Let’s Move “T” to the Front of LGBTQ

tlgbqIt’s pretty obvious that trans people need our help these days, so I suggest we update our acronym to TLGBQ as a show of support.

When I was in college in the early 90’s, I was still a few years away from coming out as gay, but I did notice when the campus’ main gay organization changed its name from the GLA (Gay & Lesbian Association) to the LGBC (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Coalition). They felt like the group was becoming too exclusive, and they wanted to make lesbians and bisexuals feel more welcome.

It was the right idea, but looking back now, it’s glaring that even in the reshuffling, the letter “T” didn’t find its way in there at the time. It’s only recently that T has become a permanent fixture of LGBTQ. I won’t go into the debate about whether transgender rights should be considered part of gay rights. As far as I’m concerned, it’s settled. They should be, and they are, and if you disagree, you can go form your own movement, because there’s no room for transphobia in mine.

Let’s remember who fought back at Stonewall. Some of the most prominent protesters were transgender women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The L’s, G’s and B’s of that period in history, in most cases, were happy to blend in or live in the shadows or the closet. Trans people, on the other hand, refused to or couldn’t fit in, and at some point, they’d had it with being abused and marginalized. As far as I’m concerned, we’re lucky they let us join their movement.

And what have us cisgender LGBQ’s done to thank them and show them our support? Well, at some point, we tacked a “T” onto our acronym and started including them in our nondiscrimination laws.

It’s not enough.

Especially today, when trans rights are under attack, we need to do everything we can to let transgender people know we have their backs and we’re going to fight for them the way they’ve always fought for us.

It’s disgusting that Donald Trump has taken away protections for trans students. There’s no question what this shameful move will do to trans kids across the country:

It will kill them.

It will drive more trans students toward suicide suicide and embolden bullies to attack them even more than they already do. We’ve seen how the anti-Semitism in Trump’s administration has led to a rise in anti-Semitic harassment (which Trump refuses to adequately condemn).

The same goes for Muslims and immigrants, who this administration has come after as well. There’s no doubt that an increase in transphobic attacks is on the horizon.

And then which group is next?

Would any of us be surprised if it’s the rest of the LGBTQ community?

Still, it’s clear which members of our community they’ve chosen to attack first, who they consider the most vulnerable and the easiest to defeat. Let’s not give them any impression that trans rights are in any way an afterthought to our movement. Let’s put our trans allies right up front.

TLGBQ

Sure, the people who already make fun of our cumbersome acronym will have a field day.

Let them.

They’ll do all the publicity for us, and we can focus on calling our representatives to support TLGBQ rights and fighting the government in court.

TLGBQ

Start using it now.

Do it to thank the trans community for giving birth to the movement.

Do it because they need our support.

Do it to show the bullies in our government that if they want to come for trans rights, they’re going to have to go through all of us, and we’re going to stand together and fight like Hell.

 

Does Belle Have Stockholm Syndrome? Emma Watson Responds – and so do I.

mrsr-beauty-and-the-beast

As pretty much everyone in the universe knows by now, Disney’s live-action version of Beauty & the Beast comes out on March 17. And as readers of this blog know, my book My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty & the Beast (along with 3 other books in the series) comes out August 1.

beautybeastdisneySo I was really excited to read this interview with the new Belle, Emma Watson, from Entertainment Weekly, where she addresses the tricky subject of whether Belle’s love for the Beast stems from Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition where prisoners fall in love with their captor.

“Belle actively argues and disagrees with [Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps that freedom of thought.”

– Emma Watson, Entertainment Weekly

It’s a great point, although I address the subject a bit differently in my version. In My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty & the Beast, Holden, the rotten kid in the title, enjoys needling his fairy tale-loving stepsister by pointing out plot holes in her favorite stories. With Beauty & the Beast, one of the things he mentions is how messed-up it is that Belle falls in love with a creepy recluse who’s holding her prisoner.

Yes, I’ve written a kids’ book about Stockholm Syndrome.

It’s all presented in a fun, kid-friendly way, of course. Holden insists that there’s no way Belle really loves this guy, and soon, the feuding step-siblings are thrust into the tale, where they become characters who have to give the story back its Happily Ever After. Holden is a lawyer who has to defend the Beast against kidnapping charges, and his step-sister Maddie is Belle, whose father is trying to deprogram her and get her to date other men.

I love that Emma Watson put so much thought into this topic, and after you see the movie, I hope you’ll check out my version of the story for a whole different perspective, with an unexpected fairy tale ending all its own.

Coming Soon: My Rotten Stepbrother Books!

I’m happy to announce that my new book series for kids has a publication date! The series is called MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED… and will be available from Capstone Publishing on August 1, 2017. The books are about a girl named Maddie who loves fairy tales and her obnoxious stepbrother, who loves pointing out the plot holes in her favorite stories. His gripes are actually pretty spot-on… so much so that he breaks the stories, and the two feuding step-siblings have to go into the stories to try to fix them and give the characters back their happily ever after. It’s a fun series for kids around age 6-10 with lots of humor and surprises.

I’ll post when they’re available for pre-order, and I plan to do some events and live readings around the release. There may even be some chart twerking involved. In the meantime, you’ll notice some changes to this site as I focus on promoting my new career as a children’s author!

Here’s a little more info on each book in the series, along with the official cover reveals! The artwork is by an amazing designer named Aleksei Bitskoff.

mrsr-cinderella

Book 1: MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA

Holden points out the ridiculousness of a man needing a shoe to track down the woman he supposedly fell in love with. Wouldn’t he remember her face? And don’t a lot of women have the same size foot? What a bad plan!

Soon, he and Maddie are thrust into the story, only to find that the Prince is now engaged to a Wicked Stepsister, and the Fairy Godmother is a little miffed that Cinderella disobeyed the one rule she gave her and stayed out past midnight. Will Maddie and Holden be able to set things right, or will Cinderella remain a miserable housemaid forever?

mrsr-beauty-and-the-beast

Book 2: MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED BEAUTY & THE BEAST

Holden doesn’t get it: if the Beast gets cursed for being shallow, why is he allowed to break the spell by marrying a total babe? If that’s the case, has he really learned anything? And how do they know Belle’s feelings are real? Maybe she has Stockholm Syndrome, where prisoners fall in love with their captors.

The next thing they know, Holden has become a lawyer in a fairy tale version of France, forced to defend the Beast on kidnapping charges. Maddie is a confused Belle, convinced by her dad to play the field and see if there are better options out there than a short-tempered monster who held her in his castle against her will. Together, they explore where beauty really comes from and figure out if Beauty & Beast were really destined to be together.

mrsr-aladdin

Holden thinks Aladdin has it all wrong. He can wish for anything, and all he wants is for a princess to fall in love with him? Lame! If he had three wishes, the first thing he’d wish for is a million more wishes. Then, a hoverboard. Oh, and having no parents would be great, too.

Well, all his wishes come true when he becomes Aladdin, and for the first time, he has no interest in fixing the fairy tale. Life with a genie waiting on you hand and foot is SWEET! How will Maddie convince him to give all this up so Aladdin can marry the princess and they can go home? It won’t be easy, since she finds herself thrust into the story as a camel, and her rotten stepbrother refuses to use one of his wishes to change her back to a human.

mrsr-snow-white

Book 4: MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED SNOW WHITE

Holden has been messing up fairy tales so often that now Maddie can’t help doing it herself. She’s playing Snow White in the school play, and she can’t help wondering why the princess doesn’t just gorge on some greasy food and give herself acne to get her jealous stepmother off her case. Holden has his own thoughts, like how Snow White should be training the dwarfs in karate so they can kick the Queen’s wicked butt.

Soon, Holden is the Huntsman, Maddie is Snow White, and a major showdown is looming. Plus, the step-siblings are given the chance to break the spell that sends them into all these fairy tales once and for all. Plus, Holden gets to make a decision that could get his annoying stepsister out of his life for good. What will he choose?

* * * * *

Can’t wait for you to read these books. I’ve had so much fun writing them, and they’re already garnering rave reviews from my own kids. More details soon!

 

 

 

Here’s How We’ll Unite Again After Trump’s Election

trump-obamaTrump voters, you’re upset. I hear you. Let’s start there.

You don’t like all the fuss Hillary Clinton voters like me are making over your guy’s victory. You wish we could just accept things and move on, like good American citizens. We’re all one country, so why can’t we just come together for the sake of unity?

Well, I get it. I don’t think you’re all bigots. You’re not all bad people. And you’re not all stupid.

But let me make one thing very clear: you made a colossal mistake.

That guy you elected? He scares the shit out of some of us. He’s said hateful things about us. I don’t mean privately, in an email he never intended for anybody else to see. I mean openly, in his campaign speeches. In his party’s platform. And then he refused to apologize for them. He didn’t misspeak. He wasn’t taken out of context. He owns it.

I think you already know that. Maybe you just didn’t realize how scary it is for the people he’s talking about, or how much it hurts knowing that our own neighbors, friends and family voted for a guy whose election is sure to do us harm.

And make no mistake about it, it will.

Donald has routinely incited violence against people who disagree with him. He’s shown he has no regard for civil liberties. Remember Tiananmen Square, when the Chinese government mowed down a bunch of their own citizens because they were tired of them protesting peacefully? Trump thinks that was the right move.

So if you wonder why people are protesting now, I’m pretty sure part of it is that they’re terrified of protesting once Donald assumes power.

Like it or not, Trump ran on a platform of bigotry. Maybe you heard something else in there, too. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that. You don’t even have to tell me what it was specifically. But to use a Seinfeld term, you can’t yadda yadda the bigotry. It was kind of a big part of it.

You know what the rest of us think when you assure us you’re not bigoted? We think you might not be bigoted yourself, but you didn’t mind the bigotry because it didn’t affect you personally. You didn’t have to worry that someone was going to pull your hijab off in a grocery store and try to choke you with it, because you don’t wear a hijab. You didn’t have to worry that INS agents were going to break down your door in the middle of the night and deport your parents, because your parents were born in America. You didn’t have to worry that your marriage would be nullified, because you married someone of the opposite sex. Well, those other things affect a lot of us directly, so we heard them loud and clear.

whiteagainYou know who else heard them loud and clear? Bigots. Actual real, proud openly bigoted people. That’s why the KKK endorsed Donald. That’s why there’s been a rash of hate crimes since his election, because bigots got the message that this was their victory, and it was now open season on anyone who was different than them.

You voted for Trump. OK. Now here’s the harsh truth you have to accept: Whether bigotry was a main factor in your vote or simply something you were willing to overlook, this was a triumph for bigotry.

Are you horrified? Good. Act like it.

Stop complaining about the protestors and start complaining about the spray-painted swastikas. Start standing up for people when you hear someone yell, “Get out of our country!” at them. And most of all, make sure you let your president-elect know that the hate wasn’t the part of his message that resonated with you.

Face up to the implications of your vote. And stop telling me that this is a problem with liberal elites not understanding the anger of regular Americans. Don’t tell me I need to understand someone else’s anger when they’re poking me with a stick. No. I need to stand up for myself. I don’t need to understand them. They need to understand that they messed with the wrong guy.

And please please please, stop saying that you want unity. Unity was Hillary Clinton’s message, and you rejected it for the guy who called Mexicans rapists. What you’re asking for now isn’t unity, it’s submission, and you’re not going to get it.

Why should you? Republicans in Congress and on cable news haven’t offered unity for decades. They’ve obstructed and refused to accept the legitimacy of the last two Democratic presidents. They’ve invented scandals, stoked up anger among their base. They even claimed the last guy wasn’t really born in America. (Now, to add insult to injury, that guy has to hand over the reins of leadership to the guy who led that movement. We’re mad about that, too.)

We didn’t start this. Republicans picked a fight because they didn’t like losing and they thought it was more expedient to cut Democrats down rather than rebuild their own party. They were willing to hold the entire U.S. government hostage to get their way. Remember the shut downs? Those weren’t fun, were they? The Republicans I’m talking about have been betting for years that Democrats were weak and we’d just roll over once we lost one battle. But it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to make this easy on them.

They wanted a fight, and now they’ve got one.

So, Trump voters, pick your side. If you stand by your guy, fine. But then recognize that you’re the enemy.

And before you make your decision, consider this: our side is going to win. There’s no doubt about it.

Clinton got more raw votes than Donald did, and in four years, the Democrats will have an even bigger advantage. Demographics are changing. America is becoming more diverse. Bigots are dying off, being replaced by more progressive and more tolerant younger people.

You can rail against it and win the occasional battle. But in the long run, you’re on the losing team. So stop asking me to join you.

Instead, join us.

You want us to stand side by side? I agree. So come over here.

I’m not coming to your side. I don’t feel welcome there, and unity can only exist if everyone’s welcome.

Over here, they are. I don’t care what race or religion you are, who you love or what gender you identify with, where your parents or your grandparents were born. I don’t care if you live in a big city or a small town. I don’t care if you’re disabled or you speak a different language. I don’t care about any of it. I’ve used the word “Republican” as a blanket term in this essay, but I don’t mean for it to represent all Republicans. There are some over here on this side, and I like them a lot. The rest of them are welcome to join any time.

I’d even welcome Trump to this side if he’s somehow visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come and miraculously finds compassion for his fellow human beings.

And I hope he does. I hope he does because I’m terrified of the alternative.

So there’s your path to unity. Unite with us against hate. It’s an important fight, and we could use your support. Some of our lives literally depend on it.

In the meantime, expect many of us to stay pissed.

And if you stand by your vote for a bigot, sorry to say it, but we’re going to stay pissed at you, too.

Forget Ghostbusters… I’m Really Going to Ruin Your Childhood

IMG_0418Worried that an estrogen-heavy Ghostbusters is going to ruin your childhood? Well, relax, because it’s not.

But with any luck, I will. At least, that’s my goal.

I’m excited to announce my new project, a chapter book series for kids called MY STUPID STEPBROTHER RUINED…

It’s about a young girl who loves fairy tales… and her obnoxious step-brother who loves pointing out the plot holes in them. He actually makes some pretty good points… so good that he ends up breaking the stories, and the two feuding step-siblings get sucked into the books to fix things. The only way they can get back home is to work together and give the story back its happily ever after.

The first one is called MY STUPID STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, and there will be three more in the series. Woohoo! They’ll all be released in the fall of 2017 by the fine folks at Capstone Publishing.

The picture up there is my daughter Sutton’s vision for the book cover. I can’t quite say this will be the official artwork, although I have yet to break that to her.

So while things have been quiet on the blog front lately, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’m having so much fun working on these books and can’t wait to share them with you! (Yes, there may be some chart twerking involved when the time comes.)

 

JTF is my BFF! (Jesse Tyler Ferguson Reads My Essay!)

jtfHave I mentioned that Jesse Tyler Ferguson is one of my favorite people? Well, he is, and not just because he chose my essay to read for the Modern Love podcast this week. He also did a great job of it.

Seriously, you should check it out here. (You can also hear an update from me and a teary interview with Susie as well. Get your Kleenex ready!)

Can’t wait to see JTF (I can call him that now. We’re tight.) in Fully Committed on Broadway this spring!

Yes, I’m shamelessly plugging his show. It’s the least I can do for my new BFF. Break a leg, pal!

* * *

Are you new here? Well, you can be my BFF, too, by subscribing to this blog, following me on Twitter or, best of all, buying my book! The essay was just a small part of my story. You’ll never believe the rest of the crazy, emotional jiggery-pokery my husband and I went through to become dads. (Just try to act surprised now that you know the ending.)

 

Why I Put My Family on Display

I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the story of Ruby Bridges until my son brought a picture book about her home from school. For those of you who are also uninformed, here’s the TL;DR version:

In 1960, schools in New Orleans were still segregated by race. A judge ordered that a 6-year-old girl named Ruby Bridges be allowed to attend a school that was, until then, all-white. When she showed up on the first day, she was met with scores of furious, shouting protestors trying to scare her away. She went inside anyway and sat in a classroom with the one teacher who’d agree to teach her. Unwilling to attend an integrated school or simply intimidated by the mob, EVERY SINGLE WHITE STUDENT stayed home.

Yes, every one.

Ruby was the only kid in school, but she kept coming back, day after day, until the protests finally subsided and the white kids started returning.

rubybridges

Ruby Bridges at school (with U.S. Marshals)

When I first read about this little girl’s amazing life, I had several thoughts, including:

  • Ruby Bridges is a hero.
  • Ruby Bridges was braver at six years old than I will ever be.
  • Shame on those horrible people who tried to intimidate a little girl to keep her from going to school.

And lastly…

  • What were Ruby Bridges’ parents thinking?!

It’s hard as a parent not to have that last thought. Surely, the world is a better place because Ruby Bridges’ parents allowed and encouraged her to go through something no 6-year-old should ever have to endure (but which, sadly, at the time, was fairly commonplace). How many of us, though, would put our own children in such a vulnerable spot, knowing the harm that could come to them, just for the benefit of the greater good?

Lately, people have been asking that same question about blogger Kristen Howerton.

Here’s the TL;DR version of her story:

familycloseupbestforblog300

via Rage Against the Minivan, with permission

Kristen has a beautiful family consisting of her, her husband, their two biological daughters and their two adopted sons. As you can see from the picture, not everybody in the family is the same race. Kristen writes thoughtful, moving pieces about race and adoption, as well as thoughtful, moving pieces that are not about race and adoption. She posts pictures of her family and uses their real names on her blog Rage Against the Minivan.

 

Recently, a white supremacist group targeted Kristen with a campaign of hate, stealing and altering photos of her kids, tweeting racial epithets and other jackassery. Kristen’s followers rallied to her support and helped shut down the haters, but many other people thought Kristen was at fault for putting her family on display in the first place. You can read more here and here.

I was lucky enough to share a stage with Kristen several years ago at a Listen To Your Mother reading in Los Angeles. I was inspired by her family and felt a kind of connection to her as a gay dad. People give our family funny looks, too, and much of the world is built around a concept of family that doesn’t include a family like mine. I loved the fact that she wrote about it so openly, and I’ve tried to do the same with this blog. I’ve talked about being a gay dad, and I’ve shared pictures of my family, like this one:

ilovemyfamily2

There have been times that I’ve stopped and wondered if what I was doing was wise. What if some homophobes used my pictures in an anti-gay ad or on some hate site? There are prominent figures who’ve suggested that their followers should kidnap children who have gay parents. The danger from these people is real.

So what am I thinking?

Now, I’m in no way trying to equate myself with Kristen Howerton and the wonderful things she does on her blog, nor am I trying to equate myself or Kristen with Ruby Bridges or her parents.

But every time I’ve wondered if I should stop doing what I’m doing, I end up even more determined to keep doing it. I know that will lead a lot of people to judge me and even to question my parenting. I know that if anything like what happened to Kristen ever happens to me, there will be people who will say I deserved it for putting my family on display.

You want to know why I still do this? Let me do my best to list the reasons.

It does more good than harm.

I get messages all the time from people who appreciate what I do. I hear from gay parents who are glad to see other families like theirs. I hear from young gay people who are inspired to see that a happy family life is possible for them. And I hear from plenty of straight people who thank me for helping them to understand something that’s foreign to them, or to say how much they can relate for one reason or another.

Do I sometimes get hate mail? Of course. But it doesn’t really bother me much because it’s far, far outnumbered by the positive responses I get.

I dread the thought of my kids being the targets of anyone’s hate. But if my husband and I didn’t put them out there, they wouldn’t see all the love the world has to show us, too.

We’re on display anyway.

You think you get a lot of attention for writing blog posts about your non-traditional family online? Try just leaving your house.

Everything we do together as a family invites scrutiny — getting groceries, going to school, playing at the playground, taking our kids to Disney World or doing a million other things. Every time we go out in public we open ourselves and our children up to the possibility of critical glares and even outright hostility. It’s not posting online that makes us potential targets of the hatemongers. It’s just existing.

But you know what? Hardly anything bad ever happens. For the most part, the reactions we get are amazing. People embrace us, show curiosity, compliment us. Last year, a few weeks before the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, a complete stranger who’d been sitting near us in a restaurant approached us with tears in her eyes and said, “You have a beautiful family! I hope the Supreme Court does the right thing!”

The bullies don’t get to set the debate.

Plenty of people believe they have some good points to make about why two men shouldn’t have kids together. (Or why white families shouldn’t adopt black kids. Or why little girls should get shouted down for trying to go to school. Or [insert some very important opinion here].) OK, if that’s you, you’re entitled to speak your mind. But don’t expect to espouse views that I find offensive and dangerous without hearing from me in return.

You can be vile and bigoted, you can harrass me and level death threats from behind the veil of relative anonymity the internet provides you. I’ll continue to defend myself openly, with logic, reason and probably sarcasm just for fun.

Just get this straight: I’m not going away.

And I refuse to teach my kids that we need to hide from the world in order to keep from upsetting crazy people.

I don’t know if I’d have had the guts to make the decisions Ruby Bridges’ parents did, but I’m glad they did.

That being said…

I believe people are generally good.

I know there’s a chance the wrong people will find my blog and twist it around in some horrible ways. I’m sure if that happened, I would be terrified and furious and do everything I could to protect my kids. But I know something else:

People would rally to my defense. My readers, my friends and my family would support me, as they always do, and whatever dribble of hate got spewed my way would be washed away by a tsunami of love. I’d end up more convinced than ever that the world has my back.

I hate seeing what’s happened to Kristen Howerton, but it makes me think of the Mr. Rogers quote everyone always posts after a tragedy:

mr-rogers

via everyone’s Facebook page, ever

So I’m not going to focus on the bad people who were nasty to Kristen Howerton and her family. I’m going to focus on all the people who came to her defense, and I’m going to add my voice to theirs.

Lastly…

My kids think it’s awesome.

My husband and I have warned our kids that homophobia exists, but I don’t think they believe us. They believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but the notion that people would be mean to someone just because they’re gay sounds completely absurd to them.

It’s not something they’ve ever witnessed.

A couple of nights ago, my husband and I were anxious to start story time so we could get the kids to bed. Our daughter was taking her time coming in, and we were getting really frustrated. We were too tired to get out of bed and round her up, so we shouted downstairs. “What are you doing?”

“Hold on! I’m making something!”

Our daughter is always making things. It’s what she loves to do. So we rolled our eyes and waited.

A minute later, she came running upstairs, with a big smile on her face. She had three post-it notes, and she handed one to me, one to my husband and one to her brother. This is what they said:

ilovemyfamily

I love my family. It came out of nowhere. Just something she was thinking about and which was important enough to delay story time for. I have piles of notes like that, a million little ways my kids show me that they love me and they love our family.

I know most parents have stuff like that. I’m not saying my family is any more special than anyone else’s or that I expect special treatment or whatever some wacko online might want to turn this around into.

All I’m saying is, I ❤ my family.

And I don’t care who knows it.

Speaker Spotlight: Jerry Mahoney

Here’s a fun interview I did with WordPress for the upcoming Press Publish conference in Portland, OR on March 28. Do you have your tickets yet?

Press Publish

What happens when a great writer has a great story to tell? Well, in the case of comedy writer Jerry Mahoney, you get a great blog, a great book, and a great speaker for Press Publish Portland on March 28!

jerry mahoney holding his newborn twinsJerry’s story of how he and his partner Drew had twins via gestational surrogate has been told in a Modern Love column Jerry wrote for the New York Times and in this Today Show piece from October 2012. Like many of us, Jerry blogged regularly for a while and then took a hiatus. When he came back to his blog after becoming the stay-at-home dad of twins, he found himself writing the kind of blog that he couldn’t find but wanted to read — and as it turns out, it was the kind of blog that a lot of other people wanted to read, too! It’s hard to…

View original post 1,210 more words

What to Do if You’re Pissed Off About “The Interview” Being Censored

the.interview.kim_.jong_.un_I know, I never blog anymore, and when I do, it’s just to post some silly story of the wacky things my kids do. Well, this post isn’t going to be about my kids or about being a gay dad or any of my usual topics. It’s about something else that interests me that has nothing to do with any of those things: North Korea.

I’ve long been fascinated with the country, because everything I hear about it sounds like something out of a dystopican sci-fi movie. Speakers in people’s homes that blare propaganda and can’t be turned off. A populace forced to worship their dictator like a god. A high-ranking state official who may or may not have been fed to dogs.

Nobody in North Korea gets to read articles like those of course, because most of them haven’t even heard of the internet. If you like The Hunger Games, you should read “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick, because there are things that are actually going on in our world today that are a million times more fucked up than a dozen teenagers forced to kill each other.

By some accounts, the number of people who’ve died of starvation in North Korea is in the millions. Nothing angers me more than that. I throw out half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches and not-at-all-eaten broccoli from my kids every night, and millions of people in North Korea may have died due to an entirely preventable famine.

And what’s our response? Economic sanctions, which don’t work because Kim Jong-un (and his father and grandfather before him) is perfectly willing to let his people suffer.

Now Kim has scored possibly his biggest triumph yet. He hacked a movie studio and got a movie censored. His little country attacked a giant, and the giant caved. Everyone keeps saying how much it sucks that North Korea won this battle. And it does feel that way. And it does suck. But here’s what I think everyone seems to be overlooking:

Kim Jong-Un is scared shitless.

Why else would he stage a large-scale act of cyberterrorism against the United States… over a movie? “The Interview” may just be a light comedy to us, but to him, it’s utterly humiliating. He lives his life in fear that people will find out what’s really going on in his country and he’ll lose his grip on power. He’s so scared that he thinks a Seth Rogen movie can bring down his regime.

And the amazing thing is: maybe it could.

This isn’t just about a movie. This is about one of the worst mass murderers in human history, who’s been able to hold onto power because his country isn’t politically important enough to us, because we have bigger fish to fry and because we’re afraid of his nuclear bombs.

What he fears more than anything is information. He knows if his people find out what a miserable failure and certifiable lunatic he is, they’ll stop treating him like a god and start ridiculing him the way the rest of the world does. They may even overthrow him.

He thinks this is a victory? Let’s show him it’s not. The enemy of censorship is the truth. Let’s use this opportunity to shine a light on what’s going on in North Korea. Spread the word. Spread the truth.

Kim thinks he can make this go away by smacking down a movie? Let the message pop up in a hundred other places. Read about it. Talk about it. Put pressure on our leaders. Use your social networks. Post something on your blog, even if you usually write about how your kindergartener sassed you at bedtime and stuff like that.

I changed my profile picture on Facebook and Twitter to the image of Kim’s head exploding from “The Interview”. It’s the very thing that will embarrass him the most and show my support for free speech at the same time. Of course, Kim doesn’t currently follow me, so he’s not likely to see it unless a lot of other people change their pictures, too. If you want to do the same, you can grab the image above or from one of the tons of other places on the internet where it’s being displayed.

Forget what everyone says about slacktivism. If we make a big enough noise, the media will notice, and they’ll keep this story focused where it should be: on North Korea’s horrific history of human rights abuses. Some people are calling this a war, and if it is, then we’re all soldiers in it, so pick up your pens and your keypads and start fighting.

Kim Jong-Un is terrified of free speech, and you know what? He should be.

Despite the fact that a movie got censored, we still have it here in America. So let’s put it to good use.

Today’s Surrogacy Article in the New York Times

Jerry Mahoney, Mommy Man

Thanks, surrogacy!

The New York Times ran a feature story on surrogacy on today’s front page, and I’m left wondering, as I often do when this topic makes news, what most people are taking away from the story. The article reminds us repeatedly that “commercial surrogacy” (the term for a pregnancy in which a surrogate is compensated, as opposed to “altruistic surrogacy”, in which she is not) is illegal in most of the world. The writer also references some horrifying stories about intended parents abandoning their surrogates and their offspring or contracting multiple surrogates simultaneously with the intention of giving some of the babies produced up for adoption or aborting whichever fetuses don’t meet their exacting standards. They’re mostly unverified anecdotes, the kind of thing that makes most of us who had wonderful experiences with surrogacy shudder and then think, “Hmmm… really?” But I won’t deny that there are some legitimate horror stories out there.

MommyManCoverThe problem, in my opinion, isn’t surrogacy itself. Everyone in my situation — my husband and me, our egg donor Susie, our surrogate Tiffany and our kids themselves — benefitted from the experience. No one was exploited and no one has any regrets. (This seems like a good spot for the obligatory shameless plug of my book, “Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad”, which tells my story in full.) Stories like mine are pretty common. The other parents I know who’ve grown their families through surrogacy all have similar experiences to relate.

That doesn’t mean we should ignore the potential for things to go wrong. Surrogacy remains largely unregulated, and as such, it’s conducted on kind of an honor system, the only true regulator being the consciences of those engaged in it. The honor system works because most people are honorable. Most college students know that cheating is wrong, and most people have enough respect for life and women’s bodies to treat surrogacy with the care and moral reverence it deserves.

The big difference between a college honor system and the one around surrogacy comes in the stakes. When college students break the honor system, the fallout is minimal. Now and then a cheater gets an A, but that barely cheapens the hard work of the majority who earned their grades legitimately. The stakes with a pregnancy, though, are much higher. No one wants to see even one woman exploited or one baby abandoned.

It’s time for the honor system surrounding surrogacy to end. The U.S. should be proud of the fact that we’re the destination of choice for people seeking surrogates from overseas, and we should lead the rest of the world by example by showing them how surrogacy should be conducted. There needs to be greater regulation of what’s become a big industry, in order to protect the rights and lay out the responsibilities of intended parents, surrogates, clinics and surrogacy agencies alike.

Just a few thoughts…

Surrogates and egg donors need to be fully informed of the medical and psychological risks they’ll be undertaking. Surrogacy isn’t for everyone, and no one should feel like they’ve been coaxed into it against their will. Likewise, all potential surrogates and egg donors should be screened medically and psychologically to make sure that they’re fit for what the procedures entail.

There should be limits placed on embryo transfers. Intended parents should accept that surrogate pregnancies, like any other, carry certain risks. Just because you’re not carrying a baby yourself, you don’t get off easy when it comes to the big ethical issues that pregnancy sometimes raises.

Surrogates and intended parents should have detailed, enforceable contracts. Before they ever enter into an agreement together, surrogates and intended parents should discuss every potential issue that may arise during pregnancy and make sure they would agree on how to handle it. One of the more common horror stories you hear about surrogacy arises when the fetus develops a birth defect and the intended parents want to terminate the pregnancy, but the surrogate doesn’t. In those cases, the surrogate and the parents should never have gone forward together. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend anyone pursuing surrogacy go through a legitimate agency. In my book, I complain a lot about the agency my husband and I used, but one thing they did right was to make sure our surrogate was a good match for us.

There are people arguing that surrogacy should be made illegal, and that breaks my heart, because I owe my family to the process and to all the people who helped us through it. So many wonderful families are created through surrogacy, and so many women have had their lives enriched by becoming surrogates.

We all know there are unethical people out there on every side of this phenomenon — intended parents, clinics, surrogacy agencies and even surrogates themselves. Exploitation does occur, some stories don’t have happy endings, and it’s only a matter of time before a major horror story leaves us all shaking our heads. Let’s not let that happen.

This is an important issue. Let’s keep talking about it, and let’s acknowledge that if surrogacy is kept safe, legal and regulated, there will be a lot more stories like mine, a lot less cause for concern and a lot less fearmongering, legitimate or otherwise.