Birth and Birthdays

It’s my birthday week! Yes, I was a December baby. For some people, December birthdays even closer to Christmas means that your special day gets blended in with the holiday. Some people feel a bit cheated out of their special moment, while others say it means at least their family has come into town for the holiday and can say “happy birthday” while they are there. 

So, what do you do for your birthday? Does it feel like a special day to you? I’ve had a great week celebrating my birthday this year. My kids and I had a nice dinner out. We decorated the Christmas tree after dinner. I also had dinner the night before and ate lettuce wraps. They were delicious—one of my favorite appetizers. I had another wonderful birthday lunch midweek with a friend and celebrated with another friend yesterday. I had the best spinach quiche with cranberry salad and poppy seed bread. Celebrating with people I love and enjoy being around has been fun. 

If you look up the history of birthday celebrations, you can get several different opinions on when the tradition began. It seems that around the late 1800s, middle-class Americans started celebrating birthdays in their families. We have some journals and letters that include details about a cake being baked or families cooking a special dinner. Friends were invited to festivities at times. Now, birthday celebrations can be quite extravagant, especially for children. You hear of parents renting out a gym or a special location and pay someone to cater the event and entertain the kids. 

My new interest has been researching how birthdays are celebrated around the world. I’m not going to talk about that today because I’m just now getting into the research. I don’t want to give out any information that I haven’t verified yet. 

I have looked up other historical examples of birthdays being celebrated. Many historians say that Egyptians were the first ones to start the birthday party tradition. Supposedly, though, they weren’t celebrating their actual physical birth. When a Pharoah was crowned, they became a god to their people. Their “birthday” then was a spiritual birth recognizing their new life as a god. Other religious groups also talk about being “born again,” but this rebirth is available to their members, not just a leader. The denominations of the Anabaptist, Moravian, Methodist, Quaker, Baptist, Plymouth Brethren and Pentecostal Churches along with all other evangelical Christian denominations have the doctrine of being born again as one of their core beliefs. Just as with the Pharaohs of Egypt, this is a spiritual rebirth. 

Many denominations also have “coming of age” celebrations. Jewish boys and girls celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13 and 12 in order to demonstrate their commitment to their faith  Rumspringa marks the time when youth in the Amish community turn 16 and are able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. In many parts of Central and South America, young girls celebrate their Quinceanera when they turn 15 years old. American youth celebrate their Sweet 16 birthdays. The Apache Tribe’s coming of age ceremony happens when a young Apache girl hits puberty, in celebration of her transition to womanhood.

Thinking about birthdays and births and rebirths made me think about all of the ways we change in life. I hear people compliment other people and say, “Wow, you haven’t changed at all since high school or college.” Their intention is to comment on our looks and imply that we still have our youthful features. 

I’m certainly glad I’ve changed since both high school and college! Sure, I’m greying now and have a few wrinkles popping up, but I’m not worried about that part of aging. What I am thankful for is the emotional and intellectual growth we all go through if we are lifelong learners. I look back on my life and see so many ways I have changed and matured. 

I’ve learned better communication skills. I grew up in a family that didn’t communicate emotions in a healthy way. I learned from others to either stuff your emotions inside of you or allow your emotions to take over and cause you to explode in anger at times. Regrets come with both of those choices. 

I’ve learned to be more open to diversity. I didn’t grow up thinking about the rights of others. I didn’t grow up thinking about others at all…what someone’s needs might be, what their hopes might be, what their life might be like. I didn’t study other cultures until my social anthropology classes in college. Honestly, I loved those classes so much that I wish I had chosen that as a major. Those classes were the first time that I opened my eyes to the world as a whole and thought about my global community. 

I’ve learned how to love and respect myself as I learned to love and respect others. I didn’t grow up liking myself at all. I didn’t care about my life. I didn’t even picture myself living beyond the age of 18 or 21. I just did whatever I needed to do to exist in the moment. I tried to do what was expected of me. I got married to a very abusive person when I was 21. We were engaged when I was 20. I thought he was right when he called me names and ignored my needs or wants. I thought I deserved everything negative that came my way. It took me a long time to understand that I didn’t have to let him define me. 

I’ve learned a lot about love and healing. I’ve learned about social justice and fighting for the equality of all people. I’ve learned how to listen to others. I’ve learned about grieving. I’ve learned about joy. I’ve learned more about forgiveness.

If we are lifelong learners and if we examine our lives and grow, we will see times when we change. Maybe we should celebrate these new birth moments in our lives. We should celebrate when we courageously discover who we are and live authentically. We should celebrate when we work to get through a challenging time and arrive fairly safely on the other side of the challenge. We should acknowledge moments of success and moments of healing. Birth of our self and who we are comes in many different moments. 

Celebrate who you are. You are loved. 

Remembering the Love in You:

Transgender Day of Remembrance

We will miss you,

beautiful you,

handsome you,

amazing you,

courageous you

the ones who taught us

to look past

what others misunderstand

and to look past

preconceived ideas of gender

and who found yourself

and declared your truth

despite what others fear…

We hear you,

those who were silenced,

and we see all that is good

and all that is possible…

You were full of possibility

and hope and love.

You spoke truth

to a world who refused

to hear your voice,

but those of us who did hear

will never forget the music

of your life that still

echoes through the hearts

of those who loved you,

those who hugged you

and hoped with you,

those who danced our way

through Pride marches

and those who sat quietly

with you seeking answers…

forever and always,

I will call your name,

the name you chose

and the name denied you by others,

I will call your name out to the world

and validate your truth

and hold on to your memory

because you were loved

forever and always…

—Chris Pepple © 2022

Let’s Talk About Our Identities

Greetings! Today, let’s talk about our identities…who are we? How do we define ourselves? On some level, this seems like such an easy question, but then again, we are complex beings that are hard to define at times. 

I wrote a poem called “I Am” that’s in my first poetry book. I have since written two other poems with the same title. Each poem is very different, but each poem is true. Writing down who we are can be a challenge if we try to look at all aspects of how we define ourselves. 

For example, are you an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between? I am definitely in between. I like being at home, being quiet and writing. I like long hikes and cabins. Yet I also love public speaking and teaching. I truly enjoyed being at Mythicon in Austin, Texas last month with my son and thousands of other people. That was an amazing convention. 

Are you religious or spiritual? Do you define yourself by a particular religion or denomination within that religion? Are you a sports fan? Are you a reader? If so, what genre of books do you like? Are you a causal dresser most days or do you really enjoy dressing up? Do you prefer dress shoes or sneakers? Would you rather vacation in the mountains or on the beach? Do you enjoy playing board games or video games or both? How do you like to wear your hair? Do you share personal information with several people or with only close friends, or are you a very private person? What career feels right for you? What’s your favorite food? Your favorite dessert? 

We can’t be totally defined in just a couple of words. There’s a lot of details that define who we are. Part of how we define ourselves is by our gender. That’s what I want us to talk about today. So many people want to oversimplify this discussion, but gender is as complex as any other aspect of our personality. Gender is like any other personality trait in that only you can declare your gender. 

No one can define another person. It’s not possible. No one can re-define another person. That’s not possible either. I’ll give you two light-hearted examples that don’t exactly line up with gender identity at all, but it can lead us into that discussion. 

I am a writer. I have a certain writing style. When I was working under someone as a writer years ago, that person tried so hard to redefine my writing style. She told me, “Stop writing with heart. Think like a marketer.” I left that job. She was a wonderful person that I still have so much respect for. She does so much good in the world, but she couldn’t change me. I took marketing classes and listened to her for quite a long time. I tried to take her suggestions, but my strengths were writing the magazine articles and interviewing people. People would call me and tell me how much they were touched by an article. I won a couple of awards for my articles. I hated writing brochures, though. It wasn’t anything that lined up with my skills. I couldn’t change my writing voice to line up with what my boss wanted for the brochures. I didn’t even want to change. I didn’t want to learn. I didn’t want to write brochures. It’s not who I am. It will never be who I am. I can write grant proposals, magazine articles, books, poems, writing guides. I cannot write a marketing brochure that fits into the marketing mold. She could. My boss was amazing at it. Her talent was evident. 

Going back even further, most people are shocked to know that I was once in the Little Miss Meridian Mississippi contest. Yes, as a child, I had my hair done by a professional, sat still for makeup, wore a formal dress, and danced on stage. If you know me now, you know that none of those things will ever happen again. I was a very active child, and in Meridian at the time, young girls didn’t have many opportunities to join anything to get out their energy, so I was put in a dance class. This led to me being entered into the beauty pageant. Side note…one of the older contestants went on to be Miss America. Back to me, though…that didn’t match up with who I am. That’s no reflection on other contestants. One of my best friends loved it. She stayed in dance for many more years. She always dressed more formally than I did. It was part of what made her feel like herself. I’m thankful I was eventually given a spot on a t-ball team and could wear shorts and run. 

If we acknowledge how different we can be from each other and how complex we can be, why do we try so hard to over-simplify gender identity? So many people say…male or female…that’s it and you are stuck with whatever gender you were assigned at birth. Do you really want to discount what else defines us? Do you not see how much our identities are wired into our brains? Gender identity has more to do with how we are wired in our brains than what’s between our legs or what organs we have. 

Think back to your childhood. Think back to when you began to know who you were. Many people were forced into roles based on their biological sex assignment rather than their gender identity. In many societies, we are told what colors we can like, what jobs we can have, what our household duties are based on what gender we have been assigned. Most of us realize now how crazy this is. We now have women in the military, men as stay-at-home parents, all genders teaching in college, all genders working as surgeons, as nurses…the list goes on. 

We learned that how we defined gender roles didn’t make sense. We were keeping people from using their gifts and talents. 

Now we need to step back and realize that we also need to reconsider what we think about gender identities. Just as we oversimplified so many other things, we did the same in this area. We have discounted that gender identity comes from more than just a visible part of our anatomy. Gender identity comes from inside of us. It’s deeply rooted in who we are, in how we think, in how we define ourselves. Why does that bother so many people. 

It bothers so many people that now many states are making laws against anyone who doesn’t fit into their predefined definitions of gender. My state is trying to pass a law that says children can’t even express themselves by the gender they say they are. It will be a criminal offense for parents to take their child to a medical professional to ask for help for their child who is struggling with gender dysphoria. Being transgender has become a criminal act in many states. 

Many of you may have been in a situation where someone tried to make you be someone you are not. It was often over something that seemed somewhat insignificant…maybe someone tried to make you play or watch a sport you aren’t interested in. Maybe someone tried to force you into a major in college. Maybe you were forced to read books you secretly hated. 

Can you imagine how you would feel if someone tried to force you to think you were a different gender than you internally knew you were? It’s not even comparable to any of the things I listed. We are talking about living as someone you are not. It breaks your spirit because every day you wake up being told that you can’t be who you know you are. You wake up feeling like your body is defying you by have an outward appearance that doesn’t match your appearance your soul and your brain align with. You wake up to a world that won’t even let you tell people how you feel. If you do, they might reject you and make laws to keep you from being who you know you are. This brings on an indescribable depression and anxiety for many people. Parents who walk this journey with their children see the pain and try to find someone who can help heal that pain, but parents are often told they are wrong as well just because others don’t see what they see and don’t understand the journey. 

Here’s what many people think happen with “woke” or liberal parents. They have a son who picks out a pink shirt. Then that son picks out a flowery shirt and wants a one-piece bathing suit. Misinformed people assume these liberal parents run to a doctor and say, “My son would look great as a girl. Can we do surgery so he looks better in that swimsuit?” Or a family has a daughter that starts to play football. She’s pretty good. She also wears jeans every chance she gets and hates dresses. Misinformed people think that the family runs to a surgeon and says that her life would be easier if she was a boy. Let’s give her hormones. 

That is so far from what happens…so far from the truth. If you took time to listen, you would see that the journey to a doctor is a long one. It involves denial first, usually. We just think kids are going through a phase or are being stubborn. Then it moves to frustration often. Parents don’t have answers and have no idea what their child is facing and why this is happening. We still don’t talk with parents enough about children’s development. Then parents see the anxiety and hurt in the child and turn to counseling when it gets more than we know how to face. 

Counselors, thankfully, have now studied and researched the complexity of gender identity.  They know that the brain’s definition of identity can be very complex. Children nearing puberty often need time to work with their counselors and their doctors before having to face those raging hormones and body changes that are difficult for everyone. Hormone blockers are used to give counselors time to let these children grow and develop mentally and emotionally so they can understand their own identities. This buys time for nonbinary or transgender kids to work with a team to help them make decisions as they grow and understand more. 

We use hormone treatments to work with many other kids. This isn’t something new. Kids with growth deficiencies take hormones so they reach a taller height than they would without the hormones. Young children with extremely early and heavy periods can be treated with hormones to manage this. Young boys with a condition that causes them to grow really large breasts can get breast reduction surgery. This is nothing new. 

Why are we fighting against transgender kids who need time to work with doctors and counselors and need to use hormones to do so? 

Why are you fighting this so hard? 

Why are you unwilling to listen and try to understand the reality these kids face rather than make assumptions about liberal parents controlling their children? 

You are causing harm by your beliefs. Is that what you want? Do you really want to harm children because you don’t understand? 

Your beliefs will force children to live with extreme anxiety and depression…you will force children to be psychologically and emotionally harmed by telling them they are unworthy of living their life as they know they need to. 

Buying time gives youth the chance to really study who they are. They can explore and learn all of the options about what is available for them as they grow. They can thrive when they live authentically. 

This isn’t a fad…kids are struggling before they even tell anyone they are transgender. This isn’t liberal parents manipulating children. These are parents seeking healing for the hurt their children live with. These are parents from all backgrounds turning to the medical community to help them understand the words their children have spoken…the truth they are facing. This isn’t a quick or easy journey. 

Be a lifelong learner…be a listener…talk to professionals…talk to anyone who is transgender and willing to be open…read books by parents and by people who are nonbinary or transgender…care enough to be informed. 

Let’s be known by our love rather than defined by our misunderstandings…

This blog post is also available on my podcast. You can listen on the site of your choice:

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so that I can say 

my name 

with pride


and standing before you

with my true self revealed


following the inspiration 

of those who have 

daringly gone before me

and claimed their identity

despite the taunts

you tossed their way…

who didn’t let the fear

of your hate

block their way 


 and here I am before you

inspired by my own courage

and loving me enough 

to live deliberately


no longer hiding

who I am

and now claiming 

all parts of my identity

loud and free

and choosing 

to love the whole of me


 and finally seeing

the beauty of my life…

Out of breath

from chasing dreams

Out of time 

for worrying 

about what your opinion means

Out of tears

from crying 

over your judgments 

and your fears

Out of patience

waiting for you

to understand 

love and truth

I am out

I am whole

I am loved

I am worthy


–Chris Pepple © 2022

Fruits of My Labor

Fruits of My Labor

I remember the first time

I baptized my soul

with the juice from 

the freshly picked blackberry 

that covered my tongue 

when my teeth broke 

through its flesh

and pulled the druplets

away from the whole…

I followed the new awareness

of the delight of the fruit before me

with the sweetness of a plum 

grown on my own land

against all odds as I 

learned to nurture the soil

and tame the tangle of weeds

that tried to devour my progress

and frustrate my soul 

as I worked to bring life

to what was buried beneath 

an almost unforgiving neglect 

of what should have been 

cherished as home 

and could still be 

the holder of hope,

and I remembered the witness

of those who taught me

to survive and to love

the feel of dirt moving 

through my hands

as I worked to understand

what I would devour

and what would try 

to devour me…

—Chris Pepple ©2022

The Dance of the Young Spirits

The Dance of the Young Spirits

I sat outside and pondered

all the lives lost and the grief

of all who are left behind

and I listened to the songs of the birds

floating from tree limbs nearby—

Mother Earth inhales my worries and fears

and carries them on dandelion seeds

that will become the hope for new life 

tomorrow—but for today

She exhales the very winds that

touch my soul on these grief-filled days

when sorrow lays heavy in my heart,

but as daybreak nears, I glimpse

a teacher’s smile and outstretched hand

calling to students who are rising

from the wounds they should never

have had to experience, but now

I see their spirits rise among us

and dance before us with a beauty

that only the forever healed can show

and they encircle us and call us forth

to be the ones to join them in

this dance of the spirits

and to sing their names as we move

free from their dance and as we

face the sunrise without them

and decide how we will walk

into the future with the promise

we whispered to them that

no more would have to join their dance

before their time and no more

names would be written into the heart

of Mother Earth who grieves all who fall

into her arms by the hands of another…

Can you see them rising into the morning

and saying their own names as they

move into their forever without

finishing out their todays…

I hear their names and promise

I heard their pleas…

—Chris Pepple ©2022

Losing our country one child at a time..

Losing Our Nation One Child at a Time

America, our wounded land,

where children’s blood runs free

when shooters take their lives away

hiding behind guns so cowardly

America, our wounded land, 

where store clerks and teachers bravely

walk in each day as front-line warriors

while others declare guns make them free

America, our wounded land, 

God shed God’s tears for thee

and weeps for the good 

that is becoming harder to see

America, our wounded land, 

where voices are raised for change immediately

and wise ones know more tears will come

because America is losing her dignity

America, our wounded land, 

where whiners declare their rights selfishly

but the Black and the gay and the “other than me”

are targets for hate and can no longer be free

America, our wounded land, 

I truly grieve for thee…

—Chris Pepple ©2022