Winter

Meeting the Author Andrew Solomon

I have a little story to share with you. It's about me being afraid, and then--how I overcame that fear and had an awesome experience as a result. I'm afraid. It's true. And I hide a little. It sucks. And I'm surprised (not really) at how much I've been doing it lately (but it's ok).

You see, being transgender is hard. I feel torn between being out and proud, as so many of my beloved friends and supporters want me to be, and just being "me". Not "Dillan who is trans*" but "Dillan who is...trying hard to figure out what trans* means". Part of me wants to be out there as a living, breathing trans* person (hey, we aren't scary or weird, see!) to make the world a better, more accepting place. Part of me wants to blend in with the other guys and not be out there, stigmatized for the world to gawk at.

Tough call, right?

So, the other day I receive this email from a dear, dear friend. She's stellar. Off-the-charts amazingly supportive and wonderful. Her name is Jan and she's a mentor, friend and just a superb human being. She emails me that Andrew Solomon is coming to talk about his new book at the school where I'm enrolled for graduate school. I think, "crap, who's Andrew Solomon?" But, I trust Jan with every fiber of my being. So I go, no questions asked.

I arrive and Jan comes over and says, "come over and meet Andrew". Given my recent experience meeting Kim Phuc just last week and Winnie Mandela in 2000 (and countless other amazing individuals who happen to also be famous in some way), I am growing accustomed to shaking hands with these people who...having achieved great things and popularity are still just...people. People who want to have normal interactions with other people. And I am grateful to meet them and thank them for sharing their gifts with the world.

I know a little about Andrew from the chapters I've skimmed in his book ever so briefly, especially the chapter on transgender folks. Trans* folks like me. His new book is called Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

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I greet him. He shakes my hand warmly and kindly asks, "how are you involved in today's event?"

Great question. I freeze. I'm afraid. "I'm Jan's friend," I say. I feel like Baby in the movie Dirty Dancing when she meets Johnny and says, "I carried a watermelon."

Jan smiles. She knows. I'm terrified in my skin some days and feeling out of sorts. It's winter. I always feel this way in the winter. But this winter, I'm also trying to find my feet as a trans*guy.

Andrew smiles and says "it's a pleasure"...and all those wonderful things someone says when they are wonderful.

I walk away and confess that it wasn't my best effort. Jan gets it.

Andrew's presentation begins and my heart tightens when he approaches the part about trans* people. See, his book is all about kids who have the unfailing support from their family. His book is about the tremendous capacity to love, despite the odds of having a child who is "different" from others.

I think to myself that I may have to leave. I don't have the unfailing support from my family. And it's been tremendously hard. I don't know if I can listen to these stories, yet more stories, of kids who are so lucky to have this support from their parents as they take on really hard life experiences.

But I find the courage and strength inside to stay in my seat. My friend Becca, Jan's daughter-in-law, rubs my back a little. She also gets it.

Outside, Andrew is set up at a table to sign books. I buy a book. Well-worth my $40. I stand in line, wait my turn. I approach Andrew and lean down and say, "so I've found my voice now."

He smiles. Eager to listen.

"I'm trans*" I say.  "I'm transgender and I"m a graduate student here, and I'm writing my memoir."

We instantly engage in a heartfelt and gorgeous conversation where he, in just a few sentences, conveys how much he "gets it" and how I have his support.

*I have his support*

It's enormously heartening to hear those words. No matter who it's from or when it comes.

We pose for a picture with Jan---one of the most perfect on-the-fly photos I've ever taken.

 

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Turns out, being "out" as trans* today was a great decision. Hiding and playing small--that didn't serve me so well during that first introduction. I'm grateful I got a second chance to be my true self. It worked out nicely.

--NOTE TO SELF--

you can buy Andrew's (INCREDIBLE) book at your local book store or from his website right here: http://andrewsolomon.com/

 

Natural Moisturizers for Winter Skin

Winter is here!We all know how that bitter winter wind dries our skin out. Naturally, we slather on facial moisturizer and body lotions, most of which contain any number of toxic chemicals and additives. Our skin in our largest organ. Check the labels on your products. Can you pronounce them? Do you know what they are? If not, rethink where those chemicals are going and what they may be doing on the inside, once they are absorbed.Fear, not. The natural products industry is here to help.According to the Organic Consumers Association:

"Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine's 2010 Market Overview reports healthy growth for the natural and organic products industry. With more than $81 billion in total revenue last year, the industry grew 7 percent over 2009, showing that consumers are spending again and that the natural products industry is healthy and growing."

Cool. The word is out. It might have something to do with this amazingly handy video: The Story of Cosmetics created by The Story of Stuff Project. If you want to know more about what's in that bottle of yours on the shelf, I recommend you check it out:

Know that not all health/body care products labeled "natural" are good for you. The Organic Consumers Association exists for that very reason, to make sure natural body care and health foods are what they claim to be--natural and healthy alternatives to mainstream products. Unfortunately, according to the OCA:"many brands market their products as "organic," but they don't have enough organic ingredients to be USDA certified, and they use ingredients that would never be allowed in USDA certified products."Again, all hope is not lost. The OCA homepage provides a VERY long list of companies known for making high-quality and legitimately natural products, many of which can be found in local stores within walking distance from you. See something you want on that list? Consider asking your local retailer to carry it, or special order it for you. Having worked in a few local stores in Somerville and Cambridge, I am willing to bet your request would be happily granted.In the meantime, while you're waiting for your luxurious new moisturizer to arrive, consider three very healthy, very natural and extremely affordable and versatile moisturizers provided by the mother of natural beauty, Mother Nature herself.WATER: Some clients of mine are surprised when I tell them to amp up their water consumption during the winter. They assume the summer months are the best time to chug-a-lug nature's top shelf beverage and they aren't wrong. The summer is hot. We perspire. We need to replace that lost moisture with more water. It makes sense. However, the arid, cold air of winter and overconsumption of sugar can wreak havoc on our skin. Drink plenty of fresh water (half your body weight in ounces) each day for well-hydrated, glowing skin all year.EAT YOUR FATS: Cooking with olive or sesame oil and eating avocadoes and/or real butter* are excellent ways to hydrate your skin from the inside-out. Or pull up a chair beside the ol' Nutcracker during the holidays because the nuts found in your standard mixed nut assortment (still in their shells) all contain the healthy fats needed for perfect nutrition for your body, skin and your brain. With all we have going on at the time of year, who can't use a brain boost?!

COCONUT OIL: Derived from coconuts, this oil is truly a miracle in my house. Some folks are still on the fence about its health benefits, but I'm sold on it. We cook* with it, add it to smoothies in the morning and slather it directly on our skin post-shower. A little goes a long way both internally and topically, and you can't get more natural than this oil right out of the jar. Why buy coconut-fragranced lotions packed with questionable chemical ingredients when I can use the real thing?!*As with anything in life, be sure to ingest these foods in moderation, being mindful of quantities and the quality of what you're consuming. It's true that coconut oil and butter contain saturated fat and too much of that isn't good for anyone, but many alternatives (low-fat or oil-based butters) contain chemicals or additives far more dangerous to your health. If you're not sure how much is too much, or not enough, ask your health care professional or let me know if I can support you.