You are receiving Ellie Krug's Monthly Newsletter, The Ripple 
Breaking New Ground 
Sioux Falls
Dear Friends:  The last several weeks have been marked by a couple of “firsts” in which I had the honor to participate.

One “first” was meeting with three gender non-conforming/transgender teens (I’ll just use the label, “teens”)(ages 14, 16 and 17) who each had been at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Minneapolis, a residential treatment center for at-risk youth, for five months. It was the first time St. Joe’s had ever brought in a trans person to speak to the transgender youth they serve. This meeting followed a “Transgender 101” training that I conducted for 30 or so staff members in early January, which also had been the first time such a training had been conducted at the facility.

My meeting with the teens was facilitated by Pastor Amy Teske, who made it a point to leave the room to give my new friends and I space to speak safely and honestly. And what honesty there was!

Early on, I asked about the teens’ personal “mantras.” (I shared that my mantra is “Stop your whining, Ellie.”) In response, one teen said, “My mantra is ‘I hate you,’ something I tell myself a hundred times a day.” Those words so hurt my heart.

As a consequence of coming out as “trans,” each of the teens had been rejected by their parents or other family members. They shared horrific stories of hurtful words and actions, none of which I will relate here because I don’t want to break trust. Suffice to say that I was crying by the end of our time together.

I told my new friends that I respected them for their grit and resiliency. “No one has ever told me that,” was one teen’s response. I praised them for dealing with their gender issues so early in life, rather than hiding or running from them, which was something that I did. In response, I saw young faces smile.

My experience that day was so profound that I will now begin to regularly visit St. Joe’s to speak to their gender non-conforming teens.

Another “first”: I gave a “Trans 101” training to 20+ faculty and administrators at the University of St. Thomas. Before I spoke, a welcoming high-level UST administrator explained to the crowd that my training was the very first time the University had ever offered training on what it means to be transgender. Wonderful!

Based on the audience’s reaction, I think my training hit its mark. I fielded very insightful questions and several people approached me afterwards to express gratitude for the training. Hopefully, UST will ask me back to train more of its 2000 employees. We will see.

The above reinforces that this work—whether by Ellie Krug or someone else—is critical. Collectively, we need to continue breaking new ground.   After all, trans rights are human rights!   ellie

Hatred Seeps into a "Sacred Place for Everbody"

A recent story in the Washington Post concerned the northern Georgia town of Dahlonega, population 5,242, where one morning in mid-February residents discovered a banner affixed to a building in the town square.

The banner, which sported the image of a white-hooded figure with an outstretched hand, read “Historic Ku Klux Klan Meeting Hall.” Also present on corners of the building were a Confederate battle flag and a red flag with a white cross and the letters “KKK.” The banner and flags had gone up in the middle of the night without any indication of who was responsible.  

Residents of Dahlonega reacted to the sign and flags in a variety of ways. One man called the sight “glorious,” while others stood before the building crying. Concerned citizens found a ladder and worked to remove the banner (affixed with 21 screws) and flags. Soon social media buzzed with images of the sign with captions like “WTF, Dahlonega?” A day later, there was a unity march organized by a local church. The event attracted many from outside the town, including a member of the (wonderful) folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, who led singing “This Land is Your Land.”

As the week progressed, other reactions showed through, including claims on regional talk radio that the banner was “an elaborate plot not only to create chaos in Dahlonega, but also to undermine the presidency of Donald Trump, and ultimately, the nation.” Others expressed pride over the banner, with one man saying he had recently put up the American flag after long resisting, saying “In in the last fifty years, I didn’t think we had the votes to elect a governor, much less a president…And yet here we are today.”

Certainly, there were far more people appalled by events than supporters. A local minister, Reverend Webb, summed up the counter-thought. “Dahlonega is a sacred place for everybody,” he said. The banner symbolized how some had acted in reaction to our new president’s words. “The atmosphere he’s created in America today has caused people to think they have some kind of power again,” he offered.

You can read the entire Washington Post story here. What would you do if this happened in your community?

(Photo © Matt Aiken/The Dahlonega Nugget)

An "Ampuversary"?

A February 27 story on Vice TV featured some of the more than 2 million Americans  who have lost limbs due to either trauma or disease (more than half of all  amputations are due to disease like diabetes) and how they commemorated the date on which they lost their limbs. For many, that date is known as their “ampuversary.”

As Vice TV reported, “a huge range of factors can determine how people cope with limb loss.” For some, the reaction is depression and self-loathing; for others, it’s a celebration of survival, as with Saul Bosquez, 32, who lost part of his left leg and two right foot toes while stationed in Iraq. For him, the anniversary of being wounded is an “alive day” given that he “lost his limb but not his life.”

Even people who aren’t amputees are drawn into the celebration, as was the case of a Hampton, Virginia baker who filled an order for an ampuversary cake for a person who had lost their leg. The baker used his imagination and created a section of leg that included bone and skin (fondant and chocolate) and flesh (red velvet cake). The baker was pleased to see a very “upbeat” amputee pick-up the $175 cake.

Because I long worked as a railroad attorney in another life (and gender), I unfortunately had much experience with persons who had lost limbs when they tangled with moving railroad trains. I gained great respect for those folks and the people  (doctors, rehab professionals and prosthetists) who helped them cope and regain some degree of freedom and self-sufficiency.

Commemorating the day of a limb loss as an ampuversary is a wonderful example of human grit and adaptation. It’s amazing what some can do in the face of tragedy.  

(Photo © Angela Wojtaszczyk/Mad Batter Bakery)

“We’re All Humans,” Wounded Kansas Hero Explains

I’m sure that many are aware of the February 22nd shooting of two men of Indian descent at an Olathe, Kansas bar; one of those men, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, died in the attack. A friend of Srinivas, Alok Madasani, was wounded but survived.

This story came to the nation’s consciousness because the shooter (who I will not name) had earlier accosted the two men in the bar with racial slurs and commentary, “Get out of my country.”  At that time, another customer, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, rose to defend the men. Management then asked the shooter to leave the premises; he did so, but later returned with a handgun and again yelled, “Get out of my country” as he aimed at Srinivas and Alok and repeatedly pulled the trigger. Believing that the shooter had run out of bullets, Ian then attempted to tackle the gunman. Unfortunately, there was still one bullet left in the gun; that bullet when through Ian’s hand and into his chest. The shooter then ran out of the bar and was later arrested.

As reported by the Washington Post, Ian explained his actions from his hospital bed. “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he (Srinivas) was from or his ethnicity. We’re all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally right to do.” (You can read more here.) Extraordinary words from an extraordinary human. Thank you Ian Grillot! You help to instill bravery in all of us!

Unfortunately, we are hearing of more and more violence and threats of violence against humans who are considered “other” in our country. As this newsletter goes to print, there have been at least two shootings of Sikh-Americans. Also, since the beginning of the year, nearly 150 Jewish institutions have received bomb or death threats; that’s on top of at least four Jewish cemeteries being vandalized.

We have to end this madness. Please remember the sacrifice Ian Grillot made for other humans; certainly at the very least, we can engage in allyship and speak up against intolerance and hatred to prevent their normalization.

What Society Tells Six Year Old Girls about Women

Science writer Katherine Hobson’s piece, “Young Girls Are Less Apt to Think that Women Are Really, Really Smart,” appeared on National Public Radio in late January. As Hobson reported, a study detailed in Science set forth findings for a series of experiments involving 400 children.  The reason for the study was to determine why the STEM field (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is top-heavy with men.

One of the studies, involving nearly 100 kids, attempted to measure attitudes about “brilliance and gender.”  Children were told a brief story about a person described as “really, really smart”; the child was then asked to pick out that person from four photos—two of men and the other two of women.

The results showed an age-related disparity in the children believing that the men were smarter. Specifically, 5 year-old boys picked one of the men’s photos (as the smart person in the story) 71 percent of the time compared to 69 percent of five-year-old girls  favoring a woman’s photo. At 6 years of age, the numbers start to diverge; 65% of boys favored a man’s photo (as the smarter protagonist) versus 48 percent of girls favoring their own gender. At age 7, the ratio was 69 percent to 54 percent.

As Sapna Cheryan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington observed, “The surprising thing is that already, by age six, girls and boys are saying different things…Before they’ve heard of physics or computer science they are getting these messages.” Another researcher, New York University psychologist Andrei Cimpian, theorized that “stereotypes are all about who has an innate ability.” He suggested a way to support girls and young women is to stress that success comes not because of natural ability but instead through hard work over time.

I train that we are hard-wired for grouping and labeling in a variety of ways with a multitude of outcomes. It’s not something to feel guilty about; rather, it’s something to be aware of—everyday—and work to counter by reminding ourselves that the real narrative about a human is what’s in her or his heart and character.

Rays of Sunshine: Things LGBTQ

I absolutely loved reading about the JAMA Pediatrics (associated with the American Medical Association) study that found that suicide attempts by high school students in general decreased 7 percent in states after they passed laws to legalize same-sex marriage (the data was collected for the time period before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015). Even more significant was a 14 percent drop in suicide attempts by lesbian, gay and bisexual-identifying high school students. In contrast, there was no change in high school student attempted suicide rates in states where same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized. (Did you know that suicide is the second highest cause of death for people aged 10 to 24?)

As one medical commentator, Dr. Victor Schwartz of the JED Foundation put it, being accepted and connected to society have “a protective effect in relation to suicide risk, suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors.” According to Schwartz, when your state, community and family don’t recognize you, “It’s very painful, and can be very frightening. You feel like you’re going to be left out on your own.”

The study of course raises the converse question: how do things change when, as is the case with transgender people, states take away what had been legal protections? My fear is that we will soon see a surge in LGBTQ (particularly T) youth suicides. Damn it.

On another front, I have a saying that bigots aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack. This is being borne out in Texas where Mack Beggs, a 17 year-old transgender boy (identified as female at birth but who now identifies as male), is being forced to wrestle in girls’ wrestling competitions because Texas’s University Interscholastic League rules mandate that one must compete in the league that aligns with the gender listed on the athlete’s birth certificate. Because Texas law makes it very difficult to change one’s birth certificate, Mack (who has been on testosterone for a year and a half and who certainly presents as a male teen) has been wrestling (and pinning) girls—to the point that he won the league’s 110-pound championship. Why is this so complicated? You can read the story about Mack here.

Also, check out the great commentary by Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen—he doesn’t fully understand Mack but for sure believes he’s not one to judge. Too bad the view isn’t shared by more people. (And many thanks to wonderful friend and supporter Jane McCormick Brower for the tip on the Hansen commentary!)    

                                          Odds and Ends
Here are this month’s Odds and Ends, the stuff that's never ending. It's as if there's a loop in my mind that just keeps running: 
Darn Wonderful:  Did you catch the story about the woman in Lakewood, Washington who found $5 and a note from “Jake” who apologized for his sister taking a butterfly-shaped wind chime? As reported in the Huffington Post, the note explained that their recently-deceased mother loved butterflies; apparently Jake’s sister couldn’t resist having something that reminded of her mother. In the note, Jake wrote that all he had was $5 to compensate for taking the wind chime. The owner of the wind chime, Chrissy Marie, shared of the incident on Facebook with an appeal for help in locating Jake and his sister, saying that she wanted to give back the money and offer them a second butterfly wind chime she had. “I’m not condoning the stealing part but he did try to do the right thing for what his sister did, and I lost my mom at a young age so I know how hard it is,” Chrissy wrote on FB. How forgiving we become when we recognize our commonalities with others.
I LOVE Bus Drivers: Those who’ve been through my Gray Area Thinking™ training know that I show a video of a Buffalo N.Y. bus driver named Darnell Barton saving a woman from taking her life. Now, just as we go to print, a video of another bus driver using Gray Area Thinking has hit social media. In late Jan. a rookie Milwaukee Wisc. bus driver named Denise Wilson saved a shoeless and coatless pajama-clad 5 yr. old boy who was running in subzero temperatures in the middle of the night. Here is the video. Denise, you rock!
And now we have the “Coywolf”: I came across an article in The Economist (of all publications!) about a new hybrid, evolved species, the “coywolf,” that has resulted from inbreeding between wolves, coyotes, and dogs. It is estimated that the coywolf numbers in the hundreds of thousands and can be found throughout the U.S. eastern seaboard and into Canada. The big takeaway—this animal has the smarts of a coyote/dog and the physical strength of a wolf. Word has it the coywolf is showing up on more urban streets. Just so you know.
Available for Work: My new colleague, Lula Hussein, is only part-time at Human Inspiration Works, LLC. The goal is to make her full-time, but that is off in the future. In the meantime, Lula is in search of more part-time work; she is a recent graduate of St. Catherine University with a B.S. in Public Health & Social Sciences. Her skill set includes working remotely, writing copy and social media work as well as using marketing tools. She has extensive experience in community health, both on a professional level and as a volunteer. Please consider Lula for your business needs; she can be reached at
Recent Media: On March 7, I was a guest on Minnesota Public Radio News with Tom Weber to talk about legal issues relative to protecting transgender students and giving them bathroom, locker room and other school-related access. Preceding me were Commissioner Brenda Cassellius of the MN Dept. of Education and Paul Mueller, VP of Education Minnesota (the state teacher union). Later, my friend Andrea Jenkins joined my interview. You can hear the entire 40 minute show here (I come in at minute 17:42). As if you have 40 minutes to spare out of your day….
Recent “Hidden Edges Radio” Shows: My AM950 radio show (Sundays 1-2 p.m. CST) continues to build an audience—we’re up to 15 regular listeners! (Or so goes the running joke…) You can hear podcasts of the 2/26 show with Lula Hussein, “Wearing the Hijab—How Things Change”; 3/5 Evan Thomas, “Breaking Legal Barriers for Trans Persons”; and 3/12, my signature “Gray Area Thinking™”. Click here for the podcasts link.
Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:  Next week, I’ll present at the annual conference of the MN Social Service Association; on March 30, I’ll be in Hutchinson MN to speak to community health services employees on inclusivity and Trans 101; the next week (hooray for April and Spring!), I’ll be on a road trip to Denver where I’ll speak to 1000 people at the annual conference of the Association of Legal Administrators; the next day it will be training Boulder County employees (an encore of a similar training last December) and then I’ll be on the road to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (hello new friends!) and a church in Des Moines. Business is building but I won’t be satisfied until we are training every day of the week; there is so much need out there! You can find my list of upcoming engagements here.
Lastly: The mailing list for this newsletter now has 1029 recipients. Last July, we started with 252 people on the list. If you like what you see, please share with your friends! Thanks!
The Ripple is a work in progress, so please, I welcome your suggestions and comments! Please share this newsletter with others, too!
Thank you for helping to make the world a better place! I'm at your side, cheering you on, I promise! Please have compassion for yourself and for others.
A thank-you to Lula for being a wonderful team member!  
Encouraging Open Hearts and Thriving Human Spirits 
Human Inspiration Works, LLC: We make "inclusion" an action word

Ellen (Ellie) Krug