HBM111: Waiting for Earth

Motherhood always seemed non-negotiable for Bethany Denton. Her upbringing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints certainly instilled this. Mormons believe in what’s called a “premortal existence,” a place up in heaven where the eternal souls eagerly wait their turn to be born on Earth so they can prove their faith to Heavenly Father, and then return to glory in the afterlife.  

For Mormons, life on Earth is just a short test, an opportunity to practice free agency and serve God’s will. That’s why leaders of the LDS Church like Elder Dallin H. Oaks are concerned about falling birth rates among members of the church. They believe that “one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth.”

This belief in pre-life gives additional weight to God’s commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.” It’s about more than maintaining the populations; it’s about giving other children of God a chance to live. As an adult, Bethany lost her faith in the LDS Church. She stopped believing that her primary purpose in life was to be a mother, and for the first time, she started to seriously consider what her life would be without children.

Roberto Molina and Bethany Denton on their wedding day. Photo by Zephyr Wadkins. 2018.

HBM094: The Fatigue of Violence

In the nearly 20 years that Susan Randall’s been working as a private investigator, she’s seen Vermont’s most disadvantaged people struggling to have life’s most basic amenities.  Sometimes her job is to interview people addicted to crack, to help determine whether they’re suitable parents. Sometimes her job is to examine blood spatter at gruesome crime scenes.  She recently helped defend a client who murdered a DCF worker in broad daylight.

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Content Note:

Descriptions of violent crimes

Susan has seen how humanity’s worst instincts become possible where cyclical poverty, incarceration, and drug addiction wreak havoc on communities.

There’s a necessary split screen in Susan’s mind.  One screen shows a home life: dropping her kids off at lacrosse, helping them with school projects.  And another screen shows a work life: prison visitation rooms, run-down trailer parks, the color-shifted skin of a corpse.

Producer Erica Heilman interviewed Susan over the course of three years.  Erica is a private investigator herself, and Susan was her mentor. The two talk about the mechanics of the legal system, poverty and how to survive a job that takes such an emotional toll.

Erica produces the podcast Rumble Strip. Some of the audio on this episode came from here and here.  Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton re-purposed this audio for Here Be Monsters.

Music:  The Black Spot

HBM078: Sagittarius Has $45 [EXPLICIT]

Sagittarius has been good for the last year.  That’s what he told us.  He told us that the cage that Luna designed for him is working.  She controls his money, his businesses, can read his email, can see his bank accounts, and can track the location of his phone.

He says that the next time he messes up, Luna will leave him, and take the kids with her. Avoiding this scenario makes the cage worth it.  

Please Note: This episode contains frank discussions of sexual addiction and desire.  All names in this episode are pseudonyms.

Sagittarius is a sex addict.  His therapist told him that naming his addiction would be a good way to compartmentalize it. So he chose “Sagittarius”, a name he stole from the bow-wielding centaur of astrology known (in part) for emotional recklessness and who is represented by the planet Jupiter.

Sagittarius first emailed us back in 2016, after we published an episode called HBM060: The Predators of McNeil Island.  In that episode, we talked to Chris, a man once deemed by the state of Washington to be a Sexually Violent Predator. Chris told the courts that he’d changed, no longer felt desire to be devious. Sagittarius identified with Chris, saw himself as a version of Chris that had never been committed or sent to court.  But Sagittarius wrote to say that, personally, he’d never say “never” again.   He’d been wrong too many times.  

Despite receiving some treatment, and despite the cage, Sagittarius does not feel cured of his addiction. He is actively hoarding cash, $45 of bills he keeps in his backpack.  A secret kept from Luna. Another $100 and Sagittarius could break free from his cage, and pay someone to have sex with him.

In this episode, Sagittarius takes Bethany and Jeff on a walking tour of his New York City “hotspots” he used to frequent, and then takes Jeff on a late night bike ride to Battery Park, where his father once took him to see the Statue of Liberty.

Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman produced this episode.

Become a member of KCRW.  Tell them we sent you.

Music: The Black Spot | | | Phantom Fauna.

After releasing this episode, we got a number of requests from folk who wanted the music we made.   Here it is: 

HBM076: Griff's Speech

As a baby, Griff Eldridge was quieter than most.  But he slept well.  He fed.  He played with his big brother Ira. And he smiled easily.  For a long time, his parents Luke and Davinia didn’t worry, because he was so happy and healthy.

When Griff became a toddler, Luke and Davinia started to compare his speech to the speech of  other children and to the standards laid out in the Personal Child Health Record, a book issued to new parents by the UK government.  

Griff was on track when he started to babble around 12 months old.  But, unlike other children, the babble never evolved to understandable sentences.

Luke and Davinia began to track Griff’s speech in a notebook and test his hearing. They took him to several doctors, none of whom agree on a single diagnosis.  They learned of “Verbal Dyspraxia” and “Phonological Disorder”.  He’d see a speech therapist.

Griff is nearly four years old, about to start primary school, and still he’s never spoken a fully coherent sentence.  They have 18 months to get him up to speed.  Recently, Davinia’s been teaching Griff the signing language Makaton (see below).

Makaton is a signing language meant to supplement spoken words.  

Nursery rhymes performed in Makaton.

In this episode, producer Luke Eldridge (Griff’s father) shares scenes from their home as his family works together to help Griff learn to talk.  Bethany Denton edited this episode, along with help from Jeff Emtman. Additional editing help from Nick White at KCRW.

Music:  The Black Spot   |||   Flowers

Hello NYC!  Jeff and Bethany are speaking at The Unplugged Soul at Columbia University’s Heyman Center on April 14th and 15th.  It’s free.  Register here.

HBM045: Deep Stealth Mode (How To Be A Girl)

Marlo Mack gave birth to a son.  At least, she thought she did.  As a toddler, her son crawled towards dresses, wanted to be a princess, asked to grow long blonde hair.  And at age 3, Marlo's son requested to return to her tummy so he could come back out as a baby girl.  Marlo thought it was a phase--it wasn't.  So she started learning how to raise a very young transgender daughter.  She started keeping audio diaries. 


In this episode, Marlo sends her child to a new summer camp, and struggles with giving her autonomy in revealing her gender identity to other children.  


Marlo faces questions daily about how to best raise her daughter.  How can she stimulate her child while protecting her in a world often unkind to transfolk?  She tells her daughter that there are some people who are like Darth Vader, just too sad to be kind anymore. 


Marlo Mack and her daughter produce a podcast about their life together called How to Be a Girl.  Marlo generously gave us access to her raw recordings for use on this episode.  How to Be a Girl is part of The Heard, a new podcast network.  Marlo also writes a blog called Gender Mom

Marlo Mack is a pseudonym.  She will keep their true identities secret until her child is old enough to understand the risks of revealing her identity.  These risks are real.  2015 has been an especially bad year for trans folk;  2015 has already seen the murders of at least 15 American trans women.  Marlo and her daughter exist in what they call "deep stealth mode." 

So, when do you tell people that you're a girl with a penis? When is it safer to hide?

This episode was produced by Marlo Mack.  Jeff Emtman edited it with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White. 

Music:  The Black Spot 

Resources for trans children and their parents: 
Trans Youth Family Allies   - for families of trans youth
The Trevor Project - specifically crisis and suicide prevention
YouthResource - specifically for trans/lgbt youth
Human Rights Campaign - list of resources for trans youth

Video by Marlo Mack.

Marlo's daughter meets advocate and actress Laverne Cox.