Next Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz County Meeting:
April 1, 2017, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Please call 831-818-2253 for information and location details.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Thank you, Heidi Koronkowski

Heidi Koronkowski recently moved on from her primary leadership role in the Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz County. Since 2010 Heidi has been solidifying and building our group's mission to support trans youth by way of providing emotional and informational support to the parents and other family members of transgender children of every age. 

In a recent conversation with Heidi, she shared that of all the experiences she’s had leading the Transfamily Support Group, there was nothing more rewarding for her than providing that critical one-on-one support in person or on the phone taking calls any time of day or night (even in the bathtub) from local, national, and international family members in distress and needing support. Heidi never forgot the early days of her own child's transition, a time of isolation and fear, when she didn't have the answers she needed to support her child in the best way possible. Heidi’s motivation for everything connected with the Transfamily Support Group is made in an effort to spare as many families as possible from feeling that pain. 

Heidi pointedly remembers an experience many of our members have when out doing what we do in community.  A trans adult approached her and said, “I wish I had had a mom like you.” There is not an exact number to quote, but taking note of how Transfamily Support Group has grown and expanded under her leadership, we can assume there are certainly more of those parents in the world now because of this amazing woman.

Heidi has been a tour de force in our county providing compassionate support, performing outreach, increasing public education, and serving as a liaison. While devotedly providing expert care to her own family in transition and working as a behavior coach for those with crippling anxiety, Heidi’s unbounded, VOLUNTEER leadership meant endless hours and, at times, excruciating personal sacrifice. She made it look easy. It isn’t. But that’s Heidi.

So let's take this moment to reflect upon her outstanding contributions, and celebrate our fortunate opportunity to have had her guide us through many difficult times. The Transfamily Support Group honors you and thanks you, Heidi Koronkowski, for your significant and lasting impact on and on behalf of the supporting families of trans youth.

With love and gratitude, we salute you.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Clarifying Trans Civil Rights Current Events

The recent political events pertaining to trans civil rights have been difficult for many to follow.  I would like to offer these summary points to simplify what has happened and what it all means: 
  • In February 2017 the Trump administration rescinded the guidance to schools put in place by the Obama administration in 2016 regarding trans student access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their/her/his gender identity.
  • A key point to know is that THE LAW HAS NOT CHANGED. Trans students still have the same rights under Title IX as before. 
  • What HAS changed is the current federal administration announced it will not ENFORCE the law and assigned each state to determine how/when/if to enforce Title lX protection.  With 13 states already having passed or considering “bathroom laws” this means trans students and adults face confusing and differing rights depending on the state they live in, move to, or travel to/through.
  • In California we have our own state law prohibiting trans discrimination in schools. THAT hasn't changed, and current state leadership vows to maintain these laws and protections for our trans students.   We as the Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz County can also offer help and other resources since many of our members have been instrumental in guiding local schools to support their children as trans students.
  • Civil rights advocates including the Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz County are fighting to ensure that the rights of vulnerable trans children and adults are grown and legally protected at the federal level, so that these rights are consistent throughout the United States. It must be noted that intersex and non-binary children and adults facing these same issues need to be included in the current national conversation and advocacy.
  • Public education to expand social awareness needs to be stepped up to combat the misinformation and lies that are at the core of expanding anti-trans legislation.
  • Some elected officials are trying to lead us backwards, but not all is lost. There is still much that can be done and is being done to ensure protection for trans children facing discrimination at school anywhere in the United States. Legal help and guidance continue to be provided by many strong, allied, national organizations including but not limited to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Transgender Law Center (TLC) located right here in Oakland. The Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz County encourages our community to follow and donate to these groups.

A Mother's Response to Trans Phobia

In response to recent political events one of our members, a mother of a younger trans student, shares the following personal message.

“This bathroom thing.
For most of my friends, I know you understand. Here's the thing: 

Trans girls go to extreme lengths to make sure no one sees any private parts because they don't want to feel different from all the other girls. Same goes for trans boys. Forcing them to use a separate bathroom makes them feel like they're so different/wrong/shunned that they have to be separated from all the other kids, and it's a daily reminder to them and their peers that they're different, and different in a bad way. 

It also hurts the friends of these kids, who have no problem accepting their friend as one of the girls/boys and don't understand why adults are segregating them. (It's almost always the adults, not the kids, who have a problem with trans equality.) 

As for locker rooms, same deal. Most kids these days go to great lengths to not reveal anything when changing (ask your kids who are changing for gym in middle school). Stop sexualizing trans kids. They're not in the bathrooms or locker rooms looking to ogle bodies. (And some trans girls will be growing their own bona fide breasts and will be able to breastfeed if they choose, something most people don't know.) If that's what people were really afraid of, we'd be separating kids by sexual orientation, which of course is unthinkable. It's also unthinkable to force trans kids to use separate bathrooms. 
They're not harming anyone. Really, they're not. 

If you're an ally, please help educate those around you. It's our only way forward through all the ignorance.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cox Grammy Appearance Shines Light on Trans Teen Gavin Grimm's Pending Supreme Court Case

At the Grammy awards, Feb 12, 2017, transgender actress Laverne Cox (Netflix's Orange is the New Black and CBS' Doubt debuting Feb 15, 2017) was on hand to introduced Lady Gaga and Metallica. When Cox took to the stage, she challenged everyone to "Google Gavin Grimm and #StandWithGavin." So, who is Gavin Grimm?  He is a transgender teen who's ACLU case fighting for bathroom access for transgender kids at schools will be heard before the US Supreme Court at the end of March 2017.

CLICK HERE to read and watch 3 videos: Laverne Cox at the Grammys PLUS Gavins Story

Cox's bold call for awareness came a day after disappointing news for the trans community from the Trump administration. On Feb 11, 2017 the new administration withdrew support for lifting the federal injunction against President Obama's directive providing bathroom rights for trans students under Title IX. The new administration's position on transgender bathroom rights may effect the Supreme Court's hearing of Grimm's case since the Title IX protections were the defense for the case.

Click HERE to Read Article About Trump Administration Change in Policy For Trans Students

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Transfamily Support Group at Planned Parenthood Rally

On Feb 11, 2017 in downtown Santa Cruz approximately 800 people lined Pacific Avenue to rally in support of Planned Parenthood. This was a counter rally to a national defund Planned Parenthood effort held at the same time across the nation. The two groups of defunding supporters totaling 50 or so were no match for the throng of Planned Parenthood supporters who came out here in Santa Cruz.  Our local efforts mirrored the outpouring of support that was seen at rallies across the country such as was the case in St. Paul, MN, where 5000 Planned Parenthood supporters eclipsed the 500 defunding supporters.

Transfamily Family Support Group of SCC was there representing our support in honor of the vital role Planned Parenthood historically played and continues to play in the trans story throughout the United States. Over several hours during the rally many people shared their stories of how Planned Parenthood made a difference in their lives and/or the lives of those they love. In my efforts to preserve Planned Parenthood as a critical resource for the trans community, I took to the mic to represent our families and our children. You can hear what I had to say in the video below (starting at 1:15) before the camera goes around the block to capture the smaller of the two defunding groups present in Santa Cruz that day.

Planned Parenthood is a stand-out provider of trans-specific, health care throughout the country, and in many communities it is the ONLY healthcare option for transgender people for hundreds of miles around. A significant portion of trans people use Planned Parenthood for their hormones and other medical services.   Planned Parenthood is staffed by trans-friendly, expertly-trained medical professionals who can provide trans care in a safe environment.  Thank you, Planned Parenthood, for working to provide healthy lives for our trans children. Transfamily Support Group of SCC supports you and will do what ever we can to ensure your organization endures these baseless efforts to defund what so many know is a priceless resource in our country's medical care system.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Transfamily Support Group is in the News!

On Feb 11, 2017, Michelle Brandt and I staffed our Transfamily Support Group table at the Queer, Trans* & Allied Student Summit.  Michelle is a key spokesperson for Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz County who so eloquently communicates critical information and shares why we do what we do. I had the pleasure of witnessing Michelle in action as she was interviewed by Sentinel reporter Calvin Men. Michelle's comments were highlighted in Men's Santa Cruz Sentinel article published the following day.

Read the article and join me in sending a big shout out to Michelle Brandt for her commitment to our group's mission in providing support to families with children in transition or who are questioning.  Michelle, thank you. You are a gift to our community.

Dina Oskiera

Monday, February 6, 2017

Taking Care of Me

I'm pretty good about taking care of others. I take care of my kids and husband, and I try to be a really supportive friend. I take a lead in our group and support any new parents of transitioning kids in any way I can. I take care of the clients I see in my line of work. Everyone tells me I'm a good caretaker. Despite being an experienced and dedicated caretaker, I am challenged when it comes to taking care of me. I hear this is a fairly common struggle for moms. We tend to give so much of self to others we often have nothing left at the end of the day to nurture and support ourselves.

Over the last two weeks there has been an unceasing stream of unsettling political news. The constant bombardment of information and opinions has overwhelmed me at times as I try to stay current, so it's no surprise I've seen my anxiety and fear shooting through the roof. I'm a mom. I'm concerned. The future for our trans kids is becoming less clear when it comes to their healthcare, human rights, legal protections, and inclusive opportunities. This is a long game, and I want to be on my A game to support my son, others, and myself if and when negative changes happen. For me that means stepping up my game when it comes to self care. 

I started making a list of what I could do, and asked the moms in our group what they are doing to take care of themselves during these times of growing uncertainty. It didn't take long before I had an extensive list of manageable, easy options for self care many of which can be done with kids making them that much sweeter. I'm excited to try each and every one of your ideas and suggestions.   

Collectively, here are some of the ways we take care of ourselves when needing a little support:

  • Schedule a spa day
  • Find a yoga class
  • See a movie (This is a personal favorite. I love the idea of temporarily escaping from all the negative stuff going on in the world right now by slipping off to watch a good movie.)
  • Read a book
  • Write in a journal
  • Enjoy a cup of hot tea or warm cocoa (I see myself pairing this one with book-reading or journal-writing.)
  • Call a friend
  • Visit the family
  • Hike a trail (I like to do this in the rain.),
  • Walk the dog (Pets need a break from their humans' stress, too.),
  • Attend a support meeting
  • Sing a song (This really helps one of our talented moms.)
Now, I can't sing to save my life, but just today I tried out that last one. I was in the car with my 18-year-old, and out of the blue I started singing "It's a Hard Knock Life" loud and proud making up a lot of the words I couldn't remember as I went along.  My son thought I was nuts, but I enjoyed being able to laugh for a few minutes and breathe deeply for awhile. I've set a gentle intention for myself to take a few minutes out of each day to either experiment with new self care options or utilize the tried and true methods I already know work for me. 

So, those are just a few ideas that everyone had for finding a little peace and giving  ourselves the love and support we need to get through troubling times. Please share in the comment section below how you are taking care of yourself these days. Repetition is welcome. It's the old saying, "If you want to take good care of the children, then take good care of the mother."  We need to take care of ourselves so we can be at our best when our children need us most.