In the early morning hours of that same day, Jussie Smollett was assaulted, a rope thrown around his neck. The “Empire” actor, who is a gay black man, said his assailants hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him during the attack.
As the news spread, Patterson, an advocate for LGBTQ people and board director of the Human Rights Campaign, posted on her Instagram account: “He’s at a store getting food at night because he’s hungry. He’s Black, LGBT and famous. They attack him with words and with their fists, they throw bleach on him and tie a noose around his neck. They attempt to kill him. He’s Black and he’s gay. That’s it. That’s it.”
Patterson is noteworthy for her activism for her transgender son, Penelope, a topic area with still few voices. Her book spans the decades of her personal and family history and traditions, unfurling the myriad ways people identify: through gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and even location.
The author comes from a long line of activists “Gloria (the author’s grandmother) was arrested more than 25 times … Gloria recognized very deeply that a new world order – for her, and for her children – was one worth fighting for. This was the responsibility left to me.”
Penelope, the child who would inspire her activism for the transgender community, isn’t a consistent part of the book until about halfway through. But throughout Patterson’s retelling of her life before and after Penelope’s birth, she expertly connects both the black civil rights movement and intersectional feminism with the struggle for transgender and gender nonconforming rights.