Posts Tagged ‘love’

Love knows no bounds, even gender identity

When you see real love, you know it. And I recently had the honor of telling the story of two women whose love is so powerful, it transcends gender identity.

IMG_0594Amy and Cindy Hunter are two of the couples I profiled as part of promoting The Ultimate LGBT Wedding & Anniversary Expo hosted by Between The Lines, Michigan’s weekly LGBT newspaper.

Although the expo is in its sixth year, this is the first following the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. The expo recognizes all the celebrations in the lives of LGBT people and their allies, including anniversaries, baby showers, adoptions, graduations and more.

As part of promoting the event, I had the pleasure of interviewing a number of couples who shared their stories of longtime commitments and what marriage equality means to them. But Amy and Cindy’s story is unique. They were married in 2003, when Amy was still living uncomfortably as the male she’d been assigned at birth. Three years later, her love for Cindy finally gave her the courage to say what she’d known in her heart all along: she knew herself to be a woman.

Their story not only demonstrates the depth of true love, it sheds light on the lives of transgender people — who are gaining greater visibility, but not always in a positive way. Transgender people face significant discrimination, largely because others simply don’t understand who they are deep inside.

Even with marriage equality, LGBT people — especially transgender people — still don’t have full equality in America, so the work continues. Part of that work means educating the public on what gender identity is. So it is my hope that while celebrating love, I can help reveal the truth that transgender people want the same things as everyone else: love and acceptance.

Read the full story here as it appeared in the special wedding edition of Between The Lines.

[Photo courtesy of Amy and Cindy Hunter.]

Forgiveness, lost and found

This is one of my favorite stories of 2012. Because it’s a reminder that even when we think we’re hopelessly lost, we can find something unexpected.

It’s about my friend Nina, who is like a patron saint of stray animals (and people). Over the years, she’s taken in countless cats and found homes for many others. Once she rescued a turtle that was stuck on its back by the side of a road.

Most recently, Nina discovered a cat hiding under her deck. The weather was still fairly warm, so Nina set her up with food, a cat carrier and a blanket. But when the temperature plummeted, Nina brought the cat into her house.

Forgiveness, lost and found

This grateful little angel immediately snuggled in, untroubled by the displeasure of the resident cats, contented to find a warm home and a warm lap.

While Nina was trying to choose the right name for this unabashedly affectionate cat, she saw the father of Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, talking about how sweet his daughter was. That’s when Nina named the cat Emilie Parker.

Here’s the part of the story I love best: Every time Nina picks up Emilie, she says a prayer for the victims in Newtown. But Nina doesn’t just pray for the 26 people who were shot and killed in that school. Nina also prays for the shooter and his mother, something many people have not been able to do. I admit, I’ve struggled with it, too.

But, as Nina said simply, “They’re victims, too.”

She’s right. Nancy Lanza was the victim of true horror: being killed by your own child. Her son was the victim of the demons in his mind, of not getting whatever help he needed that might have prevented this tragedy.

I’m not saying it’s right that Nancy Lanza had an arsenal of deadly weapons. I’m not saying there’s any excuse for the actions of her son. But by praying for those who lost their lives and their loved ones — all of them — Nina exemplifies the true nature of forgiveness.

Forgiveness, lost and found

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we ever forget the tragedy. It doesn’t mean we don’t do everything possible to fix the broken system that allows people to obtain assault weapons more easily than they can get mental health care services.

But without forgiveness, we can never heal. I wouldn’t ever presume to tell the people of Newtown how to work through their grief and anger, how to move forward with their lives, how to find peace, or even that they must forgive.

All I know is this: When we forgive, we let go of pain and make more room in our hearts for love.

Someday, Nina’s other cats will forgive her for bringing home Emilie Parker. If you’ve ever known the wrath of a jealous cat, you know that means there’s hope for us all.

Taking a compliment and passing it on

Some people don’t like compliments. Not me. You’ll never hear me cry, “Don’t say something nice about me!” By the same token, when someone is particularly effusive, my gut instinct is to be equally gushing in my gratitude. That can get kind of icky for everyone, despite my good intentions.

Case in point: My great friend (and even greater writer/editor) Jim McFarlin wrote an unexpected and lovely tribute to me on his Just Kidneying blog. I’ll share it here, partly out of appreciation but also to urge you to follow and read this amazing chronicle of his journey with kidney disease. He always has a sense of humor and possesses one of the most infectious laughs on the planet. Kidney disease won’t get this man down and everything he writes is worth a read.

But beyond my gobsmacked reply to his post, I realized I could do more. I could return the favor of surprising someone with praise they might not expect. So I’m going to compliment my dearest friend, who everyone knows as Pitzi. Except in Italy, where she lives, because it just confuses them.

Taking a compliment and passing it on

I’ve known Pitzi since junior year of high school, where we quickly became partners in crime. I encouraged her to expand her musical horizons beyond James Taylor and soon we were singing “Young Parisians” by Adam & The Ants together at the bus stop.

Whatever I may have taught her, however, is nothing in comparison to what she’s taught me. First, she is the smartest person I’ve ever met. And I’m pretty darned smart and know a lot of really smart people. But she’s brilliant. She moved to Italy more than 20 years ago to be with and marry her true love. But I think Italy appeals to her because living anywhere else just wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for her genius. It’s a really complicated country to live in.

That’s only the beginning. She’s raising three children (two still young enough to be at home) who are bilingual thanks to her. She works crazy hours as a freelance translator. Pitzi also runs the household because, well, no offense to anyone but that’s just the way things are in much of Italy. Her husband is a really good guy who adores her, but she still has to do the cooking and the laundry and myriad other tasks. I was very proud the day she announced she’d hired a cleaning lady.

Even though she has an extended family in Italy and the United States, along with other friends to look after, she always has time to take my phone calls. Even when there’s a screaming child in the background, she’s there for me. (Okay, sometimes she asks me to call back in a few minutes after the “I want!” crisis has passed, but still….)

When my parents were both gravely ill and died within a year of each other, she was among the friends who got me through. After the ordeal was over, she invited me to Italy where she would not let me lift a finger, buy a grocery or do anything but relax, play, eat and drink with her. “You’ve been taking care of everyone else,” Pitzi said. “Now it’s time to let someone take care of you.”

She’s the one person who knows absolutely everything about me. I attribute her uncanny advice-giving skills to this knowledge. Pitzi can also make me laugh harder than anyone in the world, which is sometimes better than any advice. She has never failed to encourage me or celebrate my triumphs large and small. When she says to me, “You rock!” I know she means it. And I believe it about myself, too, because how could you question someone so smart?

Pitzi knows how much I love her. But I don’t always get to say how much I admire her loyalty, her determination, her patience, her diligence, her strength. I don’t always get to tell her how grateful I am for her humor, her friendship and her enormous heart.

Well, now I’ve gone and gotten all sentimental. Pitzi can take a compliment, but I’ve reached the sappiness saturation point so I’ll stop. Except to say that if you have a best friend like Pitzi, I hope you’ll take a moment to tell her or him, “You rock.”