My wife, Giselle Donnelly, writes about why conservatives should support open transgender military service. Please read and share!
Category Archives: Advocacy
My friend just confided in me that her college-age child just came out to her as transgender. How can I support my friend and her child?
Question: Beth, my good friend, Jane, just confided in me that her college-age son, “John” (that’s the name I know him by), just came out to her as being a trans-woman and planning to transition. I’m close to “John” as well. How I can I support my friend and her child?
(Question adapted from recent conversations with clients and friends)
Answer: Dear Ally-in-Training, I’m so excited that you are supporting your friend and her child. I don’t have all the answers by any means, but here are some things to think about to help you support both of your friends.
Chosen Name and Preferred Pronouns
First, I suggest talking to Jane and John (if you are friends with both) to find out what John’s preferred name and pronouns are. Your friend may not have realized to ask this question or may not have shared this level of detail with you yet.
Here are some possible scenarios:
- John may be presenting as female and be going by a female name and pronouns like “she” and “her” full-time at college. John may wish to always be referred to by their chosen name and pronouns regardless of how John presents.
- John may be in the process of socially transitioning and prefer to go by John and male pronouns like “he” and “him” when he is presenting in what many call “boy mode;” when presenting in “girl mode,” John may go by a chosen female name and female pronouns.
- John may be early in exploring transition and not have chosen a female name or use female pronouns. Furthermore, John may want to come out to people as transgender when ready and not want you or Jane to spill the beans to others.
By asking John directly what is preferred, you can then use John’s preferred name and pronouns in context and thus show support. Also, you can avoid outing John unintentionally by finding out John’s preferences.
Resources for Family Members and Friends
Second, I suggest building your knowledge and your own support team as needed. Read up on the transgender experience so you can better understand what John may be going through. You can find a basic overview of transgender people at the Human Rights Campaign website including how to support them. PFLAG has an extensive primer called “Our Trans Loved Ones: Questions and Answers for Parents, Families, and Friends of People who are Transgender or Gender Expansive.” As you learn more from John and Jane, you can fine tune your research and reading.
You and Jane may benefit from a local support network for friends and family members of LGBTQ+ people. PFLAG has over 400 chapters across nearly all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. You can find a local chapter here. Read about why PFLAG exists and how society’s attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people have changed since 1973 when PFLAG began its work.
Ask John directly what kind of support is desired. Perhaps John wants to go shopping with you or Jane for gender-affirming clothes, hair, makeup, etc. or maybe John wants to this alone or with friends of college age. Each person is different in their journey and how they like to be supported.
Resources for Transgender People
Third, I suggest that you or Jane look into resources for John, who may already be well-connected or may have no clue about where to start. Or encourage John to do this kind of search. Your local LGBT Center and LGBT Medical/Health Center can be key to finding what you need.
- Google “LGBT Center” and your local major city or cities. Most major cities have an LGBT Center that have a list of resources including medical, mental health, and support groups. Or search at CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers. For DC, The DC Center comes up.
- Google “LGBT Medical Center” or “LGBT Health Center” and your local major city. For DC, the Whitman-Walker Health Clinic pops up with this search.
- Look for LGBT Resource Groups on John’s college campus. Google is again your friend.
- Search for a gender-affirming medical provider/primary care provider for John. The local LGBT Center/Medical Center will sometimes have its own medical clinic and often lists other medical providers in the region who are gender-affirming. Mental health providers will often have a list of local doctors who are gender-affirming.
- Search for local transgender support groups. Your local LGBT Center often maintains lists of these. Some major cities have multiple support groups in different locations, nights of the week, or by gender identity (trans-feminine, trans-masculine, etc.).
- Search for local transgender social groups. These are sometimes found on Meetup such as the DC Trans Ladies network in Washington, DC. Others may be on facebook. Often you will hear about these through word-of-mouth.
- Consider searching for a local makeover artist and photographer who works with transgender women. Seeing oneself transformed by a professional can be incredibly gender-affirming. Search for “MTF Makeover” or “MTF Transformation” and the major city or region of interest. For DC, this includes my transformation services and you’re already at my website.
- Identify online communities of support such as Transgender Heaven. One of my friends helps run the site, and I’ve heard regular updates about the success trans-women have connecting with each other there.
In conclusion, listen to John and how they want to be supported. Be affirming with your use of John’s preferred name(s)/pronouns. Learn about the transgender community on your own so you have a framework of understanding when John describes experiences and feelings to you. Learn about resources for Jane and John so you can point them in the right direction(s) when they are ready. Encourage Jane to work through these steps too. This is not an exhaustive list of resources on how to be a good ally, but it should get you started in a positive direction.
Good luck and much happiness to you all on the journey ahead!
I thought you might want to use a short testimonial (below). I have been privileged and blessed to have been involved some really cool events, and it occurred to me that in every photo, I am wearing makeup I bought from you that you taught me how to apply.
I wanted to say thank you for all the help you have given me and so many others along the way.
In each of these photos, I am wearing Younique cosmetics I purchased from Beth Taylor. Beth not only represents a great brand of high quality products, but I learned how to properly apply them and look my best at her makeup parties. She is also an exceptionally talented makeup artist and photographer, who makes each of her clients feel special and pampered.
When I needed to look my absolute best for a speech for an audience of about 1,000 people, including the governor of Virginia (top photo, second column from left), I of course turned to Beth to make sure my makeup was flawless.
She is a great friend and ally of the transgender community, and I am a huge fan of hers.
How do I know if I’m really transgender? What should I do with all these feminine feelings?
Question: Beth, I’ve done several makeovers with you and absolutely love them. I feel beautiful and myself when I’m dressed and when I see my photos. But I’ve been nervous about really unleashing my feminine side and letting her go nuts. I’m sometimes afraid she’ll take over, and I don’t know how to feel about that. How do I know if this is just a part-time thing for me or if I should go full-time? How do I know whether I’m transgender? How do I figure out what to do with what I discover?
(Question adapted from conversations with many of my friends and clients over the past five years.)
Answer: Dear Conflicted, It sounds like you’ve got a lot to think about and process about who you are and where you want to go. A talented LGBTQ-friendly therapist can help you explore your gender identity and all the related feelings and decisions.
I have several therapists listed on my website under my links including Falls Church Counseling (John Thomas), Shawn Rubin, Laurice Counseling Services (Shervon Laurice), and Growth Path Therapy (Steph Nelson). I’ve met each of these therapists, and they each have shown their long-term dedication to the LGBTQ community including people exploring their gender identity.
I’m especially excited to introduce you to licensed clinical social worker, Steph Nelson. Steph just opened her private therapy practice, Growth Path Therapy, in Alexandria, VA. For those of you who’ve been coming to see me since 2016 or earlier, you’ll remember that Stephanie was my super-accepting, awesome roommate for three+ years as I got my makeover and photography business started. She co-hosted socials with me for the local transgender community and has formed several enduring, close friendships with transgender women, both full-time and part-time. In all, she’s a staunch ally of the trans community, and we continue to be good friends.
Steph is passionate about helping people grow including those exploring their gender identity or sexual orientation. Steph is accepting new clients and has hours in the evenings on Mondays and Thursdays. If you’d prefer to meet with her at my studio on a Monday, that’s an option too. Steph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 703-634-3141 (voice or text).
Giselle and I would LOVE for you to join us for a cocktail party, film screening, discussion, and fundraiser for our filmmakers and dear friends, Jane Pittman and Sarah Park. Over the past three years, Jane and Sarah have documented how Giselle and I have evolved — “been transformed,” so to speak — and grown together. The result, entitled “The Makeover,” is all but complete and ready for the upcoming film festival circuit. After the screening, Jane, Sarah, Giselle, and I will talk about the making of the film. Of course, we will provide plenty of delicious wine and some finger foods since this is a cocktail party after all. 🙂
We’re very proud of the film, not just because it captures our experience but because we think our love may resonate with many across our community, including our families and friends. We look forward to sharing our story with you, and hope you’ll help Jane and Sarah put the finishing touches on a wonderful documentary.
Event link on Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/DC-TransLadies-Community/events/246851242/
Event link on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/154018035254035/
When & Where: Saturday, January 27 from 6-11 p.m. at my studio in Cabin John, MD inside the I-495 beltway near Washington, DC
RSVP at either event link or by email at email@example.com
• Film Synopsis
“The Makeover” is a distinctly traditional love story set in a decidedly non-traditional milieu of BDSM and shifting gender. Tom is an aging conservative policy wonk, in private known as Giselle. He meets Elizabeth Taylor, once a nuclear power instructor with the US Navy but now a photographer and make-up artist who sees hundreds of trans clients per year. Together this unlikely couple transform one another into what they most want to be.
• Donation Options
Jane and Sarah will be accepting cash donations, checks (perfect if you’d like a tax-deductible gift to charity), and GoFundMe for credit cards. They will use the funds to complete the film music scoring, final editing, and film marketing and distribution. Donate Anytime at GoFundMe
We love our lives! To being fabulous, everyone!
Elizabeth Taylor & Giselle Frances Donnelly
By Ann M.
I knew that if I didn’t take this opportunity, I would regret it for a long time.
I was in a training session with about 30 diversity and equal opportunity practitioners representing agencies from across the Federal government. I knew I had a unique opportunity to influence a key group to consider transgender people as they learn how to make their organizations more inclusive. After talking it over with the course developer, I decided to share my story as a transgender woman.
I am not yet out in most areas of my life, including at work. I knew that coming out would pose a risk of being outed before I am ready, however, I knew it would be worth the risk. The second to last day of the class, the instructor lead into my talk with a video and introduced me. I told the class a little about my struggles with gender dysphoria and the impact it has had on my life and on the lives of others and their families. Because of the focus of the class, I described some of the ways that I had held back in my career for fear of being outed, and the toxic effects of shame over my condition and fear of rejection and ridicule.
I received a standing ovation, and then hugs from literally everyone in the class. I knew I had reached them. The last day of class, I had announced, I would show up as Ann.
Since I might well be the first trans person some of the participants have met (at least knowingly), it was extremely important to me to make the best impression possible. I wanted to put everyone at ease that I am just another professional. Plus, we were going to be conducting some briefs to OPM executives, so I wanted to look sharp for that.
Fortunately, earlier in the week I had attended one of Beth’s makeup parties. She helped me find great colors for me, and I learned a lot of techniques and tips. She had a lot of products I needed in stock, and some I would need to order. She gave me a slip with everything marked off for easy ordering. Oh, and I had a lot of fun at the party and at one point was laughing so hard I thought I might sprain something.
I wasn’t going to be able to receive the products I had ordered online in time for my class, so I put in a frantic call to Beth. She happily provided me enough eye shadow, blush and bronzer to tide me over, and enthusiastically encouraged me to be fabulous.
I did my nails the night before, picked out a nice pink/purple tweed suit with a skirt, and selected my jewelry and accessories. As I began to get ready, I could hear Beth’s voice in my head guiding me through my makeup application. It was such a pleasure to be using high quality Younique products. Everything went on easily and looked great. It was so much faster than the cheap make up I had been using, because I didn’t have to spend a lot of time getting it to look right. The 3D mascara was amazing as I watched thick, full lashes materialize seemingly by magic. The Younique cream foundation evened everything out nicely without looking cakey and a finish with matching pressed powder gave my face a nice matte look.
After getting dressed and gathering everything I would need for my class, I drove into the city.
My classmates were stunned by my appearance. I received a multitude of compliments on how I looked, and one woman had even crocheted a scarf for me! I received several compliments specifically on my eye shadow and lipstick. I owe that to Beth’s expertise, as I would not have thought to choose the colors without her guidance.
Our briefing went well, and many people told me that my example inspired them. I received comments about how I seemed much more alive, happy and seemed like I had better energy, now that I was not hiding who I really am. I reveled in just being me and felt like I was floating on a cloud.
After the class concluded, I received many emails expressing appreciation for trusting the group and taking the risk of coming out to them. I have offered to serve as a resource for members of the class who might have questions regarding transgender inclusiveness, and I’m confident they will go back to their agencies with a much deeper appreciation of the strength of transgender people and some of the challenges we face.
Thank you Beth, for giving me the confidence boost I needed to take the risk.
Photo Book with Forward and Photographs by Elizabeth Anne Taylor
I love transgender women. I’m fascinated by their combination of male and female traits and by the lengths they go to live as they wish. I have worked with hundreds of trans-women, applying their makeup, helping them dress, and taking their photographs. While each person is unique, themes have emerged: strained relationships with loved ones, secret storage units and mailing addresses for their femme side, dressing only while on travel, getting ready in their cars, and, above all else, secrecy. Meanwhile, many have formed vibrant friendships and are actively involved in the trans-community. The majority of my friends are transgender women. I want to tell the story of these beautiful and courageous women.
After retiring in 2012, Erica Fremont began to explore her female side at male-to-female transformation studios nationwide. Since her first shy days at my studio in summer 2013, she has become an outgoing, fun-loving woman who organizes events to Freddie’s Beach Bar – a venue that mirrors Erica’s personality. She enjoys the pampering of a professional makeover but does her own makeup most of the time. She is transitioning to live as Erica full-time.
Alisha Edward is thrilled to be alive! And she will let you know that at the top of her lungs at least once a night and usually more often. After surviving prostate cancer, she had her first makeover in spring 2015 and quickly became involved in our social group. Since her wife has generally tried to avoid Alisha’s girl side, Alisha gets ready in her “changing wagon,” a cargo van fitted out for her male-to-female transformation. She has come out as a transgender woman to a few people and is trying to determine the way forward.
Giselle loves to flirt with excess. She’s partial to custom corsets that give her natural cleavage, six-inch tall heels, and gorgeous makeup. She enjoys both her male and female sides, but her ex-wife could not tolerate her dressing, which led to their divorce. Giselle has found a partner who not only tolerates her dressing but loves it – namely me. When I met her in summer 2013, Giselle would only go out after dark; by summer 2015, Giselle and I routinely took day trips together.
Tracy Lynn loves clothes, makeup, and shopping. Since her wife cannot tolerate her dressing, the true Tracy only comes out while she is on business travel. If you can call it “business” travel: she brings four suitcases full of girl clothes and a small duffel bag of guy stuff. She starts each trip to Washington with a French pedicure, a manicure with no polish, and a body and eyebrow waxing session. Outgoing and approachable, Tracy makes friends everywhere she goes. Tracy travels to DC monthly, and we always have a good time. She has a four-year plan to transition.
Kimberly Moore and I met in summer 2013, and we instantly hit it off. I asked her to model for my website, which she loved. She has taken her modeling to the next level with Model Mayhem and has appeared on mainstream websites. Her wife doesn’t approve of her girl side, so Kimberly often uses her minivan to change. Kimberly is seeing a gender therapist and trying to determine the way forward.
Jamie Lee Henry has overcome enormous obstacles to live authentically as a woman. As an active-duty Army officer and medical doctor, she faced homelessness and imminent discharge due to being transgender. Meanwhile, her wife divorced her and they fought an ugly custody battle in court over their young son. Unexpectedly, Jamie kept her Army commission and her fortunes changed. Jamie has legally, medically, and socially transitioned to living full-time as a female though she has to follow the Army’s male grooming standards. When she and Anna met at work, they quickly fell in love and got married six months later despite Anna’s job relocation keeping them apart. Jamie’s parents reluctantly acknowledge her female identity.
I love these women – they are very much my people. We accept and love each other for who we are. These photographs are my attempt to capture their beauty and strength as they strive to be who they want to be.