She got a ‘Mr. Incredible’ shirt for Father’s Day. It secretly broke her heart.

Penny Sterling of Rochester, New York, recently shared photos of herself online rocking new shoes and a "Mr. Incredible" shirt.

Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

"Casual Monday look, with my new cute Chucks!!!" she wrote on Twitter. But the cute selfies carried a much deeper message, too.


"Cool story about the shirt," Sterling continued in a series of tweets following the photos. "I got this shirt for Father's Day 2014."

That was a particularly pivotal Father's Day for her: The holiday marked seven weeks since she'd truly accepted herself as a trans woman — but it took six months before she was able to come out to her children.

Sterling (right) and two of her children, Fred and Zoe, apple picking in 2017. Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

"They were so excited about giving me this shirt," Sterling wrote. "'The Incredibles' has long been one of my family's favorite films."

"Drop any notable line from the movie in front of my kids, and if they're in the mood for it, you'll get the next five minutes of dialogue delivered to you. Or more," she continued.

But for Sterling, the lovely and well-intentioned gift also reflected a heartbreaking reality in how her kids saw her. "I was their Mr. Incredible," she wrote. "The strong, flawed father who would stop at nothing to help them."

She wore the shirt many times — but it secretly tore her apart to do it.  

"I put it away and it migrated to the bottom of my dresser," Sterling wrote. "It just wasn't me. It would be a lie to wear it."

Sterling's gift shows how Father's Day or Mother's Day can come with complicated feelings and experiences for many trans parents.

The day can feel especially worth celebrating to some — a moment when they finally feel seen by loved ones as the person they truly are.

Sam, a trans dad, told The Advocate in 2014 that the first Father's Day he celebrated after coming out sparked a powerful moment. "My own mother made a point of saying to me, 'This is your first Dad's Day,' with a smile," he noted. "That seemed to make a big difference. I kind of like [Father's Day], as it makes me feel special."

Sterling (left) at her son Fred's graduation in May 2018. Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

But Mother's or Father's Day can also highlight how our society still grapples with (and fails at) understanding the nuance and complexities of gender and identity.

"Every year since [transitioning] has made Father’s Day a source of discomfort," Brynn Tannehill wrote for Salon. She's a trans woman whose kids decided to refer to her as "maddy" — a combination of "mom" and "daddy" — after she came out.

To her, a day like Father's Day reflects our world's failure to recognize the experiences associated with being a parent who's trans: "I continue to exist in a gray space where our language and culture just can’t wrap itself around the whole notion of being transgender."

For trans moms, dads, "maddies," and everyone else, Mother's or Father's Day may be a day like any other. Or it could mean a morning they get to eat breakfast in bed. Or it could bring about painful reminders of why they're seen as different by our world.

We need to get better at seeing and respecting transgender people and the range of their unique experiences for what they are.

When Sterling came across her "Mr. Incredible" shirt again — about four years after first receiving it as a gift — she felt comfortable putting it on.

"I thought, what the hell," she wrote.

"I may not be MISTER Incredible, but I'm still fairly spectacular," she continued. "And I've got incredible kids."

Sterling and her daughter, Zoe, in Zoe's dorm in September 2017. Photo courtesy of Penny Sterling.

"The thing to remember about life-altering decisions is that not everything gets altered. Even things you have to give up will come back, if they're important enough," she said. "The T-shirt's not really an important thing. The love that comes with it is. Love always comes back."

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less
Terence Power / TikTok

A video of a busker in Dublin, Ireland singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" to a young boy with autism is going viral because it's just so darn adorable. The video was filmed over a year ago by Terence Power, the co-host of the popular "Talking Bollox Podcast."

It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

"But I recently made TikTok and said I'd share it on that and I'm so glad I did now!" he continued.

Keep Reading Show less
True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

via Pexels and @drjoekort / TikTok

Gay sex and relationships therapist Dr. Joe Kort is causing a stir on TikTok where he explains why straight men who have sex with men can still be considered straight. If a man has sex with a man doesn't it ultimately make him gay or bisexual?

According to Kort, there can be a big chasm between our sexual and romantic orientations.

"Straight men can be attracted to the sex act, but not to the man. Straight men having sex with men doesn't cancel somebody's heterosexuality any more than a straight woman having sex with a woman cancels her [heterosexuality]," he says in the video.

Keep Reading Show less
via Ken Lund / Flickr

The dark mountains that overlook Provo, Utah were illuminated by a beautiful rainbow-colored "Y" on Thursday night just before 8 pm. The 380-foot-tall "Y" overlooks the campus of Brigham Young University, a private college owned by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), commonly known as Mormons.

The display was planned by a group of around 40 LGBT students to mark the one-year anniversary of the university sending out a letter clarifying its stance on homosexual behavior.

"One change to the Honor Code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on 'Homosexual Behavior.' The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code, " the school's statement read.

Keep Reading Show less