The Inner Madness of Cookies and Milk: Learning from Baiting at Charlottesville

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

There’s a silly but useful rhyme I think you’d enjoy.  It’s easy to learn:

 

Eanie Meanie Slimy Schmo,

Catch a Nazi in his crow.

If he hollers, make him grow;

Eanie Meanie Slimy Schmo,

 

I want you to learn this rhyme because I know you can’t say it and keep a straight face.  In light of this month’s events, I think we need that; all of us.  There’s a special reason why I’m offering such a ridiculous rhyme and I hope you can see why.  I especially want transpeople to know it because we’re the most vulnerable minority of all when it comes to the threats coming down from the self-described “Alt-Right.”

Take a look at that rhyme again.  It’s plenty malleable.  “Nazi” could as easily be “Klansman”.  “A Nazi in his crow” can easily become “the Far Right in its crow.”  The intentions are basically the same.  But this isn’t about name-calling.  It isn’t even about the sliminess of racism.  It’s about another dynamic I want you to see. 

 

SUPREMACISTS’ “JUSTIFICATION”

It was evident in the weapons carried by White Supremacists in Charlottesville VA this week.  Riot gear, semi-automatic machine guns, batons: all in a rally for protection of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Think about that for a moment and see how ridiculous that really is.

White Supremacist protesters said they’re “protecting history.”  I can believe that.  But what history do they think they’re protecting, the gallantry and “goodness” of the Confederate South?  Oh please.  Confederates didn’t raise that statue let alone doing so out of goodness.

Who did?  According to some fact checking by Politifact, it was a new generation.  Most Confederate monuments had been erected between 1890 and World War I.  Reconstruction did little to raise the South out of the wreck it was after the Civil War.  By 1890 a new generation had come.  Organizations arose to use monuments to point back to a more idyllic age.  But more importantly, with the assertion of Jim Crow during that vicious era, the monuments were directed against African Americans, telling them, “Whites are in charge,” History Professor Karen L. Cox of the University of North Carolina was quoted to say in that article.1

If the Charlottesville City Council decided to remove that statue of Robert E. Lee, would that mean erasure?  Charlottesville stands less than a 2 hour drive to the southwest of the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington.  Robert E. Lee can be found in any U.S. History book.  Nobody can tell the story of the United States without telling the exploits of that illustrious general.  The idea of removing a statue from a pedestal being erasure of history is nonsense.

Instead, the history White supremacists want to preserve is an idea of a master White race asserting itself and crushing all challengers.  That’s it. It’s quite simple.  It’s all about ridiculously inflated egos.  That’s not a history of gallantry they’re trying to preserve but a historic shamefulness of bigotry and oppression that really does need to change.

White supremacism also means asserting some other things, like the religion of White supremacists, a current exalted by Dominionists of the Evangelical Alliance, most particularly throughout the South and Midwest.  It’s a similar current as that has fueled para-church organizations like Liberty Council and Family Research Network, some of the largest proponents of anti-transgender legislation in 2016 and today.  In that context, opposition to the “Alt-Right” is a necessary and inherent component of trans activism.

Really, now; how does a lack of melanin in one’s skin result in any particular advantage except for a greater incidence of melanoma?  That’s supposed to make Whites superior somehow?  What an idiotic idea.  If the real message White supremacists wanted to preserve in Charlottesville is the assertion of a master race as a “matter of history,” and they cluster around a statue to make that assertion with weapons, they must be the silliest people on the planet.

 

TOO SILLY

Of course it’s silliness with guns and clubs.  Do weapons make White supremacists powerful?  This reminds me of the case of the pilgrim Ann Sieben who dedicated her vacations to walking on religious pilgrimages.  On one occasion she walked to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City through the Chihuahua desert south of the U.S.-Mexico border with scarcely any money in her pocket.  She was confronted with what she described as a “giant king-cab pickup truck with giant tires made for the desert sands with 4 mounted weapons in the back.”  Armed narcotrafficantes aimed automatic weapons at her..  But she responded with laughter.  She considered it absurd. “I mean, really?  Eight men with guns?  Really?  For 1 woman?”2

What did she do with these narcotrafficantes?  While they pointed their guns to her head, she relaxed her shoulders, pushed the closest gun aside, and smiled, “Really?  Is that what you think it takes?”  For Ann, a penniless pilgrim, she didn’t need to pretend to be anything more than she really was.  If she ended her pilgrimage at the shrine or in heaven, it was okay with her.  Before long the thugs asked her to pray for them.3

I’m reminded also of many nights in the 1980’s when I left work in East Los Angeles at 11:00 pm.  I typically walked from White Memorial Medical Center to the bus stop at Mission and Macy several blocks away to catch a late bus to my home in El Monte.  I literally traveled unarmed from Cholo turf to Gangland night after night.  One night I approached the bus stop to see a man shadowboxing.  What did I do?  I simply ignored him and sat down at a nearby telephone pole to rest.  The shadowboxer was stunned because of me, convinced that because I showed no fear of him I must be a saint.  He was literally shaking.  Anybody who knows me well knows I’m no saint… philosophic fruitcake maybe, but no saint.

Isn’t it interesting how it’s those who show up with a ridiculous force of arms are often the ones most afraid?  I don’t doubt many of them manifest bloodthirstiness.  Consider shock-jock Christopher Cantwell who reportedly told Elle Reeve of Vice News Tonight, “We’re not non-violent, we’ll f…ing kill these people if we have to… I think a lot more people are going to die here.”  He predicted even more violent future episodes, even a full scale race war.4

But if these are such gallant people, why did this same person who threatened to kill others post a snivelly video to tell the world he was afraid of what might come at him after Charlottesville?5  Isn’t fear what drives such people to groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Identity Evropa, Aryan Nation, American Vanguard, and Skinheads in the first place?  Don’t they fear losing their false sense of superiority where they turn away from logic and love of fellow humans to hide behind a force of arms?

 

NOT TAKING THE BAIT

Then what importance do we ascribe to violence on the part of any counter-protester?  Blake Montgomery of BuzzFeed News pointed out an important observation as reported by the Los Angeles Times in which conflict started with 2 people, one on each side, “screaming, goading each other into throwing the first punch.6

It’s a pattern we see again and again.  There’s a word for it:  baiting.  Here’s an incident of baiting in its raw form:

I reached an intersection in Garden Grove CA in 2013 where the street markings were such that it would be too dangerous for me to hold a position in a center lane that would take me straight ahead westward.  So I decided to walk the intersection and pressed the pedestrian button.  After a minute an Evangelical couple with a toddler in a stroller approached as they crossed the street from the southeast corner to where I was waiting.  I could see in the corner of my eye that they were holding religious tracts.  Everything about them read like they were members of an Evangelical church.  The man called out to me yelling in a sarcastic and aggressive tone of voice, “Can I help you?”  I remained silent, ignoring him.

But ignoring, accepted by most people, ignited his wrath in which he intentionally misgendered me.  “I’m gonna bash his face in for not answering me!”  He was about 4 feet away and closing in on me.   I stepped away, turned and held my bicycle in front of me at arm’s length as a barrier.  He was not going to get an easy swing at me.  My defensive action infuriated both of them even more.  I stood behind, looking my assailants in the eye.

“Hey, man!  I’m gonna call the police!” he said while ostentatiously removing his cell phone from his hand.  The wife likewise joined in, saying, “Get away from our child!  This monster is out to hurt the baby!”  They moved to attack me from my left side.  I stepped back again and repositioned the bicycle as a barrier.  Their hateful tirade continued, telling me how I was going to go to hell for “harming babies.”

Again they tried to move to my left and again I stepped back and repositioned the bicycle.  Meanwhile the toddler was smiling, waving to me, and saying, “Hi!  Hi!”  The mother said to the child, “Don’t look at that abomination!” She roughly grabbed the child’s head and snapped it forward.

All this time I said absolutely nothing to anyone.  The only ones uttering any threats were that couple.  Eventually they crossed the intersection westward.  I changed my route immediately, riding northward out of harm’s way.7

Without weapons but lots of threats, the matter would have gone to police with the word of 2 against 1 and chances are any outlandish claim would have stuck at least till we went to court.  But I refused to fight.  I also refused to allow either of them to take a swing.  I only set up a barrier and made sure that barrier was in place so that the aggressors could not cross it.  But this couple wanted a fight so that they could have me prosecuted because their religion told them, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” They saw me, a transwoman, as a “threat” because their religion told them so. 

By refusing to take the bait I prevented what could easily have been an ugly incident that would have easily bred more trouble because I could have been presented as unilaterally violent to authorities, in the press, and from the pulpit.  I could have been made fodder for Evangelical propaganda.

 

THE PROPAGANDA FACTOR

That’s exactly what we saw in Charlottesville and in remarks later in the week at Trump Tower.  Here’s a bit of the transcript of what Donald Trump said:

 

“Trump: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]

Trump: Go ahead.

Reporter: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?

Trump: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.8

 

Do you see what’s happening?  “Alt-Right” groups sought violence knowing that if anyone took their bait they would score a propaganda victory.  A president cozy with the “Alt-Right”, evidenced in his relationship with Steve Bannon of Breitbart, would certainly paint a different picture, pointing to the “Alt-Left” as equally culpable.  After inciting a riot themselves, everyone who even remotely defended himself would have been swallowed up into a tide of stigma as perpetrators equally with actual perpetrators.  In this respect, those counter-protestors mere made to be fools.

So what would be a better approach?  I think it starts with that rhyme I shared at the beginning.  Should we use it to taunt White Supremacists?  No, that’s not what I’m suggesting.  Remember that malleability of the rhyme?  “a Nazi” could just as easily be altered to read, “transgender”, even if that would be grammatically incorrect.  It wouldn’t bother White Supremacists because they probably didn’t excel in school in the first place.  Use of a rhyme for taunts only invites them to alter it to taunt you.  Instead, it’s useful as an internal mantra, to make you smile and relax.

 

THE INNER MADNESS

Don’t you see?  If you can smile and relax, you’re better able to draw upon your inner madperson to imagine creative ways to catch hot-tempered scaredy-cats off guard… like offering cookies and milk.

Think about it.  Are they really going to go out gracefully by shooting me with a sub-machine gun or beating me with a baseball bat till they end up having their taxpayer dollars pay my disability?  I can see the headlines right now:  “KLANSMEN MURDER TRANSGENDER WOMAN WHO OFFERED COOKIES AND MILK.”

I hope you’re rolling over with laughter at a thought like that.  Of course it’s ridiculous.  That would result in a media coup like no other.  Even if nobody accepts, it makes a great picture for the papers.  After all, if one engages in a war of baiting, the kindest always wins one way or another.

But you can’t get there if you can’t smile and relax first.  You have to laugh.  White Supremacists are already a sorry joke.  That rhyme reminds you of that.  Of course, the ultimate objective of doing something mad like offering cookies and milk isn’t getting killed, of course.  It’s the hope of starting a civil discourse and diffusing tensions.  White Supremacists don’t generally discourse with civility, so that would be the ultimate coup.  Of course, one has to be able to get past police lines to do this and be sure there are others with cameras rolling.  And if not cookies and milk, why not some other good?

More than that, what would happen if we applied Kant’s Principle of Universality which says that right action is that which you can hold to be a universal law, in this case a universal law of kind craziness?  If we all faced a growing force of armed White Supremacists with laughter and relaxation, just who do White Supremacists think they want to fight?  They yell into the air, breathing threats and the rest of us can just look back while eating popcorn. If any of them charges, one can play it like Speedy Gonzalez who runs like the ultimate bait while yelling the untranslatable, “Andale!  Andale!”  Who doesn’t find that hotheaded cat that chases him utterly silly?

It would be nice if we could take belligerent White Supremacists and send them into the desert while Muslim nations send their equally annoying Islamist terrorists.  Let them take out their aggressions in their own Armageddon away from the cities, suburbs, and farms.  Let them fight to the death for what they think is so noble a cause.  Then we could put the last man standing in a museum to show the futility of it all.

That’s not in the cards, of course.  So we’re left to our own creative madness… the ultimate defense.  Laugh.  Relax.  Truth is on your side.  Take the higher road against cowards and you ignite a contagion of example that can make the world a little bit kinder… and America a little bit greater.  Sorry, Mr. Trump.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON THE TMP FORUM

___________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured image:  4 fragments of public domain images from Wikimedia depicting protest and violence, all laid out so that the negative space forms a swastika, each arm warning with the Greek word, “thanatos” or “death”.  It’s also reflected in the grey capital “theta”.  But the oval of the “theta” is crossed as a sign of negation with the first lines of the rhyme in this article.

  1. John Kruzel. “Did Confederate symbols gain prominence in the civil rights era?” Politifact (August 15, 2017, accessed August 15, 2017) http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2017/aug/15/joy-reid/did-confederate-symbols-gain-prominence-civil-righ/
  2. Mehta, Guri. “The Winter Pilgrim: A Conversation with Ann Sieben” Parabola, Vol. 42, Number 2, Summer 2017, p. 50.
  3. Ibid, pp 50, 51.
  4. James West. “Vice News Just Released Chilling, Must-Watch Footage From Behind Charlottesville’s Battle Lines” Mother Jones (August 15, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/08/vice-news-just-released-chilling-must-watch-footage-from-behind-charlottesvilles-battle-lines/.
  5. William Cummings. “Neo-Nazi featured on Vice News cries in online video” USA Today (August 17, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/08/17/christopher-cantwell-cries-video/578227001/.
  6. Matt Pearce. “Who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville? Here’s what witnesses say” Los Angeles Times (August 15, 2017, accessed August 7, 2017) http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-charlottesville-witnesses-20170815-story.html.
  7. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Taking the Bait” Transpire (September 2, 2016, accessed August 17, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/taking-the-bait/.
  8. Christine Wang. “Read the transcript of Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping press conference” com (August 15, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017) https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/read-the-transcript-of-donald-trumps-jaw-dropping-press-conference.html.

 

 

 

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Hawes-Tingey on Her Way to Making History as First Transgender Mayor in Utah

By Sabrina Samone

Sophia Hawes-Tingey appeared to safely advance to the Nov. 7 final election, and one step closer to making history in the small Utah town of Midvale, as the first possible transgender Mayor in conservative Utah.

She was running second among five hopefuls and appearing safe to advance with 24 percent of the vote. Hawes-Tingey trailed a former city council member of the town, who had 30 percent of the vote.

Despite recent tweets to call for a ban on transgender military personnel, Sophia is a US Navy Veteran, who has served her country proudly and desires to continue to do so as Mayor of Midvale, Utah. She’s a software engineer with a passion for advancing diversity and combating discrimination in all forms.

Sophia Hawes-Tingey acknowledges the historic nature of her campaign for city council, but she does not want to make it the focus of her race in this Salt Lake City suburb.

“I see myself mostly as a community servant who just happens to be transgender,” she told her local Fox News affiliate after she filed to run for Midvale’s City Council District 2.

If elected, Hawes-Tingey would be the first openly-transgender person to serve in public office in the state of Utah. Her race does bring increased visibility to Utah’s LGBT community, which has seen big advances within the past couple of years when it comes to same-sex marriage, non-discrimination in housing and employment and several openly gay candidates seeking political office.

When asked about the significance of her candidacy, Hawes-Tingey said she wants to talk to voters about fighting crime, improving neglected neighborhoods and fostering economic growth in Midvale.

“I know to the LGBT community, they see this as a message of hope. But this is a race about community values,” she said.

Hawes-Tingey said being transgender “is only one aspect of who I am.” She pointed to her service on the Midvale Community Council.

“I’m also a software engineer. I’m a Navy veteran, I’ve studied dance for a number of years,” she said. “I don’t define myself only on my gender identity.”

Still, her campaign has attracted the attention of national gay rights groups. She has the backing of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Restore Our Humanity and the Utah Stonewall Democrats.

Hawes-Tingey is challenging incumbent Midvale City Councilman Paul Glover, who is seeking his fourth term in office.

Utah, the home of the staunch conservative Mormon church, has been going through a progressive transition in recent years, with several LGBT politicians, and more vocal advocates. While the town of Midvale is not known for diversity, it is one of the fastest growing suburbs of Salt Lake City, growing 17% since the 2010 census, with an average median income of nearly 54,000 per household. With it’s progressive growth, and the willingness to embrace possibly the first transgender politician in Utah, this could be the first light of progressive change taking root in Utah.

DONATE TO SOPHIA HAWES-TINGEY CAMPAIGN

Currently 7,000 has been raised in support of Hawes-Tingey’s campaign. We’re asking our Friends of TMP to share her story and urge those in your immediate community to give in order to empower transgender politicians, who maybe our only way to fight the fascism we face.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON THE TMP FORUM

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Dezjorn Gauthier

From male model, advocate, a member of the American Bar Association, CEO and founder of the upcoming Trans culture magazine ‘Black T’, Dezjorn Gauthier is proving that Trans men are more than a handsome face, and chiseled body. Along with those qualities, one can be an outstanding advocate, businessman, and supporter of his community.

With his mid-western work ethics, he has directed that energy towards the advancement and visibility of trans men of color. An advocate on behalf of all Trans people, he has worked diligently to help improve the lives of  Trans men. He has continuously taken on the daunting task, of improving the much needed awareness, and visibility of Trans men of color.

Our warriors of African, Latin, and Asian descent, are far too often placed on the back burner of visibility, even in our own community. It is due to this struggle that he has recently responded to the call of Trans people of color around the world, in creating ‘Black T Magazine’. A magazine that is sure to greatly further the much needed representation of  Trans people of color. This fight to level the playing field of representation within our community, and to foster unity among us, is why Dezjorn Gauthier is TMP’s Role Model for the month of February.

The 25 year old is a Milwaukee, WI native, and started his transition in April 2014 just shortly after he had appeared in the well known Barneys New York ad campaign. It also featured well known Trans personalities like Laith Ashley, Katie Hill, and Arin Andrews. The ad campaign was in some ways his coming out, as his first work as a Trans man. He first started modeling at the ripe old age of six months old, for top children’s brands around the nation, and has won several national titles. He was also, part of the first modeling agency for Transgender people.
 

While serving as Student Ambassador, he was also being featured internationally in many articles and modeling shoots. In 2016,  Dezjorn was featured in the series ‘America in Transition’, by Andre Perez. As a model he also earned his degree in Criminology, Law Studies, and Sociology from Marquette University in 2013. He earned his paralegal diploma, and member of the American Bar Association, while attending Washington University School of Law. At his home in Milwaukee, he teaches a high school level law course, allowing students to learn more about the justice system, United States Constitution, and understand policies.

Even while furthering his education, modeling, advocating for Trans men; he has also started his own business, to effectively bring awareness to the transgender community, with special focus on Trans males and Trans men of color; through education, empowerment and inspiration. His business hosts an annual surgery fund, laptop scholarship, FtM essentials donation programs and mentoring. Gauthier, is also the founder of ‘The Dorothy J. Carr Fund’, and has worked as the V.P.  of  ‘Point Of Pride‘. His latest creation, ‘Black T Magazine’, is destined to change the landscape among representation  for Trans people of color; show the diversity in our community, unite and inspire young Trans men of color around the world that their lives matter, and are valid.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

 

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Neo L. Sandja

Neo Sandja is an author, speaker, business consultant and certified life coach. He’s the founder of the first international bodybuilding competition for people of Trans experience, and featured on major media outlets like, Al Jazeera America and CNN. His business, FTM Fitness World, along with its affiliated annual conference #transfitCon, focuses on empowering the Trans community in all 5 core areas of their lives: Spirituality, Personal Growth, Fitness/Wellness Health, Finances, and Family/Relationships through the motto ‘Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit.’
 
His book, ‘Right Mind, Wrong Body’, was written for people who are looking for more happiness, peace, and fulfillment in their journey. Based on the lessons he himself learned through his transition.
 
 

 

 

 

He is also the chair of the FTM foundation, which he created to help Trans-identified people with their transitional needs. Partial proceeds of the book ‘Right Mind Wrong Body’, is going directly into the surgery fun.
 
Neo considers himself, a spiritual warrior and a transformational trainer. He defines being a spiritual warrior, as someone who knows themselves and conquers their deepest fears, and limitations. Transformational trainer’s, are trainers who change people’s lives from the inside out, by giving them the tools to create permanent change for success.
As a speaker he is very passionate about business, financial and emotional intelligence, as well asspirituality and communication.

He migrated to the U.S., from the Republic of Congo in 2004, and began his transition in 2011. His life’s mission he states, “Transform people’s lives through his writing, speaking engagements, personal life coaching, and mentoring, but most importantly through his personal day to day interactions.”

 Neo Sandja is an example of the masculine leadership that is leading our community into the future. He, along with countless men, have become more visible over the past few years,  in a weary movement that needed rejuvenation. Yet, he is among those talented Trans men of color whose work often is over shadowed, and goes unnoticed by the majority within our community. Let’s stand united, with our brothers, regardless of race, religion or nationality. We share at least one thing, and it is the greatest thing that bonds us all; the desire to live an authentic life against all odds. TMP salutes our brother Neo Sandja for the work he has done and continue to do, that enhances the lives of all Trans people.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

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Meggan Sommerville

Living in the aftermath of the Leelah Alcorn’s suicide and being a transgender Christian, I’ve noticed a lot of anger towards Christians. I’ve had a transgender roommate who became the spokesperson for Pfox and their transgender conversion therapy and also watched it fail. I’ve also noticed countless trans people writing to tell me how bullied they felt as well by the church. I’ve watched for years as an old trans girl friend of mine, who sought out Christ, be told not to come back to specific churches. My own ex-fiancé who is trans, has also had a church ostracized him. I know as well, Jesus Christ himself was crucified by organized religion and he too hated it. What’s sad as a Christian to see is members of my own community turn their backs and literally hate God for what a man has said or did to them.  It’s easy to blame God for what a specific church or preacher said or did, but not all who follow are of God. That is something my ex-fiancé knows and regardless of what happened, he’s still a man of God. It is what my old girl friend knows, as she continues relentlessly searching for a welcoming church. I’ve often myself asked her why and she’d say, “I’m not ever going to let someone take God from me, cause I know what he has done.”

Another one of those sisters fighting for the lord is Meggan Sommerville, blogger of Trans Girl at the Cross. There Meggan not only chronicles her life as a transgender person, but also as a Christian. There she educates many within the community about Christ and how a trans person also can love and be loved by God. Since  2012 she’s discussed topics like Praying for our Enemies, My Tale of Surviving Bullying, and one of her latest Being Christian and Transgender- feeling caught in the Middle. It is the later that prompted me to signal boost my sister and her work. Among the many things we hear coming out of Trans society,  rare is there a voice like Meggan Sommerville.  This is why after such a great tragedy that she is TMP’s choice for trans role model of the month and upcoming Trans Faces interview. Spreading the good news of the lord from a unlikely yet loved girl at the cross.
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