While audiences nationwide became acquainted with Sarah Tyler and her family following their appearance on Anderson Cooper’s talk show, I got to know them in a completely different manner: at church. Living in conservative Orange County, CA, and being gay men with children, it was important that my partner and I find a church family where every single person is welcome, which we found at Church of the Foothills. One of our pivotal moments as a congregation occurred when we learned that Danann Tyler would be transitioning from boy to girl, which prompted me to bring in a speaking panel from the Orange County Transgender Coalition to help educate our members.
As would be expected, having a child undergo such a transition caused numerous issues within the Tyler family, at school, in their community, and at work. Sarah Tyler graciously took time to share with me the journey her family has traveled, including not only the many challenges they’ve faced, but also the joyful child the transition from male to female eventually revealed.
Sarah, thanks so much for agreeing to chat.
I’m so honored you even think we’re worth writing about!
I’ve been impressed with how gracefully you and your family have not only handled what would be, for most, a difficult situation, but also how you then took that next step, advocating on behalf of your child and transgendered people on a national level. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable taking such a public stance.
When it’s your child being mistreated, simply for being different, it’s easy to become an advocate.
Many people may not be aware of your family’s story. First, tell me a little about your family, and what it was like prior to discovering that Danann was transgender.
Well, I’m a yoga instructor, and a bit on the liberal side, and my husband, Bill, is a police officer, definitely more conservative, and we have two children. I was always told I couldn’t have kids, but I’m the kind of person who, when told I can’t do something, immediately wants to do it. I knew that, somehow, we’d have them.
So your eldest, James, how did he come about?
He was a total fluke! (laughing) But Danann was planned.
Tell me about your pregnancy with Danann.
I was absolutely positive, when I was pregnant, that I was going to have a girl. I just knew it. But, in all honesty, I was rather hoping for a boy. You know, already having one, there were some benefits to having another, such as not having to buy any extra clothes, etc. Still, when they told me I was actually having a boy, I felt that they were wrong. The pregnancy with Danann felt entirely different than with James. With James I had no morning sickness, but with Danann, I was sick for the first six months. I kept thinking the doctors had it wrong, but then, at delivery, they told me that I’d had a boy, and I was like–cool!
What was Danann like as a baby?
I’ll use the male pronoun, because pronouns for transgender people can be tricky. But when Danann was a he, he was a really happy, calm baby. He was serene, loving, content–we called him our little Buddha.
When did you first notice that all was not as it seemed?
My husband and I took James on a trip, when Danann was two, and left Danann with a friend for the weekend, who had a young girl. When I went to pick Danann up, he was standing there in a dress, with nails painted and everything, and just looked so happy–the happiest I’d ever seen him. I was sure my husband was going to freak out, so I asked Danann to change. He started crying and got very angry. And from that day on, things were different. (more…)
For any of us who came of age during the 1970’s, the era was a pop smorgasbord of fashion, art, culture, and music. From the iconic John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, to the music of ABBA, to classic TV series such as All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Burnett, such references have not only helped define my generation, but have inspired in others an ongoing love for all things 70’s.
Actor/singer Michael Vaccaro is attempting to capture that spirit in a new web series, Child of the 70’s, which is currently fundraising at Indiegogo. An indie actor in such movies as Todd Verow’s Deleted Scenes and The Endless Possibility of Sky, Michael also won a MAC award for Outstanding Musical Comedy Performer, and has recorded two CDs, Archangel and Wait for Him.
To create Child of the 70’s, he has joined with friend and collaborator, Terrence Moss, as co-writers. Terrence is an independent writer based in Los Angeles who operates a website for longform content at www.terrencemoss.com, consisting of articles, commentaries, reaction pieces, essays, actor/actress profiles, and an ongoing short fiction series.
The two recently met to discuss this shared love of the 70’s, and how it helped inspire their new series.
Kergan Edwards-Stout: Michael, what is it about the 1970’s which entices you? Is it the music? The TV shows? Something more?
Michael Vaccaro: All of those–and more. It was a magical era. Look at TV alone. It was the best TV ever! I mean, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Carol Burnett, Bea Arthur, and Esther Rolle–and so many more. Back then, TV was interesting, smart and funny –and unafraid, just like the people who were coming of age then.
Edwards-Stout: That was your time, huh?
Vaccaro: Yeah, I was young and really cute, and I could get into clubs and drink and have sex with hot bartenders! You could dance and go home with strangers, and everybody was doing it and no one cared or judged. It was before we all started dying, and I remember such a sense of freedom and abandon.
Edwards-Stout: So you associate it with freedom…
Vaccaro: Exactly. There was a sense of achieving whatever dream you had. Take cinema–also the greatest decade. Actors and directors and writers were unafraid, fearless, raw. It’s all pretty much sucked since. And music? No can tell me there’s a greater album, an album that better captured the feelings of an entire generation of people, than Saturday Night Fever.
Edwards-Stout: With your new web series, Child of the 70’s, you’re hoping to capture some of that?
Vaccaro: I wanted to do something really fun, that brought back many of the actors that I loved from that time. I’m casting a few of my absolute favorites, though I can’t talk about who just yet. So many, deserving of attention. Look at the amazing resurgence of Betty White! I want to do that for a few of the people who helped make my childhood happy! (more…)