This past weekend was the 4th Annual TransOhio Transgender and Ally Symposium, the only trans focused event of its kind in Ohio, and one of few, if not the only one, in the Midwest. This was my first year on the conference project as a TransOhio board member and I’m very pleased with what we were able to accomplish. We have a long way to go, but we’re getting there in a good way! I totally used my board position to aid in bringing amazing activist/performer/educator (and a my dear friend) Ignacio Rivera as the keynote. Through their keynote address they delivered exactly what our community needed to hear; the importance of hard work, dedication, inclusion, and intersectionality.
Image: 3 Conference organizers posing and smiling with Keynote Ignacio Rivera. Sarah (brown hair, glasses, blue sweater), Ignacio Rivera, (PoC genderqueer in white half sleeve shirt and glasses) Shane (bearded, glasses, grey shirt), JAC (pink hair, blue shirt, glasses), and Melissa (longer brown hair, striped blouse, holding a black laptop)
Community. I got a surprisingly large amount of it over the weekend. Every year I associate this symposium with community, yes, but more so with what may possibly be my longest work days of the year. This time around I didn’t feel the work so much. I mean, I felt it; I was presenting in almost every block of the 3 day conference plus producing and performing in Fabulously Fluid!. But this year it seemed like a more active, lively, and loving experience.
[Image: Midwest Genderqueer -gq transguy w pink hair, standing with hand on hip, head down slighting holding a microphone. dressed in gold metallic booty shorts, black bra, a gold metallic necktie which sits underneath the bra and has a black fascinator hat on his head.] Photo by Thomas Menningen
At the show, now finishing it’s 3rd year running, I was moved by the performers. The first year of Fabulously Fluid! I advertised to performers that it as a genderfuck show, but the majority of the numbers weren’t especially ‘gender’ themed. This year was quite different with nearly all performances using elements of gender, politics, and/or personal empowerment. Everyone around me was working hard and sending love and support; talking about the importance of being there, being present and active in this fight in whatever way they could. I continually found myself loosing composure – maybe because by the show I was emotionally and physically drained from the day, maybe it was because these last several months have been more lonely and hellish than usual and the contrast of support was a shock, or maybe its because I was able to take a minute, look out, and see the community that I’m so often struggling to build and to find.
It’s not easy to be Midwestern and Trans* and I’ll admit it, sometimes I feel pretty downtrodden. The “straight” community either doesn’t believe we exist or is determined to pretend that we don’t and local “gay” communities, many feel the same way OR are still misunderstanding us either through well intentioned exclusion or oblivious oppression. It’s a 24/7 push against a wall that never gives, and every time you think one brick might be giving way, another collapses on top of it to reinforce the structure of invisibility, disempowerment, and rejection. The understanding that there is more to ‘queer’ than homosexuality, more to community than white, middle class; more the gender than boy or girl; more to accessibility than putting up a poster; more to activism than simply stating that things are getting better. Our community is isolated, separated, and scared – but the most important thing is that it is there. It is there and for the first time people are actually seeing it. I think that the “change” that has been incubating and forming is finally growing big enough to recognize. In my Gender Identity Disorder Removal workshop, I had almost twenty providers listening, nodding, and understanding the plight of the trans* community. In my genderqueer caucus I heard people, younger and older, bonding over the same feelings and learning from their different experiences. Even at home here in Cincinnati, the project I’ve been working to get off the ground for three years is finally taking some sort of shape and providing more to the community. Out of nowhere people are starting to talk, and as I watch the mixing of different generations’ and communities’ language, ideas, and experiences I’m thinking that this is bigger than what any of us can see right now. Is the solution to oppression, exclusion, and miseducation around the corner? I’m too jaded to be optimistic, but I’m always willing to be hopeful.
I like to think that I have gotten used to oppression – I need to think that in order to feel strong enough to fight back. It is easier to take a blow, especially one from your own people, when you see it coming. But being accustomed is not the same as accepting it. I will not accept being assigned a ‘less than’ value; I will not accept moving forward while leaving others behind; I will not accept rejection from a community I know I am a part of, and that includes the community of trans*, queer, Cincinnati, Ohio, the Midwest, the USA, the globe. It isn’t going to be easy, and a lot of it isn’t going to be enjoyable. Of all the things I love about my work and my communities, there is a lot that I really struggle with to where I think I’m going to either crumble or burst. Gotta keep your eye on the prize. Sometimes the right thing to do is not what we like to do or what we want to do. We have to do it anyway. What will carry us through this pain and suffering is not anger and it is not love; it is perseverance. It is dedication to something bigger than you or me; the idea that something better than this is possible. I don’t expect to see the golden changing of all of this in my lifetime, but I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure that those who come after me will.