A different kind of tea party: how US farmers are brewing up a new industry

Unchon Ramos has kickstarted an American tea farming revolution right from her farm in Virginia but growers say the industry is still in the wild west stage of development

As a girl growing up in South Korea, Unchon Ramos recalls her mother would always give her green tea to drink at bedtime when she didnt feel well.

And when she washed my hair, she always put a couple green tea leaves in the water, Ramos said.

Slowly, she learned about green teas many benefits: that its loaded with antioxidants, which prevent cells in the body from deteriorating, and that it can improve brain function and boost immune system functionality. Green tea is also high in flavonoids, associated with reducing cardiovascular disease and preventing cancer. A study in 2007 by the US Department of Agriculture found that a single cup of brewed green tea has seven times more flavonoids than brewed black tea, nine times more than a single apple, and nearly five times more than a glass of wine.

So when Ramos and her husband, Louis, decided to buy a rundown old farm in Virginia in 2012, it didnt take her long to decide what to grow. But local farmers told her Virginia is not the kind of place to grow tea. My hometown is the same weather as Virginia, and theyre growing tea, so I thought: Im going to try anyway.

Ramos now runs Virginia First Tea Farm, which sells soap, shampoo, dish soap and laundry detergent, all infused with green tea grown on an 80-acre farm in Spotsylania, Virginia. This year, building on a thriving mail-order business, the familys products became available at eight Whole Foods Markets in Virginia and Washington, DC. Next, Ramos wants to process green tea for drinking.

Unchon Ramos with a display of Virginia First Tea Farm products at a Whole Foods store in Newport News, Virginia. Photograph: Joanna Ramos

Brewing a local industry

Although tea growing has a millennia-long history in Asia, it has virtually none in the US. There are only about 30 established farms in the US growing Camellia sinensis, the shrub from which all tea varieties are produced, according to the US League of Tea Growers. Although that number is small, it has tripled since 2011. Approximately an equal number of farms grow tea in Hawaii, where the climate is more accommodating. (Camellia sinensis is sensitive to harsh weather and soil conditions.)

Rie Tulali, spokeswoman for the US League of Tea Growers, attributed the growth to people who simply like tea. More than half of all Americans drink tea daily, according to a report by the Tea Association of the USA. That consumption is growing about 5% annually, and the US is the only Western country experiencing growth. Also, that increase is coming entirely in the arena of specialty loose-leaf teas, while familiar bagged tea sales remain flat.

Tea parlors and cafes have an increased presence in major cities throughout the US, as do commercial tea shops like T2 and Les Palais des Thes, which sells loose leaf teas in dozens of varieties from around the world. Even Starbucks is entering the game. In 2012, it purchased Teavana, a US chain of 300 specialty tea retailers, for $670 million, its largest acquisition ever.

People really are concerned about their food sources and what their carbon footprint is, said Judson LeCompte, a research associate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Mississippi State University, home to one of the nations largest tea research programs. So if they can get a locally produced product, thats much more appealing and theyre willing to pay for it. That gives our products a niche market they can fit into.

But, while the opportunity for American farmers who want to experiment with tea is growing, there are significant hurdles.

Its still kind of in this wild west stage of development, where no one has really figured out the model for growing tea yet, Tulali says. Even if someone figures it out in Mississippi, its a completely different story in the Pacific Northwest, or California, or Maine because the environments are so different.

For example, a single region of China may have 300 tea varieties, or genetic cultivars, that have been bred over centuries to tolerate particular soil conditions and local weather extremes. In all of the US, Tulali says, there are still only three or four cultivars.

One lure for American farmers is that tea growing presents few barriers to entry. Although learning to grow and process tea can be challenging, a lucrative crop can be raised on very small plots of land. A grower can plant 6,000 tea bushes on a single acre of land for about $20,000, LeCompte said. That might be 20 times the cost to plant an acre of corn, but the corn must be replanted annually. Tea bushes will produce for hundreds of years, and ultimately yield specialty loose-leaf teas that might sell for $30 an ounce or more 10 times the price of a familiar box of Lipton tea bags found in every grocery store.

Even so, LeCompte said US tea growers are not likely to ever threaten the dominance of their counterparts in Asia.

Out of the billions of servings that we import a year, we would be fortunate to produce 1% of that, he says. But I do think China and other countries have something to learn from us. And I think we have so much to learn from them.

The Virginia First Tea Farm property near Spotsylvania, Va. Photograph: Joanna Ramos

Learning from the masters

Both green tea and black tea come from Camellia sinensis. The difference between the teas comes in the processing. Black tea is allowed to oxidize after harvest before being dried. This produces a stronger flavor and transforms the leaves with a dark brown color. Green tea is heated through steaming or pan firing, which prevents oxidation. As a result, the leaves remain green and have a more delicate, fresh flavor.

At first we were, like, This sounds really difficult, says Joanna Ramos, Unchons daughter and a co-owner of the business. Its very experimental, its still in its infancy, but its going good so far. We are able to get enough green tea to use for our soaps.

Virginia First grows the tea plants using organic methods, although the company is still working to obtain official organic certification. Weeds are pulled by hand, and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used.

Tulali says most US tea growers are not yet using organic methods, because they are focused on producing a viable crop from the finicky plant and finding a viable market for teas that are relatively new and expensive in the US market. US growers are still experimenting with their plant material and honing their craft, Tulali says. But what they do have as a benefit is their farms are typically very small, so they have better quality control over the lots they do have.

When Ramos launched her business, she made more than 10 trips to her home region of Kumsan, South Korea, to study tea growing. She brought back tea seeds and a Korean recipe for green tea soap. Her husband, Louis, oversees farm operations after retiring from a career in the US Air Force.

While many soaps use animal products like milk and glycerin (often made from animal fat), and fillers such as gluten, the Ramos family sticks to basic ingredients that are sourced locally whenever possible. For example, some of their products include cucumber and dried berries, which are obtained form local organic farms.

A batch of tea leaves and other ingredients being brewed to make Virginia First Tea Farm shampoo and conditioner. Photograph: Joanna Ramos

The family began selling soaps by word-of-mouth and at local farmers markets in the Williamsburg, Virginia, region. Slowly, local natural food markets agreed to carry their products. This year, seven Whole Foods Markets became distributors.

They are extremely popular, says Morgan Franklin, assistant manager of Rebeccas Natural Foods in Charlottesville, Virginia, and one of the first stores to offer Virginia First Tea Farm products.

Unchon says the soaps are made by mixing in a powder from crushed tea leaves. The farm also sells matcha (a powdered green tea beverage) made from tea imported from Korea.

Green tea soaps are relatively common in groceries that focus on selling healthy products, but most are imported. Joanna says as far as she knows, her familys company is the only one in the US that sells green tea soaps made from tea leaves also grown in the US.

Next, Unchon wants to start selling tea for drinking. But first, the family must acquire facilities for drying and roasting the leaves. Unchon hopes the first tea products for drinking will be produced early next year.

Were not trying to be in every supermarket, because that would just be a ridiculous standard to keep up our quality, Joanna says. The goal is to be able to keep our quality up and not worry about quantity.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/16/us-tea-farming-local-industry-carbon-footprint-t2

The Pence pick: The time Trump didn’t go with his gut

(CNN)The calls from Donald Trump to his son-in-law Jared Kushner and other close advisers kept coming until midnight. The campaign had flown Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to New York to be his vice presidential choice, but Trump was still questioning his decision.



    Mike Pence on being considered for Donald Trump’s VP


He had already delayed his Friday announcement of his running-mate because of the terror attack in France, and that gave him even more time to reason through his choice.
Pence, trailed by news cameras upon landing in New Jersey, was already at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York when an aide called him frantically, telling him to turn on Fox News where Trump was insisting in an interview that he had not made a “final, final decision.”
But Pence remained calm and was convinced that Trump would keep his word.
Trump kept calling Manafort and his son-in-law until midnight, asking whether he could reverse his decision. He was told he could not.
Trump’s campaign says the midnight wavering didn’t happen.
“Nonsense,” said Donald Trump Jr.
“This is completely false. Zero truth to it,” tweeted Jason Miller, a senior communications adviser. And a senior Trump adviser called the story a “rumor.”
Miller also insisted to CNN that the Pence decision was in no way forced on the presumptive nominee but was his own choice.
Friday morning, Trump confirmed the news by Twitter he was going with Pence. It was yet another coup for his children and his top adviser.
“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M,” he tweeted.
In Midtown Manhattan Friday, Pence told reporters he was “very excited, very humbled and very grateful.”
“We love Indiana, we love our country,” he said. “My family and I couldn’t be more honored to have the opportunity to run with and serve with the next president of the United States.”
But many others saw the events of the past 24 as an inauspicious start to the partnership. “Manafort’s hair will be white by Labor Day,” one establishment GOP operative told CNN’s Gloria Borger.
Knowing Trump’s discomfort with the Trump pick — and the fact that he would listen closely to how the Indiana Governor’s addition to the ticket played on television — Team Trump leaned heavily on GOP allies and grassroots groups to pump up the praise for Pence.
They made an aggressive play through friends and associates to get over-the-top praise in numerous statements that have trickled out since the pick from fiscal conservative organizations like Club for Growth and anti-abortion groups.



    Who will Hillary Clinton pick for VP?


That allowed them to go to Trump during his hours of indecision and point to accolades flowing in. One top Trump adviser told CNN they needed to “pump him up that this was the right pick” and the “unity ticket.”
His staff made sure he saw all the complimentary statements from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and the assorted groups.
The question of how comfortable Trump is with Pence, however, still stands.
Upon arriving at Trump Tower, a reporter asked if Pence thought Trump ever changed his mind.
The governor turned around to listen, smiled, then continued to walk into the building.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/15/politics/donald-trump-mike-pence-decision-timeline/index.html

Daveed Diggs Isn’t Cutting His Hair, So ‘Hamilton’ Fans Can Sleep Soundly Tonight

If you, like any other fervently dedicated “Hamilton” fan, have been feeling a sense of impending doom ever since Lin-Manuel Miranda left Broadway cut his hair, fear not. While the act of radical grooming did, in fact, feel like a swift kick when we were already down (still missing you, Leslie and Phillipa) there is hope on the horizon. 

Why? Because Daveed Diggs who, it was recently announced, is also leaving “Hamilton” despite our every karmic intention to will him into staying says his luscious hair is here to stay. 

We asked, and he answered:

So, OK, Diggs is leaving your favorite hip-hop inspired musical for, probably, a zillion other projects calling his name. That hurts. But BREAKING NEWS the hair that made you fall in love with Thomas Jefferson is. Never. Leaving. Ever.

Take comfort in that, friends. Bonus: Here are some photos of those fine tresses to keep you warm tonight.

CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Walter McBride via Getty Images

Walter McBride via Getty Images

Walter McBride via Getty Images

Walter McBride via Getty Images

Walter McBride via Getty Images

Michael Stewart via Getty Images

Roy Rochlin via Getty Images

Walter McBride via Getty Images

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/daveed-diggs-not-cutting-his-hair_us_5787ea49e4b03fc3ee4ff972?section=

New President And VP Barbies Show Girls Can Run The World, Too

Anything boys can do, girls can do better, too!

Mattel, the company that brought us Barbie, is introducing new President and Vice President Barbie dolls.  

The doll is said to represent Barbie’s first all-female ticket, meant to expand her career opportunities to more inspiring and empowered roles, according to a press release.

Barbie partnered with She Should Run, a “non-partisan organization dedicated to expanding the talent pool of future elected female leaders,” to create these new White House dolls. The duo hopes that by working together, they can create more products that will enable dialogue between parents and young girls about their future as leaders.

Just a couple of boss ladies.

Erin Loos Cutraro, co-founder and CEO of She Should Run, said in a press release that she believes “our country will benefit from having a government with varied perspectives and experiences” and feels that the new dolls will “encourage girls everywhere to unlock their leadership potential.”

Here’s Mattel’s video of a little girls’ dream of leadership being “played out through Barbie.”

Barbie has run for president in the past, but this is the first time she’s doing it with another lady by her side: Vice President Barbie. The set is said to “emphasize what Barbie enables— allowing girls to reach their limitless potential by playing out commander and chief.” 

This Barbie set comes on the heels of Mattel’s launch of the “Shero” campaign – a celebration of women who “like Barbie, have broken boundaries, challenged gender norms and proven girls can be anything they want to be. Thus far, they’ve made dolls resembling Olympian Gabby DouglasMisty Copeland, Ava DuVernay and Emmy Rossum

You can snag the POTUS and VPOTUS dolls together in a variety of hair colors, skin tones and face shapes for $24.99 on Shop.Mattel.com and at retailers nationwide.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-president-and-vp-barbies-show-girls-can-run-the-world-too_us_57864fe5e4b08608d3325cf6?section=

Sanders endorses Clinton, touts ‘most progressive platform’ in history | Fox News

Bernie Sanders on Tuesday delivered his long-awaited endorsement of Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton — who in exchange for that support gave the Vermont senator a platform to lay out what amounts to his socialist-inspired vision he expects Clinton to carry and the party to promote. 

The Vermont senator spoke at length as he endorsed Clinton and went on to hammer his own campaign agenda that includes Wall Street reform, free college, a higher minimum wage and expanded, government-backed health care. 

In turn, Clinton echoed many of Sanders’ campaign priorities, completing the embrace of many planks of his agenda that has been in the works for weeks — notably, on college debt. 

“We’re going to make college debt-free for all, and help millions of people struggling with existing student debt save thousands of dollars,” she said. 

She also said, “Wages are just too low for most Americans to get ahead. We need to go big.” 

The two shared the stage as Sanders declared hell do everything possible to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination,” Sanders said on stage with Clinton in New Hampshire. “And I congratulate her for that.”

But more broadly, Sanders declared victory in having won “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” Clinton and her allies on the platform-writing committee have in recent days embraced several Sanders-backed proposals, a coming together which helped pave the way for Tuesday’s endorsement.  

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, told the crowd that he arrived on stage “not to look back, but to look to the future.”

“We started a political revolution, and that revolution continues,” Sanders said to loud applause. “We want a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent.”

Clinton became the presumptive nominee in early June, after accumulating enough delegates through roughly 30 state primaries and caucus victories.

However, the Vermont senator had until Tuesday essentially withheld his endorsement to get Clinton to embrace and adopt some of his progressive ideas, including free college tuition and Wall Street reform.

Sanders on Tuesday also touted his 20-plus primary and state wins, while acknowledging “it wasn’t enough.”

Sanders made the endorsement in New Hampshire, where he defeated Clinton by 22 points in the states presidential primary in February.

His endorsement also comes after weeks of negotiations between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, including the candidates and top staffers meeting in June at a Washington hotel. Their campaigns have since been in frequent contact.

The event, at a high school in Portsmouth, N.H., was also an attempt to project Democratic unity before Republicans formally nominate presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump next week in Cleveland.

“How much more enjoyable is this election going to be?” Clinton said to the crowd. “Because you know what, we are stronger together. Thank you for your endorsement.

Trump tweeted before the endorsement: I am somewhat surprised that Bernie Sanders was not true to himself and his supporters. They are not happy that he is selling out!

Clinton has recently campaigned with President Obama and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in recent weeks, warning Democrats of the threat of a Trump presidency.

Clinton last week rolled out proposals on college affordability and access to health care, winning praise from Sanders, and the platform agreed to last weekend in Florida includes many of Sanders’ priorities, including a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Recent polls have shown that many Sanders voters plan to back Clinton but have reservations about her honesty.

Sanders has said he will do all he can to prevent Trump from winning the White House and the senator’s vouching for Clinton could help her with the independents, liberals and millennials who flocked to his primary campaign.

He saw his longshot bid for the White House quickly catch fire in 2015 at large-scale rallies where he denounced income inequality, the influence of Wall Street and the role of big money in politics.

His campaign was powered by an impressive online fundraising machine that raised more than $200 million and threatened Clinton’s once overwhelming lead in the primaries with the help of voters drawn to his anti-establishment message.

Sanders’ unruly white hair and glasses was often depicted in campaign offices and on T-shirts and a campaign catch-phrase, “Feel the Bern,” marked his rise online. Comedian Larry David portrayed Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” and the senator made an appearance on the show before the New Hampshire

Sanders’ challenge influenced Clinton’s shift to the left on several issues, including her opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the U.S. and her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/07/12/sanders-endorses-clinton-touts-most-progressive-platform-in-history.html

Chelsea Manning confirms she was hospitalized over suicide attempt

Manning ends days of uncertainty about her condition as lawyers express dismay over military prisons gross breach of confidentiality after news had been leaked

Chelsea Manning has made her first public statement since she required hospital treatment last week, confirming that she tried to take her own life.

The US army private, who is serving 35 years in military custody for leaking US state secrets to WikiLeaks, has let it be known through her lawyers that she attempted suicide.

She knows that people have questions about how she is doing and she wants everyone to know that she remains under close observation by the prison and expects to remain on this status for the next several weeks, the attorneys said in a statement.

The comments bring to an end several days of uncertainty in which the US military kept silent about Mannings condition while she was under medical observation and her lawyers were also unable to clarify what had happened for privacy reasons.

Mannings lawyers, Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union, Vincent Ward and Nancy Hollander, said they had spoken to her after several days in which she was not in contact with anyone outside the military prison.

Hearing Chelseas voice was incredibly emotional, the attorneys statement said. She is someone who has fought so hard for so many issues we care about and we are honored to fight for her freedom and medical care.

But the lawyers expressed their dismay that news of the suicide attempt had leaked out of the military prison without Mannings permission. Though she would have preferred to keep her private medical information private, and instead focus on her recovery, the governments gross breach of confidentiality in disclosing her personal health information to the media has created the very real concern that they may continue their unauthorized release of information about her publicly without warning, the statement said.

The soldiers medical crisis comes amid ongoing legal action between her and military authorities. In May, Manning filed an appeal against her unprecedented and grossly unfair sentence for the transmission of hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the open information group WikiLeaks.

Manning, who is a Guardian columnist, also has a running legal suit in which she is pressing to be allowed to live according to her gender identification, as opposed to the gender she was assigned at birth.

She has been given access to hormones and cosmetics while being held captive in a male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, but is being required against her will to wear her hair cut short, according to male military standards.

  • In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255; Trans Lifeline runs a phone hotline staffed by trans people for trans people on 1 877 565 8860. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/11/chelsea-manning-confirms-suicide-attempt-hospitalized

Transgender stories: ‘People think we wake up and decide to be trans’

From a teenager whose mum joins him at Pride parades, to a 70-year-old who was sacked five times for being trans, five people tell of their experiences

Nikki Hayden, 26, psychology student, London

Until I was about four or five I didnt know I wasnt a girl, to be honest with you. One of my earliest memories, about five years old, was being yelled at by a teacher for going to the toilet with the girls. About the same age I realised I was different to these other boys. At the age of nine I refused to have my hair cut. I didnt have it cut until I was 16, because having it cut was such a torment to me.

School was extremely difficult. I got bullied a lot. I was picked on for being too thin, for being feminine, for not liking football, for hanging round with girls, for having long hair. They mocked everything they could think of in terms of gender and sexuality.

Nikki Hayden. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

I learned what trans meant through YouTube. I knew how I felt but I didnt know there was a term for it. I was basically just trying to Google what I felt. A lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, this explains all the issues Ive had as long as I can remember.

I never really told my family. They know, but I just started transitioning. I never said: Oh, by the way My mum asked me if I was transgender when I was around 19 after Id already transitioned. She said: Well, are you? And I was like: Are you blind?

On a day-to-day basis I dont tell people Im transgender. The thing about trans people is, we feel very normal. Its the way we are, its only when people say youre not normal that you feel that way.

Ive always been extremely feminine, I always felt that way. I cant say that I ever felt like a boy, I just had to live as a boy for the first 16 years of my life.

Trans people are the same as everyone else, our ideals in life are to be happy, to be respected, to be comfortable. Ive had people who have openly said to me that theyve had prejudices around trans people but as soon as theyve met me theyve understood more its who I am and the way that I was born. Theres no real difference between myself and people who are cisgender [non-transgender].

Keith Reynolds, 18, student, Surrey

A lot of people have it in their head that we wake up and decide to be trans. I want people to know that its not a choice. Nothing has happened in my life to make me trans. I was born trans.

I told my mum when I was about 13. She was shocked and didnt really understand. Then six months later she told my dad and he was so angry. I love my dad but he was a very traditional person. There was a lot of tension. I couldnt wear mens clothing, or I couldnt wear mens deodorant it would cause an argument.

It started to get better, but then Dad got cancer. He died a week before I turned 16. When he got sick we didnt talk about it any more. I thought that once he had recovered wed go back to talking about it, but he didnt recover.

After my dad died I found a book about transgender young people and I gave it to my mum. She read it and it was a complete change. She says her main thing and also my dads main thing is they were worried about how it will affect me in life will I be able to find a job, will I be able to find a partner. Well, those things have happened: Ive found a partner, I have no trouble finding jobs.

My mum is fantastic, shes really proud of me. She comes to Transgender Pride with me, if anybody says anything bad about me being trans shes ready to hammer them. She makes me the envy of many trans people, I think.

Keith Reynolds. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

I was referred to Tavistock [the clinic for children and adolescents] in May 2014. Youre not allowed testosterone until youve been on hormone blockers for a year at Tavistock. But I was 16 at my first appointment and had already gone through puberty, and knew that by the time I had done a year on blockers Id be picked up by the adult clinics. I decided not to go on hormone blockers, because it wouldnt really do much for me. I was referred to an adult clinic in May 2015. I still havent had an appointment, which means I havent had any medical intervention in three years.

Im desperate for hormones and surgery. My dysphoria makes me feel like Im embarrassed for people to look at me. In my head Im this weird thing that is ugly. I have to wear baggy clothes to hide my hips, I have to think about how many layers I have to wear to hide my chest.

I really understand that the NHS is overstretched because theres a sudden influx of people being referred. I completely understand why, but that doesnt stop the frustration.

Surat-Shaan Knan, 40s, project manager for Liberal Judaism, London

I didnt really know anything about gender identity until quite late, when I was in my mid-20s. I also come from a secular Jewish family, so I didnt know much about what it means to be Jewish either.

I identify as non-binary, trans-masculine. Being trans and Jewish seemed a complete oxymoron. I thought, it cant be, I have to decide between them. But I had this wonderful community here to give me all that space and time to come out.

I feel very blessed that everyone, including family and friends, have been extremely supportive throughout. I havent had to go through what many trans people have to go through.

Years ago when I came out I went to the wall [Western Wall in Jerusalem]. There are three sections the male section, the female section and an ungendered section. Now I would probably go to the ungendered section, but it was my first time presenting as male in such a holy place and I went to the male section of the wall. It made me so happy to do that, to go to the part of the wall I wanted to. I was transitioning medically and spiritually and it was one of the most important moments of my life.

Surat-Shaan Knan. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

A Jewish online magazine reported on that and it sparked off online, I got really abusive messages. I thought, these people dont know me, I dont think anyone should be able to tell you who you are and how to live your life. Yourself is yourself, even in the religious community.

A lot of people from mainstream trans communities ask me, how can you be a person of faith, because even your own religion has been so horrible to LGBT people in general and trans people specifically? Thats true. But its about what faith means and leaving out what some leaders and institutions do with it.

In the media, the focus is often on the pathology and medical transitioning and thats a big part of it, but there are so many layers of what it means to be trans. Its almost like trans people are one-dimensional, they are just these people who need medical help. I do hope we will change our view on what trans looks like. Its not just something on the outside, its something thats very deep and spiritual.

We are created in the image of God. I am part of that as a trans Jew.

Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE, 70, retired sales manager, scientific instrumentation, Rhyl, Wales

I knew I was trans from about three or four years old. From a very early age I thought one day Ill wake up and my body will be like my sisters and my parents would say: Oh, we had a girl, not a boy as we thought.

When I went to university I learned about transsexuals and that some of them transitioned. I brought this up with my tutors and they said: People like you dont do that. They said: Just get married and itll all go away. That was the perceived wisdom then they told gay and lesbian people the same thing.

So I was persuaded that I should get married. Within three or four months I told my ex how I felt and initially she was very supportive. I used to go to a support group once a week; Id have a weekend out once a month where Id get dressed up and go clubbing with some other girls in Manchester. I had to travel a lot for work, which gave me opportunities to be myself. These coping strategies kept me going through about 30 years of marriage.

Jenny-Anne Bishop at home in north Wales. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

When they found out at work Id regularly lose my job. Its happened five times, most recently after the equality legislation had been passed. One time, very early on, I was coming back from my support group at night. I got stopped by police at a routine roadblock. The officer asked if I was allowed to drive a company vehicle dressed like that and called my work to tell them I was dressed like a woman.

I had one job where they got rid of me and then they wrote to every company I applied to and said: Dont employ this person, theyre trans. Each time I lost my job we had to move. The last time it happened my wife wouldnt move any more thats what really ended our marriage.

When I transitioned full-time [in 2007] we had difficulties like having the car regularly damaged and having the trannies live here painted on the house. When I moved to north Wales to live with my trans partner, Elen, no one knew me as anyone else, so almost all the abuse stopped. Elen and I got married in 2011.

Theres still so much to do, but there have been huge improvements in acceptance. There is much more legislation to support us, particularly in the last few years. That night I got outed by the police officer, I wouldnt have even dared go into the police station as myself. Now I go in and have lunch with the assistant chief constable or the police and crime commissioner to discuss combating transphobic hate crime.

J Fernandez, 23, administrative assistant, London

The people you see in the media are usually one type of trans person. Theyre usually binary [identify as either female or male], they usually pass [as someone of that gender], theyre usually white and they usually have this narrative that theyve always known theyre the wrong gender. It makes other trans people scared to tell their stories.

Non-binary people are people who dont identify as male or female all the time. There are lots of subsections you might be agender, gender fluid, bi-gender, a demi-girl or a demi-boy. You might not understand the nuances of the differences, but everyone is always making up new identities to match their experiences and that can only be a good thing. While it can be confusing, its better than saying you can only be this thing and we wont talk about anything else.

I just identify as non-binary and dont put myself into any sub identity. Some days I like to be a woman and Im also OK with identifying as being a guy. Im pretty much nothing at the moment.

I came out as a trans guy and transitioned. I took testosterone, Ive had top surgery [chest reduction] and then a hysterectomy in 2015. The hormones and surgery is about aligning my body to what it should have been at birth. Being born with the correct parts would have made things easier, but at the same time I dont want to be told that my body is wrong.

J Fernandez in London. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Its very difficult to get treatment as a non-binary person. They were dismissive about the fact that I was feminine. Non-binary people are used to it, you are warned when you go in [to the gender clinics], if you want treatment you will have to present as male or female and stick to that story.

I dont want to be part of any mainstream [pro-trans] movement if it doesnt include non-binary people. In terms of celebrity, there needs to be a lot more diversity. Its a circle: people dont come out if they dont see anyone like them.

Im mixed-race: my mum is Spanish and Nigerian. I am still finding out how I connect with an identity apart from a western LGBT identity. Thats something Im still working on. Within the religion indigenous to the Yoruba people [an ethnic group in Nigeria] there a lot of gender fluid deities; as a trans person trying to find my roots, thats one part of my heritage that I feel positive about.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/10/transgender-stories-people-think-we-wake-up-and-decide-to-be-trans

Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs: celebrating the Beats in Paris

In the late 50s the Beat movement reached its high point, with Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs sharing rooms in a rundown hotel near the Seine. James Campbell visits a new exhibition at the Pompidou Centre and a pivotal moment in cultural history

If you want to read Jack Kerouacs novel On the Road in its original scroll form this summer, the place to go to is the Beat Generation exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It will require more than one visit the 36.6m scroll is exhibited in its entire length across the central room, like the Bayeux Tapestry but while you are there you can also watch Robert Franks 30-minute film Pull My Daisy (1959), with Kerouacs voiceover, scrutinise the heavily revised typescript of Allen Ginsbergs poem Howl, dance to Harry Smiths experimental jazz films and relish the sight of numerous rare publications under glass, such as Gary Snyders Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers Without End and issues of the magazines Big Table and Kulchur.

Paris has acquired the habit of mounting major exhibitions on literary subjects Jean-Paul Sartre and Boris Vian have been at the Bibliothque Nationale in recent years, Jean Cocteau and Roland Barthes at the Pompidou but why the Beats, and why now? The idea is to show these freedoms, which were fought for then, and which are in danger of disappearing, says Philippe-Alain Michaud who has curated the show with assistance from the poet Jean-Jacques Lebel, translator of several Beat works into French, and Rani Singh of the Getty Research Institute. Michaud isnt disposed to make the case for a revival of interest, since France never paid much attention to Beat writing in the first place. We wanted to show the multimedia nature of the movement not just writing but painting and film as well and how the idea of travel was central to it.

Pull My Daisy, directed by Robert Frank

There is another good reason for bringing the Beats to Paris. More than Tangier, which often gets the credit, the French capital was where Beat production reached its high point, between 1957 and 1960. With the turn of the decade, what had been an underground movement rose to the surface and was exposed to damaging commercial light. The living quarters were a cheap hotel in rue Gt-le-Coeur, near the Seine. Known as the Hotel Rachou, after its owner, it has passed into legend as the Beat Hotel. Just a short walk away, across the Boulevard St Michel, was the office of the Olympia Press in rue St Sverin, the nearest thing to a house publisher for Beat writing in Europe. It was at the Beat Hotel in 1959 that the dishevelled routines of William S Burroughs were shuffled into some kind of shape by Ginsberg, Sinclair Beiles and others a random shape, according to Burroughs himself before being brought to the proprietor of Olympia, Maurice Girodias. Four or five weeks later, Naked Lunch, with a now rare dust jacket designed by the author and many misprints committed by non-English-reading compositors (fortunately, given the content), was in the few shops willing to stock it. The cut-up technique, which Burroughs used to produce his next two novels, The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded also published by Olympia was accidentally revealed to his regular collaborator Brion Gysin at the Beat Hotel. Gysins original cut-up weapon, a Stanley knife, is on display, as is Burroughss vintage Underwood typewriter and an adding machine of the kind refined by his grandfather, also William S Burroughs, which brought the family status and wealth at the end of the 19th century. It was in Paris that Ginsberg began writing Kaddish, his greatest poem, and it was from here that Gregory Corso sent the poems for his collection Gasoline to City Lights Books in San Francisco. Hes probably the greatest poet in America, Ginsberg wrote in a preface, and hes starving in Europe. Starving at the Beat Hotel, to be precise, where Corso lived in a room almost too small to stand up in, as we see from one of the many photographs by the English photographer Harold Chapman.

Neal Cassady by Ettore Sottsass (1962)

Beat Generation does not claim the movement for Paris but it shows the importance of the city in the lives and works of several of its leading writers. Kerouac spent little time there, but for Ginsberg and others there was the excitement of gazing at the same cityscapes and dawdling in the same cafes as Henry Miller, a reluctant forbear, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett. The work of all three was as yet unavailable in the US, but all were published by the Olympia Press, the literary importance of which has never got through to the French reading public.

The Hotel Rachou has long since been converted into a four-star hotel Singh says she was forbidden to take a group inside recently while leading a Beat walk but visitors to the Pompidou will have their imaginations primed by an installation structured on contemporary pictures of Burroughs in his dismal room, some by Chapman, others by the Life magazine photographer Loomis Dean. There is a replica of the sagging brass bed with a bare light bulb above and reproductions of Burroughss pictures on the wall. All that is missing is a stuffed dummy of the cadaverous figure himself, staring into the abyss of total need, Burroughss term for heroin addiction. Mme Rachou, who enjoyed the company of the local gendarmerie as well as of beatniks, is no longer around to explain why she admitted these eccentric types one tenant filled his room up with straw while refusing entry to a more ordinary sort of tourist. Her genial presence is visible in some of Chapmans photographs, while those of the bar at the Beat Hotel give a vivid impression of Left Bank life in the 50s.

Michaud faces a harder task in presenting the shadowy side of the Beat soul, though he is well aware of it. Freedom isnt always fun. There was madness and criminality in the Beat family genes: Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs had all seen the insides of psychiatric hospitals by the age of 30. Corso got his higher education in prison. Burroughs shot his common-law wife in the head during a game of William Tell in Mexico. At the Beat Hotel, Gysin disliked Ginsberg for his hold over Burroughs. The latter, oscillating between addiction and withdrawal, veered towards paranoia, while aching from his obsessive love for Ginsberg. In San Francisco, Neal Cassadys girlfriend Natalie Jackson threw herself from the top of a building. Elise Cowen, one of Ginsbergs admirers, killed herself while he was in Bombay in 1962. Always felt revulsion for the death smell in her hair, he wrote to Corso.

Le Roi Jones and his Family (1964) by Bob Thompson; 1964; Oil on canvas; 36 3/8 x 48 1/2 in. (92.4 x 123.2 cm); Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966 Beat Generation Photograph: Joseph H Hirshhorn/Lee Stalsworth

In recent years, there has been interest in the women of the Beat generation, but Singh, who worked with Ginsberg and is an expert on the films of Harry Smith, admits that it was mainly the guys. The shows richly illustrated catalogue contains her interview with Joanne Kyger, whose Collected Poems was published in 2007 and who studied Zen Buddhism in Japan in the 1960s with her then-husband Gary Snyder. The catalogue also has archive interviews conducted by the Beat historian Barry Miles with Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure (all translated from English into French). While the Beats might have done a lot to create greater acceptance of homosexuality, the liberalising ideals of feminism didnt move them. Pull My Daisy is more than just a guys film; it is downright misogynistic (though not in the brutal manner of Burroughs at his worst). Ginsberg, Corso and others play themselves, while the pop artist Larry Rivers takes the Cassady role (Milo) with Delphine Seyrig as his long-suffering wife, based on Carolyn Cassady. Shell get over it, Kerouacs voiceover assures viewers, as the weeping wife is abandoned to household drudgery while the guys are back where they want to be, in freedoms playground. As for the influence of black style on the Ivy League-educated Beats leading to the birth of the white negro, to use Norman Mailers expression there are references in the show to the San Francisco poet Bob Kaufman and to LeRoi Jones. In the mid-60s, Jones buried his old Beat self in Greenwich Village, leaving behind his Jewish wife Hettie (herself a poet and childrens writer), and resurrected himself in Newark, New Jersey, as Amiri Baraka, black nationalist militant and antisemite (I got the extermination blues, jewboys/ I got the Hitler syndrome figured). There is a striking oil painting of LeRoi Jones and his family by Bob Thompson, and the typescript of Joness Poem to be Read at Bob Thompsons Funeral (1966). The bridge spanning the divided American culture is supposed to be jazz, of which there is no shortage in the exhibitions air.

One of the more pleasant surprises in store for visitors is the interest in visual arts on the part of the writers. Ginsberg was a talented photographer. Always conscious of the epoch-making nature of the Beat enterprise Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others, has accused him of inventing the entire thing he kept a pictorial record until his death in 1997. Several of his carefully preserved pictures, with hand-written captions, are exhibited. There are also photographs by Burroughs, including some of his room at the Beat Hotel, and many examples of his script-and-image collage work. Paintings by Kerouac are on display, as well as a portrait of him by Larry Rivers and a lively drawing of Burroughs by Corso. One of the scoops for the curators is a 1.8m manuscript poem by Corso, probably made at the Beat Hotel: There is no more SAFETY Protection/ There is only DANGER/ and it leans against the final/ lampost gobbling/ St Tropez SHOES. There are paintings and collages by more recognised artists such as Wallace Berman, Julian Beck and Alfred Leslie. Among the best of the visual exhibits is Gysins imposing assemblage of hieroglyphics, Calligraphie.

Calligraphie (1960) by Brion Gysin Photograph: Jonathan Greet

The foundation myth is travel. Kerouac wrote urgently about the need to go go go, and here is a rare opportunity to see the manuscript of one of the few books in the western canon that imitates the means of going the On the Road scroll, the book as a road, paved in paper. It is therefore suitable that Michaud has arranged his exhibits according to location. Not only New York, San Francisco, Paris, the exhibitions subtitle, but Mexico, Tangier and the far east. London, a city skulking under a grey cloud in the 1950s, barely features. Burroughs chose to live in Mayfair in the 1960s and early 70s but, as Jean-Jacques Lebel says, that was because he could be anonymous there.

Today, Paris is the city glancing nervously at threatening skies. The continual explorations of freedom its literary culture has given rise to, from Rimbaud and Apollinaire to Camus and Vian have been a source of inspiration to artists the world over. As I wandered through the Pompidou, I found myself thinking that the artistic-intellectual crisis in Paris was being talked about long before the present political one, and wondering how the two might be linked. Burroughs would have read the answer to the question between the cut-up lines. Meanwhile, it is heartening to know that a mad dash for freedom which set off from Columbia University 75 years ago is being celebrated in the dimmed City of Light this summer.

James Campbell is the author of Paris Interzone and This Is the Beat Generation: New York, San Francisco, Paris. Beat Generation is at Centre Pompidou, Paris, until 3 October. centrepompidou.fr.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jul/09/beats-paris-pompidou-centre

‘Am I still a feminist if I watch porn?’ Meet Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British Lena Dunham

Shes filthy-minded, desperate for connection and masturbates to Barack Obama while she watches the news BBC3s new sitcom has a heroine who will chime with twentysomethings everywhere

A neatly dressed girl is sitting alone in a cafe, wondering aloud about the size of her arsehole. She spent the previous night with a man friend, drunkenly exploring certain sexual possibilities, and now is concerned that she might be unusually accommodating. This is the scene that kickstarts Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridges new BBC3 comedy about the pains and perils of the twentysomething experience. As well as creating the show, she plays the title role, a character who, while happy to reveal her most intimate details, never divulges her real name.

Fleabag, as she is known, is a young woman who lives in London, runs a cafe with her only friend, attends feminist lectures with her sister, and has recently split up with her boyfriend. Dead mother, cold father, smiling assassin for a stepmum: she doesnt sound like shed be much fun on paper. But under the tightly buttoned trenchcoat and tidily asymmetric hair is a porn-addled, grief-stricken mess seeking some sort of connection. If you spent your 20s sleeping with randoms and not taking care of your heart, youll recognise her instantly.

The end credits reveal that most of the supporting cast arent afforded proper names either, instead called things like Bus Rodent or Arsehole Guy. She doesnt name anybody, explains Waller-Bridge over a peppermint tea in a different London cafe. Its one of those Edison-bulbed places with low lights and high benches; her tea is actually a glass stuffed with soggy mint leaves that flop out over the brim. She doesnt imbue anyone with anything more than how she sees them, she adds.

This antihero cares only about herself, lives alone (people in sitcoms can afford to do this in London), masturbates to Obama on the news, and employs duplicity almost constantly to project the image she wants others to have of her. She is full of questions and devoid of answers, much like her creator says she was as she waded through her 20s. Am I still a feminist if I watch porn, or if I want to change my body to make me feel more sexually attractive? ponders Waller-Bridge, remembering the confusion of her own early womanhood.

A porn-addled, grief-stricken mess Fleabag. Photograph: BBC

This conflicted character of Fleabag burst out of her one day when a friend asked her to fill a 10-minute slot in her storytelling night. While the idea of standup made her recoil in horror, she told herself: Im being a pussy. Ive got to do it. Ten minutes quickly snowballed into a one-woman Edinburgh show, critical acclaim and a transfer to Londons Soho Theatre. Waller-Bridge is now 30 and says the character emerged from a mix of feminist anger and wild frustration at the limitations put on young women before they can decide who and what they really are.

When I meet girls who are like, 23, 24, I just want to hug them now, she says, before remarking on her own 20s: I felt very aware of my sexuality and very aware of what that meant in terms of my worth. She swills the warm water around the leaves. As long as you were skinny and hot first, then you were allowed to get on with the rest of your life. The injustice of that. Shes laughing now but says it drove her mad at the time. And this coming from a woman who looks like a 1930s soap advert, every bit as pristine as her on-screen character.

Despite echoes of Carrie Bradshaw or Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe, Fleabags closest pop-cultural cousin is Ferris Bueller Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. Photograph: BBC

On top of the anger, there was the guilt. Waller-Bridge watched porn for a time in her early 20s and wondered if that made her a bad feminist as she read about the numbing effect it seemed to be having on her generation; all that hairless expectation and loveless, colliding flesh. I just felt like it was really wearing me down a bit, she says, looking out of the cafe door. She adds a bit to a lot of her answers, perhaps not wanting to seem too unequivocal about anything.

What is without doubt is that Waller-Bridge is on the rise. Since graduating from Rada in 2006, shes gradually become a familiar face on primetime TV. You might last have seen her as Marianne Jean-Baptistes legal sidekick in Broadchurch 2 or Lulu in E4s Crashing, her very modern flatshare comedy set in a disused hospital, which politely pushed the boundaries of taste and zinged with verbal sparklers. Waller-Bridge wrote it and played one of the twentysomething co-dwellers, living, pooing and shagging their way through life with a frankness that bordered on sociopathic.

When Crashing aired, some hailed her as the British Lena Dunham, but her aesthetic is nothing like as deliberately grubby or exposing. While they do have in common a lack of answers, Fleabag would never strip off and talk you through her tattoos the way Hannah does.

Politely pushing the boundaries of taste Waller-Bridge in Crashing. Photograph: Mark Johnson

She is so controlled, says Waller-Bridge. The clothes that she wears, shes constantly got this red lipstick on, her hairs perfect, she looks pristine and clean. The fleabagginess of her is her subtext. As so many of us do, with our carefully edited social media presence to the fore, she wears it on the inside. Those who saw Waller-Bridges stage version of Fleabag in Edinburgh or its London transfer described it as filthy and shocking, but its the verbal power she wields that socks you in the jaw.

Despite echoes of Carrie Bradshaw or Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe, Fleabags closest pop-cultural cousins, with her fourth-wall-busting asides to camera, are probably Ferris Bueller or Michael Caines Alfie. Waller-Bridge says it was important from the off to invite audience complicity for her heros increasingly bad behaviour. In the opening shot, she is just about to open the door to a late-night booty call when she turns to camera and explains the extensive preparation shes had to engage in to be ready for this seemingly casual encounter.

It could be a moment of pure clunk but instead she grabs us by the lapels and we go with her unquestioningly. Mid-shag she looks at us and tells us that her one-night friend is edging towards her anus but shes drunk so she might as well let him. The next morning, she tells us she is strangely moved by his gratitude at being allowed to up the bum her. These asides act as an effective coping strategy, as well as a hugely watchable dramatic technique. While shes looking at us, and essentially in her own head, she doesnt have to deal with the real world in any way.

Filthy, shocking and with a verbal power that socks you in the jaw Phoebe Waller-Bridge performing Fleabag at Londons Soho Theatre. Photograph: Jane Hobson/REX

For a relatively young writer, Waller-Bridge has assembled a supporting cast most comedy veterans would chew their elbows off for. Olivia Colman plays her spiteful, bohemian step mother with a devastating line in insults tucked away behind polite smiles. And Bill Patterson is the chilly, unavailable patriarch who keeps his daughters at arms length. Waller-Bridges own family sound like a much happier unit she mentions a brother, sister the love of my life and her mum, not an actor, actually appears in episode one. She plays a feminist lecturer with surprisingly on-point comic timing. I suppose the idea of losing my mum is my biggest fear ever, she says. When I remind her that she will definitely die one day, she grins nervously, clenching her fists. Shes not, shes not. Im not going to let it happen.

That callow unwillingness to recognise lifes unpleasant certainties is there for all to see; in Fleabag, a character who (in the words of Britney) is not a girl, not yet a woman. But just when you think youve sussed out this rather selfish, often wretchedly childish character, a big reveal during a chat with a cab driver changes everything. The first episode ends with a snippet of backstory that is barely hinted at until that moment and, suddenly, you find yourself wanting to hug her, too.

She has a heart, says Waller-Bridge protectively. Its just broken.

Fleabag is available on BBC3 from 21 July.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/jul/08/phoebe-waller-bridge-fleabag-britains-lena-dunham

‘Game of Thrones’ star Maisie Williams debuts new look | Fox News

Cast member Maisie Williams attends the premiere for the sixth season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in Los Angeles April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Phil McCarten – RTX29DDX

What a change-up, Arya Stark. 

“Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams stepped out at the Serpentine Summer Party in London on Wednesday rocking a dramatically different blueish black hair style, crediting the Neville Hair & Beauty salon on Instagram for the dramatic locks.

Sneezing panda Makeup by @ewtmakeup Hair by @nevillesalon Styling by @harrietbyczok Birthed by Hilary

A photo posted by Maisie Williams (@maisie_williams) on

WATCH: ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Maisie Williams Isn’t Labeling Her Sexuality

A natural brunette, the 19-year-old actress has been teasing her darker style on social media recently, showing off the bold look over the weekend before attending Beyonce’s “Formation” World Tour stop at Wembley Stadium.

The transformative style is very fitting for Williams, considering the major changes her character underwent this season on the massively popular HBO series, which just wrapped up season 6.

WATCH: ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Maisie Williams Has Best Reaction to Finale’s Crazy Death

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2016/07/07/game-thrones-star-maisie-williams-debuts-new-look.html