Transitions of the Heart

13238264The holiday season is a time when those with far-flung loved ones update each other with cards and family letters, family members gather, and adults reconvene in their hometowns. Sometimes when the year has brought about a revelation of a child’s emerging gender or sexual orientation, parents wonder how best to share the news to a large group of people. They want to support their children and share this family news but may also be concerned about others’ potentially invasive questions or insensitive remarks. How can this be handled?

In the book Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children (ed. Rachel Pepper), contributor Barbara Gurr shares a letter she penned and sent to family members to let them know that her school-age child, who had been labeled a boy at birth, was coming to understand her feminine identity and transition socially. She writes,

Dear Friends and Family:

I apologize for sending you all a crazy form letter, but our family has news to share! And it’s so hard sometimes to get together that we thought we’d send a letter to those people who mean the most to us, and let you in on what’s going on with us.

The news we have is kind of hard to share, and after thinking and praying about it for a while, it seems best to send a letter for two reasons: we have to start letting people know what’s going on with us, and it might be easier for some people to get a letter they can react to honestly and privately—without worrying about hurting our feelings, or saying the “right” thing (whatever that is) or the “wrong” thing (whatever that is).

As some of you have no doubt begun to notice over the last couple of years (especially if you’ve spent time with us more recently), Thomas is presenting us with a bit of a surprise. Our son Thomas is transgender. This means that although he was born with boy parts, he’s really a she. What’s on the outside does not match what’s on the inside of him … We have no doubt that this revelation will be hard for many of you to accept, as well. That’s okay. We know you love us and want the best for us—that’s why you’re getting this letter. We want you to understand what this means so that we can all be honest with each other about our concerns and our fears.

Gurr goes on to explain her child’s transition and share stories from earlier years that led to this realization of femininity. She closes by saying that she appreciates the love and support of those around her. Gurr’s letter provides an excellent template for parents who want to address a child’s gender or sexuality and also send a message: This is our child’s identity. We are happy to answer questions, but we expect that you accept our child for who s/he is.

In the GLBT Student Support Services office, we talk to many parents whose students are attending or planning to attend IU and coming to terms with their sexuality or gender. We are always happy to chat with parents who are concerned about addressing their child’s gender or sexuality with family or community members.

Gurr’s chapter closes with the beautiful statement, “Genders and sexualities are complicated, but love doesn’t have to be.” Through questions, uncertainties, and transitions, this fact holds true. Life is complex—but love is simple.

Written by Jamie, GLBTSSS Office Supervisor

Christmas in July: New Books!

new books

Picture it: yesterday afternoon. A big box is delivered full of bright, shiny, new materials for the library.  They all had the new smelling book smell. You know that smell? It was like Christmas came early. At least, I thought so; I might have done a little happy dance in celebration, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse of some of the new books I’m most excited about.

InIn One Person by John Irving
Winner of a 2013 Lambda Literary Award, New York Times bestselling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity. In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of One Person, tells the tragicomic story of his life as a “sexual suspect.” In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy’s friends and lovers a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself worthwhile.


fairylandFairyland: A Memoir of My Father by Alysia Abbott
After his wife dies in a car accident, bisexual writer and activist Steve Abbott moves with his two-year-old daughter to San Francisco. There they discover a city in the midst of revolution, bustling with gay men in search of liberation—few of whom are raising a child.  Steve throws himself into San Francisco’s vibrant cultural scene. He takes Alysia to raucous parties, pushes her in front of the microphone at poetry readings, and introduces her to a world of artists, thinkers, and writers. As a child Alysia views her father as a loving playmate who can transform the ordinary into magic, but as she gets older Alysia wants more than anything to fit in. The world, she learns, is hostile to difference.
Reconstructing their life together from a remarkable cache of her father’s journals, letters, and writings, Alysia Abbott gives us an unforgettable portrait of a tumultuous, historic time in San Francisco as well as an exquisitely moving account of a father’s legacy and a daughter’s love.

silhouetteSilhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic. She dreams of indulging in ornithology and a visit to an amusement park—a summer of fun before she returns to a last year of high school, marriage, and middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under supervision of oppressive guardians. Only a job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own heart can save her from the suffocation of traditional femininity. It is the tale of a young woman’s discovery of the science of risk and the art of rebellion, and, of course, the power of unexpected love.

And because I love graphic novels so much…

batwomanBatwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka
A new era begins as Batwoman is unleashed on Gotham City! Marked by the blood-red bat emblem, Kate Kane is a soldier fighting her own private war – one that began years ago and haunts her every waking moment. In this first tale, Batwoman battles a madwoman known only as Alice, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable extras! Also, witness the origin of Batwoman in the shocking and tragic story “Go,” in which young Kate Kane and her family are kidnapped by terrorists, and Kate’s life – and the lives of her family – will never be the same!


And the book I’m most excited about…

beyond Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
by Susan Kuklin
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

All of these new materials and more are on display now in the GLBT office, stop by and see what else we got for Christmas in July!

Just So You Know #1

just so you knowThe beauty of the comic is that it can make difficult issues and heavy ideas seem a bit lighter by way of playful illustrations and minimalist dialogue. This is the case with Alison Sayers’s Just So You Know #1, an autobiographical collection of comics that marks her unique journey into womanhood.

Sayers highlights the difficulties many trans* people face, including invasive questions, the mood swings that can accompany hormone therapy, and maintaining a professional identity mid-transition. But there are also glimpses into the joys and victories trans* women experience, such as growing breasts and a stranger’s unquestioning acceptance of feminine identity.

Sayers also provides a (very brief) guide to trans* terminology, using the term “transgender” as a broad term that describes gender-variant people and “transsexual” as a term that refers to people who takes steps to transition to her or his true gender. This book was published in 2009, and five years later, the word “transsexual” has largely fallen out of use. Some view it as a hateful term; some simply don’t regard it as precise or useful. Readers should note that today, it’s generally not advised to refer to someone as being transsexual unless he or she specifically describes himself or herself in that way.

This publication doesn’t really delve into complex social or political issues, such as legal hassles or employment discrimination. And that’s okay—there are certainly books that tackle these subjects. Sayers’s offering examines queer topics like coming out but also universally human experiences such as facing loss and falling in love. Just So You Know is a delightful glimpse into trans* life for teens and adults alike.

Written by Jamie, GLBTSSS Office Supervisor

Book of the Week – Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

BeautifulMusic“I know this is a radical idea, but people should get to be who they want to be. If you’re going for the top of the charts, all right. A side all the way, go for it. But if I want to play my B side, I should get to play my B side. And only the cool kids listen to B sides” (p. 41).

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (@kirstincm) is a story about Gabe, a transgender high school student. Gabe (whose birth name is Elizabeth) has a cool job as a radio DJ, a supportive best friend and mentor, and big plans after graduation. However, his parents think he’s crazy and his classmates aren’t exactly supportive. Within this story, Kirstin Cronn-Mills creates realistic characters that expose many of the challenges and difficulties faced by transgender individuals. From the first page to the last, readers will cheer on Gabe throughout his journey and look for ways to “let [their own] B sides play”.

For more information about Beautiful Music for Ugly Children check out the author’s website:

DVD of the Week – Red Without Blue

“I really don’t think that I was born in this world as a man or as a woman. I think the process of changing was the path I was born into.” –Clair Farley

RedWithoutBlue“Red Without Blue” is a groundbreaking documentary that chronicles the lives of two identical twins, Mark and Alex, as Alex transitions from a man to a woman named Clair. Covering a three year period, this film documents the twins’ lives as they work to redefine their family. Through candid interviews, Mark and Clair recount their difficult past and their current efforts to find themselves. As Mark and Clair reassert their bond as identical twins, they also question the normative standards of identity and gender.

The GLBT Student Support Services Office is screening a new film!

Film: What’s the T
When: Thursday, March 6th at 7:30pm
Where: Rose Residence Hall B111, Indiana University

“What’s the T” follows the lives of five transgender women and explores the problems and triumphs they experience on a daily basis. Immediately afterward there will be a small panel to discuss the film’s content and transgender issues at large.

Find out more about the event here:

DVD of the Week – Orlando

orlandoHere’s an oldie but a goodie: the film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s classic tale of gender-bending and unfettered movement through time. The gorgeous and androgynous Tilda Swinton plays Orlando, who begins life as a boy of the Elizabethan Age but experiences a series of gender transformations while jumping through the centuries.

The cinematography is lush, the costumes beautiful, and all the details evocative of each period represented. There is romance and adventure as Orlando takes lovers and travels across the British Empire, but also thoughtful exploration of gender roles and the societal expectations surrounding them. The novel was published in 1928, but director Sally Potter recognized its timelessness; and while the film is now over 20 years old, its themes and execution still feel fresh and modern.

Transgender Day of Remembrance – November 20th

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’s Transgender Day of Remembrance ad
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’s Transgender Day of Remembrance ad


November 20th, 5pm in Dunn Meadow

Please join us in honoring those who’ve lost their lives to anti-transgender violence and discrimination.


5:30pm Speakers
6:00pm Vigil walk to courthouse
7:00pm Memorializing names of those we have lost
8:00pm Closing statements

***Refreshments and warm drinks provided
***Rain Location: Tree Suites in the IMU

Questions? Feel free to contact Gender Warriors at

+Hope to see you all there!

DVD of the Week – Hit & Miss (TV series)

hit-and-missAmerican indie actress Chloe Sevigny stars in this stylish yet spare British television series about Mia, a contract killer who is also a transgender woman.  Action and domestic drama mix when Mia must find a way to balance her life as an assassin with her new parental role—after an ex-girlfriend dies of cancer, Mia takes in their eleven-year-old son.  Hit & Miss is from the creator of Shameless, another UK series that had crossover appeal in the States, and like that series, it is often provocative in its portrayal of sexuality.  But it aims for authenticity, and Sevigny has discussed in interviews her attempts to really understand transgenderism: “To prepare for [her role, she] waded through medical notes about surgical procedures, hormone treatments and read autobiographies of people who had changed gender. ‘I also sat down with some M to F girls and they were very open with me, very generous,’ she says.”  The GLBT Library has the complete first season available for checkout on DVD.  

Book of the Week – First Spring Grass Fire

spoonTransgender indie singer-songwriter Rae Spoon’s first novel is memoir-esque in its intimacy and candidness, and with its powerful revelations of a life.  The young narrator grows up queer in the urban wilds of Calgary, in a conservative Christian family headed by a violent and ill father.  The voice is plain-spoken and poetic, with an often devastating understanding of the outsider’s life: “I couldn’t run away from home in a city that was so expansive and cold.  You could run for half an hour and not even get to the end of your neighbourhood, and all of the neighbourhoods looked the same, so it didn’t really feel like escaping at all.”

While the story is full of struggle, both internal and external, it nevertheless offers glimmers of hope, a possibility of a better and bigger life.  Here, there are Nirvana songs, religious revivals, Bible verses, tragic losses, first loves, and mountains both real and metaphorical.  A coming-of-age book whose protagonist smolders quietly and then becomes a flame.

Book of the Week – Gay Pride: A Celebration of All Things Gay & Lesbian

Rainbow Flag

It’s Pride month! A time when festivals, parades, and rainbow-themed events are happening in almost every city in the US.

But what do LGBTQIA* individuals have to be proud about? You mean besides the fact that they embraced their identity despite the current social climate and the possibility of discrimination? Well you might want to take a look at Gay Pride: A Celebration of All Things Gay & Lesbian, then.

Gay Pride Book Cover

From the ancient Greeks to San Francisco, from Alan Turing to the LGBT ally next door, this book sings the praises of the queer pioneers, past and present, who have made the world a braver, bolder, and better place–for everyone!