Sneak Preview: First page of Phantom Nights!

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Perceptions

I always knew I was crazy.

Most people probably think they’re crazy at some point or another… when they make assumptions about others that turn out to be false, or when a scorned lover calls them paranoid. But that’s not the kind of crazy I mean. I’m seriously crazy. Full-blown, see-things-in-the-dark, batshit nuts.

It started with window phantoms when I was a child. I couldn’t look out the windows after dark for fear of the faces I’d see staring back at me. No one else saw them, but I knew they were there. Vacant, black eyes sunk into pallid skin, beckoning me soundlessly through mouths open so wide it couldn’t be real.

Yet I saw them anyway. And while it was real to no one else, it was real enough to me. Cowered beneath blankets, shivering, unwilling to even blink for too long, I knew what lurked in the shadows beyond the walls. When morning broke and my mother came to wake me for school, I’d cry and throw the pillows at her, threading both hands into my hair and trying to rip it all from my scalp, banging my head against the headboard to quiet the phantoms. Only during the day could I rest without fear, chanting to myself, “It’s not real, Samantha. They can’t hurt you.”

Now, at eighteen years old, I’m crazier than ever before. I see new things. Not phantoms, but real dark creatures; monsters in the flesh without the barrier of window glass.

They are demons. Terrifying creatures. Things that prey on mankind in the night, shaped like men but darker inside than the black sky above. The wretched beings with mouths gaping open at me through windows as a child now slither through the dark streets around me, though they’re rare enough I hardly ever see them. I’m the only human who’s not oblivious. They’re so real to me. I’ve seen them, heard their voices, and even touched them.

They call themselves Vespers.

And I’m madly, head-over-heels in love with one of them.

 

PHANTOM NIGHTS releases Monday, October 19th! Don’t forget to grab the first book in the series, GILDED DESTINY, for free! It’s the gold cover on my right hand side bar. 😉

Deeper Than Dragons – #LetThemBeDragons

The Dragons have so much to teach us.

But first, The Dragons (children), Ireene, and I want to thank you for the tremendous outpouring of love and acceptance from my last blog post in which I discussed my personal failings as an advocate for and parent of a transgender kid, and how a group of seven dragons have taught me more about acceptance than any adult possibly could. They thank you for hearing how they accept each other and wanting to do the same. I personally thank you for your stories shared, your questions asked, and the tears you shed. It brought me to my knees to read how many of you felt what I was trying to say, especially when it took me over a year to learn to say it myself. I’m so happy, so honored, so blessed by every single one of you.

The post has been read thousands of times, shared hundreds and inspired the phrase “Let Them Be Dragons” across social media (and the kids are SO excited about that!). Please, keep sharing the message of love and change. Share it everywhere you can, to any ears that will listen. The world of tomorrow is already almost here, and we can do this. We can make LGBTQ discrimination a thing of the past as soon as tonight.

Please meet… THE DRAGONS.

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We sat them on the stairs for this picture, but then we were like screw it, CONFORMITY SUCKS, so we went outside.

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I think half of them are whipping in this picture and the other half are nae-nae-ing, but I don’t actually know what that means because I’m a mom, which by definition means I’m not cool enough to whip, nae-nae, Superman, Spiderman, Snap, Crackle, or Pop or whatever the hell else they’re doing in that dance.

You wouldn’t know, looking at them, that one of them is transgender.

Or that the seven of them come from five different sets of biological parents.

Or that two of them have ADHD.

Or that two of them were born at barely 4 pounds and will probably always be smaller than their peers.

Or that one of them has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Or that two are placed in our homes by social services.

Or that one was born in another country.

Yeah, they’re a pretty damn unique bunch, and Ireene and I are proud as hell of all seven of them. In their darkest moments, they are still the brightest stars, the most unique human beings, and they will be incredible, perfectly imperfect adults.

You wouldn’t know, looking at them, that if push came to shove, all seven of them would defend each other to their dying breaths.

Or that they’d defend any person being tormented and bullied for circumstances they can’t control like their appearance, their gender, or the color of their skin.

Or that they don’t even understand that someone would do something like that. They cannot comprehend it. They refuse to accept it. They simply do not see the stereotypes like we adults do.

You will hear these children say, “That guy over there. The one in blue jeans. With the white shoes. By the green truck. With the armful of groceries and the cute baby.”

You will never hear these children say, “That black guy over there. My gay friend. She’s the fat one. That autistic boy. Oh, she’s super poor.”

They don’t view people as these minute pieces of personality. They view people as whole beings, and they refuse to point out a person’s gender, racial, or social-class identity as the critical factor worth mentioning about their character.

These children are not “The kid with darker skin.”

They are not “Kids whose biological parents walked off.”

Or “The transgender kid.”

Nor are they “The ones with disabilities.”

Look at the children in those pictures. Pick one and look at him/her. Would you determine their value based on their color, their ability level, their gender, their normalcy? Would you conclude that they are worth less because of those things? Would you decide that any one of their differences made them unworthy of a happy, healthy, human life?

No. You’d better not, anyway. I think the kids would dogpile you for it and fart on you until you cried if you did.

They are so much more than that. They know it. We know it. We expect you to see more in them than that. And if they are more than their labels, then so is your child. So is your friend, your mother, your sister, your cousin. So are you.

These kids cannot wrap their heads around why we adults are so stupid in our judgments. Why gay people are still being refused marriage licenses by bigoted idiots. Why some of us hate each other because of our religion. Why wars happen. Why people of color are discriminated against. Or why women don’t walk alone at night. Why some people are shunned based on the head garment they wear, the brand of jeans they wear, or the accent in their voice, or the amount of makeup on their faces.

And the sad part of all this is…

They have to learn those things.

These amazing, incredible, unique children have already faced some huge challenges in their lives. Almost every child you meet has. And now we, the parents, have to brace them for the darkest, most haunting facts of life:

Some people will only see your disabilities, children. Some people will only see your gender identity. Some people will only see your body shape, your birthplace, your color, your wallet, your sexuality. Some people will discount the beautiful, powerful person you are inside based on the one thing they can find about you that they do not like. They will zero in on your most vulnerable place and scream out justifications like “religious freedom” and “the way we do things around here” and “conform to succeed.”

Some people may even attack you for those things, or block you from obtaining the bare necessities of life because of what you are. Because of things you never chose, things you were simply born with. Things that are not your fault but if you really look closely, actually make you more beautiful than you’d be without them.

Some people will hate you for those things as children, as adults, as elderly. Some people will hate you so deeply for it that they will try to stop everyone who shares your unique qualities from living a happy life. That they will try to stop you from feeling worthy of life at all.

Now if that isn’t absolutely fucking pathetic of us as the human race, then I don’t know what is.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe they don’t have to learn these things. What if tomorrow the child who has Aboriginal Canadian ancestry and darker skin woke up and did not need to fear that she’d be denied jobs in favor of her less-educated white peers? What if the children with disabilities didn’t have to fear they’d be judged harshly by their peers for physical and mental differences they did not choose for themselves? What if the girls did not need to fear they’d be one of the unacceptably high statistical numbers of females who will be raped in their lives?

What if the boys didn’t have to worry that if they are gay, they’ll be denied a safe place to live?

What if the transgender child could pee in the bathroom he felt comfortable peeing in, without being called out by his cis-gender peers based on the genitalia he was born with?

What if he didn’t need to worry he’d be beaten for his gender expression, thrown out of establishments, spit on, tormented, and called horrible, degrading names meant to make him feel less worthy of life?

God, I don’t want to teach him those words. Please don’t make me have to prepare him to feel the bone-deep sting of those words thrown at him in anger or fear.

Look at those children. Those incredible, shockingly loving Dragons.

Now think about the last person you judged because he or she was fat, biracial, queer, poor, jobless, ugly, disabled, practiced a different religion from you, or liked a different TV show than you. I’m looking at them. It hurts to think of the way we have judged others no matter the reason. We’re all guilty of judging someone for something, even if only in our heads. And we know in our hearts we can do better than we’re doing. Because those people we judge… they were once Dragons, too. And the world is trying to break them. We, the asshole adults of the modern world, are constantly trying to show each other that “I am better than you, and you are less valuable than me.”

These children see that one of them picks up video games faster than all six of the others combined… and then helps all the others learn to play.

And that they all swim like sharks.

And that when they do, their mothers often pounce on them, cling to them, and scream “KOALA! KOALA!” until the lifeguards yell at us to calm down and we all giggle like idiots.

And that they ALL randomly break into song at weirdly perfect moments.

And that occasionally, we have whipped cream fights. Once it was sour cream. Taco night, you know.

And that they are all talented, unique, incredible, sometimes-annoying little humans that they love having in each other’s’ lives.

They don’t have to be the next generation’s assholes-in-training. We can teach them it’s okay to love. We can teach them it’s okay to never lose that endless acceptance and the purity of childhood fun. Please, please do not let them grow angry, spiteful, and eager to pass blame.

Please don’t make me have to prepare my transgender child to feel the pain of those cruel words.

Let Them Be Dragons.

You’re raising happy, accepting Dragons too, I know it. Share your story with the world. #LetThemBeDragons, and show the world the accepting lens through which your children see the world. Maybe if we adults all shut up and listen to them for a while, we’ll start to see the world the way they do. Maybe we can start to see each other again for our unique selves instead of generalizing based on our color, gender, birthplace, or creed.

It’s Okay To Wish For Gay – #LetThemBeDragons

I don’t often post personal notes like this, but I have had a revelation, and this is my only real “blog” to post on. So although I usually just post book stuff and adult stuff since I write adult books, please take a moment to listen and try to understand something I’ve never spoken about publicly before. It has to do with my life as a parent, which is very separate from my life as an author.

As I said, I have had a revelation.

I am not the shining example of an LGBTQ ally that I wanted to be.

I advocate. I teach. I accept. I befriend. I’d escort any transperson to any bathroom they needed help entering.

I discovered the gap in my ally-ness when I said something along the lines of, “I’m totally cool with whatever my child is! But I would never wish for my child to be transgender. It’s a lot to deal with.”

It made sense as I said it. After all, who would wish their child to face a less-than-ideal life?

But I wouldn’t say, “I would never wish for my child to be ____ (athletic, geeky, smart, mechanically inclined, etc).” I wouldn’t say, “I would never wish for my child to be blue eyed with brown hair and a great sense of humor.”

I had such flawless rationale for the statement: “Those are all positive things that won’t make them face adversity in life. It’s not the same thing.”

But are any of the letters – L,G,B,T, or Q – negatives? Or is the adversity itself the only negative in the equation?

Parents never want their children to face negatives: discrimination for being gay, or having a hard time finding a peer group as a lesbian, or dealing with the double standards bisexual people deal with, or enduring the teasing that transgender people do. I get that. No parent wants their child to struggle to be accepted for who they are. And once an accepting parent experiences the “coming out moment,” they often feel pressured to defend their acceptance by talking about our natural reluctance to deal with the stressful issues.

We, the parents of non-conforming children, are supposed to be the greatest LGBTQ allies. Is an ally someone who points out the negative in the demographic they claim to defend? Is an ally someone who expresses reluctance at the necessity of being an ally?

In saying “I would never wish for my child to be queer,” how am I helping my queer child feel like he is every bit as valuable as his athletic/smart/geeky/musical/mechanical/humorous/blue-eyed/brown-haired cis peers?

Every time I say I’d never wish for my child to be queer – whether I have a queer child or not – I am furthering the attitude that queer = less valuable. That the double standards and persecutions of LGBTQ people are inescapable realities of life, and that the world is never going to change to embrace my child as every bit as valuable as a straight cis athletic comedian with wicked computer programming skills. That the negatives my child faces are acceptable.

My youngest child is valuable. She is imaginative, stubborn as hell, beautiful, and creative.

My middle child is valuable. He is hilarious, charming, noisy, and the most loving soul.

My oldest child is valuable. He is smart as a whip, prone to nuclear meltdowns, confident, and a book review blogger.

My best friend has four children, and not one of them even batted an eye when my oldest child declared he would like to be referred to by male pronouns. They rattle off a few names at a time to get it right, just as we do when we can’t remember which child we’re yelling down the hallway at when it’s bedtime. They don’t even really care that he now has a new name and is a brother rather than a sister. They just accept, without pointing out any potential negatives of his identity.

It’s not the kids who make a big deal out of these things. The children know the truth: my child’s gender does not detract from my child’s worth in any way, nor is it some hushed, negative secret about my child’s overall being.

I know it, too, and so do all of my incredibly, stunningly supportive friends and family members. I’m just still learning how to properly say it when I’m still fighting the social training of my generation.

If we are going to change the way the world views sexuality and gender, we must become more accepting than simply accepting. We must celebrate. We must be as proud of the possibility of our child being LGBTQ before they come out (of the closet or the womb). Just like we are as we wonder if maybe he’ll be a pilot, or maybe she’ll be a doctor. If we treat their sexuality or gender as something to be feared because of what the world might do to them, we are, in a way, giving the world permission to inspire that fear with continued cruelty.

And we are teaching the world that our children expect to be persecuted, not that they expect to be treated equally. We are showing the world that we just accept our child’s sexuality or gender, rather than that we’d never have things any other way.

We cannot just show this unconditional love of our child’s identity/sexuality at Pride parades and through clever filters on our Facebook profile pictures. We must show the next generation of parents – by our example – that an LGBTQ child is a gift in our words every day, both in and out of earshot of our children. That they are a unique breed of human immune to the closed-minded bigotry that possessed so many in the previous generations.

The kids… they already know this. My friend’s children are the perfect example of that, and it’s so clear to me that they’ve been raised to accept absolutely anyone for every reason. Discrimination isn’t even a thought in their heads. Only by speaking against the normalcy of our LGBTQ children can the adults change and close their growing minds.

Many parents mourn the loss of a daughter when they discover he is actually their son. Many parents ache, deep within their hearts, as they trade their transgender daughter’s soccer balls for ballet shoes. The sorrow is valid. We’ve bonded with a name, a pronoun, a spirit, and the true identity of that spirit shocks us. We’ve been taught to expect certain behaviors from our children when they pop out of their mothers’ bodies based on whether they come with a penis or a vagina. Of course we feel sorrow when we can no longer stand beside a parenting magazine and present ourselves as a shining example of normalcy to society. Of course we feel loss when our calendars become schedules of hormone treatments and psychiatrist visits instead of baseball practice and singing lessons.

Of course we fear the worst for our children in a world where our LGBTQ children are not treated as the best. Of course we grow angry and feel horrified as friends fall off our social media lists because we choose to support rather than condemn something our children cannot change about themselves.

But this sorrow doesn’t have to continue into the next generation of parents and children. If we teach our kids to be excited about their gay friend or lesbian cousin or transgender brother like it’s the best thing that could have ever happened…

Well, just picture it! Imagine a world where having a transgender child is something so rare and precious you are celebrated for it, rather than forced to endure the loss of friends and family members who think you’re trying to influence your child’s development in a negative way. Imagine a world where your daughter comes out as lesbian and you receive congratulations cards for it. Imagine a world where your son comes out as bisexual and you can’t wait to call and tell your mother: it’s just what you’ve always dreamed he would be!

Imagine a world where you browse parenting magazines as you wait for the ultrasound on your unborn child and see a family on a magazine cover with a gay father and an intersex child below a headline reading “Quick Recipes for Busy Families” or something else totally chill, and you think to yourself, “Wow, are they ever a lucky family. I wonder what we’ll have.”

Imagine a world where every single parent – like my friend’s children – doesn’t even bat an eye at someone’s gender, sexuality, or other expression of their identity.

That is not some far-off fantasy world. That is the world we can create for our children. It is the world we can teach them to create. And it starts with us: the parents of the next generation, whether we or our children are cis, straight, L, G, B, T, Q, or anything else. Let them be dragons if they want to be.

It’s already starting. I see it every single day in groups of parents accepting their children and celebrating their true selves.

Hope for your baby to come out healthy. But also, go ahead: hope for him to come out gay. I give you permission. The same way you might hope for him to be athletic, or a successful entrepreneur, it is okay to hope for your child to be gay. Wish for her to be transgender. Wish to have a son and a daughter all in one lifetime, one body, one soul. Pray she will be bisexual, and not discount the possibility of a relationship based on the gender of her love interest. Wish that he will be happy no matter what he discovers about himself along the way.

It is a gift to have a queer child or friend or neighbor or sibling. Instead of saying, “I would never wish for my child to be anything other than heterosexual/cisgender because of what he will face,” say, “I would never wish for my child to be hateful. I would never wish for my child to discriminate others based on things they cannot control like race, birthplace, sexuality, or gender. I would never wish for my child to feel they are anything other than exactly what I wanted, queerness and all.”

Those are the true demons to wish against. Take the power away from fear. Take the power away from hate.

I am not saying it’s realistic to not feel sorrow when your child’s life takes an unexpected turn. I think I felt more fear than sorrow, and it shows in the words I’ve chosen to use.

I am saying that we can shape the world – today, in the changing landscape of our entire human society – to embrace our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in such an all-encompassing way that we no longer need to feel a shred of sorrow when our children come out.

If we don’t treat our queer children – and the queer children of our neighbors – like they are exactly what we wanted, then the world will not want them. If we talk about our queer children like they are accepted, but their situation is not ideal, the world will treat them as though they are not ideal. If we talk about the medical interventions for transgender kids as something we wish was unnecessary, the world will view it as unnecessary. If we act like we’re afraid our peers will judge us for celebrating our child’s homosexuality, then that’s exactly what they will do.

We can change that. It starts with the parents of today’s children. It starts with me. I’ll never again say I wouldn’t wish for a queer child. I didn’t know how to embrace it with the flawless acceptance of a child. I hope I do now, and I sure as hell will keep trying. I asked my queer child to read a Word doc draft of this post before I published it, and you know what he said?

“Oh my God, Mom, you can’t honestly think you’re not doing a good job at this stuff.”

…Okay. I can deal with that. It really is as simple as the children say it is.

So go ahead: wish for a gay child. I promise you: we can teach the next generation to embrace him with the simplicity and purity of today’s children. We can, and we will.

Because they already know how.

PHANTOM NIGHTS

Hey! Guess what? I’ve finally got the third book in the VESPER series coming out! It took me forever, so if you’ve been waiting for it I’m really sorry. It was a rough year, but I’m back in action now and ready to share Sychar and Samantha’s story with you.

But… I’d love some help spreading the word, if you’re up for it! If you have a blog and you’d like to help out or review one of the books in the series, please fill out the document below and I’ll be in touch!