Invisible Stories Episode 13 with Tony Ferraiolo
On today’s episode I speak to Tony Ferraiolo, author of Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth, volumes 1 and 2. Tony has dedicated himself to both promoting competent and respectful health care for the transgender community, by educating providers, and advocating on behalf of patients. He also trains educators on providing a safe and respectful space for transgender children in a school environment.
In this episode we discuss:
- Stay in the moment. Mindfulness is a powerful tool.
- Write a sentence a day, that’s how you start.
- Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, just write for yourself. They are your words, and they matter.
- You’re not in this alone, get a support system around you. It can be a mental health provider, a writing partner, or even a Zoom writing friend.
Enjoy the episode!
Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth Volume 1 and 2 by Tony Ferraiolo
There are plenty of books in existence about transgender youth. There are a lot of good people, trying to give good information, and for the most part they are. But you might be asking yourself what makes this book different than the others. This book is different because you will be educated directly by transgender children and teens. Not by a medical professional. Not by a life coach. Not even by me. This book will illustrate how transgender children and teens feel and think about themselves, as told through their art. Each drawing is accompanied by a statement where each child describes what their art means to them.
- Timestamp: 2:43: The audience for the book is health providers, mental health providers, teachers and parents. But after the first volume came out, I was getting emails from trans kids from all over the country that are in areas where they are not being supported, saying, “You know what? Your book is saving my life. It’s making me feel like I’m not alone.” It was really shocking to me. So that’s what I do. I’m a life coach. My niche is trans youth and their families. I’m also now a certified teacher of mindfulness, and I really incorporate the mindfulness into not just in my support groups, but when I’m out doing trainings at schools and hospitals, I incorporate all of that in with my trainings. That’s who I am.
- Timestamp: 4:32: What’s changed mainly from when I first started was these trans and non-binary kids are coming out younger and younger. Which is very important for us to talk about because they need a voice, and these books, it’s not my words. When you see one of their drawings, the description of their drawing is coming from their words. And that was really, really important to me. Because I just wanted to be a vehicle for their voice. What is happening with this book now, and it’s really something that now in the past year it’s really taken on almost a new life, especially volume one, that hospitals, and health providers, and mental health providers are really paying attention to it. Because you’ll never understand what it’s like to be trans or non-binary if you don’t identify as that. So, listen, if you’re out there and you’re thinking, I don’t understand how somebody can be that way, how can somebody be trans? Then I am going to ask you to retire from that thought. Because I would never understand what it’s like not to be, but I still honor people who are. These books are really geared towards the visualization of the struggle, and each book has a really hard question, and then a kind of fluffy question. So volume one is what does body dysphoria feel like? And if you had all the money in the world, what would you buy first?
- Timestamp: 6:08: I think that when people try to understand something that they’re not, it blocks them from acceptance. And we just have to sit back and say okay, there are people who are trans and non-binary. Awesome! I don’t judge anybody. I go by somebody’s heart and soul and how they are. But when we block children from being who they are, and blocking their truth, that is why there is 51% of trans youth that attempt suicide. Attempt it. Physically attempt it. And when we block them from being authentic, we’re being part of that problem, and not part of the solution, right?
- Timestamp: 8:15: It’s so empowering, I mean, I remember when the kid that drew the cover of volume one, they were blown away, they could not believe that I chose that for volume one. Literally I had seen a shift from whatever to like, they were really, really proud, they were totally empowered. They are very artsy to begin with, and I think that really helped them believe in themselves. And even if it’s not like this masterpiece, which it doesn’t have to be, it just has to be something where the audience or whoever is reading can actually understand what’s happening. It just brings them to a sense of pride. They don’t have a voice, and they should be heard. They should be heard, because a child’s feelings and emotions are valid and they are real. And when I am using Artistic Expressions as part of my trainings which I do especially when I am training schools, that is the part of the training where people gasp, and they cry, and they connect with the struggle because what I am trying to do is let them see it so they can have compassion. Because you cannot be mean to somebody you have compassion for.
- Timestamp: 10:57: Anytime I’m asked to speak, anytime, if I’m asked to speak… I was just asked to speak at a pediatric conference in Mystic, which of course I’m doing, and I always say to the people I need a projector and I need a monitor and a screen, because I’m gonna do a slideshow of my book. And I’m gonna show them slides just not a lot of it, but just have them get a taste of what these kids are going through, but then say, you know there’s more Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth, Volume One, Volume Two. I am always plugging my book. Always. Because people will not know what Artistic Expressions of Transgender Youth is, unless I tell them. You know what I mean? I gotta say this, as a life coach, and anybody out there that’s thinking I really want to do my story, do it! Start talking to people about it. Say, you know, “I’m an author.” I remember before I even, we were working on volume one, I was telling people yeah, I’m an author I’m doing a book on… Because if you can believe it, you can achieve it. But you have to visualize yourself doing it. Your voice matters, and your story can change lives. I would never have imagined that Artistic Expressions would have touched this many people. And the people that it touched, it helps. And that’s the people I know about. So don’t sit there and say, my story isn’t that interesting, my story… If you feel your story, that you want to tell your story, tell your story.
- Timestamp: 14:55: I never wrote a book before. And people were saying to me, how are you going to do that, you’ve never wrote a book before. My mother was like, oh my God, you’ve never wrote a book, how are you going to write a book? I couldn’t believe how many people said that to me. And then I thought to myself, well wait a minute. Any author, no matter how successful they are, at one time in their life, they neve wrote a book before. So don’t listen to people that say that. They’re just putting their stress on you, okay?
- Timestamp: 19:18: I gotta tell you, I went to your event in Hartford, the Business of Becoming an Author, and there was this guy on your panel, and I don’t know if he’s listening or who he was, I’m sorry because I’m not good with names. I barely remember yours and I’ve known you for decades! I’m kidding. He said […] to the audience, just start writing stories down that you remember of your life. Just write stories. And so that’s what I started doing, I started outlining now stories that I remember from when I was very young until now. And I’m going to start chipping away at the stories and put them together in chapters. So it doesn’t seem as… he gave me a place to start. Now I have to find time to do it. It would be the biggest accomplishment of my life when I finish this memoir, really.
- Timestamp: 21:27: I want people to hear my story, and I’m hoping that it will give them, if people are struggling, it will give them hope. I hear that all the time when people watch the documentary. I still, Jenn, how long has it been, a really long time, I think 6 years. It came out in 2013. 7 years. And they are still showing it, and I’m still getting emails, and most of them through Facebook saying, “I just watched your documentary and now I have hope for my life.” When you think about it, this is why you’ve got to tell your story. Because when I was going through all the pain and all my struggles, prior to transitioning as a kid, you know suicidal thoughts and cutting and stuff like that, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that one day my life would have became a documentary, and that I would be helping– I get really emotional when I think about this. That my life struggle has helped thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, because that documentary went global, you know it won awards and everything at film festivals. And that’s what I really want to put, when I’m talking to the kids, I’m like guys, listen, you are struggling now. But this is all happening for a reason. You don’t know the reason, but trust me, that you will someday be able to sit in front of somebody who is going through the same thing, and you’ll be able to save them. That’s how I feel.
- Timestamp: 23:57: Listen, I do, because I am having problems myself. And I’m, again, totally transparent here. I started therapy. I have a coach, but I started therapy for a few reasons. I was having a hard time when I was bringing up some of the old stuff, like when I was a kid. Strategize so that you have some type of wellness team around you, if it’s going to be a painful journey to write stories of your past. Sometimes people don’t have horrendous pasts, sometimes people do. If you do and you already know you’re struggling about it, talk to other authors who might have done memoirs, you know. Reach out to people. You’re not in it alone. Listen, you mention them in the front of the book, it’s all good. You know what I’m saying.