Jessi Hempel was the first in her family to come out. Not long after, her father, sister, brother and mother followed suit, each one coming to terms with their gender, sexuality and secrets from their past. An accomplished writer and podcaster, Jessi decided to tell her family’s story through interviews with them, mixed with her own memories. The result is “The Family Outing: A Memoir”:
When people we love go through hard times, we often want to make things better for them. We usually can’t. This is even more true when those people are our parents, our children, our siblings. Often the only thing we can do is love them enough to maintain our own boundaries so that when they emerge, we aren’t so angry at them and broken by them that we cannot be in relationship with them.
Jessi Hempel is host of the award-winning podcast Hello Monday, and a senior editor-at-large at LinkedIn. For nearly two decades, she has been writing and editing features and cover stories about work, life and meaning in the digital age. Her book “The Family Outing: A Memoir” is published by Harper Collins.
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Speaker 1 00:00:00
Speaker 2 00:00:01
You know, I think at this point in our relationship, you can call me Mo. I have. Almost everybody does. Why don't you call me Mo?
Speaker 3 00:00:08
Well, because to me, you're still Maureen. I mean, it's only been five years and I I think it's a beautiful name, but I know that you like Mo. And, you know, as a kid there was Maureen issues. So I'm getting there. I'm gradually getting there.
Speaker 2 00:00:23
Yeah, that's kiplin of people can't pronounce it properly, but, yeah, you call me Mo in our personal life, which makes it sound really intimate, but you can call me anything. What I am realizing and why I bring this up is names are important and the pronouns are important and families are important. And there's a big difference between gender and sexuality. And your parents are mysterious and your siblings have their own issues and secrets can be destructive.
Speaker 3 00:00:48
Are you talking about your own family? Is this your book? You're about to write your book more.
Speaker 2 00:00:54
I will. It's not mine. It's not that far off, though. As soon as I heard about Jesse Hampel's book, The Family Outing, I said, we have to talk to her.
Speaker 3 00:01:02
Yeah, so Jesse Hampel, I mean, she's super well known in the States. She's a writer, a tech writer. She's a senior editor at LinkedIn. I'm really curious about that. She hosts an award winning podcast, which is kind of like us with less awards. Yeah, well, she's done 200 episodes or more or whatever it's called. Hello Monday. Her podcast, it's weekly, like ours has recently become weekly. She wrote a memoir called The Family Outing, and in it she recounts how her entire family came out in all kinds of different ways. Herself, then her dad, her sister, her brother, and her mom. Like, she sort of comes out too, with this whole she suffered massively from PTSD and depression from this really spooky, horrible, murderer thing that happened when she was in high school. It was just anyway, it's all coming out in this book.
Speaker 2 00:01:54
Yeah, well, I've been here deep in the story for the past four days, and in some way it's the story of any family that carries secrets, especially from one another, and how those secrets can tear them apart.
Speaker 3 00:02:05
Yeah, well, Jesse called it the project. So she actually, as a journalist, she kind of like, interviewed her parents and her brother and sister and they kind of well, I'm not sure you've quite reached the end, but there's a really happy ending, which I think you can sense from the rest of the book.
Speaker 2 00:02:19
That'S the most amazing part of it.
Speaker 3 00:02:21
Sounds kind of weird when you say it that way. Mo.
Speaker 2 00:02:26
Kind of weird when you say Mo. But with no further ado, let us welcome Jesse Hempel. Hi, Jesse.
Speaker 1 00:02:33
Hi. It's really wonderful to be here.
Speaker 2 00:02:36
It's great to have you.
Speaker 3 00:02:37
It's great to have you.
Speaker 2 00:02:39
I think Wendy wants to ask you first of all about the professional part of your life, the journalistic side of it.
Speaker 3 00:02:46
Yeah. So I sort of joined LinkedIn and then there was a bunch of people there and they all said, Hi, sign me up. And I was like, yeah, busy. And I thought I was going to read everything. My husband's on it and posts all the time, and I'm on Twitter and he thinks that's futile, but he's on LinkedIn is it kind of like a grown up what is LinkedIn? Because you've got like a big job, you got twelve jobs, but that's one of them.
Speaker 1 00:03:10
Yeah. I love that you ask what LinkedIn is, because if you are, as I think we probably both are, people who maybe got on the Internet at the beginning of LinkedIn, it was like the grown up Facebook. It was like the boring Facebook back when I first joined, where you kind of put your resume and then didn't do much, and then if you were looking for a job, maybe you would go back there and then only some kinds of jobs. But the LinkedIn that exists today is, I think, much different. It's kind of moving away from being a social network at all. It really is a place where you go to discover anything that's relevant to your business or career. So any conversation you want to be having about your business or your career, there's a place to have it on LinkedIn. And that is why they would hire me a journalist, because I did not go into my career thinking that I would work at a tech company. Right. I went into my career thinking that I would write critically about tech companies, which I did for 17 years. I was a magazine journalist. I wrote for Business Week and then for Fortune for a very long time, and then for Wired. And I got to a point where it felt in media like this may resonate with you, it felt in media in the 20th century, like distribution, we all understood, you know, we knew what magazines and what television shows we watched, and we knew where we got our news. And what we were trying to do is always to make more beautiful things, more beautiful vessels for communicating information. But by the time I got to the middle of my career, that had switched. And at least for me, I loved magazine writing, but it kind of got to the point where I was like, okay, I know how to write the very best magazine article I'm ever going to be able to write. I don't know how to evolve this craft much more. But the distribution question is no longer understood. In fact, nobody can figure out where and how to find an audience.
Speaker 3 00:05:00
Well, except Elon Musk. Right? So you're not Elon Musk?
Speaker 1 00:05:05
Well, we'll see how long that lasts for Elon Musk. Lots of thoughts and opinions about that. But it felt to me like the social software. And here all of it twitter, Facebook, even Snapchat, and certainly LinkedIn. That was where we were learning about how you find audience in this next version of information and within the social software. LinkedIn felt like the healthiest one. It felt like the one where people go to have real grown up conversations and they are who they say they are and they know their boss may be watching, and so they mostly don't talk smack about each other, and that's drawn to that kind of healthy ecosystem.
Speaker 3 00:05:45
So maybe I should accept my seven requests for friendship.
Speaker 1 00:05:52
You only have seven because that's like a 1700 request backlog and you only know one of those people, you know.
Speaker 2 00:05:59
Yeah, I've been on LinkedIn since the beginning, but I only accept invitations from people who are in this business. Whereas substance, both Wendy and I write for substant, and that looks after the more personal, creative side of it. But LinkedIn, it's a place to talk to people who are in the same business.
Speaker 1 00:06:16
Well, and here's one thing you probably don't know about LinkedIn, and it's why I work there. It's why LinkedIn has 270 journalists it employs, working in nine different languages in twelve different countries for a certain subset of people, and not people who work in media. So probably not you. All not me. LinkedIn is the front door for news. It is where they probably don't go to the New York Times.com every morning, but they go to LinkedIn every morning. And LinkedIn serves up something called The Daily Rundown, which is a summary of all the important news articles and people talking about it on the platform. And millions of people around the world actually get their news from that every.
Speaker 2 00:06:52
Day, and probably more. So after the not so benign overlord at Twitter, people are looking for a place to go.
Speaker 1 00:06:59
Yes, LinkedIn's front doors are open for all those former Twitter users.
Speaker 3 00:07:04
So, Jess, we're going to move on to your book in just a second because it's so interesting, and I think we all sort of have strong feelings linked to secrets and parents and whatever, all of that stuff. But I just want to get you froze on CNN, because I used to be an anchor. I was a reporter on television for a gazillion years, and I still have nightmares. I'm sure Maureen was like, did live radio for a thousand years, but you actually froze for five. Like, there was 5 seconds of dead air.
Speaker 1 00:07:34
You all know what that means in a way that most readers probably don't, right?
Speaker 3 00:07:39
5 seconds is so long.
Speaker 2 00:07:41
It's an eternity.
Speaker 1 00:07:42
Yeah, it drove me to therapy. I was like, there's something I got to address here, because.
Speaker 3 00:07:48
So were you on camera? Were they, like, looking at you? And you were just like, yeah.
Speaker 1 00:07:54
So when I was so when I was in my early years in Business Week, and now we're talking like 2003, 2004, and Fortune two. You know, I love to write. I never wanted to be in the business of being behind camera. I never didn't want to. It just wasn't my calling. But I was working at a magazine that was, you know, 90% older white men, and I was one of just a couple of people under the age of 30. And so that made me, like, a really wonderful person for the magazine to bring out whenever they needed an expert, right? And at first, they invited me to be experts on things that I, at least passingly, knew about. I knew a lot about the Internet. That's what I studied. And they wanted an expert on MySpace or Facebook. I could be that. But eventually they gave me some media training and taught me to be an expert about just about anything they needed an expert for. Did a little bit of makeup, put me behind the screen, and I learned to say, well, Wendy, it's so interesting that you would ask about relativity, but what most people want to know about is what's Elon Musk's favorite color? And here's what it is. This particular day, I was really struggling, and ultimately, I think I was you know, it was probably a lot of people could identify it with, like, being in your mid twenty s and just like hitting a wall where you need to, like, grow up a little bit and figure out some stuff from your childhood. And for me, this took the sort of the form of I used to call it the emotional flu, but really it was just like massive anxiety, right? And I would just not do the things I should do. Who was a person who made every deadline and was, like, really reliable, just didn't prepare for this particular TV spot. And so when the question was put on me, and I remember it was about the location of the Olympic Games, which had just been announced, I've looked into the camera and nothing came out of my mouth. And I can just imagine the CNN producer in the back room being like, oh, my gosh, nix her. This woman is never coming on again. And I sat in that little green room.
Speaker 2 00:09:48
I feel that once you've been through that, there's nothing left to be afraid of. The worst just happened. Like childbirth, right? Once you've been through that, it's like nothing could ever bother you again. But then, of course, something comes along to bother you. All right, the book. So this is not only your memoir, or for lack of a better word, but this is your first book.
Speaker 1 00:10:08
It is my first book. And if you followed my career, it makes no sense at all, because the things that I write about are technology and business and then more technology, and then some business. And this book is a memoir. It's a mushy book about my family. And at the highest level, you can read it as an LGBT memoir, a book about coming out. But what I endeavored to actually explore in the book is interpersonal relationships in nuclear families and how we make space for each other to grow, which, it turns out, is just extremely difficult.
Speaker 2 00:10:42
Yeah, I feel that this story, people are like, wow, she came out as gay, her sister is bisexual, her brother's transgender, her father is gay, or mother is PTSD. But I somehow feel this is a universal story, if you follow me. I mean, it's about secrets, and like you said, it's about interpersonal relationships. And if they're fractured, it could be for any number of reasons. Those just happen to be yours.
Speaker 1 00:11:07
Well, the idea of coming out was an idea that I sort of entered into narrowly. I came out of the closet and people thought I was straight, and I said, no, I'm gay. But as I worked on the project, which is what I called this, and I can explain why I came to this other conclusion, which is that we are all born into a set of expectations, right? We all have parents who look at us the day that we're born and have hopes and dreams for who we'll become, and communities, maybe religious communities, maybe geographic communities, and those expectations aren't nefarious. Nobody is trying to box us in, but ultimately, we grow up in the world and we don't conform to those expectations. And the process of coming out is something that every person has to do in some way when they find voice to explain the ways that they are different from what the world wants of them. And sometimes it's very small, right? Like, one way that my middle sister came out is she was born into a family who prized music. My grandmother was a music teacher and we all played instruments, and my sister played the clarinet for ten minutes and was like, no, I'm a sports kid. Right? And my family did not adjust well to that. We don't do sports. Like, I really don't do sports, but Kaya was a sports kid, and that way of coming out counts. Like, any way that we have to expand the notion of who we can be is coming out.
Speaker 3 00:12:31
I found that so fascinating because there's so many things to talk about. My mum married a guy who was gay who was told that, no, you can't be gay because it's illegal and you're a pervert. So don't we can talk more about that because that was something you went through with your dad or your dad went through. But the thing about expectations is so true, because she was married for five minutes and that didn't work out. She was a smart, pig headed woman who then raised me on her own. But it was the sort of expectation that I am woman, hear me, Aurora kind of thing of the so I spent all of my time focused on my career and being a woman and having a voice and standing up for myself and all of that stuff that my mom had taught me was so important. And then I realized at some point I got divorced when I was in my early thirty s. And I looked around and I thought, well, there must be more in life to this. And then I finally got remarried, fell in love, got remarried, had a kid at 40, worked a deadline as usual. And now my daughter at the same age as Mo's youngest son. I'm trying to teach her that the expectation, it's okay. You can form your own expectations. Like, yes, I know you feel driven because your mom was so driven, but also find a man or find a partner, or find love, find acceptance, find who you are, because all of that stuff, it really matters. So I think our parents, they do want us to be happy, but they want us to be happy, as you say in your book. Like, they see happiness and we all have our own version. So I don't know, I guess happiness is different for everybody.
Speaker 1 00:14:00
I also think we exist in a time when culture is opening up and it means that the messages your mom gave you about happiness are probably different than the ones that you want to give your daughter about happiness. And I think that that is a wonderful thing. There are people who see the world and the glass is half empty, or even three quarters empty, and then there are people who see the world and the glass is entirely full. And I'm definitely the second I feel very optimistic about the moment in history and time that we live in. Because when I look around, I just see that all of the fracture is actually making room for people to be more authentically who they are, to go to the depths of who they are and explore that and bring that to the surface and find acceptance for that. And so probably the generation that follows your daughter will have even more room to be fully who they are.
Speaker 3 00:14:49
Yeah, well, that's towards the end of your book, you write that the young generation, like I can't remember what it was, but something that the kids will be better at being true to themselves, that we were better than our parents for the most part, maybe not always, and maybe our kids will be better than us. They're certainly more open minded in some ways or, you know, twisted, I would suggest, by social media, sometimes not LinkedIn.
Speaker 2 00:15:10
Of course, one of the things. So there are a lot of aspects of your story that resonate with me, and I'm not at liberty to share all of them because unlike you, my family, a large part of my family, lives in shame for no reason. They have nothing to be ashamed of. But I think my father was probably closeted until he died. My mother ended up in the same sex relationship with someone who was transgendered. My father's an alcoholic. My parents separated but remained close, never admitted to any of these were all dark family secrets that we suspected but never really acknowledged. Both my parents are gone now. Otherwise, I wouldn't even be talking about this, and I have no problem with it. I mean, I love my parents, and I have two sisters and a brother, and my entire family was fractured for those reasons and others that I can't get into right now. And we live all over the world now, and I really want to write about it probably for much the same reasons that you did, because it's fascinating and because these are extraordinary, wonderful people who've been through their pretty fascinating challenges. But there's no way in hell that my brother and sisters would want me to tell this story. And so that's where our paths diverge. And that's apart from the fact that you are a spectacular writer, I was also inspired and fascinated by the fact that your family came together to help you with this book. So maybe I want to hear about.
Speaker 1 00:16:35
That, as you say that about your siblings. I'm nodding. I hear that. And I still hope that you get to explore it in writing someday.
Speaker 2 00:16:42
Oh, I will. I just have to decide whether I want to lose contact with my family for the rest of my life.
Speaker 1 00:16:49
So this book is not it does not endeavor to be my story. Right. It really does endeavor to I always own the fact that it's my point of view, but it endeavors to encapsulate all five stories my mother and my father, my sister and my brother, myself. Basically. It goes back to in 2016, I wrote a story about my brother for Time magazine that unexpectedly, or maybe expectedly, I don't know, became a viral sensation in the United States. My brother was a transgender man. He had decided to carry a baby, and he really wanted to tell a story. I said, well, you know, I'm a tech journalist, but I am a journalist. Why don't you let me try to tell your story? And he said, okay. And so I interviewed him as though he were not my brother. Now, you can't really do that if you're a journalist. You know, you can't really do that, but you can aspire to do that. And when I turned on the tape recorder and instead of listening as his big sister, which mostly involved, I have to confess, like, jumping in and being like, no, brother, you're remembering it wrong. This is how I remember it. Just tried to listen as I might somebody that I were writing about for Fortune. I learned all these things about my brother I had no idea about. I learned that he had had a miscarriage. I learned that he had so my brother is on hormones. I had never really explored that what I knew is on hormones, but I learned that he had gone to a doctor and said, I want hormones, but I want to be able to reproduce. And the doctor said, oh, you're not transgender. Wouldn't get him hormones. And so he eventually had to kind of get them on the black market. And I just realized, oh, I don't really know my brother at all. I only know him in this one relational way. And so I wrote that story. It was really amazing for my brother and I. We came out of that experience much closer, and that was the precedent. The whole family ended up feeling really good about that story. So several years later, it is the spring of 2020. I am living in Brooklyn in a ground floor apartment with my wife and our new baby, and I'm, you know, working at a tech company, and I think I know what I'm doing in life. And then New York is one of many ground zeros for the pandemic. And suddenly, within a week, everybody we know is leaving the city, and all we can hear is ambulances. I just remember all the traffic went away sitting on the ground floor. The street that I lived on, 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, it was a straight shot. It was a quarter to the hospital. And I'd sit there, and every few minutes, there would be an ambulance. And then when the ambulances weren't going by, there were just birds. I'd never noticed birds in New York City, but there were just so many birds. And at some point, we were like, this is untenable. And so we was, like, late at night, and we decided we have to go. And we packed for ten days, and we put our baby in the back of our car and our dog, and we drove to my wife's parents house in Tupolo, Mississippi. And then, of course, we didn't stay for ten days. We stayed for months and months and months and months. And sometime toward the beginning of that, when I was living in my wife's childhood bedroom, I thought, gosh, everything I thought I knew about myself is not true anymore. At least not right now. And I had this very commercial agent in New York City. She's really good at her job. She called me up, and she was like, what are you doing? What are you doing? And I was like, I can't talk you. I'm depressed. Life is hard. She's like, You've got that mother in law to watch your baby. What are you doing? It's time to write a book. There are no writers trying to sell books right now. It's a really good time to write a book. And I said, okay, how about a book on AI? And she said no. Time for your dream project. What is the thing that if you were going to die tomorrow, you'd want to look back and say, I did that, and I said, well, I want to get to interview my family members like I did my brother for that time story. What if I pitched the project? What if I go back and I interview everybody about coming out of the closet and I try to tell one story with everybody's perspective? I try to get everybody to agree on what happened and how it impacted us, because here's a weird thing. We're in the middle of the pandemic. I'm really depressed. I've kind of stopped being in touch with my friends, but I'm talking to every member of my family every day. And if you had known us growing up, it seemed completely dysfunctional. There's no way you would think that these would be the people that I would choose to turn to in the midst of a global disaster. And she said, Great. We'll call it the family outing. I'll call you back in ten minutes. I think I have someone. She's really great. Suzanne Buck. You got to write a book, Mo.
Speaker 3 00:21:12
You got to write it. You got to write it.
Speaker 2 00:21:14
I know. No, I am. I'm writing it in bits and pieces, but I don't have that relationship with my siblings. My parents are gone, as I mentioned, and I don't have that relationship. And I get it. That journalistic. All right, we're going to tell it from this perspective until you interviewed them. We are so fractious because of my parents marriage and because of their problems that we've never learned how to be together. And I mean, I'm not saying it's too late. I'm just saying I'm not sure I really want to commit myself. What I'm getting from you, Jesse, is that it's a huge commitment, and it's not just writing a book.
Speaker 1 00:21:49
It is a huge commitment, and I will say I found it exhausting. And in December of 2022, what I can tell you definitively is I am so glad to not be writing a book about my family. Right. The second you have written the book, it was great. It was important. But not everybody was as welcoming as my brother. Right. My sister's reaction was, first of all, she's the second child. She's been used to me telling our story entire lives, and I always tell it wrong.
Speaker 3 00:22:16
And you're a control freak. Welcome to the club. Yes. And she had to get used to that.
Speaker 1 00:22:21
And she also is a person who's very private and who has dealt with a lot of the drama of our early family life by choosing not to tell anyone.
Speaker 2 00:22:29
That's my sister.
Speaker 1 00:22:31
And then I went and wrote a book where now she goes to work, and somebody is like, oh, I read the family outing over the weekend. I had no idea that you named your horse blah, blah, Blah as a child, and that is incredibly invasive for her. And then my mom, my dad, in true, like, older, gay white man fashion, was like, well, this is a great book, but there's not enough about me in this book. And my mother was the first one to sign on, was like, Absolutely, do this. And I said, Mommy, we had a really hard relationship, and this is not going to feel good at times. And she said, do it, and then I did it. And then she read the book and she said, I thought you had a happy childhood. I'm so confused. What's going on here?
Speaker 3 00:23:13
And yet you write that you and your mom thought all the time that she was, like, suffering from depression, took a note on you, and you were, like, less than perfect, and it was horrible.
Speaker 1 00:23:22
Yeah, it was totally horrible.
Speaker 3 00:23:24
And now she's your greatest supporter, and isn't she, like, counseling other people and making other people's lives better? Like, it just gets married by the end.
Speaker 1 00:23:34
Yeah. I mean, here's the thing that both of my parents did, which is why this project is possible and which I think a lot of parents don't get to do. Although, Mo excuse me, more mean, I haven't known you five years. Like, maybe your parents did this. It sounds like maybe they did. My parents reinvented themselves, right? They did the hard work of self reflection, not because either of them wanted to, but because they were forced into it when my father was outed and their marriage blew up. And as a result, they became different people. And I think that a lot of people in my situation, in my generation, their parents never were forced to examine their secrets. And I feel grateful, even though my parents, both of them were hard parents to have, but we had role modeled for us that deep self exploration, and I think it made us very resilient adults, and it made us understand that every single thing in our life can fall apart, and we can navigate that.
Speaker 2 00:24:31
I think also, for a lot of people who are not as aware of all the different facets of sexuality and gender dumb, for lack of a better term, that it's it's reassuring in some ways and inspiring that you don't have to have a heterosexual mom and dad, and you don't have to have that cookie cutter family. In fact, you know, who wants that? That there's joy to be found in harmony, and not always, but you can have the family unit now is completely different from what most people envisioned it to be. And that's a good thing.
Speaker 3 00:25:05
Does it even matter? Like you say, we've talked a lot about gender and pronouns and so on, but at some point in the book, you say, like, your brother Evan, who just decided, I'm Evan, and I'm going to change my name, and you're going to call me Evan because that's who I am. And why is it who I am? And you go into this thing about how maybe it doesn't even really matter. And I think a lot of people we. Talked a little while ago to Ann Marie McDonald, who's a famous Canadian author who's just written what she calls her queerest book ever. And it's a great book, and in it, she sort of says, what does it matter anyway? All that matters is understanding, compassion, love, which is why Evan was asking for so I don't know, are we heading there? I mean, people would argue that it matters what piece you're born with or what your pronouns are, but I don't know. I mean, does it matter?
Speaker 1 00:25:50
You have two thoughts about that? There is the fact that when somebody comes out and there's somebody who's close to you, it forces you part of your identity and your sense of self is based on your relationships with other people. And when somebody who's so foundational a sibling says, hey, you thought this all along and formed a relationship to me because of this, but I'm here to tell you, it's that it's really threatening for you. And so, so often, our first response to that has nothing to do with the person who's made the revelation. It is trying to digest what that change means for us, and it is uncomfortable. And I'm not terribly proud of this, but I came out of the closet. I was first. I like to point out I was first in my family.
Speaker 2 00:26:34
Here's Jesse. She's the first one that came out.
Speaker 3 00:26:38
Bravo. Here's your medal.
Speaker 1 00:26:40
Before it was cool. Totally oldest child. But I expected everybody to be lovely about it, and they did the best they could, and they weren't awful. But then my sister comes out as bisexual a couple of years later and announces it to me. And my reaction to her is kind of like, oh, come on, you're making it up. You just want to be like me. It's terrible. It's terrible. I'm not proud of that at all. And you would think then that I would learn from that. And so a couple of years later, when my brother said, hey, I am Evan now. Call me Evan, I would say something like, something kind. And by the way, from now on, the only thing I say is, tell me more. Right? Thank you for telling me. Tell me more. But instead, in that moment, I turned around and I was like, oh, Evan, I just saw you at Christmas wearing a dress. I think this is a face.
Speaker 3 00:27:30
Not very supportive.
Speaker 2 00:27:33
Can I ask you about Evan from a literary point of view? Because at first I had to adjust, and I'm sure a lot of readers do, too. So when you're writing about somebody and I'm not asking you, please explain to the nice white lady how to be more woke. I'm more interested in how you write about it, because you always refer to Evan as your brother, and Evan is Evan, and Evan was born Evan, although it took a while, really, for Evan to evolve, to be Evan. So when you're writing about that, it's the same way in some ways, I think when people were writing about, I can't stand her, but Caitlyn Jenner, I mean, back they say when she was Bruce, you do not go that route at all. Evan has always been Evan. And is that I guess I'm saying, is that the way you do it, or is that the way you chose to do it?
Speaker 1 00:28:20
I love that you begin by saying, don't take me to be the nice late lady asking, but in fact, like, that's what I was, right? I called up my brother, and I was like, the nice, white, very unwove lady being like Evan. And I you know, I tried to put it on readers in the name of readers. Evan explained to me what I should do here, and I couldn't understand evan at first because I thought, okay, like, 50% of this book happens at a time before evan gave us his name, when evan still was understood by the world, by his dead name, which I choose never to share. And a dead name I'm sure you know this, but for anyone who doesn't, a dead name is the name that a person who shifts genders and chooses a new name has before that name. And for the most part in the trans community, although it's always just a good idea to ask someone, it's rude and inappropriate to speak the dead name. So I was not going to mention it in my book, but I was like, how do I do this? Because my memory, my stories I'm sharing my stories on my point of view. They involve, like, three little girls, right? And we all have matching dresses and cute little blonde pigtails. And so do I go back and rewrite one of those people as a boy. And that was my question, and it was a very binary question, and my answer that I kept getting from my brother was very unsatisfying. He was like, just write about me as Evan. I don't know. Why is this hard? Just write about me as Evan.
Speaker 2 00:29:41
It seems he's been the least from the way I envisioned him, he's the least complicated.
Speaker 1 00:29:46
He's a Buddhist, maybe that's part of it. But he's just yes, he is the one who moves through life with a sense of grace. Like, he knows who he is, and he doesn't need you to know who he is because he knows who he is. So I thought a lot about what it means to center somebody, right? And in this book, if I centered myself, then I talked about my little sister, right? But what I was attempting to do for each member of my family is put them at the center of their story. So if I center evan and what evan is telling me is I was evan, then I'm going to try to just call him evan and to help the reader along. And I don't know if this worked for you or if it didn't, but at the beginning when I introduced Evan, I explained what I was going to do here, and I explained that I didn't even really understand it. And I tried to make the correlation to the idea of infinity. Like, can you really explain infinity, or do you just have to accept it? And when you accept it, there's the freedom that comes from that. So I just started writing about Evan as Evan. I steered away from any description that would overgender who Evan was and really steered toward describing exactly what I remember about Evan as who Evan was. And the funny thing about it was that I got to know my little brother differently and better. I would write these stories, but instead write Evan as the person who was telling me he was and be like, oh, yeah, that little kid felt really isolated in that situation. Now I can see that when I look back this way, I can see.
Speaker 3 00:31:15
That so many fascinating people in your family. I was really struck by how, I guess, how your dad today has come to, you know, way better than me. But it seems like he's come to accept himself, whereas early he felt like my dad did, that he had to get married, that it was against the law, it was a mental disorder. It was because I was molested as a little kid, so therefore I turned out gay. I mean, my dad had a version of that story too. We sort of know those stories now, I hope. And I hope at least in Canada and most of the states, is not true anymore. But reading about and realizing how true it is that until recently, men couldn't go out for dinner with another man without being saying, oh, look at the two birds having dinner together and walking a stroller with a baby in it, like 50, when my daughter's now 24. But for my husband to wear the thing with holding the baby 25 years ago, that was, like, borderlines. So it's changed. There's a lot of bad things, but boy, there's a lot of good things, too. So is your dad happy now? Is he going to write all the missing chapters where you didn't write about him?
Speaker 1 00:32:25
Yes, he is happy, and God help us, I hope he doesn't write the sequel to the book. It'll be very boring, I'll tell you that. But, you know, he is happy, and he worked really hard for it. And my dad is much more comfortable with sharing publicly than any of the rest of us are. And there are moments when I'm like, oh, and I think I talk in.
Speaker 3 00:32:47
The book about the butt cheeks on Facebook.
Speaker 1 00:32:50
Yes, right, like sharing naked pictures on Instagram. Right. But then I just stop myself.
Speaker 2 00:32:57
And no one wants to see their dad like that. Nobody does, no matter what.
Speaker 1 00:33:03
No, but then I think, well, this is a guy who didn't get to live the fullness of who he was until he was 50 years old. He was 50 when he came out. So any way that he wants to express who he is, even if it's a little uncomfortable, I support it. I really do. And we have a great sense of humor about it. He's fun. He's fun. Not like the older dad you would go to for advice fun, but that guy would definitely invite to every party because he's going to bring down the house.
Speaker 2 00:33:33
Jesse, what are you going to do next in terms of I mean, it's not like you need anything to do, but you've written a book now, which is very different from writing articles and pieces. Do you have another book in you?
Speaker 1 00:33:43
I loved writing this book. I loved it so much. I loved the writing part, which is not the part that a lot of people seem to love. So, yeah, I would love to write another book, and I don't know yet what it'll be about. This was an exhausting process in the best of ways, but I also have a four year old and a baby and a book. A four year old and a baby during the pandemic. I feel like I'm going to take a year and just read a lot of other people's books and maybe watch some bad TV.
Speaker 2 00:34:12
That sounds like a plan. It's been a pleasure meeting you. It is a pleasure reading your book for me for many reasons, and I'm just glad we really found you, because your story, believe it or not, as wild as some people might think, I think is more universal than anything.
Speaker 1 00:34:28
Well, thank you. Thank you for saying that. And, you know, in whatever form it takes, I hope that you write about your family because I would like to read it.
Speaker 2 00:34:39
All right, deal.
Speaker 3 00:34:40
Yeah. I used to think that everybody else had a normal family. I don't think there's any such thing, so I'm sure they're out there somewhere, the normal people. But the closer that you get, the more you realize that everybody's got stories and they've all got stuff to deal with and you writing about it. I think it was great. It was a great book and you're a great writer and it was a lot of fun. And you still have the old tattoo. I just got a oh, yeah.
Speaker 1 00:35:02
Go look at this.
Speaker 2 00:35:04
There it is. Wow. You're like a story come to life. Lovely talking to Jesse.
Speaker 3 00:35:13
Yeah, lovely. Thank you, Jesse. Thank you.
Speaker 1 00:35:16
Oh, thank you so much.