Friday, July 14, 2023

#40for40Race 2023

40 for 40 logo: A grey background. Centered is a field of vertical rainbow stripes. In front of the stripes are the silhouettes of four runners who appear to be running towards the viewer. Two are male coded, two are female coded.

Ugh. It's fully embarrassing that I haven't written anything in a full year. It's been a hell of a year though. Since last July, I have been promoted at work and made significant progress on my dissertation. So I've been writing, just not publicly. T was on Jeopardy! She didn't win, so we're not rich. But I'm not really here to talk about any of that. I'm here to announce the 40 for 40 Race for The 2023! 

I am super excited that Greg, Doug and Lauren (aka the Brothers in Booze Team) are back to support the cause. They were so instrumental last year in getting the word out and hosting the stream. This year, we're all back and hoping to build on last year's awesomeness. 

So, what's the 40 for 40 Race for The? It all started with a writer named John Finkle tweeting that it would be fun to see 40 year old dads compete in a 40 yard dash. I agreed and since I love weird running gimmicks, I decided to do it. I chose my mom's birthday as the date for the race because it felt right to do this in her honor. The more I talked about it, the more I realized that it shouldn't just be dads or just parents or even just running. I didn't want anyone to be left out. So we expanded it women, non-binary folks, childless people and added additional categories. In order to include everyone we also had prizes for the silliest run and for the most creative locomotion. In other words, you don't need to run. Just propel yourself forward 40 yards by some means. 

Last years' live stream was a ton of fun. Surprisingly, I won, barely beating out the aforementioned Mr. Finkle. Together, we raised $1,300 that went out to eight charities chosen by the winning runners and those who donated. Which brings us to the grammar question.

What is called the 40 for 40 Race for The? The what? Exactly. The what is determined by the race winners. Runners placing 1-3 in the traditional race get to designate a portion of the pot to the charity of their choice. Winners of funniest or most creative runs get to choose charities also. Donors who pick the winning runners also get money donated to the charity of their choice. 

So that's the lowdown. This year's race will take place on Sunday, September 10th, 2023. We are recruiting runners and soliciting donations. Runners can be from anywhere in the world. What we'd like from you is to let us know what time you will be running if you will be live streaming your run or you can record your run to be broadcast during the stream. To register, fill out this Google Form: This is the link to the Google Form. To donate, please visit the Go Fund Me: This is the link to the Go Fund Me.

As racers register, I will update this page with their bios.

Thanks! I can't wait!


Name: Roberto Santiago

Age: 46

Athletic Bonafides: Played DIII rugby for many years, currently referees rugby, once ran a very slow marathon, still has the same waist size as he did in high school. Winner of 2022 40 for 40 Race.

Charity: Whole Woman's Health (Texas abortion clinic moving to New Mexico)

Name: Jonathan Heisey-Grove (JHG)

Age: 51

Athletic Bonafides: Gym rat trying to reclaim my waistline from the ravages of beer and food, & 4x century ride finisher (I.e. avid bike rider)

Charity: Fathers Overcoming Adversity Fund (A fund to support fathers and families that have suffered from an unexpected physical injury that impairs the ability of fathers to care for their children. A fund of The National At-Home Dad Network)

Name: Mike Benton

Age: 65

Athletic Bonafides: 4th degree black belt in karate, hates running, but master of the long-distance walk

Joseph Fowler

Age: 47

Athletic Bonafides: Played college Football. Recently did a push-up. Owns running shoes.

Andy Kleiber

Age: 54

Athletic Bonafides: Bike as much as possible. Have run 2 marathons. Play ultimate 🥏 on occasion. Regular beer drinker

Name: Kel Anders

Age: 44

Athletic Bonafides: For run day I will be 8 months pregnant as a gestational surrogate (my seventh and final pregnancy). Pretty slow runner even without the current hitchhiker situation, however I do think it could be an entertaining waddle.

Charity: Random Acts

Doug "Dug" Zeigler

Age: 51

Athletic Bonafides: Played basketball in HS and DIII in college. Former house dancer

Name: Brandi Thomas

Age: 43

Athletic Bonafides: Ran a 10k in 3rd grade, can bench press 5 lbs., undefeated champ of "Most Tetherballs to the Face" at Saginaw Elementary, thinks cheese is mana from the gods, is lactose intolerant.

You can watch last year's stream below or by following this link: 40 for 40 Stream Link

Friday, July 1, 2022

The 40 for 40 Race for The

Hello, friends! I am writing to introduce you to my next hairbrained charity running event, the 40 for 40 Race for The. "The what," you may ask as you read my apparent nonsense. "The whatever you want." I answer in a way that provides little immediate clarity. Please bear with me just a little and I will explain.

You may recall that at the start of the pandemic, I set up and ran the Berto 77 at Home Marathon. The event was a success. I ran my first ever marathon entirely around my block and I raised $2,400 for my local foodbank. T and the kids also chose charities, gathered pledges and ran laps. Ryu ran 15 miles over the course of the day. It was fun and we helped our community. Now I'm back with another idea.

The 40 for 40 race for The

This time, I want to include as many of you as runners as I can. This event will take place on September 10th, 2022 at locations across the country. The idea is simple, runners 40 years of age or older will run a 40 yard dash. This run will be live streamed for an audience of how ever may people are interested in seeing 40-year-olds run. The top three finishers will have pledge money donated to the charity of their choice. They will also get a nifty medal. The whole thing will be hosted online and live-streamed by our friends Greg and Doug of Brothers in Booze.

Ok, where does the money come from? 

Great question! We have posted bios for each runner, below. Fans can pledge for the runner they think will win. This pledge is a donation to charity. However, I am working on securing some sort of prize or prize drawing for those who pick the winners. More on that to come. You can pledge on the Go Fund Me page. I will post runner bios here on the post as they come in.

What do I want from you?

Another great question. I'd like you to consider running, or pledging. I'd like you to follow me on twitter (@bertoinpublic) for updates. I'd like you to "Like" the 40 for 40 race for The page on Facebook. 

If you want to run, please DM me on Twitter, or post on the 40 for 40 Facebook page!

If you have any fun corporate connections, please contact me and let's talk about sponsorships. I'd really like to have some prizes donated for the winning pledgers.

All Set?

Please reach out if you have any questions or suggestions.

Runner Bios:

Check out these runners and pledge for ones you think can post the fastest 40 time.

Berto bing lifted up by two other players jumping to grab a ball during a rugby match
Name: Roberto Santiago

Age: 45

Athletic Bonafides: Played DIII rugby for many years, currently referees rugby, once ran a very slow marathon, still has the same waist size as he did in high school.

Charity: Whole Woman's Health (Texas abortion clinic moving to New Mexico)

Name: Tenysa Santiago

Age: 40

Athletic Bonafides: Distance runner with a marathon and several half-marathons to her credit, once picked up a soccer ball during a match.

Charity: The Randleman Program

Name: Kel Anders

Age: 43

Athletic Bonafides: Recently ran away from a washing machine falling down steps and successfully avoided crushing. Frequently enjoys 1-1.5 miles daily running on what they fondly refer to as “goat trails”. Former 15K runner (before birth of kids #5 & #6). Excellent birth-giving sprinting skills with most rapid birth being 37 minutes start to finish (obviously this skillset will translate to this run). Very competitive and tenacious. But, you know, in a kind way.

Name: Shawn Cochrane

Age: 55 on race day

Athletic Bonafides: Marathon Runner. Boston Qualifier. XC Coach at Canyon Middle School. USATF Certified Level 1 Track & Field Coach. Runs with the Oakland Track Club

Charity: Castro Valley Sports Foundation

Name: Shanda Taber

Age: 40

Athletic Bonafides: Since late 2019 I've been trying to become a runner. I started out only being able to run a half mile to now doing 6-mile average runs. Better at distance than speed, but can move fast if needed. I ran real quick when I was being followed by a bear in Canada. I haven't done any marathons, but I've participated in a few virtual 5Ks and did a terrain race/ mud run before the pandemic. I also walk everywhere so am very used to being physically active. Before running I didn't do a lot of sports, but in my 20s I used to go mountain biking with a group of blind and visually impaired people. We would also go hiking and rock climbing. I'm good at a challenge. 

Name: Dolly Cummings

Age: 63

Athletic Bonafides: My one and only 5k when I was in my 20s ( we don't have to mention my time, do we?).

Charity: Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, Ruskin, Fl (

Name: Victor Aragon

Age: 47 

Athletic Bonafides: I have completed the Warrior Dash multiple times and ran over 6 Spartan Races. I have run multiple 5Ks and 10ks. I ran the Chicago Marathon 2x. I ran two St. Jude Memphis (Virtual) Half-Marathons.

Charity: St. Jude Children’s Hospital

Name: Jonathan Heisey-Grove (JHG)

Age: 50

Athletic Bonafides: Four time century ride cyclist who isn’t afraid of a little running!

Name: Joseph Fowler

Age: 46

Athletic Bonafides: Played DIII football. Coached college football. Ran some 1/2 marathons. Currently does at least 1 push up a day, if the weather is clear.

Name: Doug Zeigler

Age: 50

Athletic Bonafides: Played basketball in HS and college. Have been drinking beer for 32 years. Shows how committed I am.

Andy Kleiber

Age: 53

Athletic Bonafides: Ran a ton in 2021 - now mainly biking and Ultimate Disc

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Mentored by My Trans Kids

A child with a shaved head wearing a fuzzy blue parka. On the zipper of the parka is a heart shaped rainbow key chain that reads: Queer A F

     The other day someone referred to me as a trans-rights activist. I was struck by it because the label really doesn't fit. I can't be an activist, I don't do anything. Mostly, I'm an advocate for my kids. I write blog posts. I talk about them on podcasts. I tweet. A lot. I take little direct action other than signing petitions and voting. None of that makes me an activist. Being an activist means occasionally being a leader. I'm not a leader. I can't be a leader in the fight for transgender rights because I am not transgender. Leadership has to come from within. I'm not an activist, I'm an ally. Even then, my ally-ship starts with my kids and extends out from there. Being an ally, in the philosophy I follow, means being ready to do what is asked and amplifying the message chosen by the real leaders of the movement. It's being ready to respond when called upon to act, not to have a hand in deciding what those actions are. I do my best to listen to what transgender people say about themselves and to what they want me to say about them. Then I do my best to bring that message with me. That's what being an ally means to me.

    My kids on the other hand, are leaders. Not on a large scale, but they are leaders. Each has taken up advocating for expanded all gender bathrooms at their schools. Lou did it with a petition. Ryu brought the issue to us and helped us communicate with the administration. My kids are happy to talk to anyone who will listen about who they are and what they want from society. I look forward to watching what they accomplish as they get older and start to find their audiences and avenues for engagement. Most of all, right now my kids are leaders and mentors to me. I look to them for guidance on what trans kids want. I look to them when wondering what I should say about a given issue. I use other sources as well, but the kids are right there with me everyday. So I listen to them. 

    Something they don't know, at least not as well as I do, is how much they've been mentoring me through how they live. I've never questioned my gender. Not in any real sense since I was very young, but I do have a memory it and I sometimes wonder who I'd be if I'd grown up now instead of then. I'll relate an anecdote that won't capture the whole of that feeling, but it's the best I can do 40+ years later. When I was around three years old, I had a very strong desire to be a glamorous woman in a ball gown like Vanna White. I didn't feel like I was the wrong gender. It wasn't something I thought about most of the time. But in very quiet moments, when I was alone, I would think about becoming a glamorous lady. I had one of those tool bench play set with the big, chunky, plastic screws and bolts. I hid the multi-colored hardware behind my bed and after I was tucked in, I would put them on the ends of my fingers to pretend I had long painted nails. 

A pair of legs wearing knee length bright yellow socks and white sneakers
    I don't know how long I carried on with that. Thinking back as an adult, I can see that I only did these things when I was assuredly alone because I knew it wasn't acceptable. For the rest of my childhood, I wanted to express myself and engage in activities coded as feminine. In gymnastics, I wanted to do floor routines and the uneven bars. Not because they were for girls, but because they seemed the most fun. I didn't want to wear "girls" clothes, but I did want to accessorize and modify my clothes in ways that only girls were allowed to do. I liked wearing long socks up to my knees. I kept wishing I could paint my nails until about third grade. Still, I always felt comfortable as a cis male. I just didn't want to be the kind of cis male I was allowed to be.    

Berto, a 45 year old man wearing a pink shirt and showing off matching pink nails. He is smiling.
    I don't know exactly what my kids feel about their gender. All I have are the clues and artifacts they can express to me using something as imperfect as language. I wonder if what I felt then is at all similar to what they feel now. I wonder who I'd be if I were growing up now, in an environment where I could wear what I want, how I want and not be told, no. My kids are mentors to me. They have no fear expressing themselves through clothes, activities or words. Watching them has nudged me to accept and indulge in some of the things I've always wanted, but was too afraid try. It's still hard, but I sometimes paint my nails. I wear long socks up my knees just for the feel of it and because I like how my calves look. If I could still grow hair, I'd probably grow it out long and have all kinds of fun with it like I did in high school, when I could get away with it just being a punk-grunge, skater thing. 

So yeah, I'm not a trans-rights activist. I'm not leader. Very much the opposite. I'm a follower, and I'm letting my kids lead the way.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Review: 100 Questions for Dad

Apparently, Jeff Bogle's dad is the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. At least, that was my first thought when I read the first sentence of the introduction to his book, 100 Questions for Dad. "My dad would often talk about playing basketball on the streets of West Philadelphia," should be enough to send any 90s kid into the second stanza of the classic Will Smith theme song. The rest of the introduction will make you feel guilty for humming that tune, though. It's a short and touching story about wishing he'd had a better record of his dad's stories, the ones he'd heard growing up about his dad growing up. 

100 Questions for Dad is a guided journal, divided into five sections that aims to provide families with that record. The book starts with the premise that dads are super heroes, and this is a chance for them to record their origin stories. Each section asks the story teller prompts on different topics. From, The Early Years, to Love and Friendship, to Being a Dad, the journal asks fathers to do something they haven't traditionally done, "be as candid as possible and allow yourself the opportunity to be vulnerable."

The book is interspersed with quotes from authors and notable people, men and women, about their own fathers. Each prompt takes up one page and allows roughly twelve lines to write on. It's nice that the writer is encouraged to keep things succinct. If you pick one up, you won't feel overwhelmed, or struggle to fill a page. The goal is to encourage people to see the value of story telling, in digestible chunks that go deeper than the anecdotes dad tells in the car on long trips.

One of the striking things about the book is its undeclared but noticeable commitment to inclusion. Bogle said on his Dad 2.0 podcast that the book emphasizes, "the importance of father figures, the way I incorporated pronouns, it's for anyone who associates with being a father in any way and what that looks like in your life." The prompts are broad enough that no matter what your life experience or interests, you'll be able to answer every one. For example, Bogle, who has been a music reviewer among his many gigs, wanted to include a question about music. The publisher came back and asked about father figures who may be Deaf or hard of hearing or for whom music isn't otherwise an important part of their lives. Conversations like that led to an effort for the book to open up space for father figures who may use a variety of pronouns or encompass intersectional identities. The music question was changed to a more universal prompt about art in any medium. 

I'm personally excited to continue writing in 100 Questions for Dad and eventually leaving it for my kids to read. I look forward to sharing the stories with them as I write. I look forward to gifting a copy to the dads in my life. Heck, I'd even like to gift a copy to you. Yes, you. If you'd like to win copy of 100 Questions for Dad, just follow the Raffle instructions below. Then go tell your origin story!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Micro-Investing: A Better Way to Back a New Business

You guys! It's here! A real way to back a business you believing is finally here!

Ok, it's probably been here for a while and I just didn't know it, but I' excited to know about it now and I am going to blab about this for a minute. 

Back in 2018, I wrote a post about online panhandling. It has gone too far and what was being offered was simply not enough. Since then, I've seen more and more disappointing crowd funding offers. Some were for products I really wanted. Then, when I read the fine print of the campaign, it turned out I wouldn't be buying the product at all. I'd be buying a chance to pre-order one if it were manufactured. Dude, no. Here's how that 2018 post closed:

"So I'm begging you. Please. Stop panhandling online.

If you're out of work, I'm probably out of work too. You're kid's school needs whatever? So does mine. Someone suddenly died, or was diagnosed with a terrible disease? OK, you got me. I'm in.

And hey, for profit endeavors, how about a different model? Why not go back to what crowd funding should be? Call for investors. You need money to develop your game? You need to finish that movie? You think you can build a better mouse trap? Great! Instead of offering me a beer coozy with your logo on it, or a chance to download early, why not offer me a piece of the action? You think you need $10,000 to do your thing? Great, for my $100 I want 1% of the net profits. Maybe I'll get my money back, maybe I won't. But I'll be much more likely to bet on your idea if I'm getting more than a commemorative tote bag. My issue isn't with you asking for money, it's with what you're offering in return."

Is it too much to ask that you fund with pre-orders? Or that you offer more than a chance to maybe buy the thing later? How did the Personal Seat License model find it's way to silicone augmented cutting boards? What I really wanted was a chance to invest in a new product or business and maybe make a little money. I'm not now, nor will I ever be an angel investor or venture capitalist. I don't have that kind of scratch. Still, I'd love to be able to take a small amount of money and invest in some small businesses or new products. I want to see people succeed, and I want to see a return on my investment. Even if that return is only lunch money, I want to know that it's possible.

Which brings us to the story of Carter's BBQ.

I met Darren W. Carter through the blogging community. We hung out at Dad 2.0 conferences. We have an online friendship that's similar to those I have with any of my friends who live across the country. We trash talk sports, we chat about parenting, we share in each other's endeavors. I learned a lot about Darren from his appearance on the Dad 2.0 Podcast. He's had an interesting life and he's done a lot of good in the world. Darren is a mental health advocate, a long time foster and adoptive parent, and a champion BBQer.

I think it was about a year ago that I saw Darren post online about his BBQ sauce. He was bottling up some sauce to sell and I knew I had to acquire some. I had no idea if it was in stores or if he'd just made it in his kitchen and printed off a label, I wanted it. The truth was something in between. If you follow me on IG, you know that we love to grill here at IDL HQ. Lou constantly asks if we can grill. We even eschewed a turkey this past Thanksgiving, instead going with a smoked duck. We use a lot of BBQ sauce. Typically, we have between three and five bottles of various BBQ sauces in the fridge. So I had to have a bottle of Carter's. Or four. 

I went with four.

The first order came in plastic mason jars and was sealed with saran wrap. When it arrived, I fired up the grill and Carter's immediately became my kids' favorite BBQ sauce. For Lou, it's xyr favorite sauce, period. Xe puts Carters on everything. Lou even brought a bottle to a BBQ at our neighbor's house just in case xe didn't like what they had there. Then, instead of leaving it as a gift, as I suggested, Lou brought it back home. Xe couldn't bear to part with it. Once I knew it was a good product, I dubbed myself Carter's brand ambassador and started to post as much Carter's related content online as I could.

When those four bottles were gone, I ordered four more. This time, they came in fancy squeeze bottles with those foil safety tabs that come on all commercial squeezable condiments. I also ordered a bottle of Carter's dry rub. To my great delight, Darren included an experimental spice blend that hadn't yet come to market. Being an influencer was paying off. In the time between my first order and today, I've been hitting Darren up for grilling tips and watching the videos he posts on IG.

So I love this product, and I admire Darren for the man and the father he is, even if he is a Cavs fan. What happened next will one. OK, it surprised me a little bit. Carter's posted that they had opened an account with Honeycomb Credit and they were soliciting investors. Like, real investors who could help grow the business and earn a return. It was exactly what I had been looking for, a chance to invest and help out a friend and a business that I believe in. I talked to T, and we agreed to invest. Yes, I could lose money. I'm not investing an amount that would break me if it doesn't work out. But whether it works or not (I think it will), I'm investing in a small Black owned business, and that makes me happy. It makes me way happier than sending money into a Kickstarter void for a product I might like but may never get, made by people I don't know. I hope more people will see the Carter's Story and take a chance on investing in them. If investing isn't for you, check out their website and buy some sauce.

Here's more on the Carter's investment story.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Ref is Called, "Sir" and Other Ways to Avoid Misgendering People

Ryu works the sideline.

Being misgendered can suck. I only have a tiny amount of firsthand experience with this, but it's been over a long period of time. People often think that I am a woman when I am on the phone. It's been going on my whole life. I used to think it was because I was kid, but it still happens. It's only really bothered me a couple times and it doesn't come close to being something that causes me to produce more than an unseen eye roll before I correct the person. In this way, I am privileged. Since I've never had to wrestle with society failing to accept my gender, being mistaken for a woman doesn't have the same effect on me that it can have for other people. 

Assuming a person's gender isn't something I thought much about until a few years ago. For a long time, I was content to go with whatever I picked up from my perception of a person's markers of gender expression. These were cues like hair cuts, clothes and accessories. As I've grown in my understanding of gender and the difference between identity and expression, I know that while they are often linked, expression isn't enough to go on. I saw this with my middle child, who came out as non-binary, but hasn't changed much about their personal style. My oldest, also non-binary, hasn't changed their style much either. Both are often misgendered, but in different ways and with different results. 

Lou hunting a tackle
Most misgendering for my kids comes on the rugby field. Kids play co-ed until middle school, so it's common to have boys and girls and non-binary kids all on teams together. I'll be honest, it can be hard at times to tell who's who. The kids range in age from 7-10 in U10s and from 10-12 in U12 and if you know about kids, you know that the range of sizes and features as kids grow is staggering. Add in the fact that they're all in uniforms and, good luck.  Lou's rugby nickname is "Crash," which removes one more societal marker for gender. Even Lou's real name, being non-anglo and uncommon even for its culture of origin, doesn't provide any help for most people. Lou is sporting a door side-shave that has become a common hair style for people of all genders. So Lou is called a girl about 60/40, and both assumptions are wrong.

Ryu is another story. Being our child, Ryu is very slight of build. Their voice is still child-like, having not yet differentiated. They have grown a beautiful golden mane that they wear in a pony tail when playing or refereeing. When in uniform, this is usually the only typical gender marker that people pick up on. The other thing is that when we ref, we often wear pink, which has become popular for rugby referees in the last decade. I've often had coaches tell me how great it is that my daughter is out officiating games. When I tell them, that's not my daughter, they pivot to how great it is that her parents let her come out with me. 

I need to find a better way to express this concept.

This came to a head a couple weeks when Ryu was working the sideline at a game. I was working the opposite line, so I didn't hear anything about it until later. When we got home, Ryu reported that the coaches on the far sideline spent the entire game referring to Ryu as, "sweetheart." Ew. First off, don't call anyone you're not already in some kind of relationship with, sweetheart. Gross. Second, don't use a diminutive when talking to a match official. Especially a kid and especially if you think they're a girl. I know it may be hard to have to refer to a child in a way that defer's to their authority over you based on the position they have taken in the match, but you still have to do it. Thirdly, don't assume someone's gender. Finally, rugby has already set up a way to avoid this, the referee is called, "sir."

The term, sir is use to address all match officials in the sport. It doesn't matter their age. It doesn't matter their gender. It doesn't matter if they are in the middle of the field or on the sideline. The referee is called, sir. This idea is so ingrained in rugby culture that in parts of the mid-west the word is used not only as a title, but as a noun and a verb. As in, "Are you the sir?" and "Are you sirring for us today?" It essentially replaces the word "referee" in some dialects. When called, ma'am, female referees will sometimes correct it to, sir. Here's what I sent to the coaching staff:

"I'm writing to follow up on one thing and I hope that it comes across in text as being friendly and gentle, which is how I intend it. 

Could you please remind your coaches to refrain from referring to any referee or AR as, "sweetheart?" All match officials, regardless of gender can be addressed as, "sir." I know for sure that there was no offense intended from the staff. I am certain it was an endearment and not an insult. However, we should generally practice not using diminutives with match officials. More specifically because in this case the term used, generally applied to girls, misgendered the AR. The AR wasn't deeply offended, but did feel uncomfortable and didn't feel able to correct the coaches during the match while also attending to their AR duties. 

I know that you all have your hearts and minds in the right place, I know you're all top notch. I did want to get us all thinking about how we interact with officials and keeping to the same standards even when the officials are children.

I am always happy to have more conversation about this or any other aspect of officiating. Thank you again for coming down and thank you for all of the energy and effort you've put into helping develop referees this season."

The coaches replied and said everything you'd hope one would say in this situation. As time goes on, hopefully the presence of my kids in the league will help bring awareness and maybe even change habits. The thing is, habits are hard to break, even for those of us who think we're thinking about this stuff.

I made a mistake recently that showed me how much work I still need to do. We got a new kid at rugby a couple weeks ago, just coming up to us from U8. Slight build, cool undercut hair style, gender neutral name. The second practice the kid was at, they ended up behind me as I was jogging backward and I bowled them over. Another player asked what happened and I said, "He was behind me and I didn't see him and I knocked him over." That's when the other coach started shout-whispering, "she." It took me couple times to figure out what he was saying. "She. SHE." he shout whispered couple more times. Aw crap, I had just misgendered the new kid in nearly the same way it happens to Lou, and for almost the same reasons. I definitely wanted to dig a hole in the turf and bury myself. 

I did what most people do. I took the available evidence and made what I thought was a reasonable assumption based on how I think the world is ordered. Except, I'm supposed to know better. I really thought I was past using my perception of gender expression and context to assume a person's gender. I'm not. Even after having conversations with my kids and my wife about paling everyone, they until you know for sure, I made this mistake. This was even after another embarrassing moment that happened when I was picking up my kids on the last day at transgender kids summer camp. I signed one of the kids out and said to the counselor, who I'd had some rough patches with during the week, "Thanks, man." I was mortified. I sincerely do not know this person's gender and it doesn't even matter what their gender is, this is the one place where I really needed to be more careful. "Hey, I didn't mean, man's...I say it to everyone. I didn't mean..." The counselor cut me off/saved me, "It's cool. I get it." Thanks, kid. You're very kind. 

So how can you or I or anyone avoid this? Here are my ideas.

-Use people's names if you don't know their gender. Read through this post again, there are places where I use names instead of other pronouns. It takes practice and can feel awkward, but it's a good trick and useful for when you're still getting used to someone's pronouns.

-If you can't smoothly insert their name, or don't know it, use, "they." Yes, for some people, they is their pronoun and for others it isn't and maybe someone who uses something else will take offense. But I think most people will get your intent, see it as a positive and offer you their pronouns. If singular they seems confusing to you, think of the lost item example to see how you probably already use it: "Hey, someone left their sweatshirt here. We should find out who they are and get it back to them." You don't actually say, "Someone left his or her sweatshirt, we should get it back to him or her."

-Normalize including your pronouns. Even if you're cis, let people know your pronouns. It can function as an invitation for others to also disclose their pronouns and know that they're with someone safe. 

-Don't call people, "man." It's reflexive for those of us who grew up wanting to emulate The Fonz, but its time has passed. It's a hard habit to break, but just break it. A lot of people won't care, but I don't want to be the guy who reawakened someone's trauma with an offhand turn of phrase I cold just as well not say.

-Remember that most things you say could be said just as well without a gender tag. "Excuse me, miss." Could just be "Excuse me." "Hello, sweetheart," could just be "Hello." "Your son or daughter," could just be "your child." It's really not hard to just stop talking before you say the gendered part.

Finally, don't let yourself off the hook, but don't beat yourself up. I'm raising these transgender kids, going to workshops, spending time and effort to be the best ally I can be and I still make mistakes. I don't take them lightly. I use each one as an opportunity to remember that I can't be complacent or ever think that I'm done learning and growing. It's OK to be imperfect as long as you keep getting better.

I probably missed somethings here, so please feel free to correct me in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

Ryu goes to the whistle and admonishes Lou for calling them "princess" during a match.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Podcast Episode 5: Malik from The Real World 10, 20 Years Later

I'm a child of the 80s who came of age in the 90s, so it goes without saying that I was obsessed with Mtv. Even in the years before we had cable, I was hooked on it. Every time we went to a house that had cable, I wanted to watch music videos and VJs and music news and Remote Control. This was a boon to my mom because if she took me to a grown up dinner party or some other boring thing, she knew there was a chance I'd sit there watching Dire Straits or Duran Duran for hours.

My freshman year of high school, Mtv helped pioneer reality television, airing The Real World in 1991. I watch every episode twice trying to keep up with the network's seemingly random schedule. I loved it. It was weird and contrived but also somehow pure. That lasted about three seasons, before they found ways to push the drama and diminish the reality. Some time after Real World 3 in San Francisco, I stopped watching. Until 2001.

For the tenth anniversary of the show, the production headed back to New York and featured a cast member from Berkeley, Ca, Malik Cooper. Malik is one of my best friends and I'll be honest, I was jealous. I had harbored a dream of being on the show back when I was too young to do it, then given up the dream when the show lost its tenuous grip on "reality." Still, when I heard he was going, I was a little bitter.

Despite that, I watched every episode I could, considering I didn't have cable. My mom taped the episodes and sent them to me in L.A. where I watched them on my 12-inch TV/VCR all-in-one unit. Fast forward to Christmas break 2020, the season for doing cleaning and organizing projects. I decided to take one more pyrrhic stab at organizing the LEGO bricks in Ryu's room, but I wanted something to watch. The only media device there is an upgraded 32-inch TV/VCR all-in-one. I knew what had to be done, a full Real World season 10 re-watch, with Ryu at my side for most of it. 

What I didn't expect when I slid that tape in, is that many of the themes of the show were still relevant today.  In some ways, that season of the show was more relevant in the winter of 2020 than it was at any time since it aired. The central themes are conversations about race, especially as viewed by people who grew up in different parts of the country. Another theme is gender and gender norms. Watching with my mixed race, transgender kid brought up a lot of interesting questions and conversations. The more I watched, the more I knew I wanted to talk to Malik about what he remembers and what's changed or stayed immutable over the last twenty years. 

So I called him up and we recorded this episode of the podcast. In it, we talk about race, class, gender and The Miz. We talk about his new life as a dad and how to manage all these damn LEGO bricks. We also get to the bottom of an old controversy, what exactly did Malik say about being the only one to go to college?