We’re not gonna sugarcoat it - this week, we’re mad. We’re mad that every episode, there’s a new mass shooting to discuss, like some horrible version of Groundhog Day. We’re mad that politicians, even Democratic ones, don’t seem to be taking any action to fix it. We’re mad that a few extremist parents have been controlling the narrative and taking away books, lessons, and conversations from mainstream moms… like the ones who host this podcast! So Red Wine & Blue is calling BS and launching a new initiative called “The Freedom to Parent 21st Century Kids.”
We’re joined by our very own Katie Paris, the founder of Red Wine & Blue, to tell us more about this Freedom to Parent program. It’s going to involve fun events, opportunities to talk to other moms and ask questions, a Banned Bookmobile, and so much more. We can’t wait for politicians to address these issues around “parents’ rights”; as usual, it’s up to moms themselves to advocate for their kids. As Katie says, the real world isn’t gonna stop being real; it’s just a matter of whether our kids are ready to thrive in it.
After that, Jasmine chats with Chasten Buttigieg, our second-ever guest on the podcast! Chasten and Jasmine catch up about how they’ve been for the past two years, how much Chasten loves being a parent, and the new version of his memoir that he just released for young adult readers called “I Have Something To Tell You.” There are lots of ways to support LGBTQ kids in your community, like starting your own PFLAG chapter or just buying them a copy of Chasten’s book! You can pre-order his book or buy a ticket for his in-person book tour at ChastenWrites.com.
Finally, Amanda, Rachel and Jasmine raise a glass to the end of the semester, the future mayor of Akron Shammas Malik, and of course to women getting together to make change in this episode’s “Toast to Joy.”
This was the last regular episode before our 100th episode live event! If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you only have a few more days. The event will be happening on Monday May 15th and you can find tickets here. We also have a brand-new “I’m Part of The Suburban Women Problem” t-shirt for purchase! You can rep your love for the pod here. Thanks so much for joining us and we can’t wait to celebrate 100 episodes with you.
For a transcript of this episode, please email email@example.com.
You can learn more about us at www.redwine.blue or follow us on social media!
Twitter: @TheSWPpod and @RedWineBlueUSA
The Suburban Women Problem - Season 3, Episode 17
Jasmine Clark: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Jasmine Clark.
Rachel Vindman: I'm Rachel Vindman.
Amanda Weinstein: I'm Amanda Weinstein.
Jasmine: And you're listening to The Suburban Women Problem.
So we are almost at 100 episodes! This is our last regular episode before next Monday's live event with Heather Cox Richardson. We are so excited for this event, and I know our listeners have been submitting questions to ask Heather. We can't wait to dive into everything with Heather live on Monday, May 15th at 8:00 PM If you haven't gotten your ticket yet, you only have a few more days, so be sure to visit the link in the show notes. Or if you have any questions, you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So Heather was our very first guest and this week I got a chance to catch up with Chasten Buttigieg, who was our second guest. It was so fun to talk to him again and share what we've been up to since he was on the pod two years ago. And before that, we'll be joined by Katie Paris to talk about Red Wine and Blue’s response to the “parents' rights” movement. They're launching a new initiative called Freedom to Parent 21st Century Kids, because that's what most parents actually want. But before we get to all that, what have we been seeing in the news and what's been in our group text, y’all?
Rachel: Uh… shootings?
Amanda: Again. It's like Groundhog Day over and over.
Jasmine: It does feel like Groundhog Day, but in like the worst nightmarish way possible. Right?
Rachel: I'm just… I'm so done. And, and you know, I, I know you're a legislator, Jasmine. I know your husband is a legislator, Amanda. I am tired. I am a mom. I am tired of people telling me what they cannot do. In our house, the maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters. You will have consequences if you give me an excuse of why you didn't do something.
And this is what I am saying to the president of the United States, President Biden, who I do support and have supported and will support in the coming election. Do something. Lead from the front. We are done. We are absolutely done. And if you have a D next to your name, you need to go there. And maybe you're not gonna get elected next time, but stand for something. Stand up and do something. I think that the Biden administration has done amazing things on so many things. It doesn't really matter if my child is dead. And they don't even have to be dead. Let's talk about if they're not safe, right? To do normal things like go to school, go to a freaking mall. If we can't do those things, then we don't really have freedom.
Amanda: No, a hundred percent. We don't have freedom. And you can see that they can do it. They are choosing not to because we've seen them pass legislation. Anti-trans bills. We've seen them try and restrict access to the pills that we take. They absolutely can do something. This is a choice. Not doing something is a choice. And it is a choice that is leading to people dying.
And you have people like one of the first people that was on the scene, Steven Spainhouer, I might be saying his last name wrong, but Steven Spainhouer, who was a former police officer, a former Army officer, rushed to the scene in the mall in Allen, Texas. And he said “It wasn't mental health that killed these people. It was an automatic rifle. I'm a gun lover. I have guns. I'm a former police officer. I'm a former army officer. Prayers won't bring these people back. We need action in our legislatures.” That's what Steven Spainhouer said after he pulled off a mom who was dead off of her child.
We are sick of having her kids be target practice for someone who got an, you know, assault rifle. We're sick of being target practice. Moms… there's no safety net. We are it on so many things in this country, and one of them is guns, right? We're the last safety net as teachers, as moms. And if someone has a gun, you throw yourself in front of your kids so hopefully they can live. We want a different way of life. That isn't freedom.
Jasmine: Exactly. I was recently like, you know, scrolling through Facebook and one of my friends posted one of those like philosophical questions, like, “which would you rather have, a magic penny that doubles every day, or would you want a million dollars right now?” It's a, it's a compound interest question. And I actually answered that question by saying I know that mathematically the answer is supposed to be the magic penny. I get that. But the way things are going right now, I don't know that I feel safe enough to care about compound interest because I might not even see those days. Just give me my million now, because honestly, I could step out of my door and go to Publix and never make it home. Or I can go to the mall and never make it home.
We are all living in a moment in what is supposed to be a civilized society, where any given moment could be the moment where you just happen to be in the place where some person who has way too much access to firearms and tactical gear and all these other things… and I'm like, why do we even sell that to people?
Rachel: Thank you.
Jasmine: Like what do, what do you need that for?
Amanda: It should be for the military. I know. And they want to say, like, oh, this is, you know, this is their right. And they claim the second amendment. But the truth is, you're not allowed to have nuclear weapons. You're not allowed to have a tank. There's plenty of weapons you're not allowed to have because they are military grade weapons. Assault rifles are one of them that should be a non-starter. The only reason these things exist is to kill people in large numbers. They're not hunting rifles and they are not used in self-defense.
Rachel: Weapons of war do not belong on our streets. And that's what they are. And you know, I just want to point out, I'm so tired every time there is a shooting, the automatic response is “they're going to use this to take away your rights.” The example they always use is you need these rights and you need these weapons in case there's a civil war. Last time I checked, there's only one side that wants a civil war, and those are the people with all the weapons.
Rachel: So we should actually be extra concerned because yes, the people who don't want a civil war are, are the people who are advocating for reasonable gun control. Just saying.
Jasmine: “Reasonable” is the key word there. When someone says universal background checks, they're not taking your rights away. When someone says red flag laws, they're not taking your rights away. When we're saying that, you know, people who have shown themselves to be mentally incapable of doing other things in our society probably should not have access to multiple long rifles and handguns and tactical gear and helmets and all this stuff. Like that's not taking anyone's rights away. It's just common sense.
I'm actually at the point of not understanding because even the Fox News polls show that most people agree with this, even right wing people, except for the extremists. I'm actually not really understanding why we can't get something done because I feel like we're, we've reached a point in our society where everyone agrees this isn't cool.
Amanda: If you're not okay with a background check, you're not a good guy with a gun. I buy some of the “good guy with a gun” arguments. Then you're okay with the background check. All of the things, like you said, most people agree with. But the truth is, we're not actually that polarized from each other. So this is something that Matt Desmond says, who we're gonna have on the podcast soon. We're not actually that polarized from each other. We are not. We're polarized from our legislators, our legislators who do nothing, who refuse to act. That's who we're polarized from and polarized from them for a lot of reasons. Gerrymandering, voter suppression laws, a whole bunch of things. We have become so polarized from our legislators who are failing to do anything on this issue that this is how we got to where we are.
Jasmine: Yeah. I think that sometimes the GOP gets things wrong and I think this is one of those things–
Amanda: Just sometimes? Jasmine, you must be in a good mood today.
Jasmine: Yeah. You know, I'm trying to be nice. Sometimes they get things wrong and I think this is gonna be one of those issues where they're listening to the extremists and they think that the people on Twitter are real and not actually bots that are just like paid to, you know, put out bad information. And I think just like the abortion issue, I think they're gonna get this truly wrong and I don't think this is gonna bode well for them in upcoming elections. I really don't.
Rachel: Can I just add an asterisk to that though? We have to make it not bode well for them.
Jasmine: A hundred percent. We ought to keep talking about it. Like abortion.
Rachel: Yeah. The actual way, I think, to make it is for Democrats to stand up and make them say no to it, right.
Jasmine: Over and over.
Rachel: Mm-hmm. Put the bills out there. Make them say no. Make them vote no. And I think the President should do something bold. I do. Like, I think when in charge, be in charge, dude. Lead from the front. All that. I mean, I know it's cliche, it's all the leadership 101 like stuff, but, you know, make a bold move. I'll make an analogy to my very favorite TV show, Survivor. Like when you go and you're telling the jury why you should win the million dollars, when you are telling the people why you should be elected, tell me what your big move was. Tell me what you did. I mean, look, he's gonna have my vote because he's not crazy.
Amanda: It's a low bar.
Rachel: But like, hold the center. Show people what you did, the big move that you did. Not that you didn't do anything wrong, that you didn't rock the boat and don't hold the center that way. Hold the center by doing the big move.
Amanda: A hundred percent. Look at what's going on every day. It is time for a big move. Well past time. Like we are sick of seeing mothers dead on top of their children. We're sick of seeing the craziness, you know, of North Carolina passing the 12 week abortion ban like this. And it's craziness after craziness after craziness. And we need people to make big, bold moves to put an end to it. And I mean, like that's what moms do, right? If you can't handle a toy or you're hitting your brother or sister with it, guess what? It gets taken away. We know this. You have to handle this. You can't let stuff go. You have to address it right away, or we're just gonna keep seeing this type of stuff.
Jasmine: Yeah. We do, we do need to talk about what they're doing wrong, but we also need to talk about what we want to do, what we are doing. In Georgia, we have several gun bills out there and they won't give them hearings. And so, you know what we do? We have press conferences about how we're not getting hearings. We all are signing on to a letter that's gonna ask for a special session. But the governor has to call that. We can't call our own special session. He has to do it. So, you know, we, we need to address this and we need to address it now because it's dire. We have more mass shooting than days in the year at this point.
Rachel: 199. Like we've gone to war for far less.
Jasmine: Yes, exactly.
Rachel: The fact that we just put up with this, we do not have to, it is taking a toll on our mental health. And that's another thing that now the Republicans really want to talk about, mental health.
Amanda: Mm-hmm. Sure they do.
Rachel: I mean, thank you for wanting to have that conversation now, then let's have that conversation. Let's have a conversation about your record on supporting mental health.
Amanda: And the Affordable Care Act.
Jasmine: They don’t.
Amanda: Exactly. No, it's ridiculous.
Rachel: Not, not to be too personal about my family's situation, but, you know, we moved and, and I have a 12 year old, it's a tough year, and, and she goes to a therapist. We spend well over a thousand dollars a month on her therapy. And it is extreme privilege that I am able to do that, that I have found someone that she can see in person and, and we have to pay out of pocket for that. That is not something that everyone can do. And frankly, it's not something that everyone can do to find the time to take their child to therapy, because that is also quite difficult. Right? I'm not gonna say she's not deserving. She is deserving, but she also has a lot of support at home. But we do not make it available to everyone who needs it. So let's talk about your record on mental health and do you want to talk about it now? That's a good time. Let's, let's actually pass the legislation and make this easier right now.
Amanda: Right now. Well, and, and they've done worse than that. They've actually put bills forward to take it away from kids. When you talk about trans kids, they're actually banning mental healthcare from trans kids. So you can't say you care about mental healthcare when you're actually taking it away from some kids.
But I think we've also seen such a lack of big moves, right? Like you were talking about big moves from the President, Dems, Republicans, like we just don't see a lot of the big moves that we as Americans really want to see. And I think some of us are left thinking, like, what can you do? It feels like you can't do any of this, right? When it comes to either shootings, assault rifles, or, and like for even for me, so we did a live with Jo and Jill and we talked about the debt ceiling. Why do we have a debt ceiling? No other country has this and the only thing a debt ceiling does is cause a bunch of chaos and Republicans use it to get what they want to really otherize a lot of people and take away a lot of things like food stamps from people that they have already othered and said they are not human enough to deserve food to live.
The debt ceiling is something that we could do away with. I think the president could do it. I think he could, but I feel like there's a lot that he probably could do. And we are at the point where… can he? Can he do that? I haven't seen a president do anything like that.
Jasmine: I'm at the point of just do it and, and ask for forgiveness not permission at this point.
Rachel: Pretend you're Clarence Thomas.
Jasmine: I know!
Amanda: The Republicans do it all the time and like at this point, the Republicans not only do this type of stuff and they do it in an incredibly corrupt way, but then you also have the Republicans do it as they're threatening to take down the entire country. They're threatening civil wars. They're literally threatening with this debt ceiling to tank our entire economy and throw us into a recession just to get what they want.
Jasmine: And it's all connected, right? I think that we like to think of these things in silos, but it's all connected and we've kind of talked about that connectedness a little bit. We're not… we're doing things backward. We're not investing in the right places. We are giving unfettered access to things that shouldn't be given unfettered access to, while completely trying to take access away from things that are actually needed or make it harder for people to get the things that they need. And what do you think is gonna happen? What do you think is gonna happen when you make it easier to get a gun than you make it to get food or childcare or a job or transportation or whatever people need just to feel like they can get through life? They don't have a thousand dollars for therapy, but they got $600 for– a thousand dollars a month for therapy–but they got $600 for a gun.
Amanda: I think that's a good point. I feel like the Republican platform, like I feel like a lot of moms and a lot of parents were like, “holy cow, we don't have the resources in this country that I need as a parent. Help.” And I feel like the Republicans are like, “oh, let me parent for you. Let me make decisions for you as a parent, and how's that help?” And we're like, “No, that's not, yes, I want you to help. I need you to help support me so that I can be a great caregiver and that I can be a great parent.” And that is what they have a hard time with, is how do we support the caregiver so that they can have the freedom to make the choices they want as parents. They want to make the choices for us as parents.
Jasmine: And I think that's actually really a good time for us to bring on our Troublemaker of the day. Katie Paris is the founder of Red Wine and Blue, and she's here to tell us about the Freedom to Parent 21st Century Kids. Hi Katie, thanks for joining us! It's been a little while since we've had you on the pod, so how are you?
Katie: I mean, just missing you guys every day out there causing trouble, wondering when I'm gonna get back on the Suburban Women Problem! For real, you guys, it's so good to see you. I listen every single week and I just… thank you. You guys listen so well to what you're hearing out there from other moms and women. And I hear all the time you know, out here in the states, talking to women, how they are listening and how much it means to folks to hear your conversations or sharing the podcast to help other women understand issues that you guys are tackling and just really appreciate how you break things down and talk about it in language people actually use to talk about issues, you know, rather than over people's heads. And so appreciate everything you're doing.
Amanda: Aw. Who wouldn't love us? I mean, except for every Republican, but other than that…
Jasmine: The people who see us as a “problem”!
Katie: That's right.
Jasmine: All right. So as you know, we talk a lot on the pod about these so-called “parents’ rights” groups, and your new Freedom to Parent initiative is all about mainstream moms calling BS. So could you tell us more about the freedom to parent?
Katie: Okay. This “parents rights” thing, you guys, it's completely out of control.
Jasmine: It is.
Katie: It is causing chaos all across the country. I know that you all see it because you don't live in places like Washington DC. You are in Ohio, you're in Georgia, you are in Florida, and you are seeing the chaos that this is wreaking in our communities, the problems it is causing for our children who are stressed out enough and so are we as parents. They think, these extremist politicians think they have their golden ticket with parents' rights. So it doesn't matter whether they are talking about trying to limit what our kids can read and learn, it doesn't matter if they are talking about refusing to do anything to keep our kids safe from guns. It's the exact same people talking about parents' rights. I want to know about my right to be able to send my kid to school knowing they're actually gonna be safe.
They're even doing this on reproductive rights now. They think it's their golden ticket. They say somehow if we give people reproductive freedom, that you know, that's gonna undermine my parental rights to be able to make decisions with my daughter. Well, guess what? There won't be any decisions available to your daughter if you all get away with taking away our rights, our freedoms as parents who are really trying hard out here.
These are complicated times, these are complex times, and what we need is to be supporting each other in navigating this complicated terrain. And what we need is our freedom, our freedom for all parents, not just some parents to say “my rights, my rights get to trump everybody else. And my decision should be the same as for everyone else.” Every parent in these complicated times needs the freedom to decide what's best for their kid, to ensure the safety of their children, and to make sure they can get set up for success. To be prepared for the 21st century, to be prepared for a diverse and changing world. And we know that this is how mainstream parents feel and we know that they're sick and tired of hearing this so-called “parents' rights” idea being paraded around as though it represents all parents. And, and so we are giving voice to those mainstream parents who've had enough who see the effects of this. And they're not gonna be silent anymore. So we're declaring our freedom to parent for our 21st century kids.
Rachel: Here here.
Katie: We have done it before. I think that we need our political leaders who do share our values to grow some spines here. To speak up. To not be like, “oh, they're talking about parents rights. So that must mean we don't want to ruffle the feathers of parents.” I'm like, what parents? We're over here! Can you please speak up for us? But you know what? Jasmine, you're an exception. But in general, I believe the politicians, they don't lead very often. They follow. So we have got to show the way.
Rachel: Right. Katie, you're gonna love this episode. You're gonna love the first part of this episode. It’s like you were listening in.
Amanda: Yes. You want leaders to lead. Shocking.
Rachel: I know! I know. Well, this is the thing, you weren't listening, but these are not ideas that exist in a vacuum. These are actually popular ideas and we're telling people what we need to do.
And you know, we, we talk about on the podcast, you know, for some reason politicians have not been talking about this or they don't know how to talk about this. Kimberlé Crenshaw even recently said, “This isn't even a culture war. It's a drive-by and the other side isn't fighting at all.”
Katie: That hits hard.
Rachel: Why do you think they're not talking about it? We know that they need to, but why are they not?
Katie: They want to talk about the issues that they always have. They feel like that's safe political terrain. And hey, I'm not here to tell you that social security and Medicare are not super important. Keep talking about that. But you also gotta talk about the things that are showing up in our day-to-day lives.
Amanda: We're here! We're here!
Katie: We’re here! Exactly! But we have seen… there's a pattern here, right? Like it was not much more than a year ago when we couldn't get pretty much any of our leaders at a state or national level to talk about this whole rampant book banning that's going on all across the country. Well, President Biden talked about book bans when he announced his reelection campaign for president a couple weeks ago. I was like, oh, okay. So we have made some progress here.
So you know, you could say the same thing on reproductive rights. There weren't that many politicians who support our freedoms, who are talking about it that much. Then Dobbs happened, Roe v Wade gets overturned, and the people erupt and they follow. Cause they do want to meet that zeitgeist moment. But I think because they often, because of their circumstances, because of where they live, they are disconnected from the realities on the ground. So we just have to get louder. We have to make it impossible to ignore.
So that's what this Freedom to Parent campaign is. We're gonna be providing parents who join us with a whole lot of resources. We're recognizing that this is complex terrain and a lot of these issues are new. I mean, when I was coming up through school, we weren't talking about a lot of this stuff. That doesn't mean it wasn't there, but it, you know, things have changed and I need, I need better language. I need to be talking to other moms who are asking questions and a safe space to, you know, ask questions that I can feel not judged. So we're gonna be providing that for people.
We're gonna be having all kinds of virtual events and even in-person events where we can have those safe spaces, people can ask questions. We are going to be having our banned book club meetings and our little banned book club we're launching so that parents with school-aged kids can have a place to talk about some of these books that are getting banned for younger kids. We are gonna be launching banned book mobiles this summer, y'all it's gonna be great, into these communities where the book bans are coming. We're gonna be, you know, lovingly bringing those books into those communities so people are gonna have those conversations.
And we're just gonna be providing a lot of education and resources for people who are understandably confused by what is going on on all these issues. We're gonna provide a lot of information through, you know, interactive events as well as just information on our website to get some answers to questions and then connect with our community. Cause, you know, that's what we're all about at the end of the day. Being there for each other.
Jasmine: I love that. I love that y'all have like this great game plan and it's multifaceted and it really covers a lot of bases. I also will say, along with being a legislator, I'm also a mom and you're also a mom, Katie, as well. And so I just wonder, how do your own personal experiences with your own kids inspire this work?
Katie: You know, one of the women I worked with has this line and I just love it so much. She goes, “You know, you think I'm scared. You want to mess with me? Try me. I'm somebody's mom.”
Amanda: Mama Bear's coming out. Yes!
Katie: And when you think about, like, “oh, well the politicians won't lead on this. I guess we'll have to, it's like, how are we not going to, you know? Just try to stop me from standing up for my kids.”
So y'all know I have young kids. And when I think about the future that I want them to be prepared for, and when I think about the expectation that I want them to be safe in school, and I'm talking about whether that is safe from weapons of war making it into our classrooms, I am talking about when it comes down to understanding the world around them, that not everyone is the same as them. They're not gonna be prepared for this really complex world that we live in if I can't count on having our teachers be my partners in, you know, providing for my kids that preparation for this diverse, changing 21st century global economy world, you know? Because the real world isn't gonna stop being real. I don't want them to be shocked. So we need to be in this together, making sure that they can be as safe as possible, you know, at, at every phase of their life.
Jasmine: I love that. All right, Katie, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. We always love having you.
Katie: Oh, it was so good to be with you.
Rachel: Thanks, Katie. Bye!
Katie: All right, love ya!
Rachel: You know, I remember I was very, very blessed to have parents and grandparents who, whether they said it explicitly, I knew no matter what, there was nothing that I could do that would make them not love me. And I always had that security, but sometimes I feel when Ellie talks about marginalized groups, she will ask me how I feel about things and sometimes I think it's like this little test of like, “What if I were different? What if I were this, what if I were that?” Because I never did things like that, but it wasn't really a conversation. Like we didn't, like Katie was saying, we didn't have these conversations when I was growing up.
When we take out like let's say DEI from schools and we've talked a lot about that lately, we are taking away from our children an opportunity to understand themselves, maybe, to understand others and to gain confidence that they can be around other people and accept them. And all those are really important developmental steps. And to take that away, like Katie said, really puts them at a disadvantage for a 21st century society.
Amanda: I can't imagine, even if you weren't different the way your parent was talking about someone else, if you hear your parent othering someone, right, whether it's trans, whether it's someone who's a different race or an immigrant, that even if you're not that thing, you still can't help but wonder like, “what would that thing have to be for me to where my parent would view me that way?” And if you take that away from schools, then that leaves them with very few places where they feel they belong and they are okay, even if they're different. Whatever that difference is. And it can lead to a really dangerous situation for some kids.
And even like the book bans can also lead to very dangerous situations to where it might be the only space that some kids even know what they're experiencing is abuse. Because they've been taught it's love or something else. And so even the very thing that they say that they're supposedly protecting children, you know, from pedophiles, they actually leave kids more vulnerable to all of that. If you don't want your kid to read a book, that's very different. But if you're taking it away from everyone's kid, now you are stepping on my toes as a parent.
Jasmine: I think it's interesting that you brought up conversations because sometimes parents use books to start conversations.
Amanda: I do all the time!
Jasmine: The same way movies start conversations. Me and Jayda sometimes sit down and watch movies and I don't always watch the movie first before she watches it. So sometimes we're sitting in the movie and maybe there's a scene that might be uncomfortable or it might be something she doesn't quite understand, but it starts a conversation. When you start to take access to information, you start to take away access to conversation.
Amanda: A hundred percent. I always use books when I'm like, “I don't know how to deal with this. I'm gonna go find a book.” Or I, and I ask on Twitter and Facebook all the time, like, “Hey, tell me a book like this.”
So I did it recently with… so I know there are a lot of, you know, that our kids are gonna interact with people that are different from them, and a lot of them are like neurodiverse kids. So they might have ADD, ADHD, or any type of sensory issue, and I just didn't know how to have that conversation because I have not had that conversation. I don't quite understand that. So I was asking like, “Hey, what are some children's books that could start that conversation and, you know, help my kids explain what that might be like to be in someone else's shoes and how they can understand that? And also how they can, you know, help if they need help and be more empathetic as human beings?” And isn't that the goal, whether you're talking about someone who has a differently wired brain, someone of a different race, someone who is, you know, an immigrant? To put yourself, as much as you can, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand who they are. Like that is what we want for our kids. And books do that, and every parent should have that option to give that to their kids.
Jasmine: All right, so now we're gonna take a quick break and when we come back we'll have my interview with Chasten, which is totally on subject of what we're talking about right now.
Jasmine: Our guest today is one of our favorite people. He's a dad, a teacher, an advocate, and the husband of a former presidential candidate. He's also the author of a memoir called I Have Something To Tell You, which was just adapted into a young adult edition. Chasten Buttigieg, I'm so excited to welcome you back to the Suburban Women Problem!
Chasten Buttigieg: Thank you so much for having me! It's great to be back.
Jasmine: So we've been talking on the podcast lately about how we're just about to reach 100 episodes. I can't believe it. And we're doing a live event to celebrate with Heather Cox Richardson, who was our first guest, but you were actually our second guest! I talked to you back in May of 2021, and that was actually the first interview that I ever did on the podcast.
Jasmine: So it's so nice to have you back.
Chasten: Well, it's great to be back!
Jasmine: So much has changed since we talked in May of ‘21. We were still deep in the pandemic, since then I've been reelected, we've also seen bills that attack LGBTQ kids sweeping the country. And most importantly of all, you have become a parent! How have you been for the last two years? How's it been for you?
Chasten: It's been a wild, wild ride. I, you know, I started writing this book over two years ago and then the kids were born, so that threw a little wrench in there.
Jasmine: The kids do that sometimes.
Chasten: Yeah. Keeping me very, very busy. And they're just remarkable. They're, they're so cool. They're like my favorite people in the world. I want to be around them all the time. I just, you know, it’s like you wear your heart on the outside of your chest, you know? Obviously DC is like a whole other thing, you know, political life, but dad life is just incredible. I, I love it so much.
Jasmine: So you just released a new version of your memoir for young adults. And unfortunately things have not gotten better for gay and trans kids in this country in the past two years. It just seems like… if things could get worse, they just keep getting worse. So could you tell our listeners more about your memoir and why you decided to adapt it to younger readers?
Chasten: Yeah, so my, the, the goal of the book was to write something I wish I could have read when I was in middle school. It's also a book I really wish my teachers and my parents could have had so they would've known the pain I was going through as a closeted gay teen in rural, northern conservative Michigan. You know, what I really needed. The allyship, the love I needed, the support I needed, and what that could have done for my confidence.
So I, you know, I detail a lot of those stories growing up and then go into teaching and obviously the presidential campaign a little bit. But this one is really for young people and this is my way of helping them believe that it still can get better. I believe we're in this season of politics because things were actually getting better and now, because things were getting better, certain people are scared by that, so they want to make it worse.
Jasmine: Yeah, it's like a reaction and it's really unfortunate. So I would love to hear one of the stories that you tell in your book.
Chasten: Oh, sure. You know, there's so much in there about conforming and identity and masculinity and politics and bullying. And there's some hard stuff in there, you know, like heartbreaking stuff. I wanted to share a really vulnerable side of myself with the young readers so they could, you know, get a sense of what I went through.
But then there's also some humor in there as well. So there's this whole chapter I love about not blending it on the playground and not knowing who my friends were. And I wasn't good at track and I wasn't good at basketball and I wasn't, you know, good at all these athletic things. And it, it just kind of details like my parents setting me up for, you know, the next thing, like “join the basketball team!” and I failed miserably, like “join the track and field team!” and I failed miserably. And then there's a, there's a good chunk in there about growing up in 4H and what, what it was like, you know, raising cows. And the chapter's called I Am Not a Cowboy. And you know, this frightened, weird lonely, you know, closeted kid who's like wearing Wrangler jeans and like American flag shirts with a Stetson showing steers at the county fair, when what I really want to be doing is singing Celine Dion on stage.
There's a lot in there just about identity and like, what I thought everyone wanted me to be versus like what I, you know, allowed myself to believe. And ultimately when I leaned into my differences, how I, you know, flourished and grew to love myself.
Jasmine: I love that. All right, so I think most of our listeners already support LGBTQ kids, but they're out there having conversations with their friends and neighbors about some of these issues. So for our listeners, do you have any advice about how they can talk to people in their lives about all these anti-trans and anti-gay bills? Cuz it's a lot. And I, I think people are just kind of like, “I don't know what to say.”
Chasten: Yeah. I think especially when it comes to trans Americans, if it's something that's really new to you, one of the most helpful things that you can do is to pause and then do your research. When I was traveling the country a couple years ago on the campaign, I felt an expectation to speak up for everyone. Not only speak up for everyone in our community, but to represent everyone in our community. And as a, you know, white, cisgender, gay man, I walk through the world with different privileges than other people. I have no idea what it's like to be trans. So for me, it was really important to sit down and learn from, you know, young trans people, learn what was going on in the community, and learn how I could be a better ally. And there was a lot of information that I didn't have, and I had to go seek it out. There were connections that I needed to make research I needed to do, and I needed to approach that with empathy. And because I believed in sticking up for people in our community, I wanted to do that work first.
And so I think right now, something that folks can do is just take a breath and do some research. The wider American medical community supports gender affirming care. It is life-saving care. I would recommend people look to the science and the professionals in medicine, in mental health, in education, and learn before they react. There are also pockets of this country, especially in rural America, that don't have PFLAG chapters, so you know, you could start your own PFLAG chapter and join like-minded and similar parents who can, you know, come together and meet and, and share that community. But also, you know, the same purpose for, for sticking up for their, for their kids. But I think it's a season of active allyship right now. The allyship has to be more than just posting on social media.
Jasmine: I love that. So one theme in your memoir is authenticity. And, you know, having the courage to be our true self no matter what. And so obviously that's like a super important message for young adults, but honestly is really important for all of us. What lessons did you learn about authenticity in your formative years that have continued to be important to you even today, even as an adult?
Chasten: Yeah, like I write in the book, I felt like being authentic was viewed as a sign of weakness. I thought that I was growing up in an environment that actually preferred that young men only look and act and behave in a very certain way. It didn't feel like there was a lot of room for stepping outside of the norm. It didn't feel like it was cool to be creative or, you know, funny. And sometimes I wondered whether I was being laughed with or laughed at because I was like the young theatrical geek, you know? I was like on the bowling team and in theater and in 4H and I, you know, didn't conform to a lot of the norms.
And when I grew up, especially when I was out on the presidential campaign trail, I realized that all of these things that I had either grown up learning was something to hide from other people, or I just like, you know, felt internally that I shouldn't discuss, I found the more that I shared those with other people. The more people felt a connection to me, the more people saw themselves in me or in my story. And so I feel like the more vulnerable we are, the more we allow other people to connect with us. And so that's why I started opening up about the internalized homophobia I felt.
There’s my coming out story, the wonderful story of reconnecting with my parents after I ran away from home and like the power of that love and the goodness that could come from it, student debt, and certainly like in the adult version of the book, I talked about my experience with, you know, dating and sexual assault and why it's really important to share those stories if you're able, so that other people can feel less alone. So because I felt like I suppressed so much of my identity for so long and then leaned into it, I saw how much good could come out of living a more open and vulnerable but authentic life because other people could see themselves in it too.
Jasmine: I, I love all of that. I love that you mentioned people being able to see themselves. Cause I think a lot of times, especially when people are just trying to figure life out, they are, they often feel alone. Like they feel like they're the only one that's really going through this and they wonder how everyone else seems to have it all together and they're like, you know, not understanding everything and they don't have everything put together.
And so, we talk a lot about book bans on our show because that is something that is happening across the country. And in particular, we talk a lot about how banning books does take away the ability for someone to maybe see themselves in a character, in a book. And so I'm curious, do you have any concerns that your book could or would be banned by some of these, you know, crazies out here that are kind of just… free-for-alling it when it comes to banning books that do deal with some of the issues that you probably talk about?
Chasten: Yeah. I mean, I'm under no illusion of, you know, what we're dealing with here. And I certainly didn't think that this would be the, you know, national landscape when I started writing the book two years ago. I also think it would just be politics if my book were banned. You know, I wrote a completely age-appropriate book. I used to be a teacher. I knew my audience. I used to teach middle school. So I think if it, if it is banned, then it's just politics. Because then it's just, you know, silencing the voice of gay authors. Or just the existence of a story about a gay person is the thing that they're really upset about.
And I, I also will just say like, as a parent and as a teacher, I would never put my kids in a position where they would be in, you know, confronted with something age-inappropriate. As an author, as a teacher, and as a parent, I would never write something I think is age-inappropriate. And I think the conversation about parents' rights and what's appropriate for kids is sort of being weaponized to make it sound like there's a problem that exists when it really doesn't. Because this, you know, they, they threw everything at the wall and they saw what stuck and what's, you know, what's sticking is LGBTQ people. Again. And so they infuse a lot of fear and confusion into something that, you know, isn't happening right now.
Jasmine: Yeah, I definitely agree with you. I think a lot of it is just they had to choose their boogeyman of the year and that ended up being LGBTQ children of all people. But you know, to your point your book is going to be, you know, it's just telling your story to an audience in an age appropriate manner. However, I've seen people try to ban books about two penguins that happen to be the same sex raising an egg.
Chasten: Right. Yeah.
Jasmine: So I feel like if people want to be outraged, they can find anything to be outraged about and that's really unfortunate. Because the people who suffer the most are the people who just want to learn, or the people who want to see themselves in a character or maybe the kid that's still trying to figure life out. And you know, maybe they resonate with some of the stories that you tell in your memoir.
Chasten: Books like, you know, books like the penguin book. That's just like erasing the existence of LGBTQ families. Or just different families. Like some people have, you know, two dads, some people have two moms, some people live with their grandma, you know, some people have a solo parent, some people live with four different adults, you know, on a rotating basis. Like all families look different. And so that one is really silly to me because it's just erasing the existence of, you know, same-sex couples.
The thing about the bans that is so silly to me is like… they say “it's not about, it's not about gay people, you know, it's just about age appropriate content.” But I don't know about you, but when I was in middle school, I read this story about two teenagers, 14, 15 years old, who fell in love with one another and one day got married, may or may not have consummated that marriage offstage, and then killed themselves out of love. Do you remember Romeo and Juliet?
Jasmine: Oh yeah. I think we all had to read that.
Chasten: And nobody was out in the streets protesting, you know, that story. That was completely age appropriate for us to learn, amongst a litany of other stories. Because we trusted parents and we trusted teachers to make educated decisions and to teach content that they thought was appropriate to children and to be able to have the conversations around that kind of content. Now you see the introduction of more stories, including LGBTQ characters, characters of color, and that bothers them. And the question is… why does it?
Jasmine: Yeah, why now? Like, why? Yeah. Out of all the things, why is this so concerning to you? And like you said, we literally read about teen suicide when we were younger.
Chasten: Right. And when they say that it's not, you know, “it's not about the existence of gay people, it's just age appropriate content,” I call baloney sandwiches. Because we read many things when we were a kid, you know, Lord of the Flies! And nobody had a problem with that. So if they want to re-examine literature, then there's gonna be a lot of stories with straight characters that would, you know, based on the rules that they are putting out that would need to be, you know, revoked as well.
Jasmine: Agree. Well, alright. It's been such a joy to have you back on the pod. So as you probably remember from before, you know, we like to ask our guests a few rapid fire questions before we go. You ready?
Jasmine: Here we go. So the last time you were on the pod, we talked about how excited you were for Broadway to open back up. So what's been your favorite Broadway show of the past two years?
Chasten: Oh my goodness. Oh, I got to take my parents to Wicked when it came through the Kennedy Center at Christmas time.
Jasmine: I saw Wicked too!
Chasten: And my dad had never seen a musical in his life and it was just incredible to share that with him. I love that theater is reopening. I just saw Ben Platt in Parade, which was incredible, Sean Hayes in Goodnight Oscar was incredible.
Jasmine: Yeah, I love it. Wicked actually was the first Broadway show that I ever saw. After you and I talked, I actually got a chance to go to New York and Wicked was what I saw.
Jasmine: So next question, what is your go-to Starbucks order?
Chasten: Ooh, I’m all over the place. Usually I'm just like an iced coffee with a dash of cream kind of person. Every now and then I like green tea latte.
Jasmine: I love it. I'm a green tea person.
Chasten: I just learned how much sugar is in the coffee frappuccino though! I used to be like, “I don't get any of the sugary ones. I just get the plain coffee frappuccino.” That thing's got like 40 grams of sugar in it! I didn't know all this all this time. But normally I'm just an iced coffee all year round.
Jasmine: I like it. All right. So what's been the best part about becoming a dad?
Chasten: Oh man. They have this incredible way of reminding you how beautiful the world is. Like Gus is obsessed with birds right now, and this morning I was getting him outta the stroller and putting him in his car seat, and he was like, he stopped and he was looking around and there were like birds in the trees, like birds on the pavement, birds in the bushes. And he's just like, “Bird! Bird! Bird!” and like the wonder in his eyes. And it's every day, right? They're just fascinated by the world, they point out all the firetrucks and the buses and the trucks. And when the world just seems so overwhelming, I love pausing and trying to be very present with them because they really pull you back down to Earth very quickly.
Jasmine: I love that. Awww.
Chasten: They're just enjoying the existence of birds, you know? When you're like wrapped up in what's happening online or in politics, I love that.
Jasmine: I know, I miss that. My kids are teenagers now, so they are not as excited to see birds. But you know, they, they, it's still, it's a whole different adventure, but I totally know what you mean when they, yeah, when they're just discovering the world and the things that you pass right by. They're like, “That thing is amazing!” Yeah. And you're like, “Actually, you know, you're right. It is kind of amazing!”
Chasten: We can walk around the neighborhood and it'll take like an hour because we have to stop, you know, everything and look at it and inspect it. It's so cool. And look at every little flower, dandelion. Yeah.
Jasmine: I love it. All right, so some pretty amazing people have praised your memoir. Who were you the most starstruck to get a quote from about your book?
Chasten: Oh, man. I mean, obviously very grateful that so many people had nice things to say about the book. Growing up, I didn't really know a lot of gay people. And then Ellen DeGeneres came on TV and Ellen was sort of like a hint to me that it could be possible. Cause my mom really liked watching her show when she laughed at it and I like, maybe, you know, things will get better. And so the fact that, like, I grew up and wrote a story that Ellen appreciated and, you know, wanted to blurb was, was really touching.
Jasmine: I love that. Awesome. All right, so last question. This is kind of a hard one, but I think a good one. What gives you hope?
Chasten: Oh, well, my kids! Because I know what I'm, I know what my mission is. I know what I'm working toward and even when there's dread, there's still hope because I want to leave them a better world. I want to leave them with things that I'm proud of. You know, writing this book, it gave me so much purpose to leave something behind that hopefully they'll be proud of one day.
And the fact that there are really good people out there doing good work. And so when you're overwhelmed with social media and it just seems like everything is dreadful, just remember that there are so many good people out there who aren't getting the attention they deserve. And I certainly know them here in Washington. You know, no one wants to talk about what they're doing cause it's not flashy. But there are so many good people in this world who I know also want those things for my kids too.
Jasmine: I love that. All right, so that is the end of our rapid fire questions. You did a great job. So where can people go to find out more about you and your book?
Chasten: Thank you. Folks can visit chastenwrites.com and you can order a book there. You can learn a little bit more about it. You can also donate a copy on the website to nonprofit LGBTQ centers. We're gonna try to make sure the book gets in the hands of young people who need it the most, as well as teachers and other nonprofit centers. So chastenwrites.com.
Jasmine: I love it. So, so nice talking to you again, Chasten. Thanks for coming back to the Suburban Women Problem!
Chasten: Thanks for having me!
Jasmine: I Have Something To Tell You for Young Adults goes on sale May 16th and is available now for pre-order tickets for Chasten's in-person national book tour are also available at chastenwrites.com.
Amanda: Welcome back everyone. Jasmine, I loved your interview with Chasten. I loved that he was saying this is a season for active allyship right now. It has to be more than posting on social media. Like that is it, like that is the whole thing to me. Like we need to be supporting each other. Amplifying each other's voices. Can we come together as a collective, as a team to change what we see in our country right now?
Jasmine: Yeah. I think one of the things that really resonated with me is kind of the why. Because I think a lot of people ask like, “Why? Why are they going after LGBTQ kids right now? Why are, are they like the new boogeyman?” And it's funny cuz since we've been doing this podcast, we've talked about the different boogeymen that have come up and it's like a recurring theme. And it does not fail. Like this is something we did not make that up. It is happening. And one of the things that he talked about was that as a society, especially the younger people, they're becoming more tolerant, more accepting, and things were actually getting better. But I think that when that happened, there were some adults that saw that and said, “No, no, no. We cannot have you tolerating people. Because we need to maintain our boogeyman. We've gotta keep something to be scared of. And so we're gonna do this and we're gonna go all in and try to reverse this trend of tolerance.”
Rachel: And I think they're scared that their children might be different whether or not they're gay or trans or different in any way. You know, as I think in teaching, you see, especially in the very younger grades, that parents really just want to make sure their children are fitting in, that they have friends, that they're on track or better than their peers. And, and why? Because we know the importance of being, “normal,” of being with the group. And if you're different, we know that it makes life harder. So it can come from a place of good, but manifest itself in a really harmful way.
And I agree. And you know, I just… on the idea of active allyship, next month is Pride Month. And, you know, I would like to see a lot of parents joining these marches. I mean, I pray that they're safe, but joining these marches like we did for the Black Lives Matter movement, right, you know, the protests in 2020. To really say like, “Am I wearing a rainbow shirt? Am I gay? Is my child gay? I don't know. It doesn't really matter.”
Jasmine: Exactly. That's where we need to get to.
Rachel: I am doing this because I am showing my support for this community. And if it has a personal meaning, great. If it doesn't, great.
Amanda: Yeah. And I think it's how we get to all the other stuff we want to see happen in our country. We can not keep seeing them, the Republicans, wage these culture wars and let that drive the entire narrative and let them say whatever they want. We have to stop it in its tracks and then take the steering wheel away from them. They should not have a political driver's license. Like it's time to take that away.
Jasmine: Well, I think that's a good time for us to transition to our Toast to Joy. And so, you know, every week we like to talk about something great or positive that is happening in our lives or in our communities or anything like that. So this week I will start with you, Rachel. What is your Toast to Joy?
Rachel: My Toast to Joy this week is my dear friend and former neighbor. She told me… we both actually we both live in Florida now, in different areas, and she was my across the street neighbor for several years. And she hasn't really made any friends in her area, but she saw someone online like, I dunno if it was in a neighborhood group or a parents group who is posting similar things to her. And she said, you know what I did Rachel? You guys talk about on your podcast, we just got together a group of like-minded moms based on, you know, what they've been posting. They found some people, invited them over to her house, and they talked about what they could do and how they could help and you know, how they could make a difference. And so, I mean, you know, it's just the beginning. But it's a step.
Jasmine: I love that.
Rachel: I loved it too, and I, I, I was saving it for my Toast to Joy and a couple times I was like, “oh, I should text this to them.” Because it's just, everything always feels like it's really, really heavy, but there's good that's happening out there and there are people who are getting together. You can do this, you can start this and, and you know, my friend is not like this uber organizer. But she just took that first step and she really did it for her children and to say, “how can I make a difference?” So my Toast to Joy is to Lindsay and her friends who are brave, who know they need to step up and create what they want and they have to lead by example.
Amanda: Politics doesn't have to be talking points and Fox News.
Jasmine: It can be real life.
Amanda: Politics is having a drink with your friends.
Rachel: Yeah, exactly. Yes, exactly. So Amanda, what is your Toast to Joy this week?
Amanda: Alright, so my Toast to Joy… so my daughter did turn six, so happy birthday Amelia.
Rachel: Happy birthday!
Jasmine: Happy birthday!
Amanda: But she's not gonna get my Toast to Joy. She's getting other things for her birthday. It's fine. But my Toast to Joy is actually that we just, in the primary for Akron, voted in Shammas Malik. And basically the primary is the whole deal with Akron. So when he becomes mayor, he will be the first person of color to be mayor of Akron, which is huge, for a group to be represented.
Jasmine: Oh wow.
Amanda: And he is young and so smart and there is such, and he won by a much wider margin than anyone was predicting. So it was definitely like, Akron is ready for a change and we want something new. We want new ideas. So I am very hopeful. And we also in Cleveland have Justin Bibb, so we have elected some like new young people in office that are ready to make big changes for these cities that need big changes. So Shammas, who's also a friend, congrats to Shammas. I know that a lot of us are excited.
And I love that he also says, you know, in a lot of his speeches he'll say, “this is not elect Shammas and I'm gonna change things for you.” And I do believe that's true with even Biden. This is not “elect Biden and we sit back and Biden's gonna change everything for us.” We need to work on this together. No one person can do it. We all need to stand up, become a team, work as a collective, and get things done. Alright, Jasmine, what is your Toast to Joy?
Jasmine: All right. So my Toast to Joy is to, and you probably can relate to this, Amanda, the semester being over and all of my grades being turned in.
Jasmine: Also, I just want to give a shout out to my students. Without going into any detail, I had a perfect semester. No students will, you know, have to repeat my class because they all passed. So I'm very, very proud of that. I know that that does not happen all the time. So I am actually really excited about that.
Amanda: Amanda's notably silent right now. Haha.
Jasmine: Haha, yes. This does not happen all the time. So it was a good semester. I felt great all semester though. And so I'm really proud of my students and I have been tapped to do a lot more stuff with our students in getting them to the capital and making sure that they understand the importance of advocacy. I'm writing a book chapter this summer. Like, I'm really starting to like bridge that health and policy gap.
Rachel: Love it.
Jasmine: I'm so into it, y'all. Like I, I don't really get excited about a lot of things, but I'm starting to get really excited about the opportunity to do health and policy. So really lean into my nerdiness, but also lean into the fact that I'm in politics and I want more people to really pay attention to what's going on. So that's my toast.
Amanda: Great. I love it.
Jasmine: And with that, thanks so much to everyone for joining us today. Don't forget, there are just a few days left to purchase your ticket to our special event with Heather Cox Richardson. We also have some exciting new Suburban Women Problem merch. If you're interested in representing your love for the pod, you can find the link in our show notes. We'll see you next week for our 100th episode of the Suburban Women Problem!