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My brother followed up with an email explaining that this was the reason for the recent absences, as they took time to process it and to support Laura, who wasn’t yet ready to share her changes with the broader family.We will soon be having another gathering and Laura may be joining us.They built buildings, tilled the earth, and raised cows and chickens. From now on, we are all equally sisters and brothers, because we share the most important and beautiful quality a person can possess – which is the freedom to be ourselves. To live our lives, make our homes, raise our children and send them out into the world. To push forward toward new frontiers, or to stay put – like I have done.

American culture is always growing and changing, and you are part of what makes it colorful, complex, vibrant, grand, and beautiful. I want to thank you for taking a chance on this great country.

And I want to urge you to always treasure and respect your citizenship.

It is a privilege, and I hope you will always honor it.

You know by now that the best things in life don’t come easily, and being an American is not always easy.

My brother “Tom,” his wife and three adult children stopped attending these events a couple of years ago. Recently Tom’s son (my nephew) shared with the family that he was gender-transitioning to being a woman.