You are receiving Ellie Krug's Monthly Newsletter, The Ripple 
Hope, Allyship, and a Question
Sioux Falls
Dear Friends: This month began with a road trip—something I so love to take—across the Midwest into Colorado where I spoke at the annual conference for a large legal administrators group and then later trained Boulder County employees on inclusivity. On the return trip, I spoke at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and at a Des Moines church. All told, it was 2000 miles of big sky, XM radio, and taking the pulse of America.

Some observations.

First, hope. A participant at the legal administrator’s conference reported that she watched a group of older white men cross their arms and sit back as I started my talk to 1000 people in Denver. She related that over the course of my talk (combined Gray Area Thinking™ and Trans 101), the men’s arms unfolded and they leaned forward, engaged in my message about inclusivity and compassion for others and for one’s self. This was not the first time I’ve been told about reaching what is usually a difficult group—older white men who believe they’ve seen it all.

What this tells me, frankly, is that everyone is in search of hope. It seems as if forever, the only messaging has been about division. Our work is about unifying and including.

Second, allyship. At one event, a white woman shared about how a white bus driver waited through a traffic light for her board the bus. On some later date, she watched as a white bus driver refused to wait for a Black woman and her child (the bus literally drove away as the mom was folding up the baby stroller before boarding the bus). The storyteller was visibly torn over not having spoken up about what she perceived as a clear case of racism. Just her sharing the story to 80 people schooled all of us about the value of allyship—of the need to take action to protect others who lack voices of their own.

Finally, that question. For several years, I’ve told audiences “You can ask me anything. I’m an open book.” Recently, my heart sank as someone asked, “What was your name as a man?” While I’ve penned an entire memoir about my “other” life and name, I don’t like to say my birth name to anyone. I politely declined the question.

Yep, that’s the last time I’ll ever invite “anything” as a question.

As I often say, it’s all a journey. I wish all of you well as we journey into Spring!


p.s. please check out the "Shout Out" in Odds and Ends below re: volunteers for a series of retreats we’ll begin this summer. We’d love to have you help us get the project off the ground!

This is What Inclusivity Looks Like (by Lula Hussein, HIW Program Manager) 

As some know, U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, recently retweeted a message that read, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In response, on a gloomy Sunday afternoon in March, 400 Iowans gathered in Cedar Rapids to participate in a multi-faith rally to support religious freedom and specifically, the Muslims in their community. The group included Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Meskwaki Native Americans, atheists, and Christians.

The Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, having been built in 1936, is one of the oldest standing mosques in North America. Imam Taha Tawil, the religious leader of the Mother Mosque, told gatherers that he was thankful that everyone could share values of “pluralism, diversity, acceptance, and tolerance.” Tawil went on to say, “We are not going back in the dark past where civil war and human rights violations have divided our communities.”

A leader of the rally, Rev. Wendy Abrahamson, said, “It’s not like the hand can say to the foot: ‘I don’t need you.’ By design, God has made multiple parts that all function differently, and if we were all the same, it simply would not work.”

With Iowa being a Red state in the 2016 presidential election, it took bravery, grit, and compassion to not only put this event together, but to simply show up and support. Donnielle Wanatee, a Meskwaki Native American, said it best: “We have to unite as a people. I will defend anybody. This is my Iowa, and it doesn’t work without all of you in it.”

From my heart to yours, Donnielle, thank you. I am proud to be your Muslim neighbor in Minnesota. You give me hope.

Check out the story here.

“Lunch Shaming”—Yet Another Way to Group and Label Young Humans 
Lunch Shaming

Have you ever heard of “lunch shaming,” where school cafeteria personnel publicly sanction students who are short or can’t pay a school lunch bill? As reported by the New York Times, one school in Alabama actually stamps the arms of children “I Need Lunch Money” as a way of collecting. As bad, some schools order that a child’s hot food be thrown in the trash if she doesn’t have the money to pay for it; other schools require that a child wear a wristband or make them perform chores in exchange for a meal.

Thankfully, New Mexico has now become the first state to outlaw the practice of “lunch shaming” with the Hunger-Free Student’s Bill of Rights that mandates schools work with parents to pay their debts or assist them in signing up for federal meal assistance. A proponent of the bill, Jennifer Ramo, executive director of the anti-poverty group, New Mexico Appleseed, stated, “People on both sides of the aisle were genuinely horrified” by the ways schools shamed students. “It sounds like some scene from ‘Little Orphan Annie,’ but it happens every day.”

In our inclusivity trainings, we often ask, “What’s happening at the front counter” of an agency, office, university or law firm. Perhaps another question needs to be, “What’s happening in the cafeteria line of your local school when students can’t pay their lunch bills?” We can only imagine the permanent scars that come with an institution (school) shaming young humans. 

(Photo © Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

True Grit: Matias Ferreira Becomes a Cop


If there’s any one person who should’ve lost hope, it would be Matias Ferreira. Ferreira, now twenty-eight, became a double amputee after stepping on an explosive device in 2011 while serving as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan.  Despite his horrific injuries, Ferreira held on to his lifelong dream of becoming a cop.

That dream came true earlier this year when Ferreira was sworn in as a police officer with the Suffolk County Police Department in Long Island, New York. (Interestingly, in a sign of greater inclusivity, forty of those graduating the police academy were veterans.)

Ferriera started his active patrols earlier this month. In doing so, he became the first fully active double amputee police officer in the country.

After twenty-nine weeks of rigorous training, Ferreira completed his training alongside other recruits. Ferreira stated, “I’m just really eager and excited to prove myself to my colleagues in my new job, my new career, that I’m capable of doing the job just as well as somebody with both legs.”  

Resiliency and grit can take a human to places that no one thought possible. It is stories like Ferreira’s that make you stop and think about the things in your life that seem so big but in comparison, are so incredibly small.

A final note: Ferreira emigrated to the U.S as a child from Uruguay. Once more, we’re reminded of the contributions (and sacrifices) that foreign-born people make for us and our country. 

Read about Matias here.

(Photo © The Washington Post)

Defeating the Stigma of Mental Illness

Defeat the Stigma

Our friend Julio Salazar and his friends Kevin Chem, Steve Connelly and Elizabeth Smith have created the Defeat the Stigma Project to raise awareness about mental illness (particularly depression) and to tackle the stigma that many attach to those who suffer from it.

Julio, a long distance runner, began the Project in the summer of 2013 with an idea of making it possible for people to talk freely about mental illnesses. Since then, he and others have engaged in runs across Minnesota (2015- 240 miles) and Wisconsin (2016- 300 miles) This summer, Julio plans a 170 mile run from Clinton, IA to Chicago, IL. Holy cow!

As the Project website explains, “The struggles with mental illness are real. Getting professional help for these struggles teaches us how to cope with them. We learn to understand what triggers the struggles, what gets us out of them, and how to bounce back.”

The Project conducts weekly podcasts of people with personal stories about living through the challenges of life (yes, I have been interviewed, but please, we’d be writing about this regardless), which can be accessed at the website. And too, the website has a touching “In Memoriam” page with pictures and stories of persons whom loved ones have lost to mental illness.

Our takeaways from this incredible Project include that Julio’s work (along with his colleagues) shows how it’s possible for a single person with imagination to have real positive impact in the world. We certainly don’t talk enough about mental illness, especially depression, and as a result, people suffer in isolation, which of course only compounds the problem. Isn’t it time that we stop losing people? (I lost my father to suicide in 1990.)

Please check out the Project and let them know they’re doing great work!

(Photo © Defeat the Stigma website)

Inclusivity Tip of the Month
HIW Logo

With this issue of The Ripple, we’re introducing a new section, “Inclusivity Tip of the Month.” This month’s tip: consider utilizing a “talking circle” to offer every team member a chance to speak about inclusivity-related values that affect the organization. As you may know, indigenous people have long used “talking circles” to foster community dialogue. A circle is led by a “circle leader” who sets ground rules (e.g. only one person at a time speaks using “I” statements relative to what they believe; there is no cross-talk; no judging about the comments given; silence or passing is an acceptable response) and leads the group via a series of prompts.  Participants sit in a circle and use a “talking object” (it can be as simple as a pencil) which is passed from person to person as they speak. Circle participant comments are then recorded by a scribe who later transcribes the remarks.

The goal with a talking circle is to foster an open and safe space for communicating. I find that the exercise is exceedingly empowering and provides wonderful insight about what’s working or not relative to inclusivity (and diversity) within the organization. It’s also a way of empowering people to feel a greater sense of ownership. Moreover, the information/comments generated by the circle can form the basis for building a strategic plan or improving a D&I plan.  

You can read more about talking circles by clicking here. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to know more or would like for a copy of the circle prompts we utilize. 

                                          Odds and Ends
More Odds and Ends for you this month:  
Darn Wonderful:  Last month we shared about Ian Grillot, who intervened to stop a shooting of two Indian men at an Olathe, KS bar. Recently, India House Houston, a Texas community nonprofit, donated $100,000 to Grillot to help him buy a house. "It is not every day that one meets a genuine hero — a person who risks his life for another, and takes a bullet for a complete stranger," India House Houston's annual gala chair Jiten Agarwal said in a statement. "Ian Grillot is a man who reminds us of the promise of America and its greatness."  Well said!  
Shout Out for Twin Cities Volunteers: Our work will soon expand to a series of half-day and evening retreats under the banner, “Human is Human™,” focusing on how to live authentically and with inclusivity. We need to test out the workshop and are looking for a dozen or so volunteers who live in the greater Twin Cities. Please contact Lula at to volunteer (it’s free!) and for more information.  Thanks!
Photos I Can’t Get Out of My Brain: As this issue of The Ripple goes to print, there was an NBC News story and photographs about Abd Alkader Habek, a war photographer-turned-participant when he witnessed the bombing of buses evacuating civilians outside Aleppo, Syria. The photos (see story and photos here) are heart-wrenching—one of Habek carrying a wounded child and a second of him crying over the body of child. The combination of photos makes for a stop-and-think moment. Actually, for several moments, if not hours.
Blame it on the T: Those who’ve heard my Transgender 101 talk know that I share about how my brain changed once I got rid of testosterone and replaced it with estrogen. Thus, it was with some  satisfaction that I saw a quote by South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford, who as you may recall was the subject of controversy for an extramarital affair while that state’s governor in 2009. In commenting on why Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare failed (and noting that there were no women involved in backroom legislative negotiations), Sanford reportedly said, "I'm here to tell you, sometimes that testosterone can get you in trouble." How true, dude.  
Recent Media: On April 12th, I again appeared on MyTalk107.1 radio with Colleen Lindstrom and Bradley Traynor to talk about what it means for a transgender person to undergo gender confirmation surgery (in light of Caitlyn Jenner’s revelation that she had that surgery earlier this year). (Click here to listen.) Following that, the website recorded the highest number of page views and visitors in its history. Go figure. Also, you can read my April 13th Lavender Magazine piece, “Gavin Grimm,” regarding the 17 year old who’s become a true American hero for standing up for transgender human restroom access. (Note, I was incorrect in reporting that his case was transferred back to the trial court; I’m advised by the ACLU that the case will be reargued at the appeals court level.)
Recent “Hidden Edges Radio” Shows: My radio show, “Hidden Edges Radio (Sundays 1-2 p.m. CST on AM950) has been gaining listeners; I think we’re up to 17 regulars now (up from 15 a month ago):)…..We’ve had some great shows including Leslie Lagerstrom of Transparenthood (a support group for parents and family members of transgender kids/youth) and Gloria Englund, founder of RecoveryU, which provides support for those with loved ones who are battling addiction. I also did a “talking head” show where I gave my take on how therapists can help transgender and other humans struggling with life (recall that I’ve had 17 yrs. of therapy with 8 or 10 or 12 therapists…). Click here for the podcasts link.
Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:  As this goes to publication, I will be just past a full day of talks at Macalester College in St. Paul. On April 30, I will give the keynote address at the Conflict Resolution Minnesota annual conference. In May, I’ll be meeting with a Dakota County employee book club who’ve read my book and then have a number of trainings with governmental entities and nonprofits. Finally, on the horizon is a series of trainings for the City of Bloomington MN, including a three hour evening event (Gray Area Thinking™ plus Transgender 101) which will be open to the public. Nice! My entire schedule can be found here.
Lastly: The mailing list for this newsletter is approaching 1600 recipients. Last July, we started with 252 people. 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