We Live Here: The Midwest (2023) Movie Script

soft choir singing
Here in Iowa, there is
something called "Iowa nice."
It is really Iowa passive aggressiveness,
and it is--
no one is ever gonna say,
"I don't support you" to your face.
They're going to be very kind to you,
and then they're gonna have
a letter-writing campaign
to get you kicked off of
whatever committee
or whatever thing behind your back.
We both grew up in Des Moines.
We've been here our whole lives.
We've never left.
And then, we both had similar home lives
and church lives.
We met in second grade,
and became really best friends in--
- Eighth grade.
- Yeah.
You accepted me and I--
before I even could accept myself,
and I don't know that you
even knew what it was,
but you saw the essence of me,
aside from gender.
In our small private school
and in our churches,
when you dated,
you were dating to marry someone.
So, when we started dating
at 17 and 16, respectively,
it was pretty much on the marriage track.
I did want a really big family.
That's just always been something for me,
that family is.
And then, I loved the whole thing.
I loved being pregnant,
I loved giving birth.
It was so fantastic.
And then they just kept coming,
and we were like,
"Okay, let 'em come."
And then we decided to adopt.
They are so loved and well-respected
in our community.
You know, because our kids are in school,
they're seen more than we are,
and so they really do pave the way.
By the time that people get to us,
they already know our kids,
and they're like,
"Oh, you must be great
because your kids are fantastic."
I initially came out to myself,
and came out to Katie the same day
that I kind of came out to myself
'cause I thought that was only fair
based on our relationship.
When we told the kids,
she did a really good job
of drawing a picture for them.
I drew a picture
for the kids that was,
"Here's our bodies,
"and some people have male bodies.
"And some people have female bodies.
"Here's our spirits.
"Some people have male spirits,
very masculine spirits,
"and some people have
very feminine spirits.
"And so sometimes,
those things go together.
"Other times, they don't go together.
"So sometimes,
our outsides match our insides,
"and sometimes they don't,
and that's called being transgender."
And they were like, "Okay, duh."
Like, they didn't have
any reservations about it.
- You wanna crack the eggs?
- Dads always crack the eggs!
It was a little weird,
but we all like kind of...
- Adapted.
- Adapted pretty quickly.
- Well, we just added an O to Mom.
- Are we making scrambled eggs?
- Yeah
CHILD: We still call both of them Mom,
but it doesn't get confusing.
It's just like we know
who we're talking about.
- If I asked one of my moms
to come downstairs to tuck me in,
the other one comes.
Mom, I'll take three!
- Three?
- Three.
You know, whatever they needed
to call me, they could call me.
And so, they called me Dad for a long time
after I had come out,
and even after I had started to transition
and had come out really publicly,
and we finally got to a point
where we were
on a cross-country road trip
down to Texas,
and we were in a Southern state
in a gas station,
and I'm coming out
of the women's restroom,
and they're yelling across the Conoco
or whatever it was,
"Dad! Dad!" whatever.
And we got in the car, and I said, "Okay.
"We might need to rethink this
because this,
this may end up not being safe for us."
Within the hour,
they were like, "How about Momo?"
And I'm like, that's great, you know?
And they switched like on a dime,
and have not looked back.
- It's on your French toast.
- Yeah, but it's not on this one.
It's more unusual here in rural Iowa
to have two parents
with the same gender.
So, it's coming out more,
but they're pretty good,
and they know how to handle
that kind of stuff.
My family was very surprised.
I think they thought
they had the all-American man
and father and son.
They came back immediately and said,
"I love-- We love you." You know?
And that was kind of it.
And I thought, oh, that's a good response.
And then, it kind of,
from there, you know,
more discussion about religion
and things like that,
which, um, kind of devolved over time,
and so, they, they were surprised,
and I think remain that way
to this day.
I do not have contact with my parents
or my sister.
I do have a brother that I speak to.
It took me by surprise for sure.
Nia and I's relationship has, um...
it was incredibly strong.
We were very close,
our families were very close.
You know, over the years,
it's just evolved into something
that wasn't what it was before.
He kind of acted as
the middle man between Nia
and the rest of the family.
And I think that that's
a very difficult position for anyone.
So, I would hope that that can be...
mended to a place where we're close.
We're all close again.
But I think too that
there's so many boundaries
that have to be drawn
in order for everyone
to stay safe and continue healing.
Katie was preaching at our church
and it was a non-denominational
evangelical church.
I mean, the stance is
that homosexuality is a sin.
- That's the byline, right?
- Yeah, yeah.
- And I think that there
is a push towards welcoming,
but not affirming.
I don't think the realization
has been made
that that's more damaging
than just saying, "No."
When I came out,
all of the energy got focused
onto Katie and her preaching.
Nobody would outright say, you know,
something that was transphobic,
but it was, "Katie, your theology is bad."
I think the other layer to that,
too, with being a woman
preaching in the evangelical context
was already like,
"We're allowing you to do this."
Because we were
a more progressive evangelical...
non-denominational church.
We just pushed beyond what that tradition
was willing to hold.
I desperately miss the church.
Nobody really asks me
this question, so sorry.
There's like a lot of emotion
attached to it.
I gave a significant amount
of my life to the church
because I love the people so much.
And I really love the ideas
that Jesus represents.
Of unconditional love,
of reaching out to those
who are marginalized.
I mean, probably because
I did have a queer identity.
I didn't know it my whole life.
That Jesus spoke those things to me,
that I was acceptable.
And it utterly breaks my heart
that my unconditional love for Nia
was the thing that had to break
my relationship with the church.
Because, for me...
it is the church.
Like, for me, this is my religion.
This is my faith.
This kind of love.
Yeah, I tried out
a couple different names
and had like some close friends
use it with me
and my siblings.
- Mm-hmm. Yeah.
How did that process feel?
- I mean, it was odd.
- Yeah.
- Because there was nothing
that felt right for a while.
- Yeah.
I have found community in other places.
That is the thing that
the church really gave me,
and the thing that I loved about church
was the relationship,
and I think God is relationship,
and so, to me,
you know, finding that in other places
is, is finding God elsewhere.
- Yeah, absolutely. Hi!
- Good to see you. Hi.
One of the biggest struggles for me
is finding belonging.
When Nia came out,
finding my own label was really difficult.
I'd like to say that Nia
gifted me my queerness.
She really gifted me that
awareness that,
you know, you thought
you were this one person,
but because you didn't have
the experiences that you needed,
you didn't get to find out
that your whole person
is a lot richer and
deeper than you thought.
- Let's talk about a dream summit because
when was the last time we did that?
I say ambiguously queer
because I don't know.
And I was just talking with another spouse
of another trans person the other day,
and they were saying the same thing.
"I don't really know where I fit.
I don't know what label you'd put on me."
So, I think we're like the labelless few
right now
of, you know, spouses of people
who have transitioned.
And I think, for most of us,
we're okay with that.
But it does feel a little bit like
where do we belong
inside of the queer community?
I keep asking you!
We have thought
about leaving the Midwest.
- We think about leaving
the Midwest all the time.
It seems like on a daily basis,
our state does not want us here
as queer individuals.
We legalized gay marriage 13 years ago.
Now, we've swung the other direction,
and we are with all of the states
that are leading the way
with anti-LGBTQ legislation.
What really got me involved
in kind of the political scene
was they tried to take
the gender identity protection
out of Iowa code.
Which would mean, if that was gone,
I could get fired,
I could be denied housing,
I could, you know,
be denied credit for being a trans person.
I think the biggest struggle
in the trans community
is being seen, and it feels like
we're not seen at all.
As humans, as people
who have lives and kids.
We're an issue currently,
and it's hard because,
other than
one-to-one conversations,
how do you help people understand that
these are our lives
that we're talking about?
They're not issues.
I still don't feel rooted
into this community.
But, you wonder,
do we stay and fight,
or do we go somewhere?
But, where do you go?
Where putting down roots is acceptable?
Where there's stability and safety.
Because it does feel like, at any moment,
anywhere, it could change.
In this community,
we 100% stand out.
- We are probably one of the...
one out of three Black families,
let alone gay families.
A lot of people assume that
we're brothers or cousins.
You just know they're kind of like,
"What is this? Like,
which one? Who's the--"
- "This is new in Midwest Nebraska."
- Yeah.
- "What is this?"
Spink will be over here as well.
They never assume
that we're dating until we tell them,
and then they're like, which one's
more masculine, more effeminate?
You know, we're just who we are.
Our baby brings joy.
When I see her,
I am just overwhelmed with emotion,
and, wow.
This little sweet thing loves me,
regardless of what I do.
All she knows is her dads,
and her surrogate mom, who's involved.
Ariel is the biological mother
of our child.
We did mystery sperm.
- Mystery sperm. Mm-hmm.
- And so, you know, we did our thing,
put it in the cup, swirled it around.
- So that we both had a fair chance.
- Yep.
- I got my hair done today,
and they're like, "So...
How'd you hear?
Like, did you sign up for this?"
I'm like, no, I...
- It just kinda came about.
- Yeah. I was like,
I actually know these guys.
Mario and Monte told us
they were looking to have a baby.
My cousins actually joked, like,
"Hey, you should ask Ariel.
She has super easy labors and births."
- She calls, and says, "Hey,
I would actually be willing to do that."
- Hello!
Hello. Hi, Daddy's baby girl.
Little cute shoes.
- Oh, those are cute. I love that bow.
My mom was very supportive about it.
My dad, not so much.
He told me that, you know,
"I still don't believe in this,
but you do what you wanna do."
Halle, look what I got.
There's a lot of people
who are more conservative
in our family and lean more towards
like a traditional family.
So, I think that played
into effect a little bit.
We don't wanna focus on that.
We wanna focus on the fact
that Monte and Mario are here
to have a family, a positive family,
and raise Marayla with good values
and to be a good person.
We want to raise her somewhat opposite
of how we were raised a little bit,
like kind of forced to choose
and forced to be,
you know, pretend to be
something that you're not.
We believe in choice,
when she's able to have choice,
but we don't wanna
force her to do anything
that she's not comfortable with.
My grandfather was a pastor.
Growing up in the church,
that's all I knew.
singing gospel music
drums, keyboard playing
- We met at the church.
I was a director of music.
I think he noticed me more
before I noticed him.
Well actually, he was flirting with me,
and I didn't know that he was.
I didn't even know that
he was gay, honestly.
I remember coming out
to my mom with Monte.
That was scary because
growing up in the church
and where everyone stands with that.
Do you remember me coming out to you?
- Yes.
- What was that like for you?
- It was pretty traumatic.
I cried probably for 72 hours.
It affects me to this day
in the Christian community,
we still struggle with that.
- Okay.
Have you ever prayed, like,
to at least make
make me not gay or...
- Oh yeah, of course, I prayed that.
In the beginning.
I told you I cried for 72 hours straight.
It was a disappointment, but with love.
And there was just love.
The first five years of our marriage,
no one really knew other than
like our really close people.
We weren't able to truly show
how in love we were
and how happy we were
because, at the time,
we're still hiding from the church.
singing gospel music
drums, keyboard playing
So the church found out
that we were dating.
The pastor wanted to meet with me.
Monte's name came up, and then he said,
"Well, what's your guys' relationship?"
And I said, "Well, we're married."
And he says, "Well, right now,
"you're gonna be relieved
from all administerial duties, and...
"we'll figure out what,
what to do from here.
But right now, we just need to stop."
He said, "I don't want a divorce.
I want an annulment."
I was kicked out of a church before
for being known as gay.
And I just remember the flashbacks
of this happened before.
What am I doing wrong? Why--
Why is this being taken away from me?
at the same time,
I still wanted things to go forward.
trumpet warming up
Where your cymbals at?
- You wanna put this on?
After we decided
not to get the annulment,
found the opportunity
to go into the Air Force.
- My professor was a retired chief
of the Air Force Band.
- Right.
- And my thought was ching!
Here we go.
upbeat music playing
Of joy and gladness
Will always banish sadness
And strife
That's where my connection with God
really gets connected from is music,
is worship,
and being in an environment
where there's a lot of people doing
the same thing, same type of mindset.
So, always look for
That silver lining and try to find
The sunny side of
upbeat music fades
When he told me that we're gonna be
stationed in Nebraska, I was pissed.
We just come from a liberal state,
to this? Like, no.
Long time no see!
Good to see you, sir!
But, in this community,
we have overall been very accepted.
I just didn't think anything of it.
I was just like, oh,
there are two guys over there.
And I was like, okay.
And I was like,
well, maybe they're roommates.
I mean, I didn't know, you know?
And I was like, or they could be together.
Okay, whatever.
Our neighbors, they're great people.
We've never asked them,
I guess, why they've taken
such a liking to us,
which is so polar opposite
of what we believe that they support.
When we know a person that votes
for Trump, it's like, well,
- he stands against everything that we are.
- Anti-LGBT, yeah.
We're so polar opposite,
but it is what it is.
I mean, we trust them enough
to watch our house,
and they trust us to watch their house,
and Mario gives their kid piano lessons,
and I-I don't know how to explain it.
playing piano
- Okay, almost.
We're gonna hit the first chord twice.
- Oh, right.
- Yeah, you got it. Ready?
One, two, three, and...
playing piano
Okay! Dun-dun, down.
We're not in their position.
I can't put myself in their shoes,
but all I can do is, you know,
love on them the way they love on us,
and they're great neighbors.
playing piano
I just keep rolling with my life.
You know,
the church thing, keep rolling.
Air Force thing came up, keep rolling.
I'm still waiting for,
you know, something.
Something's gonna happen.
I don't know when or what's gonna happen.
- Like is it too good to be true?
- Right.
We have always wanted to have land,
and we wanted to be closer to our food.
And we wanted goats.
It's such a weird combination
that a lot of people don't think of.
Farming, and then ranching goats,
and then also being
a same-sex couple.
We get a lot
of backhanded compliments.
So I guess living in the Midwest,
a backhanded compliment at times is like,
we're doing our job.
We're integrating.
Midwesterners have a way of living
that is like having a horse
with blinders on.
- I can't tell you the number of people
that I have met
that they have never left
the town they grew up in.
Marek was born in Kansas.
And he was still seen as an outsider
because we didn't own the house
that we lived in for three generations.
Kinda like a ballet.
You know, I lived in New York,
I've lived in Portland, Oregon,
I've lived in Austin, Texas,
and here, a lot of the...
western women
give a very, very...
- Masculine vibe.
- Yes.
That's an excellent way to put it.
Thank you.
People just assume that I'm a horse girl.
And then Courtney, you know, again,
when Courtney just
dresses how Courtney does,
people just glance over...
...and think that she's my guy.
So , we just let them
make their assumptions.
- Yeah, it doesn't really matter.
And it's been like that my whole life, so.
- Yeah.
I'm like, whatever.
We met in Lawrence.
Couple of dates,
and then we were living together.
So, it was like first date,
the toothbrush,
second date, the U-Haul.
And then, we knew within the first year
that we wanted
to move out of town to the country.
I always, always,
always wanted a baby.
When I was little, I wanted a baby.
As I got older, I wanted a baby.
I was like, let's see where it goes.
- I was like, okay, I'm in.
Marek is kind
and giving and empathetic
and he helps center us.
He is so attune
to the environment around him.
He's really gregarious
and can plug himself in.
And, like you said,
he's a grounding force.
We put him in the art center preschool
in Lawrence,
and that was wonderful.
- It was amazing.
- It was a great program.
And so we continued on
with a public schooling mentality
and put him into kindergarten.
When I went to public school,
it was pretty bad.
Turns out people in a trailer park
in the Midwest
don't really like lesbians too much.
At least their parents don't.
And so, I was called a lot of names,
some pretty aggressive bullying.
- He would come home and talk about things
that kids would say to him
or interactions
he would have on the playground,
and they weren't positive.
And we approached the school
about what happened,
and they basically said,
"Well, what do you expect?
It's just gonna get worse."
Like, I can still
remember a dinner conversation
that we had while he was in public school.
It was before gay marriage was legal,
and we were talking about gay marriage,
and our son actually said,
"I don't think it's right.
Because it's against the law."
- And that was
him being influenced directly by
the people in the community
because, obviously, it wasn't us!
It sparked a conversation of
sometimes, laws are not made
by people that have the most... diverse...
point of view.
We took him out of school and put him in
a virtual learning environment,
where he was able
to make his own schedule and...
explore his own interests.
When my parents
took me out of public school,
the principal said,
"Oh, you'll be back."
I was not back. So,
that was, at least,
a little bit of vindication
that I proved someone wrong
at least once in my life.
He became free
to be who he wants to be
without fear of repercussions.
A theater kid might,
to some people,
have negative connotations,
but just doing theater
and being in that sphere
and not being annoying about it
and not forcing it on other people
is great.
Like, you clearly have a passion
and a drive to do it,
and you feel
like that's what you
wanna do with your life,
which is what I wanna do with my life.
Basically, these Tow here...
- Okay.
- They're getting ambushed
by the Imperium of Man.
- Are we playing D&D
with Warhammer minions?
Sure, you could say that, so...
Yeah, you're gonna have a great time,
I'm sure.
I feel like if I didn't
have lesbian parents,
I would probably be
a little bit more close-minded.
I would definitely not be
as open about myself.
I'm bisexual, so I like both genders.
I just look like a guy in the Midwest
where outer appearance is a lot.
It's really easy to just not
say anything and have people
make assumptions,
and whether those be good
or bad assumptions is up to them.
I certainly share some Midwestern values.
I feel like I'm polite and I'm kind
and I'm here to help.
But, I also feel like...
being accepting and being
a general good person
is a lot better than just
pretending to be.
The Midwestern culture
has an overall resistance
to change and altering the mentality
of what defines
a nuclear family.
We are just people living in a community.
And if we're good people,
we're good people.
Okay? Because you take a fall gracefully.
And there's nothing
different about who we are.
I mean, we're just two parents
and a child growing up in the Midwest.
- Mm-hmm.
- Wait. Fore!
- Alright...
First of all, thank you guys for
being part of this and joining us today.
What we'd like to do is just
kind of get to understand what our--
what this safe organization is.
He commands respect in his classroom.
He's been teaching for,
I don't even know,
but far longer than I've been alive,
and everybody knows who he is,
and they respect him for what he is.
- Russ was my choir teacher
for all four years of high school.
He was never shy about who he was
and really helped me
figure out who I was.
He was the first person in Oak Harbor
who I told about my sexuality
just because he made
his classroom a safe space.
As an educator for 26 years,
I had students coming to
my office all the time, saying,
"Mr. Raber, can I talk to you?
Can I talk to you?"
And so, I think sometimes,
just by being visible--
I mean, clearly,
my students knew my husband.
- Yeah.
- He was visible at school events,
and I think just having that
representation for them
was, was very helpful.
I came out in 1995, so I have seen it go
from just the very beginning,
to, I mean, where marriage was legal
in the state of Ohio.
In 2012, when we got married,
we had to get married in New York state
because we couldn't get married here yet.
But, it has changed so much.
Then all of a sudden, 2016 came,
and it's almost like we went backwards.
- Mm-hmm.
The students
and their homophobia and hate.
This one kid believes
that non-binary people do not exist.
It's only two, the gender binary.
I mean, I'm here right now,
so we do kinda exist.
I very much
believe that the bullying
has sort of reemerged
as a hot topic for
LGBTQ+ students.
I think it's more subversive.
It's now 2022,
and I feel like Oak Harbor,
as a, as a collective unit,
is just sort of coming into the 1998
frame of mind.
Trying to combat that
generational mindset
is difficult because
change is difficult for people.
But, when kids' lives, you know,
are on the table,
you have to make the change.
I came out at a later age,
and my family was amazing.
And I, I give them credit.
I like to say my father is not
necessarily an educated man,
but he's truly one of the wisest
people I know. He truly is.
- And he has embraced Mark like a son.
- Oh yeah.
My coming out was different.
I threw myself into college,
and I came out in college in Kent, Ohio,
and kind of resigned myself
that this was the decision
I was gonna make,
but I knew my family of Greek descent
was not probably gonna do well with it.
Now, am I angry with my parents?
No. No, no, no.
They have become amazing,
amazing advocates for me,
and I never had to worry
about them abandoning me.
That is an amazing feeling.
Now, I'm horrified for people
that don't have that.
playing accordion
I probably say that I realized
I was bisexual a few years ago.
At first, I didn't really
feel comfortable telling anybody and...
and then, when I did feel comfortable
telling, it was mainly
just my friends.
And then just recently, I told her.
playing accordion
I'm kind of, you know,
trying to play it by ear.
My big thing was when he told me,
he was gonna let it up to me
and to use my judgment.
It was a big struggle for me
only because
there are a few people in our family that
their reactions could go either way.
And I'm leery of subjecting him
to any kind of undue criticism
from a family member.
playing accordion
My name Vin comes
from a little bit of a story.
Around 2020, early 2021,
I thought I was trans.
And so,
I wanted to go with something
along the lines of my legal name, Marin.
So, I went with the name Marvin.
And so, I started thinking a bit more.
I was like,
yeah, I don't really feel like a man.
Let's chop off that Mar
and just stick with Vin.
And now, a friend calls me Vinny.
The changing of her name
was very tough. Um...
It almost felt like she was...
throwing things away.
Oh, my God, I'm sorry.
And it just felt like
maybe I did something to
make her wanna change.
But I didn't.
- I was the one who did that.
- And now I feel, excuse me, much better
about it, that they're not throwing
their childhood away.
That it wasn't that.
No, it's just different.
And it's hard for me
to understand sometimes
because I don't understand.
But I want to.
What I have
done in Safe, personally,
is feel more confident in myself.
Like I can...
Like I meet a new person.
"Hi, my name is Vin."
Students advocating for equality,
LGBTQ students, racial minorities,
disability minorities, you name it.
- Even people who are in the community...
But they have grown and really helped
to support students
in that community
and surrounding communities.
And I just can't speak enough about it.
It's amazing.
We're making people aware of us.
We're also making it apparent
that like there is a group
where you can come to
if you wanna come out,
or if you don't feel safe,
there is a group you can come to
and talk about it
and join us, stuff like that.
You're not alone
because we have this group
here Oak, like in Oak Harbor.
I look back on past graduates
who you would see them struggle,
kinda come to their identity,
and then once they've graduated,
your, your relationship with them changes.
Just having that representation for them
was very helpful,
and I kinda heard some of those stories
after they graduated.
I do love this community,
but I wanted to expand
my horizons a little bit.
I wanted to kind of explore
new things, new cities.
So I did tell myself that I wasn't going
to permanently come back here,
but I ended up coming back.
I am a third grade
special education teacher.
The parents don't know my sexuality,
and because of that small-town stigma,
I never know what parents
might think about that.
Maybe they might think
less of me as a teacher,
that I'm not as equipped to be a teacher.
I'd come to realize that,
no, I want to do this
because I want people to understand
that we are teachers,
we are doctors, and food service workers,
and we're your everyday people,
and we are good people just like you.
- Can't believe that's what actually
brought us back together as friends.
- I know! We were happen
to run into each other
after how long of not talking.
We kind of lost touch for a while.
- Over a little bit over the summer.
Greg has been
my best friend since sixth grade.
Our freshman year of college,
we were out to lunch.
It had been a while since
we had talked to each other.
And then, I was like,
"What about your love life?
Do you have anybody in your life?"
And he said, "Actually, yes I do."
"Oh, okay, what's her name?"
And he said, "Actually, his name is..."
And that's when--
That's how he came out to me.
- She was one of the first girls
I started-- ever dated.
She was my first kiss
before I even knew who I was.
- I think it definitely
brought us closer. It gave us...
My dad has not been in my life
for about three years now.
As soon as I came out,
he kind of started distancing
and cutting himself off,
until eventually to the point where
we just kind of went our separate ways.
- Do you remember how that happened?
How that conversation went down?
I absolutely have no idea.
We're all gonna find the people
who don't support us
and don't accept us as who we are,
but there's going to be
your biggest cheerleader in your corner.
You just have
to figure out who that is,
whether it's your mom,
your dad, your best friend.
- Did we ever even break up?
Are we still dating
and I didn't know it?
Absolutely not.
I am currently creating centerpieces
for our queer prom coming up soon.
So, we have a local...
party supply store in town
who's doing a large rainbow balloon arch.
- Gay marriage did not solve everything.
- No, it did not.
- There is still incredible
amounts of homophobia,
biphobia, transphobia,
every phobia under the sun.
We need to work as
a country on communication.
Not just in small towns. Everywhere.
For the last several years, we were
bombarded with these negative messages.
On the backside of that messaging,
it's so vital to have a safe space
where kids have the opposite message.
It's amazing to me,
as a public elected official,
the amount of threats I get
just for serving in the capacity
of who I am.
No, they're not mad at me
for the bills that I'm presenting.
They're mad at me
because I'm an indigenous queer woman
sitting at the table,
and the death threats
that come with that
show that people are still shook
that we're here.
Wait, did you ever get a meeting?
- No. Did you?
- No, with Logan's Laws.
Let's follow up on Logan's Laws...
We're seeing a shift in who
our political leaders are
in Minnesota,
but I think also across the nation,
is that we're coming in
as grassroots organizers.
We're coming in as individuals
who haven't seen ourselves
represented in this space.
And so the fact that it's three freshmen
leading this LGBTQ conversation,
um, is really fun.
I'm not in this work for politics.
I'm in this work for people,
and I was sick of seeing this world
be so harmful to people like me.
And I didn't wanna just be a mom
that vented on social media.
I wanted to be a mom that
could look my kids in the eyes and say
I actively did everything I could
to make this world a better place for you.
And so, I wanted to figure out
how to get at bigger tables
and I figured out in this world,
it's all about degrees.
So went on,
got my master's in educational leadership.
Professionally, I went from
sitting in living rooms,
talking to my families,
building really nice relationships
to then taking all of those tools
and that pain that I heard
and turning it into policy and purpose.
Marriage equality did a lot for us.
I think though now we're missing
the acceptance of the family structure.
What our legal rights are with families.
You know I think we have a long ways to go
to be really accepting there.
And I think if we can work
in our school systems
and in those younger spaces
to be more loving
and accepting of all kinds of families,
we teach our next generation
to be more kind and inclusive
to each other, and that's how
we really make the shift.
Transitioning is a huge undertaking,
and it's not for
the faint of heart by any means.
Even though you're the same person,
now, all of a sudden,
you have kind of a new beginning.
And your voice is different
because you're happy.
You're excited.
You're finally living your truth.
You're, you're free.
It kind of feels like
our dad never really existed.
Not only were our parents
getting divorced,
so we were losing our dad that way.
She, at the time, he,
she left, and then, when we met her again,
she was a woman,
and it was completely different.
It felt like we were realistically
meeting a stranger.
- How does it look, though?
- Eh, it's alright.
We met online,
just as platonic friends.
I had a big space
and had a vacant room available.
Um, Debb was obviously separating
from her ex at the time
and needed a place, so I offered it up.
She had an enthusiasm for life
that was something
I was not used to seeing.
And it was just very attractive to me.
We connected on a friendship level
that was very difficult to...
I'd never really had that connection
with somebody else.
- Three years in July. Yeah.
- Right.
We set up right over there.
- Uh-huh.
- This is where Dad met me
with the...
- the things.
- Right.
Pre-wedding enjoyment in tears.
My dad has come
a long way, actually,
but my sons, I believe,
are wildly transphobic.
Just the other day,
I was talking to my ex-wife, and...
I don't know if this is true,
but, according to her,
my younger son allegedly said
that he would...
kill me if he got the opportunity.
Met a girl in college.
We ended up getting married
about a year and a half
or two years after college,
and we started a family together.
My youngest daughter was born in October,
and in early January, February,
I sought out my first gender counselor.
I needed to find out what it all meant
because the feelings
that I had suppressed
for a decade and a half
had all of a sudden come back.
I was diagnosed with
gender identity disorder.
At the same point,
because I was hiding this secret,
my marriage started to break down
because I wasn't honest.
I didn't know the words
to tell my ex-wife...
You know, how do you explain
something to somebody
when you really don't know how
to explain it to yourself yet?
There were signs,
and we had talked about it,
and there were a lot of lies
that came out of it.
And so, there was never really any truth
to the whole situation.
- We would have a fight or an argument
about me being trans.
It, a lot of time, carried over.
We were not real good at shielding
our disagreements from, from my daughters.
I feel like a lot of people ask,
"How is she?
What she's going through?"
They don't realize the impact it
takes on not only me and my sister,
but like my mom and my dad's parents.
Everything like that. It's just...
It's a lot for everyone around my dad,
and that's the part
that people don't realize.
- Their father and I separated,
and we, basically,
were kind of left with nothing.
When she left,
and we lived with our mom,
a single mom who's a teacher,
so it's not like we could afford a house.
We lived with someone
for a year and a half,
and my dad bought this house, lived here,
then met Debb, and had this
like happily-ever-after it felt like.
We went from a 4,000-square-foot house
to two bedrooms.
At one point, my kid was
bullied at her high school
for being technically homeless
because we didn't have
our own home anymore.
When the transition happened,
when I was in high school,
I didn't know how to explain it.
Like, "Hey, my dad, like--"
There, all my friends
are talking about my dad,
but I don't, like, in my head,
didn't have one.
No, you get two for nothing,
and then Em got a run of three.
- Well, I still can take it.
- I was just saying.
- Ten.
It made us a lot closer,
so we try to look for
the positive parts of it
because we could have definitely
thrown the towel in.
- Four.
We moved into Minneapolis.
We kind of left not only the safe family,
but the safe suburbs,
and moved to this big city.
That was a big scary move.
And I think it just made us,
all of us,
including my kids,
who were quite young at the age,
see that there's
other people out there
and other ways of life.
I wasn't expecting to have a relationship
with my ex-wife as friends. I wasn't...
expecting my daughters to be in my life,
and through the work that...
you know,
conversations that Deb and I have had
and some of the work that my ex
was able to do with
helping them understand,
um, we've worked on bringing
them back into my life,
and, and, they're--
they wanna hang out now.
That was a good shot, May.
I think we're all in a different spot now.
I can't, I can't say it's perfect.
Like, life isn't perfect,
and things aren't perfect,
but we're able to...
be cordial
and sort of co-parent in a way.
So make sure you
hit right down in here.
I invited my dad to my sporting events
for the first time this year,
and I felt like that really helped.
That's in the white.
That went further than yours.
- Just being able to learn more
about a community
that we didn't necessarily have a part of.
It wasn't that we were
against any kind of community,
but we didn't know a lot about it.
So, May did say she's learned
a lot more about this community
and learned how to talk to people about it
and be more open to accepting others.
Jenn's daughters are my daughters,
for all intents and purposes.
They treat me unexpectedly well.
They were the ones who listened to me
that I was in the Air Force,
and then, as a Christmas gift,
they made me a blanket
with Air Force themes on it.
And it was so touching because
someone had actually listened to me,
and they weren't even related to me.
It helped to know
what my dad was feeling
and why she felt like she did.
It was nice to know
that it was more than just her.
Like there's more people out there
who are like this.
Bring this foot forward just a touch.
There you go.
Good hit! Look at that!
Right down the middle!
I am now Dad to my daughters again.
And even though I'm Jennifer,
and I'm a female,
and I go by she/her pronouns,
that is a title that
I will always own for my daughters
is Dad and Father.
If I can give any advice would be
to just keep moving forward,
making sure there's the honesty,
and not saying what people wanna hear,
but saying what is the truth.
- Think it's really hard to accept someone
for who they are when you've known them
as someone else for so long.
But I also think you need
to give an open mind
because our world is changing
whether people like it or not.