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upworthy

Sa'iyda Shabazz

Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe is the subject of the documentary, "A Run for More."

When we think about elections, so many of us focus on presidential elections and forget about congressional, statewide or even smaller, local elections. The documentary film, “A Run for More,” focuses on Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe as she runs for one of those local positions—city council member in San Antonio, Texas. Focusing on Gonzales-Wolfe as the first openly transgender woman to run for such office, the film shows how the campaign gave Gonzales-Wolfe a deeper sense of self. I was lucky enough to chat with her and the film’s director, Ray Whitehouse, about their friendship, the campaign, making the film and Frankie’s future political plans.


The pair met in 2016 when Whitehouse was working on a project about political campaign volunteers. At the time, Gonzales-Wolfe was working as a volunteer on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. She has worked on dozens of campaigns over the years—her first was Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996 while still in high school.

“The film [“A Run for More”] really came from the relationship we built in 2016,” Whitehouse explained. “I came to Frankie with this idea about exploring ideas around who was qualified to run for office, who is not qualified and what are the lived experiences that fit into those categories.”

A Run for More - Trailer

A Run for More - Trailer from Ray Whitehouse on Vimeo.

In 2018, after growing tired of politicians using diversity and inclusion as a running platform but not an actual practice, Gonzales-Wolfe decided that she was going to run for city council. Of course, Whitehouse suggested filming the whole experience and turning it into a feature-length documentary. For Gonzales-Wolfe, allowing the process to be filmed would allow it to stand as a living document and testament to what it’s like to run for political office when you’re trans, especially in a place that is traditionally conservative, like Texas.

“The kind of conversation I wanted to generate was this kind of conversation around the two worlds that Frankie had to navigate: one world was sort of like 'hey I’m just Frankie and I'm running for office,' she didn’t necessarily get taken very seriously. But then when she tried to foreground her identity as a trans woman trying to do this groundbreaking thing, then you get into the flipside. By highlighting her visibility, the unfortunate reality is that’s what leads to attacks,” Whitehouse said.

The National League of Cities describes city council members as “legislators of a municipality who are democratically elected to decide which services will be provided and how to pay for them, among many other tasks.” Because of the nature of the work, the position is elected, but is nonpartisan, meaning you don’t have to be affiliated with a particular political party to run. Council members serve their most local constituents on local matters, which means they’re serving a diverse group of people with equally diverse needs and interests.

A native Texan, you can see that Gonzales-Wolfe really cares for the people where she’s from and believes that she can have a hand in creating a better place for her neighbors and herself. Much of her platform revolves around local changes she can make, like protecting small businesses and giving them space in the local airport. She’s also a caring and loving wife and daughter—you see a lot of her time at home with her husband Jeff. “A Run for More” gives you a look at how a regular person can make a difference. But also, it reveals that politics can teach you a lot, especially about yourself.

“For me, it wasn’t so much of a balance as it was telling Ray, 'if we’re going to do a documentary and you’re going to be shooting about me, about my life, what it is to be a trans woman—a trans person in Texas, you have to be all in,' which means you’re going to see me at my worst, my best, stressed, not wearing makeup. I wanted to be able to capture the true sentiment of ‘I’m not different than anyone else’ when it comes to family,'” Gonzales-Wolfe told me.

“A Run for More” is not without its heavy moments. During one scene near the middle of the film, Gonzales-Wolfe tells the story of her sexual assault in striking detail. It’s not in the film for shock value—it shows her resilience, and how it takes time to get to a point where it doesn’t define her.

“That situation didn’t define who I am as a woman, even though those men wanted to make it a point to let me know it would define me as a woman,” she shared.

a run for more, trans woman, politics

Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe and her volunteers were very busy on the campaign trail.

A Run for More

In another scene, she and her volunteers are tasked with door-to-door canvassing. While a typical part of campaigning, it’s not without its own challenges. But this particular moment will highlight something many of us don’t think about. The campaign consultant she’s working with (who is a successful advisor and friend) has them working from a list of exclusively Republican and conservative constituents. It’s a nonpartisan race—Gonzales-Wolfe and her team are well aware that they have to appeal to voters on both sides of the political table.

We see her walking up to doors and knocking…most doors don’t even open. A few do and take a flier. But then there’s one house where the resident is clearly one of the angry Republican types we have seen on television. He berates Gonzales-Wolfe for only listening to CNN and other “left wing” news and not watching Fox News or listening to the other side. She calmly assures him that she is listening and will fight for everyone. When the door closes, she is clearly rattled by the interaction and makes the decision that the team will switch to phone banking the rest of the list.

Later that same day, a visibly upset Gonzales-Wolfe tells her team about a phone call she has just ended. During the call, the voter she was speaking with calls her a “f***ing tranny,” which understandably upsets and enrages her. Talking to her campaign consultant later (who is upset that the team deviated from the plan of in-person canvassing) she relays the conversations again, still very upset by the interactions.

Sending a trans person into interactions like that can have multiple outcomes. It could be the ones that Gonzales-Wolfe encountered, where people just said things that were unkind or spoke in a tone that was rattling. But things could have escalated to violence, especially during the in-person interaction. By canvassing in person, she was opening herself up to physical violence. You never know what’s in a person’s mind. There are multiple scenes in the film where we see Gonzales-Wolfe and her team repairing campaign signage around town that was torn down because she is trans.

a run for more, trans women, activists

Frankie meets with local trans activists.

A Run for More

The most positive moments in the film come from her interactions with other trans people. She touches on it in the film, but it’s clear that connecting with her transness has been challenging to her in her transition. Running for office forced her to interact with local transgender activists in her community to truly understand what trans people in Texas are fighting for. As a result, it deepened her understanding and connection to the local community and to herself.

“I’m embarrassed right now,” Gonzales-Wolfe tells her husband at home after a trans lobby day. “For the past 20 plus years, I’ve stayed away from…I’ve never been an activist. I’ve been in politics, but I’ve never been an activist within the LGBTQIA community—especially on trans issues. I can’t lie about it.”

Ultimately, Gonzales-Wolfe lost the election, coming in third. Of course the loss was disappointing, but not discouraging. Currently, she is working as the chief of staff for the county commissioner, but she’s absolutely not ruling out another run for office in the future.

“Now is not the time, I believe I will be given a sign when the time comes,” Gonzales-Wolfe said. “But yeah, I do see myself running again, but I don’t see myself running in a nonpartisan race. It’s not local government that has written laws against me or shun who I am as an individual. It has been people at the state level and I feel that is where I’ll best be able to use my skill set as a voice for the voiceless.”

Community

'First Down' introduces us to the inspiring world of girls' tackle football in Utah

'I hope that it creates awareness that this exists, because most people say, "Oh, I didn't even know that that existed,"' says director Carrie Stett.

"First Down" is a short film that focuses on a girls' tackle football team in Utah.

I’m not sporty or athletic, but that doesn’t stop me from loving a good sports story. Especially when those stories are focused on women and girls. So when I was introduced to “First Down” as a part of this year’s Outfest, I knew it was absolutely the kind of sports story I would love.


Produced by Riverside Entertainment, this short film tells the story of an underdog team in America’s first girls' tackle football league. Living in Utah, the girls, along with their coach Crys Sacco, have to overcome personal hardships to help the team to victory. The film’s director, Carrie Stett, talked to me about this dynamic group of young women and their beloved coach, and how sports can change lives.

In the 11.5 minute film, we meet several members of the team: Giselle, Abby aka JD, Liz and Riley. Stett found the team by researching places where young women were “receiving the benefits” of Title IX, which “gives women athletes the right to equal opportunity in sports in educational institutions that receive federal funds, from elementary schools to colleges and universities,” according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. Stett, a former athlete herself and huge football fan, revealed that after discovering the team she “just fell in love with them.” And when you see them, you totally understand why.

It takes some pretty dynamic young women to play tackle football, and the girls on the team clearly love what they’re doing. Unlike other sports such as basketball, tennis or swimming, football is seen exclusively as a man’s sport. But, of course, we all know that isn’t even the slightest bit true. Women’s football teams have existed for a long time, but don’t get nearly as much recognition as they should. This is especially true for school-aged girls who may be playing the sport. It’s still seen as shocking when a girl wants to play football. Not because of all the potential injuries, but simply because they’re girls. How utterly backward is that?

As we see in “First Down,” playing football gives these girls a sense of purpose and a sense of self that they haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Their sheer determination and love for the sport is one of the things that compelled Stett to tell their story. “What I loved about them is that they are underdogs,” she explained. “I just loved that they were such an example of girls from all backgrounds coming together. And some of them had real personal challenges. So to me that was very interesting as a storyteller, to give them a voice that they had never had.”

Several of the girls mention dealing with depression and anxiety. Giselle is open about her body image struggles and how she found more body confidence in playing football. Being surrounded by other girls who have similar body types and learning how to find the power in that to play football has given her a newfound sense of confidence. In the film, she mentions how after her first week of practice she cried. “I feel like I found something that I feel good about—something that can give me more confidence. Somewhere where I’m useful,” she said.

girls football, first down

The team listens to their coaches with utmost focus.

First Down

Liz talks pretty openly about living in a house with people dealing with addiction. She admits that her dad and brothers punch holes in the walls because of anger issues. Riley suffers from depression, anxiety and PTSD. She was placed in the foster care system at age 7 due to her biological mom’s addiction. She was adopted by the first lesbian couple allowed to foster in Utah.

“I just thought I’d never be able to play football because I’m a girl,” JD says. “Then this opportunity came for girls’ tackle football and I was like 'Dad, Mom, please! You know how much I want to play football.' And they were like 'OK, we’ll sign you up.'” She is the team’s quarterback, and it’s clear that playing football gives her an immense sense of purpose.

“Some of the players had some trepidation with talking about their personal stories,” Stett explained. “It took time to get them to open up, but I think that what happened was, once they got to talking, they realized that they could talk maybe in a way they hadn't been able to talk about any of this before.”

Much of their fear was eased by Coach Crys’ trust in Stett and her crew. At the first practice, Crys introduces himself as Crys, stating that the previous season, he had gone by Crystal. But now he’s using he/him pronouns. If it’s an issue for anyone, they don’t show it. They go on about their business and play football. As many of them point out, being on the team allows you to be who you are, and that’s the beauty of it all. In one scene, we see Crys being injected with testosterone, which is just part of his life.

“I didn't go out seeking that storyline, it happened to be what Crys was dealing with at the time,” Stett said. “So we really just talked about it and Crys was, to his credit, very open about it. It was really important to me to let him be what he wanted to be—we were just capturing what happened.”

A scene from "First Down."

“First Down” focuses on the beginning of the season and the team’s goals and dreams for the season. At the time, they had never won a game, but their goal was to win the championship. We learn at the end that they didn’t win that year, but they did the following year. It was a really big deal for them, not just because as a team they want to win, but it shows people who may be watching that an underdog team like that deserves as many chances as they can get. Having a winning team can lead to more opportunities—not just for the girls, but for the league. Stett believes that films like this not only tell the stories of the individuals, but allow for more representation.

“I looked around for leagues, but very few of them have survived. There's been some all over the country, but this is the one that's made it. So there's not a big infrastructure. This is an individual league, it's not attached to or part of school, like other sports. And when it's not part of school, it costs money and takes time and takes real involvement,” she pointed out.

When I asked Stett what she wants audiences to take away from “First Down,” she was contemplative. It’s a hefty question, but it leaves room for introspection. “I hope that it creates awareness that this exists, because most people say, 'Oh, I didn't even know that that existed,'” Stett said. “There's so many levels that this could be eye-opening, but I also hope that people see the value in it.”

Community

Grandmother comes out of 'retirement' to be lifeguard at local pool due to staffing shortages

She was a lifeguard at 16, and now she gets to give back to the community.

NBC News/YouTube

Robin Borlandoe is a 70-year-old grandma in Philadelphia working as a lifeguard this summer.

You're never too old to make a difference. That's what Robin Borlandoe, a 70-year-old grandmother, learned when she decided to become a local lifeguard this year. Seeing that there was a need she could fill, she got out her bathing suit and got back in the pool to help her community.


Borlandoe is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, a city that, like others around the country, was suffering from a lifeguard shortage earlier this year. In May, the city was looking for about 150 lifeguards to staff 60 to 70 pools. According to news station Fox 29, 150 was the bare minimum amount—they were actually looking to hire 400 lifeguards. Borlandoe was one of 16 certified lifeguards over the age of 60 who stepped up to fill the need.

"We're in a bad spot and I just wanted to do something," Borlandoe told Fox 29 back in May. "It wasn't only to help the kids, it was to help me too. I just needed to do something, so I came out of my comfort zone…it's been a journey."

Borlandoe revealed that she had been a lifeguard "some years ago" at the age of 16. She admitted that things were a lot different then (if she's 70, she was a teenager in the late 1960s, so that makes sense).

"The training is much more detailed," she admitted. "They expect professionalism, and teach how to save somebody in different ways. Back then it was just 'give you a whistle, get in the water.'"

Borlandoe, who worked in healthcare before being laid off prior to the pandemic, admits that she "loves the water" and really enjoyed being a lifeguard as a teen. She told Fox 29 the story about how she rescued a 7-year-old girl who was struggling to stay afloat in the pool and how good it made her feel to help.

Helping this generation of kids is Borlandoe's current motivation for getting back on the lifeguard stand as well. Not just keeping them safe in the water, but keeping them safe outside of the pool too.

"They have no place to go," she told NBC Nightly News. "The pools are closed all around."

During her NBC News interview, she shared that she and her family witnessed a shooting right on her front lawn. "There were three young boys that were shot—killed," she said.

"When you see it, it's scary and very sad." NBC News reported that at least 100 children ages 17 and younger had been victims of gun violence in Philadelphia this year alone. Borlandoe wanted to do "something small, just to help out." If her being on duty means a pool can be open and the kids can have someplace to hang out, to her that's worth all the training and time.

"I'm very much commited to this," she said. "This is my reputation, my community."

She has demonstrated that commitment already. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that she has already encountered a young person in need of her grandma wisdom. The outlet shared that there was a young man whose "saucy language landed him a poolside time-out." Borlandoe is clearly rising to the occasion.

“I’m going to make him my project,” she told the reporter.

We need more grandmas like Robin Borlandoe in the world.

Dean Xavier/Unsplash/@DestiniUmajje/Twitter

A Twitter thread declared peas to be the "nastiest vegetable."

Everyone has that one vegetable that turns them into a sneering 3-year-old. You know what I mean. The one you straight-up refuse to eat and if it was the only food available to you, you'd rather starve then let it touch your lips. Some people just can't get behind spinach and apparently a lot of people dislike turnips, others will say Brussels sprouts are the absolute worst. One woman on Twitter declared that peas are the "nastiest" vegetable, and while some people agreed with her, others chimed in to give their opinions.


For some of us, our distaste for certain veggies is something concrete, like a traumatic memory. Maybe when you were a kid, you had them prepared a particular way and it soured you on the veggie for the rest of your life. Or it could be an aesthetic choice—some vegetables taste delicious but don't look it. You do eat with your eyes first, after all. For others, there's the issue of taste. Some people simply can't eat a vegetable because it tastes terrible to them.


In 2019, scientists revealed that there are people called "super-tasters" who have a genetic predisposition to taste food differently than others. For super-tasters, leafy dark green veggies like broccoli, Brussels and cabbage taste extremely bitter and unappetizing. According to a CNN article on the subject, people with this "bitter" gene are 2.6 times more likely to not eat as many vegetables in general because of the bitter taste of others.

“So that [bitter] vegetable is disliked, and because people generalize, soon all vegetables are disliked,” Valerie Duffy, a University of Connecticut professor and expert in the study of food and taste, told CNN. “If you ask people, ‘Do you like vegetables?’ They don’t usually say, ‘Oh yeah, I don’t like this, but I like these others.’ People tend to either like vegetables or not.”

When user DES made her declaration, the responses were swift.

But for all the veggie haters out there, there are people who'll come to their defense as well.