Spirit of a Leader

Originally published here https://www.facebook.com/rigatuso/posts/10156988833223523?tn=K-R

I wrote this a few days ago and shared it exclusively on my patreon page (the link to read the post is included). There is so much more I wanted to write and share but I believe in light of today’s events in DC the Great Native Spirits know the time is now. I am listening to them.

I do not own the rights to the music I used in the video clip below. Please go and support Frank Waln and buy his music. I bought all he has created and the song I used here speaks volumes to my journey on this earth as well as my awakening and true desire to be me and create open and affirming environments for all transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks in our world.

My journey has been a complex one and most recently I have found myself working toward honoring my gifts. I am not doing this as a show. I am doing this as a deep spiritual connection to my people, to the land and because all of my identities are valid and my story matters. I try to meet people where they are at and have done a great deal of work along the way to become the best human I can be.

The messages I was given are not new today. They have been percolating in my unconscious as well as my conscious mind for years. But my own fears stopped me in so many ways and so many times throughout my life. Plus, I have allowed the “laws of the white people” to silence me.

I painted my face the day I did this shoot. I researched war paint and decided to paint my own hand white and then place it over my mouth because that is what I had seen in my research.

Little did I know the intensity of feeling that would present itself in that act. I stood looking in the mirror with my hand over my face and began to cry. I was sobbing almost immediately. Sobbing at the ways my culture and heritage were not only stripped from me but also the ways in which I have “bought into” the belief that I was a savage and that if I just acted the right way I would be respected.

Smoke Signals photoshoot with Sam Jacobs

Years of personal experience have shown me otherwise. And I am reclaiming the word savage because to me it takes great bravery to stand in the face of ZERO agreement and keep forging forward and speaking one’s truth. And honoring those who show up on my path.

Smoke Signals photo shoot with Sam Jacobs

My sobbing was finally witnessing in that moment the ways in which my identity had been stripped from me but I was also sobbing at the ways in which I also silenced myself by buying into the messages of folks who saw me as less than.

I almost canceled this photo shoot with my friend Sam Jacobs out of an intense fear of showing my true self, exposing my chest proudly, and not fat shaming myself and reclaiming who I am. But he was so gracious and kind so I could hardly say no! Also, the irony of the white man capturing my image is not lost on me. But he listened to what I had to share and he captured some of the most powerful images of my spirit, MY TRUE SELF. He is a good human and I love him and I am so grateful we are connected and he brought these images to life. And now I share this all with you!

I would love to personally thank the following folks who have become patrons on my page and literally pay me monthly to share these things with them. It isn’t a large amount of money but the truth is the fact they came to support speaks volumes to me. The fact they are interested in what I am doing speaks volumes to me.

Thank you Ben CassChris WinterJoe ShawDominique MorganKacie WareFrank Kubat and John D. Muñoz for investing in me! I love you all so very much!

#indigenous #NativePride #LeadWithLove #MyGifts

Thoughts on Toxic Masculinity originally posted on my patreon page along with this video

I think the greatest fear in regard to the topic of toxic masculinity is those who are literally brainwashed by the binary! Humans would do well to see that the same system that created the binary and literally attempted to erase the gender spectrum is the same system that created the delineation of traits and relegated them to either masculine and feminine. And in some cases, we have also placed those traits along with their label of masculine or feminine into the binary of good and bad.
Right now and for probably as far back in time as you or I can imagine we have been assigning certain personality traits to masculine or feminine. We have forced ways of being for what makes a woman a good woman and what makes a man a good man. And there is literally NO difference between the two. What makes a good human a good human? However, you would answer that question would apply to everyone.
Those who are the most toxic right now are predominantly of male bodies but the truth is they are also of female bodies and all kinds of configurations in between.
Our body parts are just that parts. Who we all are, how we live, express, act, treat others, has ZERO to do with gender. We are talking about HUMANIZING all folks and allowing the rainbow that makes up who we are to shine.

Smoke Signals photoshoot with Sam Jacobs

Those who DO NOT and CAN NOT or REFUSE to acknowledge this simple fact will get left behind. We all have the ability to be TOXIC. We also have the ability to be loving and kind. But we must acknowledge the system that got us here. And acknowledge the lives that have been lost because of this system! The identities that have been stolen. The cultural practices, languages, expressions of the Black and Indigenous People of Color.
The system is white supremacy. We all possess varying levels of it. And if you are unwilling to grapple with that fact, you are unwilling to change and create a world where all folks can thrive as opposed to merely survive.
We all deserve so much better than the petty farguments (Facebook arguments) we find ourselves in from day to day right now. But the fact of the matter there is WORK to be done. Serious internal reflection work to be done. A willingness to NOT KNOW the answers. A willingness to go deep. To sit with the discomfort.
If you have ever felt as though there is something standing between you and the things your heart dreams of, the answer will be found once you seek within yourself and acknowledge the things YOU have done to STOP you from succeeding. But for BIPOC we also need to acknowledge the fact that we were way down the block, around the corner, down another street, up a large hill, and across a long valley away from the starting point of the race to begin with.
At some point in your life, your spirit was shattered. Go to that place. The answers will be found there.
Eagle Heart, Two Spirit of the Menominee Nation, Great Great Great Grand kin of War Eagle. Here to reclaim what is mine. What was passed down to me through my DNA. I possess the heart of a warrior who has always stood courageously in LOVE.

Smoke Signals photoshoot with Sam Jacobs

Music on the video is called Victory Song by Frank Waln Frank Waln, or Oyate Teca Obmani is a Sicangu Lakota rapper. The winner of 3 Native American Music Awards and recipient of 5 nominations, both alone and with his group Nake Nula Waun, Waln grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and first began listening to hip-hop as a teenager. Please consider purchasing his music and supporting his artistry here http://frankwaln.com/shop/


Oprah Winfrey gave the most riveting speech after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement at last nights Golden Globes that I have ever heard. It was packed with inspirational and moving statements in true Oprah style. It struck me as I watched, that for years she has done this very thing. Methodically growing a following of people who are out to empower and inspire the masses. She has covered everything in her incredible career as a talk show host and I have been inspired time and time again by her wit and wisdom.

She is, in fact, one of the main reasons I am such an outspoken advocate, not only for the LGBTQ+ Community but also for myself! In her words, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” So I will continue to speak my truth into the world time and time again. If you missed her speech last night below is a full transcript.

I have highlighted some points that were most validating and important to me. But the speech as a whole was POWERFUL and INSPIRATIONAL, and incredibly MOVING.

Below is a full transcript of Winfrey’s acceptance speech.
In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course, his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field”:
“Amen, amen, amen, amen.”
In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor — it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for “A.M. Chicago.” Quincy Jones who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sophia in ‘The Color Purple.'” Gayle who has been the definition of what a friend is, and Stedman who has been my rock — just a few to name.
I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To — to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.
But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.
Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man who chooses to listen.
In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

Also, if you would prefer to see and hear her make this powerful statement you can do so here:

Oprah Winfrey Accepts the Cecil B. de Mille Award – Golden Globes 2018

"I want all of the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, 'me too' again." Oprah Winfrey accepts the 2018 Cecil B. de Mille award. #GoldenGlobes

Posted by Golden Globes on Sunday, January 7, 2018

And this was her interview afterward:

Two powerful statements from this above interview:

“Do the work that comes straight from the soul of you. From your background, from stories that you’ve grown up with, from stories that bring you passion, from stories that you not just yearn to tell, but that if you don’t tell them they won’t get told.” Oprah, Golden Globes interview 2018

“The key to fulfillment, success, happiness, contentment in life is when you align your personality with what your soul actually came to do. When you can use your personality to serve whatever that thing is you can’t help but be successful.” Oprah, Golden Globes interview 2018


Happy MAN-niversary to me.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017 was a big day for me. I kept wanting to post about it and then the day went by in a flash and next thing you know it was the 22nd. Again I kept trying to get to this post and share my thoughts as well as a few photos, but once again the day was over and I realized I had neglected to share!

So here we are Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 and I am now focused and ready! First of all, I celebrated my second MAN-niversary. Some guys refer to this as their celebration of having been on T and some guys as their anniversary of having top surgery. I think that is mainly because some guys start T and then wait for a year or two to have top surgery. Not because that is what they want, sometimes it’s because it is EXPENSIVE and they need to save. Or they are trying to find employers who actually extend the insurance coverage for trans related surgeries. Many insurance companies offer the coverage but not all companies extend that coverage to their employees. I know mine didn’t. So I paid out of pocket for my surgery to the tune of six thousand five hundred dollars. Also for the record, I started weekly injections of testosterone in August of 2015 so I celebrate two years on T this past August! I will share more about that in another blog.

I also believe it is important to note, some guys choose to NOT have top surgery. And this does not make them any less of a man. As a matter of fact, in my humble opinion, I believe it makes them way more of a man! Owning what they wish to do with their own bodies and what they feel works for them. Novel concept I know!

I chose to have top surgery and I have zero regrets! I had a very large chest, 44DD as a matter of record, and they caused me an incredible amount of grief. What is interesting is that I didn’t realize how much grief until they were gone. As I share my story with people I often share how I struggled with back pain years before coming out as transgender, and everything culminated for me into a series of events that happened all within a week of my coming out as trans.

It is now two years after top surgery and much has changed in my life.  I am no longer sharing my life with the person I was with for 10 years. I haven’t shared much about this publicly because there isn’t much to share. She was a lovely human and still is a lovely human we just no longer share a life. I made the choice to end the relationship because I realized I was no longer in love with her. I hope she is well. And that is all I am going to say about that. I didn’t want the celebration of this milestone to go without mentioning her because she was there and I do have her to thank for helping me through the surgery and recovery as well as helping me be able to afford it at that time. Much has changed in my life since December 21st, 2015.

Who knew having top surgery would be such a relief? I mean seriously? Once I came out as transgender this surgery was one of the most important milestones in my transition but I had no idea how much relief I would feel once the twins were gone. As I have said over and over, it was a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders, pun intended! And I had to fight a little to make it a reality as soon as I did. The doctor who performed the surgery wanted me to wait until June of 2016 and I said, I am paying out of pocket, and I have already waited many many years for this freedom! So let’s do this! Thankfully he didn’t argue with me after my hormone doctor and my therapist both gave him letters saying I was ready!

The image below is me shortly after surgery in 2015, the image in the middle is from this past February, and the image on the right is me literally on December 23, 2017, the day this was blog post was published.

As you may already be able to tell, I am not one of those muscle head trans guys who are working on his six pack and pecs. As a matter of fact, I have put on a few pounds since this past February. I have always been a softer guy (inside and out) and will more than likely always be more of a Pillsbury dough boy than a bodybuilder. And frankly, I think that is way more than fine. I will admit that I have hesitated to share more about my journey here because I have been afraid people would judge me for not being more “masculine” and “muscular” than celebrate with me the true milestone that it is for me.

This past year has been a real challenge when it comes to the gender binary, and gender norms and I have taken one emotional hit after another, as well as physically packing on some extra pounds! I think I will refer to it as discrimination weight because this new territory has been rough to navigate and food has always been more comforting to me than just about anything!

Emotionally I have taken on some attacks that have been very personal and all have been very discriminatory and what is truly unfortunate is the world is still so engaged in such binary thinking that many people who know the story, have also caused me additional hurt and pain out of their own lack of understanding. I am so incredibly saddened and disappointed by how committed people are to their own binary ways of thinking. To gendering body parts, to clothes, to actions, to even colors! And out of my frustration, I have embarked on a project of my own to challenge the binary which I am hoping will culminate in a big show sometime in 2018 so stay tuned!

Much to my disappointment, I am still being regularly misgendered and I don’t get it because looking at these images side by side I can see how much I have changed. And well frankly how much less soft my face has become. I have literally transformed from looking more like my mother to looking more like my father! And I really like the middle image compared to the other two because of my killer trapezius muscles! But I digress.

After I first shared about my top surgery back in 2015 I had a few people make off-color comments about this surgery not making me a man and that it would take more than cutting off my breasts to make me a “real” man. And it had me not want to share for fear of being ridiculed or not being affirmed or seen for who I am. I have had people tell me who they think I am and it is one of the number one things I hear from trans kiddos and parents of trans kiddos in regard to bodies and what makes us male and or female. And yet many people still refuse to acknowledge the gender binary is the culprit. They cling to their beliefs and because of this they also do and say things that are incredibly hurtful. Which is why I speak out. And it is why, although sometimes I question myself, I will share more intimate parts of my story.

Believe me, it isn’t glamorous. It’s not like I have been given some prize or a big pot of gold for being who I am. On the contrary, I have spent more money than I have earned in sharing my story. In attempting to create photos and videos and this blog in order to share my story with all of you who will listen and who honestly want to learn. And there have been some wonderful relationships formed and connections made with people that would not have happened if it wasn’t for this space I have created. And for this, I will always be grateful.

Since I have come out, I have literally had someone reach out to me at least once a week about a friend or family member who has come out to them as transgender and they have questions. Or their friends have questions and don’t know where to go or who to reach out to. Or a child who has come out to their parents as transgender or non-binary, and a friend of a friend connects me to them. I am grateful I am here today to share with them my story. My experience, my truth. Because believe it or not, they can relate, they can see it, and they are so very grateful that I get it. That I can affirm them when they say, “this teacher said X and I do not think it is right.” and I say, “You are correct that is not right and here’s why.” And they are able to vent their frustrations with me. We may not be able to make immediate changes to systems and structures but hopefully, the work I am doing will not be in vain. In my heart, I believe it is what is right and true.


Even my bitmoji has transitioned!




Whole Lot of Heart

I have been away from my blog lately.  Away from my podcast.  Away from this HAPPY SPACE.  And today I realized it was time to reconnect.  Time to remind myself about why I created Speaking Of Happy.  I wanted to put the HAPPY back into being gay and celebrate the LGBTQIA Community.  And although I have been EXTREMELY HAPPY lately I have been selfish and keeping much of that happiness to myself.  It has been on my mind however so today I return with an important blog which I hope makes a difference for someone, somewhere who may be suffering and feeling alone.  I am here.  I see you.  Listen to this song and know, I SEE YOU.  The song starts at 3:27 (cue it up now) but Idina shares a little about her new album and how personal it is to her.  And her music is very personal to me.  Because, partially through her, something really amazing happened to me!  This post isn’t about that, and perhaps one day I will share what that is but today this is about something else.  So, listen to this song and then come back to read the rest of the blog.  Or read and listen but know there is another song coming up that I hope will make an impact on you too so read on.

OK so now for the real reason for this post.

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me.  On Sunday I found out, although it comes as no surprise, some of my family members who I love and respect dearly, do not feel the same about me.  And apparently I have been a hot topic for gossip.  Interesting thing is none of the offenders have come to me directly with their questions or concerns.  Instead they talk to other family members and share their judgements and evaluations about my life and how I live it.  And they even want to exclude me from participating in family gatherings.  But one person had the courage to come to me directly and tell me the truth.  She even said she wasn’t ok with excluding me or talking badly about me.  I am grateful for her caring and support.  And although it was hard for her to come to me and tell me the truth she did and I am grateful.

And the most interesting thing of all is how I choose to live my life!  I choose to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the oppressed.  In my free time I am out educating people and fighting for the rights of people who have had their voice diminished.  Kids who are kicked out of their homes because they are LGBTQIA.  Youth who are bullied and picked on in school just because of who they are.  Bullied and demeaned by their classmates daily.  I hear horror stories all the time.  I have read messages being sent to some of the trans youth I know that should make ALL PEOPLE ANGRY.  And when the parents of those youth take proof to the schools their kids go to, the schools who talk to the oppressors take their word over the word and the proof of the oppressed.  And I can relate to the minimizing of feelings by others when I have pointed out how their actions are hurtful.  When they make statements like, I didn’t mean what I said in a bad way or even worse they tell me I am being too sensitive.

I put myself out there daily in all the little things I do to educate people about what it is to be transgender.  Teaching about microagressions and things that are inappropriate for people to say to me and I do it with kindness and compassion because I ALWAYS have the youth in the back of my mind.  Because I want them to feel safe and loved and cared for.  And by educating you I am hopefully creating a wave that you carry into your lives and you pass on what you have learned from me because you love me and respect me and see me for who I am.  And that ripple effect will change hearts and minds of those you interact with and by doing so we will save a child from heartache together.

On Monday I did a presentation to a room of more than 40 people.  I shared my story and brought along two high school students who generously shared what it is like for them in their schools daily.  The sharing was very raw and real.  We facilitated an exercise the group participated in on Microagressions – individual acts of subtle prejudice or hostility that can be unintentional or conscious, generally committed by one individual toward another individual.  Microassaults – small behaviors that are intentional and purposefully hurtful. (e.g., using the wrong name or pronouns, name calling, or making derogatory statements)  Microinsults – rude statements that are usually unintentional or unconscious that indicate ignorance or bias. (e.g., asking inappropriate questions, redirecting someone to another bathroom), Microinvalidations – statements or actions that are usually unintentional or unconscious that ignore, minimize, or nullify a person’s identity (e.g., having only two options for sex/gender on forms, teling gender non-conforming people that they should not be upset if people are confused by their gender).

I know you may be feeling guilty of doing some of these things, and until now DID NOT even realize it.  Some of the participants were appalled at what they were hearing.  They couldn’t believe it.  They experienced only 8 minutes of this, LGBTQIA youth endure minutes, that build into hours, weeks, months, and years of verbal assaults.  Many of them are getting it from their own family members.  Many of them are choosing to end their lives or being murdered in the streets.

Some of the participants shared some powerful emotions and pain in regard to their own experiences because yes LGBTQIA people are everywhere. One woman shared how the exercise had her present to her own cisgender privilege and how she has never been on the receiving end of such hateful, hurtful statements and she could clearly see how hard it might be for someone who does hear them every day.  I was tagged in a lovely thank you from the organization that invited us to speak and I am grateful the exercise made a difference for them.  And I am confident we had a very powerful impact on them.

Now listen to this song because it is where I come from on a daily basis!  I wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes.  I openly share my emotions because I want you to know you are welcome to share yours with me.  That I will hold your heart carefully in my hands and help you to feel better about your life.

There is a Whole Lot of Heart in me because I am loved.  Because I have a huge supportive loving community of people who also believe in the world I believe in.  One that sees people for who they are.  One who lifts people up and respects them for who they are.

I am living my life being 100% authentic to myself.  Living for me so I can be HAPPY.  So that when I look at myself in the mirror I LOVE what I see reflected back at me.  For 50 years I lived a life so that everyone else could be comfortable, all the while I was dying inside.  

Today, I am living.  Today I am happy and fulfilled and LOVED.  And the biggest love is the love I feel for me.  

I am loved.  By many of my dear friends who know me and see me and honor the man I am.  They support me and have walked this journey with me and have done the work to learn more and educate themselves about what it is to be transgender.  Some of them are part of the community and they too have had to challenge their own strongly held beliefs in regard to the gender binary we have all been tricked into believing was real. But they are doing the work.

I am loved by my community and all of the amazing transgender people I know.  They show me daily what it is to be COURAGEOUS in the face of little or no agreement.  And they continue to move forward with their heads held high. They are GORGEOUS, CREATIVE, COMPASSIONATE humans and I celebrate them!

I am loved and seen by my sister Marisue and her family.  I know she helps to educate people in her life and is a powerful advocate for me too.  We have talked recently and we both believe we are so much closer today because of the freedom I feel to be me today. 

I am loved and seen fully by my mother.  A woman living in a memory care unit who can’t tell me what she had for lunch but she calls me her son every time I visit her and she has no judgement of me.  She says I am handsome and reminds me of stories from my childhood that affirm who I am.

I am loved by my 80 year old Aunt Betty with whom I share a birthday.  She tells me all the time how much I look like my dad and that I am ok just as I am. And her son, my cousin Ted, who called me to thank me for being strong and for living my life in a way that is inspirational to those around me.  

And I LOVE the transgender youth I have had the honor and privilege to meet.  Who have so generously shared their stories and lives with me.  And I will continue to be the change I wish to see in the world for them.  So that perhaps one day, no family will ever reject a child because of who they are. So that families will not have to suffer the loss of a child who committed suicide because of all the hate-filled rhetoric in our world.

So, gossip about me if you will.  Exclude me from family gatherings.  I will NEVER stop being WHO I AM.  And truth be told I will never stop loving you, but I may choose to remove myself from your life only to preserve my HAPPINESS.

Like Father Like Son

Today is Fathers Day.  And it has been 14 years since I last saw mine.  Not by choice.  If I had my way I would have woke up early today and prepared myself to go and spend the day with my father. Hanging out with my dad was one of my favorite past times, even when I was young.  I much preferred hanging out with him and my brother over staying at home and cleaning with my mom and sisters!  And man did he ever teach me a lot about construction, cars, heating and air conditioning and duct tape.

If he was alive today we would spend the day doing all the things he loved.  We would probably cook together.  Talk about life and laugh.  He had a great laugh.  We would most definitely go see a twilight movie, my treat.  And it would have to be Finding Dory simply because it was just released and he saw a movie just about every weekend and therefore the latest release would be the only one he had yet to see.  More than likely it would make us both cry at some point and I would have been completely content with that.  I believe he would have too.

The last time I saw my dad was the day he died.  He had moved to Florida after exhausting all of his options for cancer treatment here in Omaha.  He had tried just about everything, including chemotherapy, but the cancer kept re-generating itself into a new form and attacking another part of his body.  He was a meat and potatoes guy who adored his grill, even on a blistering hot day. Although after his diagnosis he gave up a lot of things he once loved because he wanted so badly to live.  He completely changed his entire diet and even started juicing.  This was way before you could just go to Whole Foods and buy a bottle of cold pressed juice.  But I tell you if he had lived to see that day he would have bought it by the truckload if he believed for one moment it would keep him alive one more day.

My brother and I helped him move to Florida and when he left Omaha he looked wonderful.  As a matter of fact people could hardly believe he was dying he looked so healthy.  My dad, when he put his mind to something, did it big, real big.  And there were zero excuses to stand in his way.  One of the many things he taught me.  Little did any of us know, it would only be a matter of months before things would take a turn for the worse.  I had started a new job when I received a call from my sisters who had gone to see him, telling me they didn’t think he was going to make it much longer. My boss at the time was incredible as was my employer.  They swung into action finding me an inexpensive flight and took care of all the necessary paperwork so I could stay with him as long as I needed to.

When I arrived at the “retirement” community they were living in I was shocked at what I saw.  I felt as though I was in some weird dream.  He was a shell of the man I had left in Florida only a few months prior.  I knew he was close to the end.

He asked me how he looked and I said, “Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to lie to you?”  He chuckled and responded, “Could you candy coat the truth a little for me?”  I laughed as I began to cry and I said, “Dad you look like shit.  And I am so happy to be here.” We both laughed and I just snuggled up beside him on his bed.  At this point our focus was about keeping him comfortable.  Unfortunately my step mother was in denial that he was dying and was still saying things to him that only made it more difficult for my father to leave this world.  But I kept holding a space for him to pass as smoothly as possible.  I had never been around someone who was dying before, but something deep inside me said I needed to let go.  To let him know it was ok and that I would be ok. He was asleep more than he was awake and that first night I was there he was in a great deal of pain.  At this point the hospice nurses who had been coming over the past week had given him something to keep him comfortable but being the stubborn bull he was, he wouldn’t take it.  He said that someone told him, if he gave in to taking it, his body would shut down and he would die.  Even at the end he didn’t want to let go.

The next evening was even harder.  We had permanently moved him into the living room in a recliner that he felt most comfortable in.  My Aunt Betty, my dads big sister, was coming in to town, so we left to go pick her up at the airport.  We stopped for a bite to eat to fill her in one what was happening back at the house and to regroup.  When we returned to the house, my stepmom asked us all to come sit in the kitchen, she had something she wanted to tell us.  I am certain I will not be able to write out what happened to paint the picture of how hilarious it actually was for her to gather us up at the table.  If you knew her you would understand but suffice it to say she sat us all down, asked us if we wanted anything to drink and opened a box of donuts.  And then very cautiously and quietly she whispers, “Your father has entered the dying stages.” I know, that isn’t supposed to be funny but I felt like I was in some strange movie and inside I was laughing.  She then continues saying, “And we need to let him know, it’s ok to go.” And all I could think was, welcome to the party, it started a few days ago but I am seriously happy to hear you decided to join us.  Yes, everyone grieves differently, and it is probably not OK to make light of what she was going through but for myself, I guess I laugh, in order to keep myself from crying.  We all agreed that we would support dad in his passing and my sister and I went outside to laugh.  And, cry.

That evening was really hard and the next morning my father yelled for me to come in the room.  He reached up and grabbed me by the shirt collar and pulled me down close to his face with the little energy he had and said, “Take me out. There is a gun in my closet and bullets.  Please just take me out.”  I said, “Dad, there is a much easier way to accomplish this mission of yours.”  He looked me deeply into the eyes and said, “OK. I trust you.”  That was the first time I gave him the drops of medicine, to make him more comfortable, left by the hospice nurses.

That was the beginning of the end.  He was much more comfortable and it was late the next evening his body finally gave up on him.  He kept staring up at the ceiling that day.  One time he shared he saw his mother, who had died a few years prior, and that she looked incredible.  Then another time he shared that he was watching his dog, who had passed away after being hit by a car, run and play fetch.  When he asked if I could see them, I would say, yes dad I see them too.  I told him, he should stay with them and be free. I could tell that his soul left his body before his body actually stopped.  I am not a very religious person, but I am spiritual and definitely feel that comes from the Native American side of me.  I saw his body lift and he exhaled heavily, just as I did as I typed that.

I felt privileged to be there for him that day.  I still feel an overwhelming gratitude in my heart for having that moment just he and I.  It alleviates the fact that today I don’t have a grave to go to, or even a small part of his ashes because he was cremated in order to make transporting his body back to Omaha easier.  And the step mom, turned into a bit of a monster once his body was cold.

After coming out as transgender last year, I had a conversation with my sister and we both wondered what dad would say about me today.  I told her that he and I had a very touching conversation the year he was diagnosed, about me and my life at that time.  And a part of me felt as though he would be ok with it.  And then in December last year I took part in UNOs Safe Training program. There was a group of people participating from Metro College, which is where my father worked for years teaching heating and air conditioning and other technical trades.  A little known fact, my father helped MCC create many of their technical trade courses.  There is a scholarship in his honor. Anyway, as I do with anything I do, I was an active participant during the training and interjected thoughts I had as they applied to what we were learning.  During one of our breaks a woman from MCC walked up to me and said, “Are you a Rigatuso?”  I said, “Yes.”  And she said, “Do you remember me?”  At that moment I realized oh my gosh, “Yes, you worked closely with my father for years!” She nodded her head and said, “Yes.”  And then she said, “When you started talking during the class all I could think is, that is a carbon copy of Carl!  You look like him, you sound like him and you express yourself just like him.”  And she asked if she could have a hug.  Of course I said yes and as we embraced she whispered, “I have been really missing your father and seeing you, I feel like I was able to steal a moment with him.”  We stood there for the longest time just holding one another and crying. And then she said, “I know your father would be proud of you.”

I almost couldn’t attend training that day.  And in that moment I realized the reason why it all worked out and I was there.  So she could remind me that I am my fathers son.  And that I am ok.



Left, my father, Carl Paul Rigatuso Sr., Born September 21, 1943 and died March 12, 2002

Right, me June 18, 2016, one week before my birthday.

Urban Abbey

On the show today is ChrisJorgensenReverend Chris Jorgensen with The Urban Abbey which is a faith based community housed in a coffee shop in Omaha’s Old Market.  The Urban Abbey is a non profit dedicated to making a difference one cup of coffee at at time and they believe everyone should have a place at the table.  There have been many changes over the years when it comes to churches and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ Community.  Right here in the midwest there was a group of churches who came together back in 2011 and issued The Heartland Proclamation which was a public apology to the LGBTQIA+ Community for the way the Christian Church has treated us in the past.  And they made a promise going forward to being Open and Affirming just as The Urban Abbey believes.  If you are looking for a faith community you may find one there but you may also listen to this interview and find a great deal of comfort in what Reverend Jorgensen shares about what The Urban Abbey is up to!  QueerFaithUAShe shares more about The Queer Faith on Campus Initiative too!  I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!  Thank you for tuning in to Speaking Of Happy!

If you don’t see the player click here and listen to the episode on PodOMatic.


Back in March we did an interview with Eris Koleszar for Speaking Of Happy and little did we know how big she would become in less than a month!  Eris is an outspoken advocate for the trangender community and recently took a powerful stand against anti-trans descrimination online via her selfie campaign!  She has not only thrust herself into the public eye but she has also taken on activating allies in her quest to create safe bathroom spaces for Transgender people in Omaha!  After an online dispute started by a post from a local bar owner Eris has been personally advocating on behalf of the trans comEris1munity online and on television!  We knew from the moment we met her last year that we had to have her on Speaking Of Happy and thank goodness we acted fast before her dance card filled up!

Eris is a amazing human being who is articulate and funny and just all around wonderful to spend time with.  She is a force to be reconned with online as she takes on some of the most vile anti-trans people in Omaha but also is activitating local allies with her selfie campaign!  She has been going to local venues and asking allies to take selfies with her and post them to their social media with the hashtags #shebelongs #shejustwantstopee #transwomenarewomen and educating people about the hateful anti-trans legislation showing up across the nation.  She is defeating stereotypes one selfie at a time and doing it with great class!


This is our interview which was conducted last March and originally aired on RadiOmaha.

If you do not see the player then click HERE and listen on PodOmatic.

TDoV Omaha


TdovTDoV Omaha is Transgender Day of Visibility and it happens across the nation on March 31st. On the show today I sat down with Miles Cristiano Jordan who is one of the organizers. He shares with us what the event is all about, why it is important, and how you can get involved! I enjoyed chatting with Miles and I hope you enjoy the interview. Also, I will be at TDoV this year so come see me and learn how you can become an active ally!

If you can not see the player click HERE to listen to the podcast on PodOMatic.



Today on the show we sat down with Joshua Mullady, Director of COCK which is in it’s final weekend of performances!  If you are looking for a thought provoking, prevocative, word fight and battle for love then this play is for you!  Written by Mike Bartlett, COCK will challenge your views of love, sexual identity, to cheat or not to cheat, and you the notion if something is worth loving it is worth fighting for!

If you do not see the player above click HERE and listen to the episode on podomatic.

I personally saw the show and felt the acting was brilliant!  The central character, who by the way is the only character with a name, is John and he is in love with M but they fight a lot and have a number of differences which don’t always leave John feeling like an equal.  On a break John meets W and as they dance with their dialogue he begins to find himself falling for W!  But, he can’t stop thinking about M.  As the story unfolds it becomes a duel to the end.  No death occurs, but perhaps the metaphorical death of outdated notions of sexual identity!  So, challenge yourself!  Listen to the interview as you run over and buy tickets for the show!

Or as you listen go check out SNAP! Productions website for more information about the diverse theater productions they bring to Omaha.  And then after you are done listening to this show go and listen to our interview with Michal Simpson, Artistic Director of SNAP! by clicking here.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the show!


Jocelyn I first saw Jocelyn when a friend posted a video shot on her iPhone of Jocelyn singing at an open mic. I was blown away at her talent in a less than perfect cell phone video! She jumped off the screen and I knew I had to meet her. Well as fate would have it I messaged her a few times and asked if she would be willing to play at a fundraiser I was hosting and she AGREED! She blew the small crowd away and we all left that night feeling as though we witnessed something very special. So, it was a given I asked Jocelyn to come on the show and share her talent with Speaking Of Happy fans! So this is our wonderful conversation and also included as a bonus is her most recent single she released back in January and an acoustic version of another song she wrote! We hope you enjoy the show!


If you do not see the player click HERE and listen on podomatic.

Please visit Jocelyn’s website by clicking HERE after the interview!