Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bully President- Daughter of Transgender Dad on Trump Rescinding Bathroom Law


Yesterday, President #Trump rescinded the rule on #bathroom choice for #transgender students. Without an iota of empathy or understanding the President (under pressure from right wing, ding-dong Attorney General Jeff Sessions) took away non-discrimination rules put in place by the Obama administration.

Our bully president demanded that Education Secretary #DeVos agree with his bold-faced bigotry. Telling her, according to The New York Times, “that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.”

The reason behind this heartbreaking decision is right winger’s fears that transgender people using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity will create an unsafe environment for children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the daughter of a brutally abusive man, who transitioned to become a women in her seventies, I have a unique view on this topic and can tell you that fearing transgender people in the bathroom is about as set in reality as having Mexico pay for a border wall.

Here’s what I want all the bathroom quaking, fear-mongers to know:

  1. You are already using the same bathroom as transgender people. You have been for years. Are your worse off? Have you been harmed? Attacked? Please get over it.
  2. Forcing a person/student who lives as a girl/woman (or visa versa) to use the men’s/boy’s restroom will incite violence, bullying, depression, and suicide. In the case of public schools, yesterday’s ruling is nothing less than publicly mandated child abuse.
  3. Forcing trans people to hide their truth is a ticking time bomb in terms of mental illness and suffering. My father was from an entirely different generation and denied her truth for more than sixty years. While it was by no means, the cause of all her dysfunction, denial and hiding certainly ignited hyper-masculine, coping behaviors which resulted in the brutal abuse of two families.
  4. Transgender people do not want to be called out for being different. They are not trans for attention. It’s not a phase. These fellow human beings were born into the wrong bodies. Like squeezing a size fifteen foot into a size four shoe, their bodies never fit, and no amount of force will make it so. They are not the gender of their birth. Genitals do not define gender.

The idea that Secretary of Education DeVos, is so weak-willed that she kowtowed to Trump, sentencing a segment of America’s school children to torment, torture and horrific discrimination, further proves her unworthiness and the hateful spirit of this administration.

A transgender woman (living in denial) beat my family into a homeless shelter. Yet, even I can see the truth. Why? Because as I write my memoir Transgressions in Rouge, I am taking the time to learn. I have researched my father’s behavior, her transition and what is means to be a transgender person.

Please, right wing America, I beg you to take your head out of the toilet and attempt to understand the truth of being transgender.

This nation needs to quit worrying about who has balls and who does not. It’s none of your business. Except for when it comes to Trump, whose actions yesterday are a clear indication of a testicular deficiency gone wild.

Help Author Panowich Raise Funds for Domestic Abuse Shelter


My author friend Brian Panowich is a superstar supporter for the Safe Homes Domestic Violence Shelter in Georgia. He is participating in a fundraiser, and I humbly request your help.Brian Panowich.jpg

As some of you know, my current book project Transgressions in Rouge chronicles my adoptive father’s abuse of two families, and his transition (late in life) to become a woman. I watched helplessly as my father brutalized my mother and brother for twelve years. The scars left by his madness will never fully heal, but are the catalyst for me to speak out about the pervasive violence that is happening right NOW.

When my mother, brother and I escaped, we stayed at a family shelter for victims of domestic violence. Housed in an old motel, the shelter was the first of its kind on Long Island, New York. Without that shelter and the amazing staff of volunteers who ran it,  we would have been trapped in the cycle of terror.

In America, one in four women are abused by their domestic partners.
Organizations like Safe Homes are their only way out.

Donating to this essential organization is easy.  Just click here and  choose the ‘Donate Toward a Team or Individual’s Goal’ option. Search for ‘Brian Panowich’ and give whatever you can afford.

Shelter is freedom. Freedom is life.
Blessings for a safe place to be,

Ten True Things for my Daughter and the Graduating Class of 2016


Advice will come from many mouths as you finish the long journey to graduation. Some will wish you luck, but I wish you something more- karma. The future rests in your capable hands and if you choose the path of kindness, humility, empathy and charity, yours will be the most fulfilling future.

As I have passed the half century mark, I have learned a few life lessons.  On this graduation day, I share ten true things that I’ve learned along my way.graduates

Always say I love you. You never know when it will be the last opportunity to do so.

Travel often, and far. When you have an opportunity to travel, do it. Life builds boxes and boundaries around us. Break free, travel. The opportunity to travel may come with college or in business. Don’t be afraid. Take every trip you are offered. Someday your body will not be able.

Don’t take it personally. People are walking around with big insecurities, doubts, regrets, and they deflect these things to others in order to free themselves. Smile when they frown. Be gentle when they lash out. You may be the only happiness they experience that day.

Attend college to learn and grow. Grades are important, but opening your mind to care about what you are being taught is the truest education. Ask questions. Challenge opinions. Expand your mind and your heart through knowledge. Take classes even after you graduate.  Try to learn one new thing every day.

Marry the steady, constant companion who makes you smile, puts your feelings first, and makes your heart skip a beat or two. Marry with a lifetime in mind. Don’t rush. Don’t jump. Don’t take those vows unless you know you have found the other half of your soul.

Do good deeds, and don’t tell anyone. The things that will give you the greatest contentment are not things at all. They are the small actions– helping someone who is short of cash at the register, carrying someone’s groceries, holding a hand of someone who needs to be reminded they are not alone. These are the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself, and others.

Be true to yourself. Never, ever change to suit someone else’s expectations. Be your true self and you will shine for all of your days.

Worry less. If I had a nickel for every worry I fretted over, that ended up being for naught- I would be a millionaire. Bad things will happen. You will find a way to survive. Worrying steals years and precious moments better spent living.

Look for the light. When the days are dark and you cannot see your way around an issue, step outside and look for the light of life. Watch a bird fly. Feel a breeze on your face. Smell a flower. Howl at the moon. The light of hope is everywhere, and I have found that when I am down, forcing myself to look for it, eases the emotional toll of the issue at hand. There is power in changing your physical location and stepping into the light.

Make friends. Join clubs, organizations or churches, even if you don’t feel like it. Nearly everyone feels socially awkward. Even if you happen to like your homebody, introverted life, make an effort. Life is lonely. Social Media is okay, but you’ll need a hug one day, and that phone/pad/laptop will never be able to wipe away a tear, or hold your hand. Make the effort and even as friends fall away. Keep reaching out to make new ones. Social life is the spark that ignites great ideas, love, companionship, and social change.

Blessings from my heart for all graduates,


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A Mother’s Day Post Worth Repeating


Reposted from last Mother’s Day.
Happy Mom’s Day to all the Mothers, and Grandmothers of the world!

As Mother’s Day is folded and tucked away like a treasured quilt, it is hard for me to imagine a more blessed weekend. I had the good fortune of engaging in a day of celebration with each of my mothers.

The mothers in my life wear labels cast upon them by society and the process that brought them to, and removed them from, my life. They are my birth mother and adoptive mother.  No matter what the labels, they reside in my heart with an enormity so wondrous that at times I feel it will

While some take the existence of a maternal figure for granted, I count both of my mothers as blessings hard won, and hard kept. I was born into a world that was not ready, and in her desperate need to see me well, my birth mother made a tortured exit from the hospital with empty arms.

After foster care, I was placed for adoption seven months later. While my adoptive family was not the safe haven my birth mother envisioned, my home was survivable because of the heartfelt love of a woman who never once questioned her role as my caregiver. She lifted me from the crib at the adoption agency and never looked back. In sickness, in health, in torture, in want, in love, she became my mother.Nana

During the seven-year search for my birth mother, I was not looking for a replacement mother. I wanted roots, a face and name to stitch myself too. I was never content to just be. I felt an existential craving to know the place from which I came. I could not move on in life without a biological connection, without touching the face of the woman on whose belly I rested after being born.

I hold in my soul a deep bond with both of my mothers. Their fragility, endurance, and lifelong search for happiness, are life lessons that allow me to smile and forge on.  No industry label can fairly represent the way in which these women became the nurture, and nature of who I am.

They are my earth link, and angels. They are loved far beyond Mother’s Day dinners and swapping of gifts. Without either, I would be so much less.
Love you ladies!

Blessings that all mothers know their worth,

V.L. Brunskill

SYP Publishing is having a Mom’s Day sale on all books.
Get 15% off all books now through May 8. Coupon code: MOM
Shuffle over to the SYP site to buy Waving Backwards, or another delightful read.
Southern Yellow Pine Publishing /Waving Backwards.

Sheltered in Place- Domestic Violence



We hear it on the six o’clock news, an order born of our increasingly terroristic society- “Shelter in place.”  We all shudder at the idea of frightened school children waiting for danger to pass. However, the panic of choosing inaction amid chaos runs deep for me, building in my mostly sedentary soul, an insatiable urge to run.

For me, shelter is a secret place, far from the hunter. When faced with my father’s hard-edged abuse in the 1970’s, residing any place other than a shelter for battered women and children would have been a death sentence.

Lately, as I conduct research for my new novel, I find myself scouring the internet for photos of the single-story South Hampton motel that hid my at risk family. Last week, without the effort of a single keystroke, the shelter of my childhood found me.

My adoptive Mom met a new resident at the senior apartment complex where she resides in Georgia.  The woman, a former New York social worker, was a harbinger of helpful information. Mom was chatting up my novel Waving Backwards (a bestseller at Ashleigh Senior Apartments. Take that NY Times.) She explained to her new friend how I found my birth family, and revealed the domestic abuse she suffered for seventeen years.

When Mom talked about the shelter, the woman lit with inside information, discussing every dilapidated inch of our motel. She also revealed the miraculous timing of our survival.

The South Hampton family shelter opened a few months before we arrived. 

The old adage that ‘timing is everything’ has never been more apropos. For without the locked doors of the shelter, our little family, and a dozen others who resided with us that sizzling summer, would be statistics.

Today, New York has 2,768 shelter beds available in a total of 132 licensed residential programs across the State. In the late 1970’s, our shelter was one of three in the state.  One of three! And it happened to be within driving distance of our home, and it happened to open just months before our arrival.

When I think of our good fortune, I also reflect on the abused families who sheltered in place and died for lack of options. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds, and back when ‘domestic abuse’ was not even a term, spousal murders were often reported as accidental deaths. So we will never know how many women died at the hands of their husbands in the years before our shelter opened.

Our survival was made possible by a group of angels who decided that beaten women and children deserved a safe place to stay.

A sobering statistic for anyone who believes that domestic abuse against women has declined since our shelter stay:

Between September 2001 and June 2012, nearly 6,500 American troops died in Afghanistan and Iraq; during that same period, more than 11,700 women died in acts of domestic violence. 

If you are being abused, please don’t shelter in place. Get help!
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
You can do this. You deserve help!
Call today- 1 (800) 799-7233.


Blessings for shelter wherever and whenever you need it most,

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Conrack Gone- Pat Conroy Remembered



When I read of Pat Conroy’s death, I prayed it was not so. In my continued prayers since learning of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, I imagined Pat fit, healthy, and miraculously healed by the prayers of his well-wishers, readers and fans.

Pat deserved to be well. Pat needed to be at the next book festival, filling literary minds with encouragement, humor, and his painfully honest recollections. The book world could not survive without Pat’s pink-cheeked smirk, wry humor or masterful manipulation of words. Yet, this dark day, we must find a way to do so.


Decatur Book Festival

Pat was my author. It’s hard to describe why, or how, he became ‘my’ author. It likely started where every literary love affair begins, in a book. Water is Wide was my first foray into Pat Conroy’s world. It was love at first read. After that, I devoured everything Pat wrote, and attended every reading, festival and signing where I might feast on his opinions, learn a literary trick, hug greatness.

I think a quote from Pat’s My Losing Season- A Memoir describes my feelings best-

“The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life. I wanted to follow Mr. Monte around for the rest of my life, learning everything he wished to share or impart, but I didn’t know how to ask.”

I had the good fortune of breathing the same air as Pat Conroy many times. So many times in fact, that a few friends asked if I was a Conroy stalker. Every greeting from Pat buckled my knees, and quickened my heart in a fan girl manner that made deep questions on writing, survival, and other important life issues, impossible.


Savannah Book Festival

Pat was always patient and gracious despite my goofiness. He laughed when author Mary Hood (who’d witnessed my breathless approach) told me to, “breath” from a nearby signing table at the Savannah Book Festival. He teased me as we took a photo together, making up tales of knowing my mother in high school, and having a great time with her (wink, wink). He greeted my daughter and I at the opening of the Mina and Conroy Fitness Center as if we were long lost family, delivering a peck on the cheek that made me swoon.


Mina & Conroy Fitness Center

As a fellow abuse survivor, and writer, Pat represented for me, the hopeful idea that I might someday capture the brutality of my own childhood in a prose that prickled reader’s skin and healed their hearts.

To open a Conroy book is to watch Pat slice a vein, and bleed precisely and eloquently on every page. Pat Conroy was a beacon for the beaten down, a man who reigned over a kingdom of readers with the touch of a healer.

He was my author, and I miss him already.

Blessings for Pat’s loving wife Cassandra, his family & friends,

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Battered not Broken (How ‘Jane Eyre’ Saved Me)


Tucked away in the functional ruins of a dilapidated motel room, my adoptive mother, brother and I spent 62 nights huddled on a queen-size bed, watching sitcom reruns. A donated black and white television, thread-bare throw rug, and mildew covered window shade decorated our shelter abode. Outside our room, beyond the shiny mansions and pristine beaches of South Hampton New York, a monster lurked, waiting to hurt us.

In each room of the one story dwelling, resided a victim of domestic abuse. Some women were burned, some children black & blue. All of us were frightened and finally free. Most of us came from suburban homes with shiny kitchens, large playrooms and green landscapes.  We were African American, White, Hispanic and Asian. Abusers, I discovered at eleven years old, did not discriminate.

Days at the shelter were filled with fun activities for the younger children. Coloring contests, and trips to the playground transformed wide-eyed fright into the delightful laughter of freedom. Lifting the spirits of broken children was the task of shelter volunteers, and they undertook our sorrowful cases with the same gentle touch one might use to mend the broken wing of a sparrow. Children, who had left behind every precious belonging of childhood; pretty pink tutus, shiny yellow Tonka trucks, beloved story books- flourished in the safety of our secret shelter.

I was the oldest motel child. The glee exhibited by the younger children pleased me, but I was not a participant. Daily responsibility for protecting my family from constant abuse had made me older than my years. I spent unstructured days at the shelter watching television, and playing Andy Gibb records on my portable record player. Three records, and a plastic turntable were all I had salvaged from my lacy pink bedroom.

That summer fell into a humdrum routine. Despite having escaped the calloused fists of my father, I spent every afternoon standing guard in the rusty mental chair outside our room. I never took my eyes off the road, for I was sure that his truck would reappear, and re-ignite our nightmare.

That summer would have remained stagnant and useless, had no one observed or intervened. I had no idea that an angel watched my afternoon shifts as family sentinel.  During the second week at the shelter, the angel approached me. She pulled a chair close to mine, and sheltering her eyes from the sun, stared down the gravel drive.

“Hi”, she said, “I’m Lisa. What’cha looking for?”

I eyed the pretty, dark-haired woman with cautious curiosity. “Just making sure,” I answered respectfully. It was essential that I not be rude, or say anything that might get us kicked out of the shelter. We had no place else to go.

“Where are Mom and Peter?” she asked.

I was anxious, thinking that she would tell me the monster had located us. “Mom’s taking her GED course, and Peter went with the other counselors to the playground.”

A cloud of dust rose in the wake of a passing car, and I shuddered at the idea of being left alone. I asked, “They OK?”

Lisa smiled and I relaxed. Putting her hand on mine, she said, “They’re fine. You are safe now Vicki. Want to talk in the office for a bit. It’s awful hot out here.”

I followed Lisa to the makeshift office. She offered me a cola and I drank it down too quickly, burping out loud and apologizing. Lisa let out a belly laugh, and I found myself smiling for the first time in years.

Lisa and I talked for an hour that day, and nearly every day after. We talked about the abuse, my family’s brave escape, the newfound opportunities my mother would have due to the high school diploma she was earning. Lisa told me about college, and explained that she was a volunteer and had seen many families leave the shelter to create wonderful lives.  She asked me what I liked to do, and I told her about my record albums, and that I had read every romance novel in the stash of paperbacks in the motel laundry.

Lisa made me her summer companion. I met her fiancé at a dinner prepared for me at her apartment. The normal tones with which they communicated were foreign and when they hugged, I thought I would die of embarrassment.

Lisa taught me to view our shelter stay as a stepping stone to happiness.  Our daily conversations cast me as a survivor, rather than a victim. She said that I was strong, and that I should be proud of how well I had cared for my family. She told me that I would be a great woman someday, and that I would be the best kind of Mom when I grew up, because I had learned compassion. Lisa’s keen listening skills, simple words of encouragement, and rosy outlook altered the path of my life.

One day, after I plopped down on the couch of the cool, welcoming office, she smiled and said, “I have something for you.” From her purse she pulled a slightly worn paperback and handed it to me. A sad looking woman wearing a bonnet and gown stared at me from the cover.

“It is Jane Eyre,” she said, “and this was my first copy. I think you’ll like it better than those romance novels.”jane-eyre

I flipped through the pages. Miniscule print, and more words than I had ever read in a single book made the book seem daunting. Because I had grown to trust Lisa more than anyone before her, I accepted the gift and read Jane Eyre every night.  The book accompanied me on afternoon watches. My rusty perch no longer a dreaded guard post, had morphed into the hopeful place where I awaited Lisa’s arrival.

In the precious pages of Jane Eyre, I learned that survival takes on many forms, and that suffering did not have to be a lifelong curse. I learned that adversity could be overcome. Lisa’s gift gave me a newfound freedom to view myself, not as a lonely victim, but as a formidable resident of a world fraught with women who suffered and survived. Lisa, my kind, generous volunteer unlocked a lifelong love of literature, and turned my shelter summer into a lesson of love.

I never saw Lisa again after my mother earned her GED, and found a job. We moved from the shelter to an apartment at the end of that summer. Autumn arrived, along with new schools, new friends and a peaceful knowing that like Jane Eyre, I would survive.

This story is for Lisa, and all the volunteers who give hope to the hopeless, and love to the unloved. They are angels, every one.

Blessings for angels to guide you,

V.L. Brunskill
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Hidden Truth and Bad Behavior- A TransDad Twitter Reply


Happy New Year blog friends!

As I write my next book, Transgressions in Rouge, based on the story of my abusive, adoptive father who died in 2015, I’ve been thinking about the connection between hidden identity (stolen by adoption or squashed by society) and emotional/erratic behavior.

I have also been exploring #healing thoughts on my Twitter feed @RockMemoir.

My adoptive father was a transgender woman who transitioned very late in life. During the years when he abused my family, he hid his gender truth. He was tough, tortuous, and egotistical. I never knew him as a woman. I only knew him as a horrible father.

A transgender father named Erik tweeted to me yesterday, writing “Being trans didn’t make your dad evil. Sorry you suffered his turmoil! He was evil because he was evil, not because he was trans.”

My reply is way too long for a tweet, so I’m answering here.

I wholeheartedly agree that being transgender has nothing to do with being evil.

In fact, I did not contest my father’s will (which I was left out of) because I didn’t want to go to court, and say that he was not of ‘sound mind’. If I did, my lawyer would have used his transgender status to prove he was not mentally capable of deciding who to leave his/her estate to.

My father was mentally ill, but not because he was transgender. So I agree that his evil was not born of his gender. However, I do think his behavior was magnified by his hidden truth.

My father lived chaotically in self-imposed, and societal hiding. He was angry. He beat anyone who disagreed with him. His behavior was hyper-masculine. He overemphasized physical aggressiveness in interpersonal relationships. Inside, he was a woman, while outside he was compelled to prove he was a man.

I’m no psychiatrist, but I have experienced living with two separate identities, one assigned by adoption and one genetic. I believe that there is a degree of madness associated with living any life that does not reflect your truth.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

Blessings for knowing and living your truth,

V.L. Brunskill
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Veteran’s Day Salute to my Birth Father-Delta Dad

Veteran’s Day Salute to my Birth Father-Delta Dad

My birth father is the kind of veteran that people make movies about. He was a member of the Delta Force unit that attempted to rescue the American hostages held in Iran in 1980. The operation was called Eagle Claw.

I found my birth mother 20+ years ago, and my birth father several years later. I wrote him a letter, and he called me. He was suspect of my motives, and tested my birth and search story many times, asking questions about circumstances  that only I (or my birth mother) would be able to answer.deltadad

After proving my identity, our telephone conversations relaxed into the banter of getting to know each other.  I asked him what he did for a living. His replies were more impressive than any of the fatherly fairy tales I made up during my search.

My birth father told me that he was retired military. He shared that he was hand-picked to be a member of the Delta Force. At the time of our reunion, I had no idea what the Special Forces were. I did not understand the unimaginable level of physical endurance and training required to be a member of Delta Force.

Over the course of many conversations, my birth father shared with me his experience of standing with the hostages in Iran, and watching as one of the helicopters collided with a transport plane loaded with fuel. Upon witnessing the collision and subsequent explosion he said, “There goes our ride.” The hostages were eventually freed, and my birth father was one of several Delta members who met privately with President Carter in the aftermath.

The adventures and heroism of my biological father’s stories grew as he felt more comfortable with his newfound daughter. As a writer, I was ravenous for details. Despite my reporter-like questions, he told every story with frustrating vagueness. Secrecy is the Delta way. Loose lips, even decades after these Delta missions, have the power to sink ships.

When I found my birth father after thirteen years of searching, and told my husband about our telephone conversations, he suggested that I not get my hopes up for the stories to be true. He said, “You don’t know him yet. It could be made up. I mean what are the odds that you’d find a superhero?”

Well, in terms of military service, I did find a superhero. My birth father served in Vietnam, did a multi-year stint in the Delta Force, and stayed in the military for thirty-years. When I met him, he gave me the awards he earned in Delta.  I was the only one (of his three children) who wanted them. I never met his other children, but that’s a blog for another day.

Like many adoption reunions, ours did not survive the honeymoon stage. A life of military service turned my Delta Dad into a steely being, who finds subterfuge and ulterior motives in everyone he encounters, including me. Military service is hard, and there is no escape from the psychological alterations it leaves behind.

I will not go into the details of how our reunion crashed, but will say that I am still happy to have known him. While we may never see eye-to-eye, he gave me a deeper understanding of the might of our military. Meeting him also revealed the source of my my strong-headed determination. I often think that had I been cast from any other biological source, I would not have survived my tumultuous childhood.

As the biological child of a gosh-darn, real-life military hero, on this Veteran’s day, I salute all of our veteran heroes, and their families.

Blessings for healing of all war-wounds,

V.L. Brunskill

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