic life, that I needed to do the same thing for myself. And not only has it made me a better, happier person, but also it continues to have that impact of showing other people how if you just stand up a little bit more for yourself and the people around you, you can make the world a better place.

Chris: As we wrap up, I know that a lot of people want to be good allies for trans people, and they're not sure how to do that. How can we be better allies for the trans community?

Ellie: So I have two things to understand it's not a choice. I mean, literally and by the way, reach out to me and I'll give you a tool set on how to understand that. But just first to understand that it's not a choice. It's just not. And secondly, absolute compassion. To have it for trans people and non-binary people, but actually to have it for all humans, please, okay, now you're hearing my Buddhism. But to have that compassion for all humans, but also to have compassion for yourself. If you don't have compassion for you, if you don't love you, if you don't care for you, if you are telling yourself in your head every day that you are unworthy or that you're no good, or that you're not good enough, it is so easy to not have compassion for others. But if you care for yourself, which I, Chris, as you read in the book, it was a journey of me coming to love myself as difficult as that was, because that meant that I had to love me more than other people. That was so hard to do. But eventually I had compassion for me, for Ellie. And if you have compassion for you, it's unlimited as to how you can have compassion for others.

Tamara: So I would say that, do what I did, is take that courage that transgender people have, and think about how you can be just a little bit more visibly courageous in your own daily life. Use pronouns so that it signals for other people that it's safe for them to share their pronouns. I always found it wonderful going through the schools and meeting with teachers and doctors when they had LGBTQ pins or signs at their doors because even lawn signs because I knew that I was safe there. It's really terrifying at times walking into an environment and you don't know who's going to get you and who's not going to get you, and whether or not there's going to be discrimination coming from somebody's ignorance or lack of training, or it's going to be a safe and supportive environment. So I just always found like those visible touches of support really lowered my stress levels so that I could know that I was in a safe place to ask for what my children needed.

Chris: Ellie, what would you say to the person who knows that they're trans and they're held back by the fear of coming out as trans and making their transition?

Ellie: Well, I would say a lot to them. But I mean, one thing I would say is that human authenticity won't leave you alone until you listen to it. I mean, you can't outdrink it. You can't out drug it. You can't out exercise it. You can't out ignore it. It will wake you up at two in the morning. It will yell at you at the most inopportune times, and it won't leave you alone until you listen to it. And I would say, think, if you can depending on your age, but think about how you might look back on your life as you lay on your deathbed. Would you want to look back and think about all the riches or love you had accumulated? While that's important, it pales in comparison to realizing that you didn't be you, because being you trumps everything, it does.

Chris: Thanks to both of you, this has been great. I'm so grateful that you were willing to come on and have this conversation with us.

Ellie: I'm honored that you would ask for me to be here, and thank you so very much for me to be able to espouse Ellie Krug's philosophy on the world. 

Tamara: Well, thank you, Ellie. I always find you so professional, so human, so authentic and so inspiring. I've learned so much from watching and listening to you.

Ellie: Ditto back at you, Tamara. You're like rocking it, and you're doing far more than what I can do because you are more visible than I am. So thank you.

Emma: Well, thank you both very much for coming on the podcast with us today. I really appreciate it, and I'm sure our listeners appreciate it as well.

Ellie: Thank you Chris and Emma. I'm thrilled to have been here and I really appreciate it. 

Tamara: And thank you Chris and Emma for bringing attention to this really important matter. These human beings are our children, our loved ones, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, and they need to be supported and embraced for the wonderful beings of light that they are. And I really appreciate you bringing this up so that their outcomes can be much better.

Emma: Those are some excellent sentiments for us to leave it on. So thank you very much Chris as always for joining me on the podcast. 

Chris: It's my pleasure. Thank you. 

Emma: And thank you, listeners, we always appreciate you joining us. If you're listening to us on Apple or Spotify, don't forget to hit those stars and give us a rating. And I think you'll agree this has been a particularly insightful episode. As always, if you have any questions, feedback, or topics that you want to discuss, feel free to get in contact with us. You can email us at positivedisintegration.pod@gmail.com or find us on Twitter or Instagram. And until next time, keep walking that important path to your authentic self.