Actor Luke Evans really wants you to know–he’s kept in shape during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The actor, known for his roles in Beauty and the Beast and The Alienist, shared before and after pictures showing off his body and highlighting the dramatic change in his weight.
“8 months of work but I got there. June 2020 – February 2021,” he wrote on Instagram. “I won’t bother putting statistics as the judges will only judge.”
The side-by-side comparison of his “dad bod” from last summer strikes a stark contrast with his very lean, ripped build from last month. Of course, Evans also showed off his new body in several other pictures, which left us reaching for a glass of water. A tall glass of water.
At the moment, Evans is gearing up to star in a live-action version of Disney’s Pinnochio for director Robert Zemeckis. Evans will play the evil Coachman who whisks the title character off to the hedonism of Pleasure Island. The actor will star alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiminy Cricket, Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy, Keegan-Michael Key as Honest John and Tom Hanks as Geppetto.
In a new picture book by the real-life mother of a transgender daughter, a young boy isn’t quite sure what’s happening when his younger sibling, whom he thought was a boy, begins to want long hair and to wear dresses. The whole family learns together in this story that adds to the small number of picture books about transgender children and their siblings.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter is a clinical social worker and advocate for children and families whose memoir about her own years in foster care, Three Little Words (Amazon; Bookshop), was a New York Times bestseller. She and her husband have been foster parents to more than twenty-five children. Her first children’s book, Sam Is My Sister (Albert Whitman & Co.), is not about foster care, however, but is based on her own family’s experiences raising a transgender daughter and two cisgender sons (whose names have been changed for the story).
The tale, brightly illustrated by MacKenzie Haley, starts with three White siblings, Evan, Sam, and Finn, who “did everything together.” When Sam starts to want books about princesses and to wear his hair long, Evan wonders why. To their mom’s credit, she says that books are for everyone. Their father explains that Sam’s hair is Sam’s and “isn’t hurting anyone.”
When Sam wants to wear a dress to school, however, the mom hesitates, giving Sam a hair bow and suggesting, “How about this for now?” This feels true to the gradual process that many families go through when a child comes out as trans.
On the next page, some kids at school tease Sam. Evan glares at them, but doesn’t say anything. Sam becomes sad and withdrawn. Eventually, though, their parents start letting Sam wear dresses outside of school, and “Evan had never seen Sam so happy.” When Evan doesn’t understand, however, how Sam can feel like a girl on the inside, Sam makes the analogy to knowing which hand one uses to draw. Evan says, “Drawing with my other hand doesn’t feel right.” Sam explains, “Well, being a boy doesn’t feel right to me.”
One day, the parents sit the whole family down to share that “Sam has been talking to us about something important,” and that they’ve met with “some doctors and experts.” They’ve learned what “transgender” means and realized Sam is transgender. Sam affirms this.
Sam reassures Evan and Finn that they can all still go fishing and play “spaceships, planes, and trains.” Evan, who seems to be expanding his view of gender roles, tells Finn that “Girls like to fish, too.”
Back at school, though, some kids call Sam a “boy in a dress.” This time, Evan confronts them, saying, “Don’t talk like that to my sister!” Sam is delighted he called her his sister.
At the end, the brothers ask if Sam will still fly to the moon with them, and Sam tells them, “Princesses can go to the moon.” Leia Organa would be proud.
While the story has a clear educational purpose, Rhodes-Courter lightens it with some gentle humor. I also appreciate her emphasis that gender is about what’s inside, not about the books one reads or the toys one plays with.
Sam Is My Sister feels like a complement to Jack, Not Jackie, by Erica Silverman (Little Bee), which offers the perspective of a cisgender girl whose sibling is a transgender boy. (My review here.) Like that earlier book, this one seems aimed mostly at the siblings (and possibly friends) of transgender children rather than transgender children themselves. Kyle Lukoff’s When Aidan Became a Brother, in contrast, is told from the perspective of a transgender boy awaiting the arrival of a new sibling. (My review here.) Each of these viewpoints will likely appeal to different families. (And for more children’s books with transgender characters, not necessarily with siblings, see my database. Start typing “Trans” into the Tag box and the various options will come up.)
Rhodes-Courter shares a little more of her family’s real story in an Author’s Note at the end, relating that, “One day, when we read aloud a wonderful book about a young transgender girl, Sam’s face lit up. ‘Mommy, that’s ME! I’m transgender!’ This was a breakthrough moment. I had never seen Sam so happy.” That’s the power of books, friends. May this one in its turn help families and individuals to find their way.
(As an Amazon Associate and as a Bookshop Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Camille is a writer and nonprofit marketing manager living in Brooklyn, New York with her wife. Her essays have appeared in BuzzFeed, Narratively, Autostraddle, Catapult, and elsewhere. She’s also the author of Queer Disbelief: Why LGBTQ Equality is an Atheist Issue. Learn more about (Her)oics.
What made you decide to write this piece? I wrote this piece to help me understand, process, and ultimately accept what I was going through: a recurring eating disorder, a dark depression, and a deep heartache about how to see myself as anything but a failure. I wanted to work through it and to create the opportunity for connection with anyone who might be going through the same thing. Healing is anything but linear. There are peaks, valleys, and devastating spirals, and it can be hard to make sense of those setbacks when you feel like you’ve already come so far. But in writing the essay, I had a reason to think clearly and intentionally about what I was going through and how I could make sense of it moving forward, and I’m proud of what I was able to do.
What is your writing life like? Do you write during the day, after work, etc.? Writing is not my primary career; I work full-time at a nonprofit, so my writing tends to be confined to nights, weekends, and the occasional lunch break. I tend to go long periods without writing anything, and then I’ll get bursts of ideas that keep me writing for days at a time. Those creative sparks have been much harder to come by since the start of the pandemic, but I’m excited about what I’m writing next and hopeful that it’ll propel me to keep going.
Where do you see your writing going next? Any firm plans or upcoming publications? I’m working on a memoir about my relationship with my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor and world traveler who shaped my understanding of mental illness, identity, and how we give and receive love. It sounds very heavy, but her life was actually one of joy and lightness; I’m planning to punctuate the chapters with her favorite dirty jokes, for example. No firm plans for publication yet, but I’m looking forward to writing it either way.
Why do you think people should buy and read the anthology? We’re going to feel the impacts of the pandemic for much longer than any of us realizes. It’s crucial that we not lose sight of how this time has irreparably changed us and our world, especially for those folks already living on the margins: people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and the like. Reading this anthology is another way of connecting to our shared humanity and ensuring we continue to show up for each other.
What is the theme in your piece and how does it come through? Is that an ongoing theme in your work? Self-reflection and self-acceptance — and the challenges they open up, particularly in the context of mental illness — are ongoing themes in all my work, including this piece. Writing my story down has long been part of my process of coming to terms with who I am, what I look like, and the space I take up in the world. At the same time, I know that countless others are going through the same or, in some cases, much more challenging experiences as I am, and so I hope I addressed themes of compassion and community here, too.
How will your life be different than before the pandemic? I hope I’ll be a more empathetic and giving person who can pay closer attention to how I can help someone else. And I’ll never again take for granted the things that I’m missing so much now: regularly seeing family, sharing space with loved ones, unmasked hugs.
Trans dad Freddy McConnell replied: “Solidarity! I’ve had many of these. Also virtually every one of my female friends/relatives has been assumed to be my kid’s mum more than once.”
Another gay dad replied: “We’ve had all of these and more. My particular fave: on seeing me choose a Fathers’ Day card with junior: ‘Oh your grandson is so adorable!’ (Though, maybe I just looked old).”
One woman added: “People are so intrusive to LGBTQ people’s lives. I’ve had a colleague ask me in a lift at work if I want kids, who will have them, how it will work… All in a one minute lift ride to the canteen (with other people in there…).”
But author CL Taylor perhaps summed it up best in her response to the thread, simply writing: “Woah. People are so rude.”
A gay dad is being praised for his parenting skills and the support he shows his son. The two men took part in the video series Truth or Drink for media brand, Cut. The older man, Craig adopted his son, Austin, when the boy was 13. Austin’s current age is not given but we’d guess he’s in his early 20s.
In the video, Austin says he was “noticeably gay” from a very young age. He explains that his biological parents were homophobic. He says his mom was a drug addict and he was removed by authorities and then adopted by Craig and his partner.
Related: Gay dad shuts down inquiry about whether he wants his son to like guys or girls
Craig says that when he first adopted Austin, it took some time for trust to be established, and it took around a year and a half before the youngster really began talking to his new parents.
“He watched us. He started to trust us. And then he started blooming into this beautiful, amazing, artistic creature,” says Craig.
The two men discuss what they think of the label “queer” (Austin says he doesn’t have a problem with it but Craig says it still has too many painful connotations for him to embrace it), before moving on to more candid questions.
Austin asks his dad who his first queer crush was, and Craig reveals it was Rob Lowe in the movie, About Last Night.
Asked what the “queerest thing” each had done, Austin reveals Craig used to be a “well-known” drag queen. Craig says the queerest thing he sees Austin doing is showing his “butt flaps on Instagram.” However, Craig says this doesn’t bother him: “The queerest thing? I don’t think of you on those terms. I think of you as my kid out there living his life.”
One thing both men declined to answer, opting for a sip of drink instead, is whether they’re top, bottom, or versatile.
Instead, they do opt for answering “Who’s the oldest person you’ve dated.” When Austin reveals he’s had sex with a man in his 50s, Craig shoots back, “Was that for money?”
“Shut up!” replies a mock-offended Austin, before adding, “Fifty-year olds on the West Coast really know how to preserve themselves.”
Related: Gay dad is furious when his son gets a tattoo — until he sees what it is
“Do you have any sex advice for me?” Austin asks next.
“Absolutely,” replies Craig. “Enjoy it. It’s not bad. It’s one of the most potent and beautiful things two people can ever share.”
“Well, sometimes there’s more than two,” replies Austin knowingly, to his father’s shock.
Austin shares memories when he felt threatened or unsafe because of his sexuality, which concerns Craig but is something he can relate to, having also lived somewhere that takes a conservative view of same-sex relationships.
Craig becomes emotional when he asks Austin, “Was I a good parent to you when you were growing up? What could I have done differently?”
Austin replies, “No parent is perfect, whether you’re gay, straight … I’m happy for everything you’ve done for me and I wouldn’t ever change anything about that. As of right now, where I am in my life, I’ve never been more happy and more comfortable in my own skin.”
The response to the video online has been overwhelmingly positive.
“He seems like such a caring and good father,” says one man on YouTube. “I am heterosexual myself and my father died when I was 3 years old and I would have loved to have a supporting father like this.”
“This father deserves an award,” said another. “Dude made my heart twist and I’m a straight dude with no children.”
“If all dads were this caring we would have flying cars by now,” added another impressed viewer.
Several others … well, they just wanted to know the name of Austin’s Instagram account!
A new documentary profiles comedian and parent Julia Scotti. After a ten-year hiatus and a transition to her true self as a transgender woman, she came back to her career in 2011 with more shows, a CD, an appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” and a reconciliation with the children from whom she’d become estranged.
Julia Scotti (L) and Susan Sandler (R)
Funny That Way, from director Susan Sandler, is a touching, funny, and inspiring film that shows us Scotti’s life through her own words, clips from her shows, and conversations with her children (now grown) and others. At the beginning, Scotti explains why she agreed to the project, saying, “Most of all, this is for me … a me that didn’t exist for nearly 50 years.” She hopes it will help her children understand why she had to transition and that it may help young transgender people who may be contemplating self-harm.
She talks of her own growing realization of her true identity, transitioning in the late 1990s at age 47, the difficulty of telling her kids, who were “the only thing I was truly happy about,” and the 14-year estrangement that followed. She also stepped away from a burgeoning career. After performing in clubs and theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada since 1980, appearing on bills with Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, Scotti left comedy. She went back to college and taught junior high school for a decade. Several years ago, she decided to get back on stage at a small comedy club; this led to a reentry into the business now as an “old lady,” performances at LGBTQ events across the country, and an appearance on Season 11 of America’s Got Talent, where she became a quarter-finalist and the first transgender comedian to appear on national television. During this period, she also reconnected with her children.
Dan Gagliardi, Julia’s son, and Julia Scotti
The film doesn’t avoid showing us the challenges she and her family have faced, but the focus is much more on how she and her children have come through them; it’s not just a litany of struggles. We see her son Dan as an adult, sharing a stage with Scotti as she talks with a PFLAG group, and clearly comfortable with their renewed relationship. Her daughter Emma looks back on her earlier rejection of Scotti’s transition, and reflects, “I made the unkind decision to prioritize fitting in over my family.” Both children share her love of comedy, though, and this is one of their points of reconnection.
The film is an inspiring story of a trans parent but also simply a story of reinventing oneself in midlife, of healing, second chances, and the power of laughter. It’s funny—as any film about Scotti would have to be, to do her justice—but it’s also moving on many levels.