On Mother’s Day, If You Care About Mothers…

It’s Mother’s Day…time for all who have mothers to be guilted into buying florid, ornate greeting cards, wildly overpriced flowers, or jewelry chain store bling, so as to check off that box.

A time for some politicians, in a transparent act of pandering, to wax rhapsodic about the importance of mothers while enacting legislation that limits reproductive choice, gutting critical educational programs and funding, lifting regulations intended to address the impact of climate change, repealing the ACA, all while enabling children to be gunned down in school day after day after day.

If you care about mothers, support their right to make family planning decisions free from the threat of criminal liability.

If you care about mothers, make sure their children have access to quality education.

If you care about mothers, work to guarantee that their children will have a healthy planet on which to live.

If you care about mothers, insist that they can assure their child’s good health by demanding affordable health care.

Finally, if you care about mothers, scream at the top of your voice for sensible gun control, so that those mothers don’t end up burying their children.

Or you can just buy a card and call it a day.

Gratitude for My Imperfection

Love is love is love.

How blessed am I that my life is not #perfect.

I believe god loves…

…the disabled
…the LGBT community
…the poor
…the sick
…those who are in prison
…those of you who are perfect

I’m not perfect. I’m so flawed. But to those who are all that god calls us to be, be gentle with me. I’m trying.

Thank god for my frailties and imperfections, for they provide endless opportunities to be better.

The Sound of Helicopters

Let me be the sound of helicopters.

Let me be the person I needed when I was younger.

Let me be the shoulders others stand on.

Let me be of service to those in need.

Let me be filled with kindness, compassion, patience and humility.

Let me be grateful for my enormous blessings and privilege.

Let me be worthy of the bounty of my life.

The Truth About Autism

We recently began watching a TV series in which two parents learn that their son is on the Autistic Spectrum. They freak out. They cry a lot. They act like assholes.

Over the course of several episodes, they consult a specialist because he’s the best, then challenge him…like assholes…when they hear the news that their son is, indeed, autistic. They push their way into a school for kids on the spectrum and berate the director when she tells them the school simply has no openings…perhaps because the school wants to make sure it can meet the needs of the kids who are already enrolled. They eventually get their way, and their kid jumps the line…because his parents are assholes.

They hire a therapeutic behavioralist and immediately challenge her methods, then complain about how much her services cost, but ultimately everyone is happy because now the wife can stop faking her orgasms. Yes. They’re assholes.

It’s a TV show. It’s targeted at people who are 20 years younger than I am. The life lessons it seeks to teach are ones I learned a long time ago, and I can spot most of the conflict coming thirty seconds after the theme music has ended. So, it’s not my thing, and, also, it’s a TV show. Some of it is probably pretty accurate. Some of it is probably relatable. But most of the parents are assholes.

When we found out Allie was autistic, we freaked out, too. There was a whole year where I thought I could “fix” her if only I could combine the perfect combination of therapy, interventions, equipment and a rigorous home program.

This was in the 90’s, mind you. Before Autism Speaks, before the blue puzzle piece logo, before most people knew anything. There was almost nothing in the way of support, and for five years I went from doctor to doctor practically screaming, “tell me what’s wrong!” only to be told there was nothing wrong.

They were wrong.

Allie was diagnosed at 5. It took us 4 years to get an appointment with the only autism specialist in Philadelphia, and during those 4 years we tried to figure it out for ourselves. By the time we got in to see the specialist, she basically told us that she had nothing to offer us other than her seal of approval for the team we had cobbled together for Allie – the occupational therapists and speech therapists, the educators at the school we couldn’t afford but sent Allie to anyway, and the medical specialists (neurology, psychiatry), the behavioral specialist and the TSS and wraparound service people, the meds, the homemade equipment to address sensory integration issues. It was pretty much the best we could do.

Allie is now almost 25. It has already been a long road. She’s been so fortunate to have had outstanding, tireless advocates in the form of teachers and therapists and our dear friends who have loved her and supported her. She had 4 years at a specialized sleepaway camp for kids on the spectrum, and she spent a difficult year in a remote corner of West Virginia with virtually zero support from the faculty at her equine studies program, buoyed only by the amazing young woman we hired who became her champion.

Allie now works at a therapeutic equine program that has embraced her as part of their family, and where she knows and loves each horse as a dear friend. She works part time at a movie theatre. She’s in a book club. She’s the adoring owner of a ginger Maine Coon cat who is almost as beautiful as she is. She’s pretty amazing.

Of course no one rejoices when they are told their child will almost certainly struggle every day of their life, and no one jumps for joy when they think about how hard it will be that their kid is going to be different in ways that may profoundly impact how – or whether – others value them.

So, I get that these parents on this TV show freaked out, because, of course they did, and who wouldn’t, and it’s really dumb to get pissed off by a TV show that exists mainly to sell advertising and generate revenue, and no one ever watched a network television show and said, “that precisely reflects my actual life experience, without comedic or dramatic embellishment.”

BECAUSE IT’S TELEVISION, STUPID!

But here’s my point: People often behave as though autism is a fate worse than virtually anything else that could befall their child, ever. Worse than being blind, or losing a limb, or getting cancer. The fear of autism is so great that many people refuse to vaccinate their kids against DISEASES THAT CAN KILL YOU on the basis of a thoroughly discredited “scientific study” and the say-so of a Playboy centerfold model who got her medical degree from the University of Oh, That’s Right, I’m an Asshole.

My daughter has autism, and guess what? It’s no more and no less a part of her than her startlingly beautiful sapphire eyes, her grace while trotting her horse in a dressage ring, the earnest pride she takes in being a reliable worker, or her determination to lead a meaningful life. Freak out all you want, asshole TV character parents, but even though you aren’t real, I wish I could meet up with you when your TV kid is 25 and ask you whether you’d want him to be anything but what he is.

My Allie is everything I ever hoped she would be – she is hardworking, honest, kind, and empathic. She is loving and silly and a good cook. She has a frighteningly exhaustive memory and looks great in a Carhart coverall. She’s our Boops, our Lissie, our Rosebud. And she’s perfect just the way she is.

A Prayer for Possibility

What a gift is time.
Time to grieve, time to heal.
Time to grow, time to learn.
Time to forgive, time to be forgiven.
Time to get it right. Time to do the right thing, finally.
Time to become the person you always hoped you would be.
Time for gratitude and humility.
Time, always, to give our best and most fervent love,
And daily be renewed with all this beautiful world has to offer.
As long as we draw breath, there is time, and hope, and infinite possibility.
Thank you.

A Few Thoughts About the College Admissions Scandal

Dear Felicity and Lori:

When I was a college senior, we typed our applications on an IBM Selectric (if we were lucky enough to have a mom who access to one at work), and we used Wite Out to cover up the mistakes.

We wrote our own essays, we took our own SATs, and we ended up where we ended up.

And we survived.

We were blessed with friends who, with a most loving heart, recommended we read Frank Bruni when, during a rainy visit to Pitt, our beloved Beanie got a shitty rejection from the School of Her Dreams (Fuck You, School of Beanie’s Dreams! Like you would EVER have understood how miraculous she is!)

And we survived.

My kids did not go to USC, they did not pretend to be on a crew team, and we did not have $500k lying around for us to bribe some university coach so we could skip the line.

How did our kids ever manage to survive?

I don’t know, really, but one of them earned a Masters in speech and language pathology and now helps young adults on the autistic spectrum express themselves. One helps others with disabilities gain confidence and greater vestibular/sensory awareness through equine therapy. One hopes to help us better understand our humanity through the paleo anthropological record.

That’s what you do when you don’t live in Hollywood.

Love, A Mother Who Didn’t Pay $500,000 to Get Her Kids into College

P.S. Bill Macy, I thought you were better than that.

Twelve Things I Learned from Pope Benedict XIV (Or, Benny Fourteen Explains it All)

Pope Benedict XIV recently published an essay https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/…/full-text-of-benedict-… in which he attempts to explain the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Here’s what he came up with:

1. Teaching kids about sex education in the 1960’s lead to widespread violent porn that led to “mental collapse” which turned everyone into crazy sex perverts and also resulted in pedophilia being considered “allowable and appropriate.” (Hmmm…I must have missed that day in Criminal Law when they talked about how pedophilia is legal and all).

2. Vatican II did away with the concept of good versus bad and said that any assessment of behavior should be based upon “relative value judgments.” (Really?! Geez, most of the priests I ever heard sermonize were pretty clear about what they thought was good and bad, and pretty much EVERYTHING was bad).

3. Pope John Paul II (whom Michael likes to refer to as “J2P2”) tried to reverse that concept by coming out solidly in support of the idea that some shit is just evil, but no one listened, especially in the United States (sorry, Americans!)

4. The Church is the only entity capable of determining what is good and what is evil (sorry, Jews and Muslims!).

5. Since some people just won’t accept that FACT, however, the Church had to keep quiet about STUFF THAT’S EVIL, and this why they didn’t do anything WHEN THEY FOUND OUT THAT THEIR PRIESTS WERE RAPING CHILDREN (thanks for harshing our buzz, all you non-Catholics!)

6. Also, martyrdom is necessary and important. (Think of how all those pedophile priests have helped advance this cause!)

7. Allowing young men who are training to be priests to have regular contact with married couples and families with kids makes it hard for them to be committed to a celibate life and turns them gay. Showing them porn in an effort to desensitize their sexuality also turns them gay. Not letting them read the books Pope Benedict XIV wrote during his career? Also made otherwise heterosexual priests-in-training gay.

8. Pedophilia among the priesthood wasn’t really a problem until the 1980’s. (Note to PBXIV: You might want to read the Pennsylvania AG report, which showed widespread abuse within Commonwealth dioceses dating as far back as the 1930’s – and that’s just ONE state in ONE country. I’ll send you a copy. Trust me – it’s a hoot!)

9. Making sure accused priests were guaranteed some degree of due process under Canon Law made it impossible to convict them of any crimes. (Just like guaranteeing those accused under American law has made it impossible to convict anyone of any crime, which is why our prisons are empty).

10. When people aren’t religious, children get molested (ergo, if everyone were religious, there would be no pedophilia).

11. The only way you can understand the difference between good and evil is if you are a Christian. If you’re not, you have no standards of good or evil, you have no truth, and your life is meaningless. (That may explain why I shoot everyone who doesn’t agree with me, steal whatever I can get my hands on, and am addicted to opioids – oh, wait, not the last bit).

12. Back before World War II, Germany was a good Christian country, but now it isn’t. (Imagine what a non-Christian World War II Germany might have done to the Jewish population?)

So, to summarize:

Germany was a God-fearing, Christian country that enabled their leader to slaughter six million Jews and six million gays, disabled people, Poles, Gypsies, professors, socialists, and other undesirables. Then in the 1960’s, they showed kids porn and said nothing was evil, which turned priests gay, and, necessarily, pedophiles. Also, the United States.

And here I thought it was because the opportunity to exercise ultimate moral authority over those who, for centuries, have been inculcated to be mindless sheep might be especially appealing to someone who wanted ready access to children whose parents would trust them implicitly.

So, in order to stop abuse by the Catholic clergy, all of us have to turn Catholic, and do whatever the priests tell us.

That seems reasonable.

Thank you, Pope Benedict XIV. We are forever in your debt.

Millennials – I Love ‘Em!

Every time someone over the age of fifty (that is, my generation) opens their mouth to say something about Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 2000), it’s inevitably something negative. They’re spoiled and demanding. They’re snowflakes and need constant reassurance. They’re lazy and entitled. They have no respect for the generations that came before them. And, they’re ALWAYS on their phones.

As the parent of three Millennials who have introduced me to countless more through their group activities and friendships over the years, as someone whose friends’ kids are all Millennials, and as someone who regularly encounters Millennials in the course of my professional life, I call bullshit.

I’ll say it proudly. I love Millennials! As for all of those criticisms? It’s all in the way you frame the discussion. I don’t see Millennials as lazy, I see them as individuals who are trying to learn from their baby boomer parents that having a work-life balance is important. Both my husband and I are professionals who would no sooner have taken a gap year than sliced off a finger or two; rather, we rushed headlong into medical school and law school respectively, and we haven’t had a break in thirty years. Our careers have only gotten more demanding with age and experience, and there doesn’t appear to be an off-ramp or any realistic way to pull back without forfeiting the income we have come to depend upon.

Millennials have watched their parents working relentless hours, answering emails while on vacation and returning business calls well after the end of the work day, and the result is that they have learned they don’t want a career that allows them precious little time for personal pursuits. Is that lazy? I don’t think so; as a slave to the billable hour, I think it’s downright brilliant. If I could go back and recraft my life, I would think seriously about choosing a different job that paid less but left more time and energy for things that nourish my soul. By the time I’ve hit my hourly goal for the month, I don’t have much left in the tank to think about taking up a new hobby or learning Spanish.

I also disagree that Millennials are overly sensitive or are “snowflakes,” a word I detest. Instead, I see a generation who would like to treat those who aren’t White, Christian, American, heterosexual, or cis-gendered, equitably and with respect. Is that a bad thing? If you’re a racial or religious minority, or if you’re LGBTQ, probably not. I see Millennials as legitimately concerned about inclusion and fundamental fairness. They are the ones who shout for those who can only whisper, who gently chide their well-meaning parents about tolerance and respect for things they may not understand, and in so doing, seek to achieve something closer to a level playing field for all. I think that’s admirable.

And disrespectful? Well, if you want to characterize holding accountable the lawmakers and gun lobby for refusing to consider reasonable gun control, or putting a spotlight on the greed of Wall Street, as disrespectful, okay. I call it making asking adults to be responsible.

Here’s some other things that are true of Millennials:

• They are more likely to take gap years, and in doing so, come to a better understanding of how they want to live their lives. This means they don’t spend many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing education and training in a field that may ultimately not be a good fit.

• They are more likely to participate in mission trips, community service, or other activities that are outer-directed. This means that they are more aware of the hardships faced by the impoverished, the sick, and the oppressed, and are in turn more compassionate and more likely to speak up for those who need their advocacy.

• They are less likely to see those with physical and mental disabilities as shameful, repugnant, or the object of ridicule. Millennials are far more likely to be inclusive and respectful of those who struggle with physical handicaps or intellectual disability; the days of jokes about “riding the short bus,” and the use of the word “retard” as an insult, have greatly declined since I was young and those in the specials needs classes were called “SPEDs.”

• They care about the environment – which is important, since they are the ones who are going to inherit this planet and be charged with the task of cleaning it up. Thanks to my youngest daughter, I’m no longer allowed to use disposable straws, and forget about leaving the water on while washing the dishes.

• They’re innovative. Millennials are responsible for Lyft, Spotify, Groupon, Air BnB and Bark Box. They’re also responsible for most of the hottest online apps, such as SnapChat, Bumble, Tinder, Instagram, and Facebook. Like it or not, they’re digitally savvy and constantly improving how we use technology.

There are lots of reasons to love Millennials, so why do so many seem to hate on them so much?

I suspect some it has to do with jealousy, as in, “in my day, we walked to school in 6’ of snow, uphill, both ways, and so should you.” The misery-loves-company mindset has never contributed anything to the world other than resentment and bitterness, and for those dissatisfied with their lot in life, perhaps calling Millennials pampered snowflakes (rather than praise them for their insight and conscious choices) feels easier than considering whether our own decisions were the right ones (and perhaps they were).

It also has something to do with Baby Boomer Parents who have overindulged their children, and there are plenty of those who have in some instances raised hothouse flowers who can’t cope when faced with the realities of adulthood. But whose fault is that? Eventually, yes, the Millennial must face the music and “adult,” despite the shortcomings of well-meaning helicopter parents, but if you have a gripe with Millennials based upon what you think of as a lack of accountability, motivation – or, really, anything else – think about where the blame should squarely fall – it’s not on the kids.

For those who continue to insist that Millennials are the worst generation ever, however, I have to say this:

Look at the world they grew up in, and ask yourself whether that might have something to do with whatever it is about Millennials that you hate.

Think they’re sissies? Consider that Millennials learned at a very early age that at any moment, some lunatic could break into their school and shoot their classmates, their teachers, or they themselves, and that politicians care more about NRA lobbying money than the lives of children.

Consider also that they learned that in the space of a few hours, a gorgeous September day could end with the deaths of 3,000 innocents, all because of “religious” beliefs.

Consider that they have from a tender age, they have been warned about “bad touch,” but that the people they were supposed to be able to trust – priests and scout leaders, for example – could sexually assault them and get away with it. For. Years.

Consider that they learned that you can grope and harass and rape women with no consequence. Like. All. The. Time.

Consider that they learned if you’re gay, someone might tie you to a fence and beat you until you die.

Consider that the impact of climate change may threaten their very existence.

Then ask yourself whether they have good reason not to want to grow up.

This is the world that Millennials have grown up in. It’s a wonder they haven’t all committed suicide.

Millennials, a lot of us older people suck, we’ve messed up pretty much everything, and we’ve left you a world that is corrupt and hateful.

But I believe in you. I believe in your compassion, your sense of justice, the fact that you are unafraid to take on previous generations to challenge the status quo and demand fairness.

I believe in your ability and desire to do good works for others. I believe in your sincere hope for a better world. I believe that you are good and fine and courageous.

Millennials, I love you, and the rest of the world should, too, for it will be you that finally set us straight.

So Much for Keeping an Open Mind

A few days ago, Kassy Dillon, recent graduate of the Seven Sisters college from which I graduated had an Op Ed published in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “My Alma Stops Identifying as a Mater” (WSJ December 26, 2018).  In the letter, she chastised Mount Holyoke College for its handling of a recent kerfuffle concerning the roll-out of a new logo that many students found offensive on the grounds that it marginalized the transgender community.

By way of background, Mount Holyoke admits to its undergraduate program “any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman.”

After the student community – not to mention alumnae – spoke out against the proposed logo, the College took another look and ultimately decided not to proceed. A more detailed explanation of the College’s handling of the issue can be found here. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/communications/logo-proposal-community-response

Hence Ms. Dillon’s essay, and to provide just a bit more color, Ms. Dillon is an arch conservative whose opinions and online presence made her something of a lightning rod during her years at Mount Holyoke – and perhaps that was the point. By the time she graduated, she had firmly established herself in the Twittersphere as the “lone conservative” at a college that since its founding has been about as liberal as they come. That Ms. Dillon chose to attend Mount Holyoke may or may not suggest a desire to stir things up, which in and of itself is in keeping with the Mount Holyoke tradition; that she chose to remain there demonstrates – and she has admitted – that, for the most part, she was treated with respect and tolerance despite espousing positions that were offensive to many in the community. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/media/courage-be-right

The same cannot be said for those who commented on Ms. Dillon’s article. While I understand that WSJ readers tend to skew more conservative, I was surprised by the dearth of any serious discussion concerning the salient issue, to wit, how a single-sex college can arrive at a thoughtful and appropriate response to those who are not cis-gender (that is, those whose gender identity matches their biological parts)?  Having read all 127 comments to Ms. Dillon’s article, I can only assume that the answer is, “it shouldn’t.”

There is no question that the issue of gender identity has become one that confuses, upsets, and confounds many.  In my experience, many are uncomfortable or even frightened by those who are non-binary/non cis-gender, largely because they assume – as so many did with respect to gay/lesbian/bi individuals not so long ago – that the non-binary/non cis-gendered want to convert them, have sex with them, or overthrow cultural norms in an effort to upend civilized society.

Others object on the basis of biology or religion.  “It’s not natural,” I’ve heard people say. “It isn’t what God intended.”  Not so long ago, some of these same arguments were used to keep women and people of color from occupying any position of power.

As minority groups who in the past had been marginalized (whether because of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity or religion) fought oppression and began to rise to positions of leadership, however, many came to understand that those minorities were equally capable and deserving of the same opportunities traditionally held by White Christian men, and ceased to feel threatened by their differences.  To be sure, racism and anti-gay sentiment, not to mention bias against certain ethnic and religious minorities, is certainly alive and well in our country – in some respects, bigotry has seen something of a renaissance in the last two years – and there is still much work to be done before we can fairly and accurately state that all who call themselves American citizens enjoy the same rights, freedoms, and protections under the law.

It’s also true, though, that, gradually (albeit, far too slowly) we are becoming a society that has begun to understand that the existence of people whose skin color or sexual preference differ from our own tends to have little, if any, impact on how we lead our day-to-day lives.  The fact that my husband’s co-worker is a devout Muslim matters little to his patients who find him to be, first and foremost, an exceptionally compassionate, capable physician.  The fact that a female colleague of mine is a lesbian does not seem to have undermined her ability to provide caring, high-quality legal services to her many grateful clients.

And so it is, I humbly propose, with this newest of paradigms – gender.  For those for whom the non-binary/non cis-gendered community represents a challenge or a threat, I urge you to consider that finding oneself in such a community is no easy thing, as evidenced by the dismissive and contemptuous responses of all who commented on Ms. Dillon’s piece.  One person commented, “[a]dmitting transgender men will do wonders for the Mount Holyoke football team. It could use a couple of good tight ends.”  Another lamented that it is too hard to keep up with all the “labels” and asked how they were supposed to communicate with someone if they didn’t know what to call them?  [Answer:  The way you would communicate with anyone else – decently, kindly, and respectfully].

To those who pooh-pooh the notion that gender might be somewhat more fluid than originally believed, I ask, who would choose a reality in which one is virtually guaranteed to be summarily discounted and treated, at best, as a silly, self-indulgent, attention-seeker, and at worst, attacked as being a freak, or worse? Indeed, the comments to Ms. Dillon’s article (itself free of cheap laughs and unfunny barbs) harken back to the restroom debates of several years ago and tacitly invoke the entirely baseless belief that anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual cis-gender must be a pedophile.

Which leads us to the question of how Mount Holyoke, or any other single-sex school, addresses the issue of gender in a way that is true to its history as a place where the marginalized can pursue an education, without fear of persecution based upon something they cannot change, and which has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to achieve and contribute.  Most who commented had nothing but derision for a school whose incoming class this year had a median SAT score of 1400 and an average GPA of 3.85, simply because its administrators listened to their students and alumnae (most of whom, I can assure you, had a far different reaction than Ms. Dillon) and did the unthinkable – that is, they dared to consider that perhaps they had made a bad decision, and then attempted to correct it.

Mount Holyoke was established in 1837 for the purpose of providing a college education to women at a time when there were few other such opportunities available.  In the 181 years since it was formed, it, and other all-female institutions, have turned out women who have gone on to inhabit the highest echelons of power in business, government, academics, science, the arts, and virtually every occupation that throughout history has traditionally been dominated by men.  Graduates of women’s colleges tend to earn graduate degrees (especially at the doctoral level) at a far higher rate, are more inclined to pursue careers in STEM, are more active participants in class discussions, are more confident, and have a higher undergraduate completion rate than those who attend co-ed universities.  In short, women’s colleges (much like traditionally Black colleges) have done a very good job of preparing their students to compete and succeed once they leave campus.

Single-sex colleges have also been a place where students can shake off traditional societal norms and celebrate what makes them unique, and while many decry the notion of a “safe space,” who does not attend college with at least some expectation that while there, they will be afforded the opportunity to explore new ideas, and new iterations of oneself, in an environment where everyone else is doing the same thing, and is therefore less likely to be critical? Colleges are supposed to foster and encourage the free exchange of ideas in an ongoing discussion about anything and everything; what better place, then, to tackle the complex concept of gender?

I should point out that the dust-up that lead to Ms. Dillon’s article in the first place concerned the roll-out of a proposed new logo intended to communicate an openness and acceptance of those who do not identify as binary or cis-gendered.  As an aside, my primary objection to the new logo was that it was cheesy and pedestrian, but those who have perhaps greater intellectual heft than I found it offensive to the extent that it was exclusive of those whose gender identity is not merely a question of Male or Female.  All who commented on Ms. Dillon’s article dismissed the discussion that ensued, and the ultimate decision of the College to take another look at the issue, as nonsense, hogwash, the pap of elite liberal Dems who have abandoned common sense in favor of mindless theoretical navel-gazing.  In so doing, they deny the experience of those who come into this world with a biological identity that does not square with their psychological reality.  Why?

Because thinking about what it must be like to not fall neatly into one of two categories requires people to question assumptions they have lived with all their lives and potentially alter the way they behave, and most people – especially those who are closer to the coffin than campus – don’t tend to be very good at doing that.  We don’t like to have our perceptions challenged, especially if doing so triggers a level of self-awareness that may be uncomfortable – as in, are there some parts of me that do not feel exclusively male or female? Are there aspects of my personality that are at odds with what my gender identity would suggest they should be?

It’s always harder to keep an open mind, to allow for the possibility that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in one’s philosophy.  It’s much easier to dismiss out of hand the things that challenge our worldview, especially when they make us uncomfortable or force us to have potentially difficult conversations with our children, but these are not legitimate bases upon which to ignore the reality of people whose only agenda is to be accepted for who they are so they can then be left alone to live their lives in relative peace.

If Mount Holyoke, or any other institution, is trying to make it easier for the non-binary, non cis-gendered to do just that, I say, good on you.  It’s a complex topic, one that presents many issues, but none so difficult that they cannot be addressed intelligently, logically, and compassionately by those committed to equality. For all who had something negative to say about Mount Holyoke, go ahead and pile on – it isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.  Unlike Ms. Dillon, I’m proud that my alma mater stands, first and foremost for the rights of those who are most in danger of suffering behavior that is the result of ignorance and intellectual laziness.  Mount Holyoke has always been on the forefront of social justice – during my years there, for example, it made the decision to divest itself of financial assets that were linked to companies that did business with or in South Africa.  I was proud then, and I am proud now, to belong to a community that takes the time to muddle through hard topics, acknowledges that it occasionally makes mistakes, and is willing to listen to all constituents – even those who express opposing viewpoints.

It’s a shame that Ms. Dillon does not understand that the current, vibrant discussion of gender on campus is merely an extension of the philosophy that underpinned the founding of Mount Holyoke College nearly 200 years ago – providing a place where the marginalized and excluded were invited to accept “the challenge to excel.”  In America, in 2018, we should be pleasantly surprised and heartened when any person or institution makes the decision to be more inclusive and thoughtful.