Another reason to be proud of Claremont

By John Pixley

I almost lost it.

She told about getting a phone call early one morning, knowing it was from her son. It had to be something serious, she knew, because her son doesn’t like getting up early. She said that by the time she reached the phone a room and-a-half away, she had planned her granddaughter’s funeral.

It turned out that the granddaughter wasn’t dead, hadn’t been murdered, but such thinking, such worry, is typical for this grandmother who lives at Pilgrim Place, because this granddaughter is transgender and lives in Tennessee. The Southern state on the other side of the country, literally and otherwise, isn’t known for being friendly to those who aren’t straight. It is one of a growing list of states that have passed anti-trans laws.

The grandmother also related how the granddaughter had attended very conservative schools, where she was told such “lifestyles” were sinful. We learned about her granddaughter’s other grandparents who had offered to pay her college tuition if she didn’t use her new name. (The granddaughter didn’t accept, saying, “You can’t buy me.”)

As a gay man who came out in the 1990s when same-sex relationships were beginning to be accepted and same-sex marriage was about to be a hotly contested issue here in loosey-goosey California, I could relate. As a severely disabled person used to being stared at and sometimes made fun of, and who people constantly make the wrong assumptions about, I could relate. A bit. At least enough so that my eyes began to well up.

The grandmother, Elizabeth Moore, was speaking, remarkably enough, at the Claremont Helen Renwick Library one Saturday morning last month. I don’t know if her eyes were welling up, but she was clearly speaking with much emotion, with much concern, if not fear, for her granddaughter and also no doubt due to sharing in such a public setting.

She was one of three speakers on a panel related to the current On the Same Page selection, “This is How It Always Is,” a novel by Laurie Frankel about a large, rambunctious family dealing with the youngest child, aged about 5, suddenly insisting that he is a she. The other two speakers were a young Claremont couple, one of whom was a man when they had a child and then transitioned to a woman a few years later. They talked about what this process was like and how their relationship successfully and happily survived.

All the speakers were compelling and engaging, although hearing a grandmother’s fears for her granddaughter who is time zones away was most gripping. But as remarkable as this Saturday morning discussion was, as remarkable as this community read is in this time of proliferating book bans and anti-trans laws and violence, what was most remarkable was the audience.

The room was packed, and I could feel it radiating with love and support. When it came time for the Q&A, people jumped up, all but cheering, eager to ask questions, to get more information. Even when the questions were salacious, having to do with “What happens in the bedroom?” as one older woman cheerfully put it, they were asked with genuine curiosity, with a wanting to understand, support, and to know how to help.

It was easy to see why the trans granddaughter loves it here in Claremont when she comes to visit twice a year, why she says Pilgrim Place is somewhere “I can be who I am.”

As I left that morning, my eyes were again welling up. Or perhaps it was my heart that was swelling up. Or both. I felt elated — flat out elated. I was so happy, so proud, to be part of this community where this could happen.

I am just as excited to go hear the author of “This is How It Always Is,” Laurie Frankel, speak at the Hughes Center, 1700 Danbury Rd., Claremont, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 16. Go Claremont! Keep on, keep on making me proud!

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