writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
April 2019 Vol 4 No. 4
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
Those who’ve heard me speak know that at the start of every talk, I make a “standing offer” to meet with any human (or talk by phone) for “up to one hour” (and I add, “I don’t check my watch”) to talk about being transgender, or a family member who is so, or to talk about anything else relative to surviving the Human Condition that has nothing to do with gender or sexuality.
I have made more than 800 standing offers, which corresponds with the number of trainings or talks I’ve given. In response, many people have taken me up on my standing offer. We always meet in a public place, or sometimes talk by phone and occasionally by Skype. On each occasion, I’ve been humbled that someone would value my perspective and opinion.
I have heard incredible stories of humans simply trying to make their way through life; however, often the stories are just plain inspiring, like the man I recently met who had suffered two horrific strokes and was told that he’d never talk again, let alone walk. Yet, there he was, across from me over lunch, able-bodied and extremely articulate. I came away from that meeting thinking of the gift—and reminder of human resiliency—that this human had just given me.
Remember, Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy taught that we have an obligation to be there for each other; to be the shoulder or ear for someone, to help lift them up in a time of need or despair. This isn’t voluntary, either—as I say, “It’s not something to fit in between yoga and take-out sushi.”
Please be open to others and lend them a supportive word or gesture. It may make a big difference to them.
And to you!
Be well my friends. I care about you.
"You Can't Just Love a Certain Percentage": An Adoption Story
Liz Smith, a single Massachusetts director of nursing, was unable to conceive through IVF. On the very day that Liz got word of her inability to conceive, she encountered a premature baby in the hospital where she works. That baby, Gisele, was born at 29 weeks weighing just under 2 lbs. and spent three months in the NICU on ventilator support, in part because she suffered from neonatal abstinence syndrome due to her birth mother’s drug use during pregnancy.
As reported in the
Franciscan Children’s Hospital blog
, Liz instantly bonded with Gisele and visited her frequently through all her complications and setbacks. “I went to see her every day,” she said. “It was kind of my reward after a long workday.”
When Gisele was 9 months old, Liz decided to foster Gisele at home; this would be the first time the baby had left the hospital and she still was using a feeding tube for nutrition. At this point, Gisele’s birth parents remained in the picture; however, their supervised visits became less frequent until they ended altogether and parental rights were terminated. For Liz, the question of adoption was a no-brainer: “You can’t just love a certain percentage,” Liz stated. “You have to give it your all.”
On the day of the adoption proceedings last October, the judge stood to honor Liz, saying, “When a judge walks into the room, everyone stands out of respect. But today I stand in respect for you, Liz, because you deserve the respect from this room. A birthing day is a miracle. But adopting a child from miles away is destiny. That’s what
brought you two together.”
With suggested tissue in hand, click on
to see Liz and Gisele interviewed on CNN and your heart will instantly soar watching Gisele thrive against all odds. Sometimes, fate overtakes to make things right.
Searching for Truth to Find Reconciliation
Stephanie McCrummen’s fascinating piece,
“The Keeper of the Secret,”
n the March 30th
details how 80-year-old John Johnson of Wytheville, VA, has a mission to identify the dozen long-dead white-color men involved in the last lynching of a black-color person in Virginia (in 1926; the victim’s name was Raymond Byrd; he was a WWI Army veteran).
Johnson, the town historian who has documented every single grave in Wythe County’s 54 African American cemeteries and who’s written a book on records of freed slaves, has spent the last 30 years trying to understand every detail in the killing of Byrd, who was wrongfully accused of raping the white-color daughter of a farmer for whom he worked. As Johnson gathered information, he’s encountered both white and black-color people who are still afraid to name names for fear of upsetting the Jim Crow pecking order.
As one man interviewed for the story reported, “The reason we keep revisiting this same topic [of historical trauma] is because we didn’t have the conversation before. As African American people, I think we shuffled around certain issues because we didn’t want to offend white folks. White folks didn’t want to offend black folks. But we need to talk about those old issues and get on some solid ground. Right now, we’re not on any solid ground.”
Descendants of Byrd’s killers worry about tarnishing family reputations if their forefathers’ names became public. That doesn’t deter Johnson, who said, “I want the history out there…I wish there would be some way that you could get those descendants still living to sit down at the table and say, you know, we’re sorry for what happened…’I’m sorry for what my grandfather or great-grandfather did.’ Don’t keep
(Original emphasis.) Tell people you know it. Admit it. I want them to admit it.”
Why is John Johnson’s work important?
Because, as a society, we cannot get to reconciliation until we first acknowledge wrongs. Many simply want to go on without having a conversation about how it could be that white-color humans spent hundreds of years legitimizing the subjugation (and worse) of other-color humans. Until that conversation occurs on a grand scale, we cannot begin the process of healing. Humans need some degree of closure and America doesn’t yet have that.
As Johnson summarized, “I’m the keeper of the secret. I’ve got the names and I don’t really right now know what to do with them before I die. And I’ve got to do something with them before I die.”
We can only hope that he does.
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Understanding "The Only One (or One of the Few)" Syndrome
Recently, I heard about a workplace that had created an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for team members of colors other than the white color. (Please recall that I now train that “white” is also a color.) In this workplace, one or more white-color senior managers regularly attended the ERG’s meetings. I emotionally winced when I heard that. Why?
Because it showed a lack of understanding about the difficulty of being diverse in an organization filled with whiteness. People who aren’t white-color need space to simply be present without having to adhere to the coding and rules of a predominately white-color system. Merely having a white-color person in a space that’s supposed to be devoted to people of other colors skews the dynamics, intentionally or not.
The same principle applies to ERGs for LGBTQ persons or women or anyone else considered diverse. Humans need their special spaces in order to find community and support.
Also, as organizations become more diverse, it’s inevitable that someone will experience “The Only One (or One of a Few) Syndrome” (an Ellie Krug phrase); the syndrome arises when a diverse team member becomes the first such diverse person (or one of the very few such persons) in the organization. In such situations, it’s important that leaders understand the explicit and implicit burdens being placed on these pioneering team members—they’re alone in facing systems that often haven’t ever had to account for a color other than white or a sexual orientation other than straight or a gender other than male.
Explicit burdens: Very often, the diverse team member is called upon to be the “face” of the organization relative to diversity, such as with public messaging (think the organization’s website or recruiting brochure) or with efforts to attract other diverse team members (such as asking the diverse team member to interview or taking to lunch/dinner a diverse candidate). Moreover, the diverse team member may be called upon to educate within the organization about what it means to be non-white or LGBTQ or a person with a disability; doing so can be both frustrating and fatiguing to the diverse team member.
Implicit burdens: Because organizations rarely train on diversity and inclusion when they’re still non-diverse, it’s likely the first diverse team member will enter an environment where team members will ignorantly say or do things that are marginalizing. Or, they may simply exclude the diverse team member from various activities—lunches, after-hours drinks, sports events. This stuff weighs on the diverse person and they likely will have no one in the organization to talk to about it.
Tip: Be aware of these burdens and ensure that culture leaders/HR/other managers check in regularly with the diverse team member to let them know you are aware of the potential challenges they’re experiencing. Ask what you can do to make things easier. Train on human inclusivity. And, do your best to hire more diverse team members without burdening the one or two diverse team members already on board.
Odds & Ends
hopefully once again reminds that we all have empathetic hearts; it’s just that for some, fear overtakes those hearts. Let’s get to it:
of a 4-year-old liver transplant recipient and his mother meeting the donor for the first time, teaching that humans can connect without any thought given to racial or religious differences. The donor represents compassion to the Nth degree.
Second Darn Wonderful (with an unavoidable minor beer company plug):
As Dwayne Wade retires from the Miami Heat, Budweiser decided to honor him in a unique way (all we see is a beer sign in the background). Notwithstanding the plug,
is powerful because it shows that some who are rich and famous also are compassionate and idealistic.
Gray Area Thinking® at a Time of Loss:
Here is a
video of Southwest Airlines gate agent Scott Wirt
singing a tribute to the mother of fallen Arizona State Trooper Tyler Edenhofer, a victim of violence. Our condolences to Debbie Edenhofer and the Edenhofer family for their loss. Thank you, Scott, for bravely exercising compassion!
A Police Officer’s Act of Kindness:
Last Thanksgiving, Yale, OK police chief Phillip Kelly responded to a Dollar General store about a woman shoplifting. When he heard that the woman, who was living out of her car with her children, was simply trying to feed her kids, he told himself, “The only human thing to do was to feed them.” He then bought food for the woman and her children. See the news report
. (There are thousands of these stories every day; we just don’t hear of them.)
Skateboarding Teenager Compassion:
story of how teenagers helped
a 5-year-old boy with autism celebrate his birthday by showing him how to skateboard. Yep, humans are wired for empathy and compassion, even at an early age.
A 226% Increase in Hate Crimes:
As most know, I work to make
nonpartisan and tout myself as a unifier, not a divider. However, I can’t ignore the
statistic that hate crimes have increased 226%
in the counties where President Trump has held rallies (see here). It absolutely does matter when our leaders use fear of “Other” as a political tool—many reflexively feel empowered to act with hate. My work around compassion and inclusivity is aimed to counter hate.
Bus Driver Compassion:
My thanks to Jaime Roth for sending
this video of a bus driver
going out of her way to help a homeless man. I love bus drivers because they see people visibly working to survive the Human Condition up close every day.
A Mistake GoFundMe and I Both Made:
Longtime readers will recall that I did a piece in the December 2017 issue of
about how two people befriended a homeless man and set up a GoFundMe page that ultimately raised more than $400,000. The entire story was a fraud;
here is a piece
about how GoFundMe learned from the incident. Hopefully, this means the chance of a repeat incident has been lessened.
A Nice Example of What LGBTQ-Friendly Medical Providers Do Right:
Read about that
Harvard Law School Library Blog Post:
I presented “Getting to Ellen/Trans 101” to Harvard Law School earlier this month; here is a very detailed
about the talk, which I really enjoyed reading! My thanks to Jennifer Allison, the author.
Speaking of Social Media—An RFP by Community Mediation Minnesota:
I’m on the board of Community Mediation Minnesota, which is working to spread the word about mediation/restorative justice throughout Minnesota. Here is a
RFP for a Social Media Consultant
to assist with all aspects of CMM’s social media programming. Please share with whomever; the consultant does not need to live in MN.
A Great Film Festival By and For Women:
For those in the Twin Cities, please check out LunaFest, which will feature eight short films by, for and about women—Wed. April 24 from 6-9 p.m. at the Riverview Theater. This is a fundraiser for the MN Peacebuilding Leadership Institute, which is committed to educating every Minnesotan on how to transform psychological trauma into nonviolent power.
to learn more.
A Community Fundraiser for a Transgender Youth:
about how a UK community rallied to support a transgender teenager who had been beaten for simply being herself. Once again, empathetic hearts trump hate.
An Ominous Sign for Transgender Humans:
is a call for “Conservatives” to not use pronouns that would affirm a transgender human’s true identity. As I teach in my trainings, pronouns can be either weapons or gifts; it’s so horrifying to think that a bloc of humans would intentionally weaponize pronouns. Why? Trans persons aren’t seeking anything other than basic respect. My heart hurts just thinking about this.
My 28-year-old daughter Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
where she reviews books. She also has an entertainment-book review website that’s fun and smart,
Snarky Yet Satisfying
She regularly reviews books on her blog; check it out! Her book pick for this month is
When They Call You a Terrorist,
by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele. Kate’s Take: “You may know these ladies as the creators behind the now famous #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and movement. But you most likely don't know their personal stories. Patrisse shares stories of her childhood, from being raised by a single mother to her first run-in with law enforcement. It's a story that demands to be told even if difficult to read at times.“
“Ellie 2.0 Radio” Podcasts/Shows:
My podcast/show, “Ellie 2.0 Radio,” airs on Twin Cities-based AM950 every Monday from 7 to 8 a.m. CST and can be live-streamed by clicking
. Ellie 2.0 Radio highlights various historical and contemporary idealists and my work as a “practical idealist” trying to change the world for the better. My April 8 podcast/show is about forgiveness/redemption and discusses The Forgiveness Project. That show’s Big Interview features John Anderson, an idealist who helped his greater Minnesota church host, “The F Word,” a forgiveness-related exhibit. You can access the show’s
60+ podcasts here.
Someone Else’s Podcast with Me:
Check out this
March 31 podcast
My Wakeup Call
with Dr. Mark Goulston where I was asked about the moments of truth I’ve faced in my life.
Stuff Worth Reading (assuming you think like ellie…):
Here is Zaid Jilani’s “
What the Struggle for Gay Rights Teaches Us about Bridging Differences
,” (March 19, 2019 in
), which details how human familiarity and leader messaging for LGBTQ acceptance can be a model for overcoming other “Othering” of humans. Also, check out this to-the-point
about how Canada’s working to end poverty by David Brooks, titled, “Winning the War on Poverty.” (Hint: “First, they don’t want better poor; they want fewer poor.”)
Here is my most recent
“Skirting the Issues” column
titled, “Sentimentalist.” Love the picture of the lemons! Yes, this May will mark 10 years since I transitioned genders. Wow.
Please Follow Me on Twitter—The Goal is 1000 Followers:
This year I have a goal of doubling (to 1000) the number of people following me on Twitter (it was 502 on Jan. 1; currently 581). Would you please follow me @elliekrug? Thanks!
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
ln early May, I’ll deliver a keynote at a conference on at-risk children, youth and families in Dillon CO. Later in the month, I’ll give Gray Area Thinking® training at the New Jersey State Bar Association’s annual conference in Atlantic City. Other venues next month include on-going work to train City of St. Paul and Guthrie Theater team members. See my Upcoming Engagements
Want to Support My Work Fostering Greater Compassion and Human Inclusivity?
My goal is to do more work in greater MN and other parts of the country where access to compassion/human inclusivity training is limited or nonexistent. If you’d like to support this work, please consider donating to
Human Ripple Works, Inc.
, a nonprofit that others have set up to fund my expenses (but not my fees) to do work in places/for organizations that can’t afford to pay for training. (I work with nonprofits or under-funded agencies for free or at a greatly reduced fee in these locals.) Thanks for considering this!
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.
Encouraging Open Hearts and Thriving Human Spirits
Human Inspiration Works, LLC: We make "inclusion" an action word