Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category
Did you know, that of the 217 themes available on WordPress.com, 64 offer free options such as custom headers, colors schemes and palettes, and customizable layouts? There are plenty of ways to make your blog your own without spending any money. Here’s just a few ideas to prime your creative pump.
The color choice is yours
Eight themes, including Superhero, Writr, Spun, Panel, Zoren, Fontfolio, Twenty Thirteen, and Typo, offer free color palettes you can apply. Free color palettes are denoted by the “featured” flag across them in the Customizer. To activate a free color palette, go to Appearance → Customize. Here’s what Typo‘s free color palettes look like:
If you’d like to combine a free custom header and color options, check out Vintage Camera, which offers six free illustrated cameras for custom headers and the ability to choose any header and background you like.
Options, options options
If your theme has free theme options you’ll see the menu item Appearance → Theme Options in your dashboard’s navigation. Clicking on that menu item takes you to a screen showing the options for your theme. For example, here’s the Theme Options page for Oxygen. From here, you can modify the title font family, adjust the base font’s screen size, and experiment with link colors:
Experiment with one, two, three, or four-column layouts
Check out the Theme Showcase to see themes with one-column, two-column, three-column, and four-column layouts. Experiment by checking multiple criteria. For example, did you know that there are 32 themes that have a left sidebar option and a two-column option?
Featured images = continuous inspiration
Currently, 75 free themes offer featured images, which allow you to select and showcase the image of your choice alongside your post. Go beyond featured images with a post slider and you have a rotating series of images at the top of your blog. Not great behind the camera? No worries — there are countless images available for free, under the Creative Commons licence that you can use on your site, provided that you credit the image creator.
Strut your stuff with a custom header
Adding a custom header, such as a photograph, is one way to imprint your unique style on your site. Want to customize your header photograph? PicMonkey allows you to edit images to include text, rotate and sharpen them, and adjust exposure — all free of charge.
Of the free themes on WordPress.com, 119 offer custom header functionality. Here’s Writr and TwentyFourteen, the default theme for the upcoming year, customized with header photos featuring two of my best friends. Fetching, no?
What are your tips and techniques for free customization?
For many of you, November was a blur: a crazy, beautiful, writing-filled blur. We encouraged WordPress.com users to participate in BlogHer’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and post something every day in November.
Participants had a lot of fun this month: we discovered great posts in the NaBloPoMo tag page and enjoyed pieces like A Sign of Life‘s “A Rose By Any Other Label,” in which E. talks about labels and being an INFJ, as well as posts on Stuphblog, like “The Trauma Doesn’t End When the Abuse Does,” which was honest and emotional.
We also loved the variety of content — any type of post qualified as a post, from single photos to inspirational quotes to longform essays. The blogger at How Anxious penned a month’s worth of poetry, while Gwen at Little Growing Pains published a mix of poignant writing with nicely crafted scenes, like “Two Heartbeats.”
Finding support in others
The Daily Post is a community space for blogging tips and resources; there, we host weekly challenges and daily prompts year-round to get your creative juices flowing. In November, we were thrilled to see our users go further during this month-long challenge: banding together in creative, supportive ways.
Rara at Rarasaur rounded up a crew of bloggers called Team NanoPoblano. Creating a blogging collective is a fun, engaging way to build your network and readership, and offers support during a long-term challenge. (Check out Rara’s own list of prompts, for example — bookmark it for inspiration for any month.)
The challenges of posting daily
But NaBloPoMo wasn’t for everyone. Julia at A Perfect Day for J muses on how she couldn’t do it:
So I silenced the voice that whispered, Quitter. Failure. Disappointment. And embraced the voice that said, Writing is supposed to be fun, a relief, an outlet — not a stressor. And I let the hours of the day tick away without opening my blog. And that was the end of my NaBloPoMo run for this year.
A new blogger at Rockin’ M Ranch summarizes the experience nicely — discipline is a good thing, and writing, above all, is about practice:
The muse won’t show up if we are not receptive and poised. That being said, the muse might or might not show up every time we sit down to write. . . . While we wait, we can practice . . . writing something that is good to get off our chests but not necessarily something that needs to be made public. Like talking, not every thought one thinks is worth sharing. It just isn’t.
Sift through the NaBloPoMo tag page, and you’ll discover more posts from bloggers reflecting on the entire experience — and offering insights and advice on the writing process.
So, we’re several days into December — what now? Are you exhausted from posting each day? Or have you caught a magical, mysterious second wind and want to keep your momentum? Here’s a quick list of takeaways and tips to keep going:
Subscribe to The Daily Post. If you adjust your settings to receive instant post emails, you’ll get a writing prompt in your inbox each day and learn about writing and photo challenges each week. We serve up writing, photography, traffic, and branding tips, too.
Keep a well of ideas. Compile a list of possible posts you can write: an ideas queue you can pull from. Keep them in a notebook or your digital note organizer. Or if you’re feeling confident, go ahead and create post drafts in your dashboard, give them tentative titles, and let ‘em ripen until you’re ready to tackle one.
Create an editorial calendar. Set reasonable deadlines: schedule a weekly writing session to start, and establish a publish date at the same time each week. If you’re not up for spontaneous and varied daily prompts, brainstorm a content plan. Tie your posts to current events, holidays, or themes. Consider a long-term project, like Daniel Nester’s quirky “Notes on” Series, in which he wrote numbered lists of notes about a hodgepodge of topics, from his first AIDS test to grief to words that sound dirty but aren’t.
Mix text with images and other media. We like how Liz at Cats and Chocolate suggests to shake things up with quotes and photos. Luckily, you’ve got the tools you need to upload images, embed audio, and insert media like tweets and YouTube videos.
Tag-team with others. Poke around The Daily Post and meet others in the Community Pool on Sundays. Meet and chat with others in the Ideas Forum. Look for guest bloggers to contribute to your site. These are just a few ways to interact with WordPressers and find people with similar interests — and possibly new blogging buddies.
In January, we’ll share more ideas for 2014 and cover blogging essentials, especially for users who’ve just joined us. For those of you who participated in NaBloPoMo, how was your experience? Let us know in the comments.
We’ve launched a number of updates, from visual enhancements to handy admin tools, to improve your overall WordPress.com experience. Here’s a rundown of what’s new:
- Improved theme preview: A sleeker preview and selection process for themes.
- Add widgets with one click: An updated panel makes widget management a snap.
- Refreshed dashboard: A cleaned-up and responsive dashboard area.
- A more modern look: Introduced over the past several months, your under-the-hood look is simpler and more modern, and served up in eight color schemes.
Improved theme preview
A more visual experience: sleeker display and bigger theme screenshots.
In Appearance → Themes, you’ll find an enhanced theme preview and selection process — and a much more visual experience:
- A sleek, fast-loading display of available themes to try out and activate.
- Bigger and bolder theme screenshots, showing more of each theme’s details.
- Options to customize your current theme (displayed at the top left) and preview and activate other themes.
- Ability to click on a theme for a description and summary of features and quickly flip through theme description pages with navigation (left and right arrow) keys.
Add widgets with one click
The updated widgets screen makes it even easier to select and manage your widgets.
Select a widget, then add it to your blog with one click.
In Appearance → Widgets, you’ll find nifty changes that make it easier to manage your widgets. We streamlined the widgets screen, which now emphasizes your sidebars/widget areas and activated widgets.
Now, you can select an available widget and choose which area of your blog you want it to appear — with just one click. The menu options that appear will depend on your current theme, so your widgets screen might look different from the examples above and on the left.
This click-to-add tool is especially handy if you’re on a touch or mobile device — or use a theme with multiple widget areas. And if you prefer, you can still use the drag-and-drop method to activate widgets, too.
A cleaned-up dashboard screen (with a pop of color from the Midnight scheme).
We’ve streamlined your dashboard screen and consolidated some features. Click on Dashboard and you’ll see changes, including:
- “Right Now,” which displayed a summary and total numbers for your blog, is now “Site Content,” and is simplified and easier to read.
- “Recent Comments” has been merged into a new “Activity” box, which now shows your last five published posts and any scheduled posts.
- “QuickPress” is now “Quick Draft,” and we’ve also added a box for “Recent Drafts.”
- The dashboard screen is now responsive, showing the appropriate number of columns based on your screen resolution. So, we’ve removed the “Number of Columns” option under Screen Options.
A more modern look
Over the summer, we introduced a redesigned dashboard, featuring better contrast and the lovely and modern Open Sans, a free, open source typeface. We’ve made numerous tweaks to improve your behind-the-scenes experience, from redrawing the icons to making the design responsive and tailored for desktop computers, touch devices, and smartphones.
Last month, we also added options to personalize your dashboard with a splash of color: eight different palettes, including the classic default scheme. You’ll also find a light-grey one, which we designed for our users who are sensitive to light. If you haven’t already, pick your favorite in Users → Personal Settings.
Got a self-hosted WordPress site?
For our self-hosted friends running WordPress.org, these changes will be available soon with the 3.8 release.
We’re constantly tinkering behind the scenes and making updates to make your dashboard experience the best it can be. If you have feedback or questions, chime in on the Forums. For support questions, contact Support.
Your WordPress.com site is your home on the web. It only makes sense, then, to spruce it up for the holidays as you would your brick-and-mortar address. With the ideas we include here, you’ll be able to give your blog a festive look with just a few easy clicks.
Make it snow!
It’s an annual WordPress.com holiday tradition: as of December 1st, you can have snow falling on your site! While the real stuff might be hard to deliver via The Interwebz, our special snow will fall gracefully down your screen wherever you are. To activate Holiday Snow, just follow these steps:
- Go to your dashboard.
- Navigate to Settings → General.
- Check the box next to “Show falling snow on this blog.”
If you activated this feature last year, it’ll be on automatically this year, too. Whenever you’d like to deactivate the snow, you can make it stop on your personal settings page.
Add a seasonal custom background
Few features change the look of your blog more quickly and more radically than a custom background. Get some serious holiday cheer going with a reindeer pattern (ironic — or not!), a bright arrangement of Christmas decorations, or simply change your background color to a seasonal green, red, or gold.
To change your background, go to your dashboard, then head to Appearance → Background and choose or upload your desired image. If you don’t have a suitable image yet, you can find a great selection of background patterns on sites like Subtle Patterns, My Site My Way, or Squidfingers.
Play festive music on your blog
Why not liven up your visitors’ experience with your favorite holiday tunes? You can easily embed a SoundCloud playlist in your blog. Just browse the endless offerings on Soundcloud.com (for example, look up holiday music for some pre-made mixes), and find the playlist you want. Press the “Share” button and copy the WordPress.com shortcode you’ll see there.
Then, simply paste the shortcode into any page or post on your blog, and you’re set. You could even set the post with the embedded playlist as sticky — that way it’ll stay at the top of your blog’s homepage for as long as you want.
Use a Text Widget for a holiday message
While posts get pushed down the page whenever you publish a new one, a Text Widget will keep its place in your sidebar no matter how frequently you write. What better way to share your thoughts, holiday wishes, or new year’s resolutions than a prominent text box at the top of your sidebar?
You could also use this space for more specific holiday-related purposes: for example, if you’re participating in a food drive or organizing an end-of-year blogging event, a Text Widget could be an easy way to keep your visitors engaged and up-to-date.
Inject color into your sidebar with Image Widgets
Using Image Widgets is a great, easy way to add a dash of color to your blog. If you’re already using Image Widgets, why not replace your regular images with new, holiday-specific ones? You can enhance the look of any photo in your library with a few tweaks on a free, online image editor like PicMonkey.
Even if you haven’t used them before, the holiday season could be a great time to add Image Widgets to your blog. You could activate one to display your family’s holiday portrait (with or without embarrasing sweaters), the decorations your kids made, or that cute pic of your cat/dog/pet otter with a Santa beard.
First, upload your image file to the Media Library: in your dashboard, go to Media → Add New and select the desired image from your computer. Once the file has uploaded, go to Appearance → Widgets. Drag the Image Widget to its desired spot in the sidebar, and add the image URL of the file you just uploaded to your library. Enter any other information you want, and click save: the image will now display on your site.
If you’re looking for more ways to get your site ready for the holidays, stay tuned: later this week we’ll unveil our surprise holiday theme.
Wishing everyone happy blogging this holiday season!
This year’s Black Friday special on WordPress.com is our biggest yet. Today you can add any upgrade to your blog for a free 14-day trial.
The special sale covers all of Friday, November 29, for all US time zones. Sale started midnight today, and ends on 12:00AM PST on Saturday, November 30.
A free trial with no strings attached is a great way to get to know our different upgrade plans:
- WordPress.com Premium ($99 yearly), includes all our blog upgrades: more design customizations, video uploads, more space — and no ads.
- WordPress.com Business ($299 yearly), includes everything that WordPress.com Premium offers, as well as unlimited access to all our premium themes, unlimited storage space, and real-time live chat support — right from the dashboard.
- WordPress.com Enterprise ($500 monthly), includes everything offered by the other plans, as well as access to more than 100 plugins to customize your branding, better track your audience, integrate with social media services, and more.
Go to Store in your dashboard to see all our plans and other upgrades, and try them out for free.
For technical reasons, domain upgrades are not included in this offer. If the upgrade plan you’re trying out includes a custom domain credit, like WordPress.com Premium or WordPress.com Business, the credit will be disabled for the duration of the trial. The credit will become available if you choose to purchase the plan when the trial is over.
With this offer, we hope that more of you will be able to try out our great upgrades this year.
The holiday season is officially upon us: that special time of the year dedicated to friends, family, red-nosed reindeer, and—
Who are we kidding? It’s all about food! Glorious, comforting, yummy food. As millions of Americans are busy preparing for tomorrow’s turkey/turducken/tofurkey feasts, the food scene on WordPress.com is equally abuzz with recipes, food stories, and pictures that will make you drool over your screen. Here are some of our favorite food blogs — better not continue on an empty stomach…
Eating with your eyes
A picture is sometimes worth a thousand bites, and many food bloggers take their images seriously, pushing food photography to a whole new level. On cookinandshootin, for example, bloggers Tara Striano and Maria del Mar accompany the detailed recipes with crisp, bright photos. They make great use of Anthem‘s full-width content display to make the pictures pop.
Others follow suit: in Lattes and Leggings, New York-based blogger Jen presents her healthy preparations with photos that channel each season’s distinct textures and colors. Across the continent, in Los Angeles, former baker Paula Parsons showcases her delicious-looking creations on Love + Cupcakes, where well-lit food and elegant typography makes for an irresistible mix.
Taking a different approach, illustrator Heather Diane creates custom-made drawings for each post, infusing her site (soon to become a book), Illustrated Bites, with an unmistakable, tongue-in-cheek retro vibe.
Food and contemporary society
Eating is, of course, never separate from much larger questions about culture: it defines societies at least as much as language or politics.
For those interested in the social aspects of food and cooking, Tangerine and Cinnamon offers fascinating cultural analyses of food by Sarah Emily, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based writer. Sarah also curates extensive weekly lists of food-related news from across the world, from Jon Stewart’s takedown of Chicago pizza to Israel’s prickly pear shortage.
Over at Eatocracy, CNN’s food blog, you can find an ever-changing roster of stories on the intersection of eating and current events, as well as weekly chats with blog editors Kat Kinsmen and Sarah LeTrent, who are often joined by special culinary guests.
For a look at the environmental stakes of the comestibles we grow, produce, and consume, the food section of eco-centric news blog Grist will satisfy any reader curious to learn about the policies that affect our eating habits (or anyone interested in knowing how you can cook your turkey in the dishwasher).
Recipes for all dietary choices
Are you vegan and wonder how to make desserts decadent enough to satisfy your sweet-tooth friends? Is your nephew gluten-sensitive and you aren’t sure how to approach Thanksgiving dinner? WordPress.com food bloggers cover all possible ground in today’s ever-expanding map of dietary choices and restrictions.
At his blog, The Domestic Man, soon-to-be-published-author Russ Crandall focuses on healthy, fresh takes on the paleo diet. This increasingly visible food doctrine aims to replicate the healthy eating habits of our prehistoric ancestors who shunned grains and had no access to processed products.
In a similar vein, Pallavi Gupta, the north-Indian blogger behind Veggie Zest, promotes the benefits of vegetarianism and veganism with sleek photos of her fresh creations, as well as of the delicious street food she encounters around the world.
And, if you thought that producing yummy cakes without wheat-based products is impossible, you clearly haven’t visited The Pink Rose Bakery, baker-blogger Kirsten‘s gluten-free baking site. We haven’t tried her bundt cakes yet, but they sure look delicious.
Food, the ultimate cultural bridge
It’s near-impossible to understand different cultures — whether oceans away or across town — without paying attention to the way people eat. Luckily, in blogging as in real life, food invites us to explore and expand our cultural horizons.
Using food to negotiate the different backgrounds and locales that have shaped their relationship, the blogging couple behind Chef and Steward, based in the United Arab Emirates, share their love of food and discovery through health-conscious recipes and gorgeous photography. Likewise, Eva Wong, a Malaysian food blogger based in Finland, brings these two drastically different climates together in her blog, Spicy Tones, writing about cooking and reflecting on her childhood.
Blogging about food can elide not only geographic distances, but temporal ones, too. With the insight that food cultures of the past reveal so much about earlier periods, author, seasoned traveler, and food-history lover Cynthia D. Bertelsen digs into fascinating stories, like White House desserts from the nineteenth century or pear preservation in antiquity.
The dawn of modern cooking is explored in depth, too, in food-history blogs like Gastronomy Archaeology, the project of a self-avowed “British food nerd” who’s into medieval and Renaissance cookery. If colonial-era hearth-fire feasts and heirloom seeds are more your thing, Victoria Rumble, over at The Historicfoodie’s Blog, will quench your curiosity.
A blogging cornucopia
From the Roman Empire to present-day North America, people have never tired of talking, writing, and thinking about food. Whether you’re looking for a pumpkin pie recipe or a reflection on food tourism, WordPress.com bloggers are here to enrich your culinary knowledge, and prepare your taste buds for their next savory adventure.
Looking for more food bookmarks for a rainy-day, food-blog fix? Check out some of these sites:
- Paper and Salt, a blog focusing on the unexpected connections between delicious food and great literature.
- The Hungry Artist, a site by a book illustrator who’s also an avid cook, with many kid-friendly recipes.
- Emily Contois, a blog by a food studies scholar exploring the place of food and body image in contemporary culture.
- British Blokes Cooking, where musings about cooking and living in Cornwall are interspersed with recipes for dog treats.
In our digital age, we interact with new technologies each day, yet some of us also pine for the past: we cherish handwritten things and value — even fetishize — physical objects. Posts like “Diaries and Connections to the Past” and “Found Objects and Books” reveal a collective nostalgia.
Consider a diary hidden in a shoebox. Postcards from your best friend, traveling around the world. Or a stack of letters from a secret lover. We view messages crafted by hand as more personal and meaningful — check out Cristina Vanko’s handwritten texts as modern-day snail mail. Words from our pens stand the test of time, and are viewed as more intimate — and meant to be shared and carefully considered by you, the reader.
PostSecret: Now on WordPress.com
We’re happy to announce that PostSecret, founded by Frank Warren, has made its home on WordPress.com as one of our newest VIP sites. A popular online community art project for many years, PostSecret is an outlet through which people anonymously mail in their secrets via postcard. It’s the largest ad-free blog in the world — and a perfect example of our appreciation and fascination for handwritten forms of communication.
Secrets are preserved in their analog glory, further creating a sense of intimacy:
Image via PostSecret, Sunday Secrets: November 23, 2013
Image via PostSecret, Classic Secrets: November 22, 2013
PostSecret is a longtime favorite blog for millions on the internet — we’re thrilled it’s now part of our community. Secrets are posted weekly, on Sunday.
Mixing analog and digital: other cool blog projects
Other blogs on WordPress.com experiment with found objects and handwritten letters and messages. Some bloggers have ongoing projects bringing their ancestors’ journals and scribbles to life, like A Hundred Years Ago and Home Front Girl Diary.
Over on Hope Street, Kurt Blumenau blogs about his grandfather, who kept month-to-month calendars on which he recorded events that affected him — everything from presidential assassinations to late-season snowstorms. Every Monday, Kurt picks an interesting calendar entry and writes something about it.
Image via Hope Street, September 1970: Spells
Likewise, the preservation of family history is the focus at Save Every Step, which archives family photography, childhood memories, and even World War II-era letters, like this one from 1944 from the blogger’s uncle Joe:
Image via Save Every Step, Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Final, Final, Final Exams”
From the postcards at PostSecret to the letters, diary entries, and handwritten messages on these blogs, it’s evident the WordPress.com community tells important stories about our pasts and histories in creative, clever ways.
Follow other interesting blogs that publish handwritten posts and other found materials? Let us know.
Finally, if you’re interested in keeping up with what’s abuzz in the community — from a collection of top reads to featured topics curated by our editors — subscribe to WordPress.com Weekend Reads, which we’ll deliver right to your inbox.
So far in our series of lesser-known WordPress.com features, we’ve discussed handy editing tools and neat ways to split up longer posts. This time, let’s leave text behind and talk about three image presentation tools you might have missed.
But there are some additional image-related features to discover.
Among the modules below your dashboard editor, there’s an unassuming Featured Image option:
Try clicking “Set featured image” and uploading an image (or choosing one of your existing images). It’s likely that you won’t see this image in your post itself, but different themes display featured images in different ways. For example, here I’ve added a featured image of a bridge:
With the Twenty Eleven theme, this image is then used as a special header image on the single post page for that post:
In the Visual theme, it’s shown above the post on the homepage:
It’s important to note that some themes don’t use featured images in any obvious way, but many do. If you aren’t sure if yours does, find your theme in the Theme Showcase and check out its documentation.
Do you use Flickr to store and organize your photos? Did you know you can connect your Flickr account to your WordPress.com site to blog your images right from Flickr?
To try it out, follow these instructions to connect your Flickr account to your site. Once they’re connected, pick an image you want to post, and click the share icon in the lower right-hand corner.
You’ll see a WordPress icon, which will give you a pop-up where you can add your title and post content:
Click “Post” when you’re done, and it posts directly to your blog!
Finally, you probably use galleries to display multiple images in your posts and pages. But you can also display an attractive gallery in your sidebar or footer using the Gallery Widget.
Just add the Gallery Widget to your sidebar, choose the images you want included, and choose the format for how you want it to display:
You can choose the various gallery styles for the widget as well:
If you have an image-heavy blog and you haven’t yet tried out these features, play around with them! They’re a fun way to add some variety to your site.
Parenting blogs flourish on WordPress.com, and today, we’re pleased to introduce you to Gendermom, whose site tagline, A chronicle of fun and fear, or, daily life with my young trans daughter, says it all. Gendermom’s daughter M. was born a boy. He knew early on that he should have been born a girl. Gendermom writes anonymously about the challenges and joys of raising M. Her site is a great example of how bloggers can educate, inspire, and build supportive communities.
Your son approached you at age three to tell you he believed that he should have been born a girl. How did you come to terms with him as a transgender person?
Well, it’s taken time. As far as I knew, I’d never met a transgender person before my child came onto the scene, announcing shortly after his third birthday that he was actually a she. I spent many months resisting, offering alternatives (“Couldn’t you just be a boy who likes girl stuff?”). No dice. The idea of remaining a boy was intolerable to her, and she never once wavered in her insistence that she was a girl who had been born into the wrong body.
“I am the last word for this kid. I’m Mom. What I decide now will impact the entire course of his (her?) life. I can’t afford to get this wrong.”
My ex-husband and most of my family, friends, and neighbors accepted it before I finally did. I dragged my feet for the better part of a year. Some of this resistance was born of grief — I had fallen in love with my baby boy and I didn’t want to let him go. But most of my reticence had another source: the knowledge that I was facing perhaps the most important decision of my life. I am the last word for this kid. I’m Mom. What I decide now will impact the entire course of his (her?) life. I can’t afford to get this wrong.
How did you embrace raising your son as a daughter?
I hedged and resisted for months and months. While my child went ahead and transformed into the girl she knew herself to be, I read books and consulted experts and found a support group and second-guessed myself a thousand times, until I was finally as sure as I was ever going to be that this was the right thing to do. When she was four years old, I got fully on board and I haven’t looked back.
It’s been almost two years since then. She is happy and confident and thriving, so I believe that we are on the right path. But it has been a long and difficult journey so far, and I know we are not out of the woods yet. She just started kindergarten at a new school where only her teachers and one other family “know.” I wonder every day when this will change, and what’s in store for us when it does. Life remains extremely interesting.
How have readers responded to your blog? How would you describe the support you’ve received?
The anonymity provided by the internet can be a dangerous thing (cyber-bullying comes to mind). But in my case, it has been such a gift. Through my anonymous blog, I’ve been able to connect (without exposing my child’s identity) with people around the country (and around the world) who understand me and my child in a way none of my cisgender friends (with their cisgender children) ever will (cisgender = not transgender).
Through the safety of our mutual anonymity, I’ve connected with transgender people I could never otherwise have found. This is particularly true in the case of older generations, who transitioned in an era when trans folks were required to hide their status completely, burying their pasts like participants in a witness protection program. One woman wrote to me:
When my age group transitioned more than 40 years ago, we were told…to blend into the woodwork. We were not to identify ourselves as transsexuals. I have only revealed myself to my family and a very few very close friends. Everyone else I know considers me as just like every other woman.
No questions asked. I admire the young transgender girls and women (and boys and men) of today who are bold and in your face and let the world know their situation. I admire that because that is really the only way things will ever change for the better.
Earlier generations of trans folks also lived in a time when a transgender childhood was simply not an option. Their stories frequently leave me humbled and heartbroken, as well as keenly aware of my child’s good fortune to have been born when she was:
I was born in 1960 and I was first spanked for wearing female clothes when I was four years old. All throughout my childhood I was beaten and humiliated for trying to dress or act female — because I was born with a male body. None of the beatings or humiliation tactics did any good — you ARE who you ARE and that cannot be changed!
Like most transsexual people born when I was, I transitioned late in life — at the age of 48. At this point, my transition is complete. Since I was NOT on hormone blockers as a child my body developed with male features.
Because of this I had to undergo years of very expensive, painful electrolysis. I have also had facial feminization surgery (FFS) where my entire face was basically removed so the doctor could reshape the bones in my face — bones that had been disfigured by testosterone.
To have parents like you and to be a trans kid today is the stuff my dreams were made of!
There’s a vein of envy running through many of these comments. They know all too well that my child will dodge many of the horrors they have endured. Early medical intervention to stave off the wrong puberty will mean she’ll never have to worry about being perceived as “a man in a dress.”
You might expect that they’d sound bitter, a little resentful of my child. But there has never been a hint of that. Rather, their words are uniformly supportive and kind. On dark days, I can rely on my anonymous cheering squad to get me through:
A parent as yourself is GOLDEN, cherish your daughter as you both are very special.
I see great things for your brave little girl. She knows she’s loved and supported, and with that she can conquer the world.
Have you encountered any negative reactions to you blog?
No, but I suspect this is largely due to the fact that my audience has thus far been composed mostly of transgender adults and parents of trans kids — people who believe, as I do, that transgender people are a naturally occurring and ever-present branch of the human family tree, found in all cultures and time periods. It’s a friendly audience and so far I haven’t had a single heckler.
But I am well aware that much of the world still believes trans people to be psychologically damaged, or worse. I do hope to eventually reach this wider, more mainstream audience. Some of them are going to say some awful things, and that’s going to be really hard. But if their minds are even half-way open, and they “meet” my child in the pages of my blog, I think there’s a very good chance that most people will come away with a new perspective about what it means to be transgender — one that’s based on real people and real lives, rather than fear and stereotypes. A mom can dream, anyway.
Have you been able to connect with other parents facing similar issues? What influence has that had, if any, on your blogging?
I hear fairly frequently from parents with gender-nonconforming or transgender kids. Their emails often express the same relief that I feel when I encounter other parents who have kids like mine. We might be strangers, but I know them. I know they’re just as lonely and scared as I am, just as exhausted by the well-meaning questions (“What if you just made her wear pants?”), the subtle (and not so subtle) jokes and smirks at our kids’ expense, and the ever-present (and not unfounded) terror that the world is going to hurt our children.
I love receiving emails from these other parents. And they all say pretty much the same thing: “You GET me.”
I have a transgirl too, and she’s five. Reading your blog is sometimes like reading about MY life.
Most of your entries bring tears to my eyes as I think “Yes, yes, yes! I get it!” It is such a gift to have people who really understand.
What’s your advice to others who might be thinking about blogging about (potentially) sensitive/highly personal issues?
“On top of this, I feel strongly that it’s not my secret to share. Someday my child may decide to live openly as a trans person, but that will be her call, not mine.”
I take my anonymity seriously. I’ll never write anything or post an image that might expose my identity or that of my child. This is not because I’m ashamed of her or of us, but because the world still isn’t a very safe place for transgender folks. The statistics on violence against transgender people — especially women — are terrifying. On top of this, I feel strongly that it’s not my secret to share. Someday my child may decide to live openly as a trans person, but that will be her call, not mine.
I actually haven’t even shared my blog with any family or friends. All my readers are strangers. This allows me to feel free to write whatever I want to, without fearing I’ll upset or worry loved ones. I can openly complain about friends who, though well-intentioned, often say absolutely the wrong thing (“You should just keep things gender-neutral until he’s older.” “I’m so relieved my kid is…normal.”) When this happens, I go to my blog and tell sympathetic strangers about it. I write, without holding anything back, about how isolating and terrifying it can be to raise a child like mine. This freedom is fabulously therapeutic, and the supportive responses I receive from readers get me through the tough days.
How do you respond to the typical misconceptions about transgender people that you’ve encountered ?
I live in a very liberal area, so we’ve had a pretty easy time of it so far. People generally fall all over themselves to express their enthusiastic support, but that doesn’t mean that they have a clue about what it means to be transgender. Some people actually ask me if my kid has had a “sex change operation.” No, she has not. She’s five years old!
“My hope is that every speech I give will change the world just a tiny bit, and that each of my victims will tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends… and the world will be that much safer and friendlier for kids like mine.”
More often, people assume that a five year old couldn’t possibly know what gender she is. If I’m feeling sassy, I might ask them if they’re sure they’ve got their kids’ genders right. “I mean, little Ella’s only six years old. Do you really think she can know that she’s a girl at such a young age?” That generally gets them thinking.
All sassiness aside, most of the time I try hard to be patient, knowing that I was in their shoes just a few years ago and would have likely asked many of the same questions. I give a lot of little informational “Transgender 101” speeches, explaining that transgender people have always been with us, but have been hidden and marginalized. (“You know, just like gays and lesbians were a few decades ago.”) My hope is that every speech I give will change the world just a tiny bit, and that each of my victims will tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends… and the world will be that much safer and friendlier for kids like mine.
Which resources would you recommend for parents and families raising non-genderconforming kids?
These organizations provide invaluable advice, resources, and support for parents of gender-nonconforming kiddos:
The mission of WordPress.com is to democratize publishing. We’re inspired every day by the ways creators use our platform to bring their voices to the world. Unfortunately, we also see many cases of censorship aimed at WordPress.com authors and users.
One area where we’ve seen a number of problems is the censoring of criticism through abuse of copyright law. Two recent cases of abuse really caught our attention and made us think that we needed to take action to fight back on behalf of our users and everyone who believes in the internet’s promise for free expression.
Censorship by DMCA
A common form of censorship by copyright stems from improper use of legal creations called DMCA takedown notices. The DMCA stands for the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” which is a US federal law that created a system for protecting copyrights online. The DMCA system works pretty well, but has a few overlooked flaws that have made it too easy to abuse. Under the DMCA, companies, like Automattic, who publish user content cannot be held legally responsible for copyright infringement — so long as we follow a procedure to take down materials when we receive a notice from a copyright holder that something appearing on our platform allegedly infringes their copyrights. Every company that you use to share videos, pictures, and thoughts (from Google search to Facebook to Snapchat to WordPress.com) relies on the DMCA to balance free expression with copyright protection.
The DMCA system gives copyright holders a powerful and easy-to-use weapon: the unilateral right to issue a takedown notice that a website operator (like Automattic) must honor or risk legal liability. The system works so long as copyright owners use this power in good faith. But too often they don’t, and there should be clear legal consequences for those who choose to abuse the system.
We receive hundreds of DMCA notices and try our best to review, identify, and push back on those we see as abusive. Our users have the right to challenge a DMCA complaint too, but doing so requires them to identify themselves and fill out a legally required form saying that they submit to being sued for copyright infringement in a place that may be far away. If they don’t, their content is taken down and could stay down forever. This tradeoff doesn’t work for the many anonymous bloggers that we host on WordPress.com, who speak out on sensitive issues like corporate or government corruption.
Standing with Users to Take Action
Given the legal landscape, it’s no wonder that we’ve seen an increased number of improper notices. The following two notices inspired us to take action to help bring some needed balance to the situation.
First: Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus are experienced science journalists who operate Retraction Watch, a site that highlights and tracks situations where published scientific papers may not be everything they seem. One reader apparently disagreed with a critique published on Retraction Watch — so he copied portions of the Retraction Watch site, claimed the work as his own and issued a DMCA takedown notice against the original authors.
Second: Oliver Hotham is a student journalist living in the UK. Oliver publishes investigative articles on his WordPress.com blog. The subject of one of his articles apparently had second thoughts about a press statement he gave to Oliver — so he turned to copyright law to censor Oliver’s site. Oliver’s account of that incident is here.
These cases are both infuriating and increasingly common. While there are no legal consequences (like fines) under the DMCA for copyright abusers, there is a provision that allows victims of censorship (and their web hosts) to bring legal action against those who submit fraudulent DMCA notices. So today, we’ve joined with Oliver, Ivan, and Adam to strike back at DMCA abuse. We’ve filed two lawsuits for damages under Section 512(f) of the DMCA, which allows for suits against those who “knowingly materially misrepresent” a case of copyright infringement.
Until there are some teeth to the copyright laws, it’s up to us — websites and users, together — to stand up to DMCA fraud and protect freedom of expression. Through these suits, we’d like to remind our users that we’re doing all we can to combat DMCA abuse on WordPress.com…and most importantly, remind copyright abusers to think twice before submitting fraudulent takedown notices. We’ll be watching, and are ready to fight back.
We’ll also be actively involved, on behalf of our users, in trying to change the law — both through court cases and in Congress — to make sure that everyone has the right to share their voice on the internet without threat of censorship.
Read Retraction Watch’s thoughts on our lawsuit here.