Friday, July 31, 2015

Let the Hate Rest In Peace

Good morning, knitters! We here in Chicago are gearing up for the Chicago Yarn Crawl, scheduled to begin this Saturday. My plan is to show some leg at all of the stores in the hopes of getting free yarn...worth a shot, right? Here is a preview (and understand that almost ALL stores are doing awesome things for the Crawl...I just have a word-limit guide):

And for those of us trying to get through the stifling humidity, here are some suggestions for beating the summer at the knitting game:

Something has been bugging me this week. Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender over three months ago, and the ESPYs (where Jenner was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award) were over two weeks ago. Yet, my social media feeds are still full of memes with a message of "Bruce Jenner isn't courageous...the MILITARY is courageous!" or other messages of that sort.

See, I was an asshole once as well (on this topic, anyway). Back in college, a friend of mine told me about a mutual friend who was transgender, and the conversation went something like this:

"Omigod did you hear about Bob Slob?"
"No, why?"
"Omigod...he, like, went to Europe to have a sex change and now his name is Lisa."
"NO. WAY."
"Weird! Why would he want to be a girl? I never even knew he was gay!"

This of course was twenty years ago, but it was also at a time where validation had to come in three dimensions. Nowadays, you can say stupid crap like "Bruce Jenner puts on a dress and he's courageous?" and then watch the "likes" from like-minded people pop up on your facebook page. The flipside is that ignorance is completely exposed in this format as well. I realized the conversation I had with my friend twenty years ago was out of ignorance, and while I have never been a truly hateful person, I do see a lot of hate stemming from this issue. So I thought I would offer my five-cent tour of being transgender (I am not, by the way, but I used to date a guy whose sister was transgender, and many a conversation was had because the guy I was dating was still getting used to the idea of having a sister instead of a brother). Ready?

First of all, being gay and being transgender are two different things. Saying, "I have friends that are gay, and..." does not hold water in this argument at all. See, homosexuality is about to whom you are attracted. I actually think straight people understand people who are gay, to a degree. But being transgender confounds the minds of pretty much everyone who is not facing it.

Being transgender means your physical anatomy clearly presents as one gender, yet your psyche and your soul present as the other one. This is not just about dressing a different way; there are cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, and even tomboys (yes, some are accused of being a tomboy like a gender stereotype is an unbreakable rule), but transgenderism is not cross-dressing. It is actually the opposite; transgender people believe they are dressing up to please society when they are dressing as the gender they present, not as the one with which they identify. So this is way deeper than "getting some boobs and slapping on a dress."

Transgenderism is not something you can pray away any more effectively than praying away the gay. Or, as long as we are speaking outlandishly, imagine praying away being can't happen. I have a therapist friend in Minnesota (and yes, she is also a knitter) who specializes in transgender patients, and she said that in fifteen years, she has never had a patient that she thought she could "change back." People are born this way.

And it is one hell of a struggle. Parents are doing their best; you enter the world looking like a boy, but insist at a very, very young age that you are a girl. Of course, any rational parent is going to think this is a phase at first, or they are going to look at the rest of your siblings and think "He just wants to be like his sisters." So it's not like all parents come out of the gate with full acceptance that their child is transgender. There is a series of stages to go through, and like most other major life traumas (I do not mean "trauma" in a negative way...just big-impact moments), it begins with denial and ends with acceptance. Some parents never get to the acceptance phase.

My ex-boyfriend's mother...the one with a transgender daughter...said to me, "I still wake up on some days, wondering where I went wrong. I usually know better, but...I mean...I just think I must have done something different with this one than I did with his siblings. Her siblings." And the daughter was in her forties at the time; she transitioned in her late-thirties.

So now, we have a world full of children who are confused about their gender identity, and their parents are not jumping straight to acceptance (how could they?). If this happens at a crucial time in the child or young adult's life, like adolescence, the child may second-guess her existence. This is one of several reasons why the suicide-attempt rate for transgender kids hovers around 40%.

Pronouns are important. Bruce Jenner no longer exists, and her name is now Caitlyn. It is disrespectful to call her Bruce, or a "he," after she has told the world she wants to be referred to as a female, with female pronouns. It is also offensive to call her "gay," a "tranny," or a "drag queen." She is transgender.

I have heard people say "Bruce Jenner is just doing this for publicity." First, it's Caitlyn. Secondly, that is one hell of a life change to make just to get some attention and make some money. Step back a second:  Do you really believe that the Kardashians, and all of their manmade drama, needed to spice things up a bit by asking the patriarch of the family to get plastic surgery on her face and start taking hormones? Really? People do not even take marriage as seriously as people who are transgender choose to live their best life; nowadays, people go into marriage with an attitude of, "If this doesn't work, I can always get divorced." This is not only not an option with transgenderism, but their magnitude of surety on the inside is way beyond some haphazard decision. They are as sure as you and I are sure about what color our eyes are.

To me, this means that two out of every five kids who are transgender contemplate suicide because very few people understand their struggle, they receive varying degrees of support, and they are universally ridiculed by people who really are nothing more than just ignorant. But ignorant or not, ridicule can hurt like a bitch when you are too young or not confident enough to stand up for yourself.

Caitlyn Jenner was once crowned the "World's Greatest Athlete." She could have faded into obscurity and transitioned with nobody but a paprazzi photo or two catching her, but she recognizes that she has a prime platform for raising awareness. If you do not understand, then fine. But what if one of your female kids came to you and said, "Mom...umm...I know I am a boy. I don't care what my body says...I KNOW I am a boy." Your response (among other factors, of course) has a two-in-five chance of acting as a catalyst to a suicide attempt.

Is the hate worth it? I don't think so. Whether or not you understand it is not the issue. But how about we stop letting lack of knowledge translate to hate? Just an idea. I think someone coming out as transgender after forty years in the spotlight, espcially when he was an icon for manly men, is pretty  amazing. And if her speech at the ESPYs results in someone saying, "Thank you so much...I contemplated suicide and then Caitlyn helped me realize I was not alone," to open a dialogue with a parent, then I sing her praises from here to eternity.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Small Business: The Biggest Bitch EVER

Good evening, friends! I posted an article to my page this morning, which touched a nerve among my friends in the knitting community. More than that, I am actually hoping it is a wakeup call for some consumers, and it has been shared a few times to some key people who have a stronger voice than mine:

My job involves me catering to small businesses. I would like to clear up some common misconceptions that I hear when I am in stores. Not that it will make a world of difference, but maybe a ZIP code of difference is all I should shoot for. Humans have a funny way of relating when it comes to small talk; people say the same things other people say, but they think they are being clever. It is because, to an extent, there is a large pool of us who is equally clever. So this is what people say to yarn shop owners:

I would love to own a yarn shop and knit all day like that!  Dear customer, I (the local yarn shop owner) knit all day, every day! Just after I pay the bills, order products I hope my customers want, get the bags and receipts/printer paper/tissue paper ready, reconcile yesterday's business, organize the shelves so older yarns look fresh to you when you walk in the door, merchandise the more "seasoned" yarns, figure out which samples need to get made, find sample knitters, come up with new and different ideas for classes to stand out among my peers and competeition alike, and flip through every publication in the world so I am in the know on the latest knitting trends. Oh, and then I have to figure out who is going to drive my kid to soccer practice while picking up the other kid at clarinet, make dinner, call the husband and see if he can pick up toilet paper, leave a check for the cleaning lady, pay my personal bills if I have the money, and find someone to cover for me when I go to my niece's wedding next Saturday, since I only have one employee and she is obviously already here that day. After all that...well...that is when you see me knitting.

I would love to own my own business and not have a boss.  Really? Then do it! The world needs more of us, who are willing to take chances and dive into our passions! One thing,'s not for everybody. See, being the boss of absolutely everything means that I make mistakes and have nobody to blame but myself. Funny, though, when I succeed it is because of my employees, customers, group decisions on projects, and a strong community. Being a boss is tougher than it looks sometimes.

You're here all the time! Do you ever see your family?  Yes, I do. However, you see yours more than I see mine, clearly. It is a sacrifice that was mutually decided upon, and in no way reflects how much we love each other. So please quit judging and respect the fact that your family works differently than mine.

Thanks...I'm just going to buy this online.  Let me get this straight:  you came in here, looked a human being in the eye, told them that you window-shopped their store, and now you are going to get it cheaper online? What kills me is that you are going to be shocked...SHOCKED!...when I close due to lack of business.

Why don't you carry Malabrigo/Cascade/Plymouth/Claudia/HPKY?  Because I can't possibly carry everything. Just so you know, I buy this stuff, and then sell it to you at a higher price. That is how retail works. So I can't be a yarn supercenter; my finances depend on how much you and others buy from me.

Jeez, that is expensive! Yarn from Walmart is not that expensive.  True. But Walmart yarn is made of plastic, and ours is made of the hairs of really cute animals. Animals are more of a luxury than something that can be produced in a factory for way less money. Plus, it was hand-spun/hand-painted/designed/created by an artist, versus a machine.

Is this going on sale any time soon?  Well, I am not sure, but let me ask you something:  does it get prettier when it's less expensive?

This is just a few of the questions local yarn shop owners get on a regular basis. But because shop owners are polite, generous, and generally classy people, let me tell you like it is. Small business owners wake up in the morning after having dreams about things going wrong in their store on a nightly basis. Sometimes, it is shipments that come in late, or incorrect, or just somehow sub-standard. Then, they manage employees who make ten bucks an hour or less, with varying degrees of love for the business but certainly not the love that the owner has for it. They almost never go on vacation, because closing means making no money. They worry when the get there in the morning, worry all day even when things are going well, and then worry when they leave. They know that everything from the weather to red light patterns to a stock market crash can affect their business, and they only control a small part. They pour their entire lives into their business, and even when they can look back and see they are a success, they still see their failures loud and clear and tirelessly try and figure out how to turn those little ships around. They are married, with kids, and sometimes even have a full-time job. They are busy, smart, incredibly patient, and they really do appreciate your business.

And yes, sometimes they take it very, very personally when they do not receive your business. Especially if you do not give them reasonable feedback as to why. And the word "reasonable" here does not include you buying it cheaper online; they know you also have a family, but still would appreciate if you did your part to support theirs instead of supporting some nine-figure CEO.

They are the sweetest people ever. But they run the biggest bitch ever. Support them, for they have one of the most challenging jobs on the planet, balancing trying to provide you with something awesome enough so that you cannot live without it, and then in turn using that money to pay for tee ball. A bitch, indeed.