The Times They Are A-Changin’

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 11.48.13 AMSo heeeeeeeeeeere’s the big exciting news for today.

My Sarah Hoffman website is imminently going to become a Sarah & Ian Hoffman website, shared with my delightful co-author and hubby Ian, with a brand new name and look. There you will be able to read our blog (yes Ian’ll at least sometimes be my co-blogger), find out where we’ll be appearing to read/discuss Jacob’s New Dress, buy the book, read my other writing, and oh-so-much more. The changeover should be happening tonight, if all goes according to plan (though really? when does that ever happen?), and as soon as that does happen I’ll send you the new web address so you can check out the site and tell us all about what you love and hate about it.

As you know, with change sometimes comes growing pains. Our web mistress has warned that if you are subscribes to my posts you may get some old blog posts re-emailed to you once the switch occurs (but this would be a one-time thing, an uncontrollable Feedburner glitcheroo). Please try to consider this an opportunity to re-read the posts and go to the website to comment on them. Or, you know, just delete the pesky emails. Apologies for any challenges this poses to your inbox management.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 11.52.00 AMAnd, in other news, Sam has black fingernails today with tiny skulls painted on them, the artwork executed by our talented babysitter-cum-manicurist. On a formerly-long-haired-and-dress-wearing, opera-loving, not-remotely-goth boy, it’s something of a statement (and no, this photo is not of Sam’s nails–he’s eleven, not thirty). Our lovely middle school principal stopped Sam and asked about his nails, looking at them closely and commenting about how skilled his manicurist must have been. Way to normalize it, my hero of a principal.

So that’s all the news that’s fit print. We’ll look forward to hearing what you think of the new website. As always, thanks for reading.




Gender Spectrum at Our School


Today our school had Joel Baum from Gender Spectrum come to talk to parents about kids and gender. I’ve seen Joel speak many times, and have spoken to audiences with him many times, but I have to say his presentation just keeps getting better and better. I was very inspired—and I learned new ways of thinking about this topic that I think a lot about.

One interesting exercise that Joel did was to ask the audience if we knew any men with earrings when we were growing up. Four people raised their hands (I was one, but I knew only one man). Then he asked if we knew any women with tattoos back then. Not a single person raised their hand. But how many earringed men and tattooed women do we all know today? Both have become almost the norm here in San Francisco and in much of the world. 

Joel reminded me of the Ladies Home Journal article from 1918 that said:

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl. 

Fashion changes over time. Expectations change over time. While people have always had a range of gender expression, how they are allowed to express it in public has changed with the times. And it’s changing still.

Joel talked about patterns of behaviors and expectations—when we expect girls to wear dresses and boys to wear pants, we’re simply following a cultural pattern we’ve learned. For most of Sam’s life, strangers have assumed he was a girl. But for the first time since he was a toddler, after he cut his hair last week a stranger assumed he was a boy. Joel pointed out that when people make assumptions based on gender norms they are not making a mistake, they are simply sticking with the patterns they have known. It’s only a problem if people respond unkindly after learning that a child’s gender presentation and biological gender are not the same. But responding—with surprise, with curiosity, with a willingness to change perception—out of a pattern is not the problem. When people can identify the pattern and expand their data set—Oh! Boys can wear dresses! Even if it’s not what I expected!—it’s not wrong, it’s right. As Joel said to us today, we are all works in progress.

Today, as a group, we talked about how we can reach a broader audience about gender inclusivity, and how to shift cultural perspectives in a way that opens up options for kids to be whoever they are. And we realized that talking, simply talking, is what makes a difference. That’s why I write. “We need to speak up whenever and wherever we can,” Joel said, “even if our voice shakes a bit.”


Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20 is the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we take a moment to honor the lives and mourn the deaths of transgender victims of hate crimes.

Last night I attended Shabbat services at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco’s LGBT synagogue. I heard a prayer that was so beautiful that I wanted to share it with you here:

As the sun sinks and the colors of the day turn, we offer a blessing for the twilight, for twilight is neither day nor night, but in-between. We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities and loves, many genders and none. We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place. We are crosscrossed paths of memory and destination, streaks of light swirled together. We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all.

May the sacred in-between of this evening suspend our certainties, soften our judgments, and widen our vision. May this in-between light illuminate our way to the God who transcends all categories and definitions. May the in-between people who have come to pray be lifted up into this twilight. We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing. Blessed are You, God of all, who brings on the twilight.

We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing.

There are many gatherings in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance going on around the country—click here to find one near you.