I was afraid to come out as transgender. My mom's response gives me hope.

Dear Mom: You’ve often joked that kids don’t come with instruction manuals...

It sure would’ve been nice if they did, though, because nothing really prepared you for having a transgender kid. Let’s face it: nothing about the suburbs of Michigan screams “pride parade.”

So it doesn’t surprise me that when I came out as transgender three years ago, you were overwhelmed.


You told me you’d always wanted a daughter — that you’d imagined the sweet sixteen, the wedding dress, and even being there for me through a pregnancy. You had to grieve the future you’d imagined for me when I was born and all the experiences you pictured us sharing along the way.

Life didn’t just throw you a curveball when I came out — it threw you several. You learned that you had a gay, transgender son… and he’d just run off to San Francisco to be a writer.

But despite all that, your response to my coming out actually blew me away.

Photo by Rémi Walle / Unsplash.

You started by reminding me of something that had happened a few years before.

You asked if I remembered that time I had to get your car towed.

How could I forget? I was backing out of a parking spot, and didn’t realize until it was too late that I’d driven right into a median, impressively burying the tires deep into the wood chips. The more I hit the gas pedal, the deeper I got stuck.

I called you, panicked. Grandpa drove you to meet me, and I’ll never forget your horrified expression when you saw that tiny blue car, tires buried in the dirt. I’d somehow managed to find the only landscaped median in the entire parking lot. It wasn’t my finest moment.

Photo by Balazs Koczina / Unsplash.

The car was a little scratched up, but all in all, it survived my disastrous driving. We drove home separately, though, because you needed time to cool off. I was sure you’d be angry at me forever.

But you weren’t. Like always, you came around.

As we recalled that day’s events, you said “Do you know why I came around?”

“Because you love me,” I replied.

“That’s right,” you said. And in that moment, I understood why you brought up my terrible parking job, of all things, when I came out as transgender. Because even if in that immediate moment, when you were overwhelmed and confused, you still loved me.

Looking back, I understand now that there wasn’t anything I could do to make you love me any less.

Sam in 2010 (left) and 2018 (right). Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

Like you’d told me many times before, while the initial shock of something might throw you, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. All you needed was time.

“Though I really wish you’d stop raising my blood pressure,” I remember you joking. Apparently I’m responsible for a good portion of your grey hairs, and I’ll give you that — I can be a handful.

I’ll be honest, I never really expected that you’d stand by me when I began my gender transition. But I’ve been grateful every day since then that you have.

Just a couple months after coming out, you and Dad sent me a birthday card in the mail. As I tore open the envelope, there peaking out was a card with a big rainbow on it. “100% chance of happy,” it read. And there was a little cloud on it raining glittery raindrops.

I was in tears. It was the first card I’d ever gotten that didn’t call me your daughter. And it meant the world to me that on the day I was born, you chose to celebrate me exactly as I was, rainbows and all.

I still have the card saved to this day.

The birthday card my parents sent me after coming out. Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

You never tried to change who I was — because you knew that what made me unique was also precious.

And whenever I told you that I felt like the 'black sheep' in our family, you'd lovingly remind me that I was still your "special child."

You were there to help me shop for men's attire for my brother's wedding, you listened to me as I excitedly blabbed on and on about all the ways I was starting to look like Dad, and I could always count on you to tell me if my haircut wasn't flattering.

What I expected least of all, though, was that you and I would be able to laugh along the way about all this, too.

When my facial hair started growing in, you didn’t skip a beat when you said to me, “Sam, you need to start manscaping.” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when you said that to me.

Sam, present day. Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

I’ll never forget when I told you about my surgery, too, and you jokingly asked if the plastic surgeon had a “two-for-one special,” because you had some work you wanted to get done, too.

So many of the transgender people that I know have been disowned by their families. Instead, I have the opposite problem — I can’t seem to get rid of you (not that I’d ever want to, of course). I feel lucky to be loved and accepted exactly as I am. It is what every kid deserves, but too few LGBT people actually get.

Sam, present day. Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

I know you wish you could do this whole “ally” thing perfectly. But what I want you to know is that trying your best is perfectly enough for me.

The truth is, I never wanted you to be a transgender expert or to lead a pride parade (you can leave that to me — I’ve got us covered!). I just wanted you to be there for me.

I can’t thank you enough for doing just that, even when you had your own grief to process. It takes a remarkable kind of mother to not just talk about unconditional love, but to actually love without conditions.

For someone without an instruction manual, Mom, I’d say you’re doing a pretty amazing job.

Love, your "special child,"

Sam

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

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Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

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Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.