Please check out this scholarship in honor of Bryn.
The Bryn Kelly Scholarship for Trans Women/Trans Femme Writers
Please check out this scholarship in honor of Bryn.
*Trigger Warning* This post discusses systematic violence and suicide. I have placed a *TW* a few sentences before text that could be especially triggering. Please take care of yourself. <3
A year ago, Leelah Alcorn died* as a result of trans oppression and violence. How she died and the words she left behind sparked shock and outrage among cisgender people around the globe. To trans people, who face trans discrimination every day, it was a familiar event in a string of losses that make up our people’s history. And as I see facebook events and news articles about Leelah appear, I think back to exactly six months to the day before Leelah’s death, when 28 year old Tiff Edwards, a young trans woman of color, was murdered.** Like the first vigil, on the anniversary of Tiff’s death those of us remembering her did so without visibility. Part of what made Leelah so well remembered, in addition to her whiteness and viral post-death statement, is that she asked the world to “fix society” to keep others from living, and dying, as she did. In the past year, as demand for trans resources continues to rise, the issue to be “fixed” is not the presence of trans oppression, it is the absence of trans liberation.
I have been working as a trans activist since the day I came out, which will be ten years next month. The majority of my work has centered on my, and Leelah’s, home town, Cincinnati, Ohio. Like Leelah, I came out into a dark void of isolation, fear and anger but unlike her, I was privileged in that I was older, 21,; I was not entirely rejected by my family or friends, and though I was poor, I was independent enough to fend for myself. I was fairly green as an activist, but I thought if I worked to fix what caused trans suffering, eventually I would stop suffering too. I hoped that if I made myself seen, other trans people would find me. This eventually lead me to found Heartland Trans Wellness Group, a Midwest focused organization that primarily addresses Cincinnati area trans community needs. People often ask me how I learned to do this work, to which I always respond, “I learned how to swim by trying not to drown.” And that is what activism among the oppressed is like. We are in the sea of oppression trying to save our community from drowning without drowning ourselves.
When working on behalf of your own community, a lot of activism doubles as a mode of survival. As organizers struggle to support ourselves, we become less and less able to provide for our communities. When a community lacks resources, it is difficult for new leaders to emerge. Here we see the vicious cycle of every oppressed movement. The trans movement does not appear to move slow or in spurts because we are disorganized. It is because we are distracted by the need to survive. Upon hearing this, many people say, “That’s where allies come in!” and I don’t entirely disagree, however at this point in the trans movement, allyship is primarily being used as a misnomer for representative. Few cis allies will purposefully usurp trans leadership, but when you look at how trans people are treated in media, human service, and the non-profit industrial complex, the result more than speaks for itself.
A local Cincinnati newspaper published an article asking if anyone has “fixed society” in the last year. Written by a cis ally, it presents an important discussion on progress and problems related to the trans movement. The article is long and thorough, covering national events and statistics as well as issues specific to Cincinnati. Of the eight people interviewed for the article, two of them are trans. 25% of an article that is 100% about trans people comes from the perspective of trans people. If anyone feels compelled to reiterate the “not enough trans activists” argument, that can be easily dispelled. Here we have two experienced trans service providers, one in medicine and the other in mental health, each of whose work is entirely dedicated to trans needs and work with trans people every day. Knowing them both personally, I can attest to their exceptional competency and expertise on Cincinnati’s trans community and yet in the 2,244 word article, only 70 of them are quotes from trans people – that is 3%. What’s more, the cis voices given the most space are in the same professions as the trans providers right down to their specialty population (Yokoyama and Conard both serve trans youth; Yokoyama also serves trans adults while running the city’s only trans service organization). It is also notable that both trans interviews are placed in the middle of the article, neither setting the initial tone for the piece, nor closing with the final thought. Both of those critical spots where given to a cisgender physician who in each quotation uses Leelah’s dead*** name, an action that to trans people is considered one of the most significant forms of psychological violence. The good intentions of the article are lost behind the veil of cis privilege, leaving an inarguable example of systematic trans erasure. If you search for articles addressing Leelah, including those written by LGBTQ media outlets, you will find a primary absence of trans interviews. When looking at coverage of Cincinnati’s political response, including the installation of a memorial sign and two about the city’s “conversion therapy ban,” none include trans voices or the voices of trans or queer youth. I also can’t help but point out the irony of Cincinnati city council member Chris Seelbach, a relative newcomer to trans allyship, who immediately took the media stage upon Leelah’s death, stating the importance of addressing transphobic language when he has avoided accountability for his own transphobia as recently as last Spring. I do believe a person can learn to be an ally regardless of their past behavior; however, it is not appropriate for a cis person brand new to trans allyship to claim a lead voice in Cincinnati’s trans movement. Seelbach is a prime example of a cis person who has been repeatedly called upon by trans people to back up, and yet is still found quoted in nearly every news address of Cincinnati’s trans movement.
So who should be the lead voice in discussing Leelah? We must look to the community most directly impacted by this tragedy, trans youth, but you will not find them in any of the the aforementioned articles either. Trans activist and young person Jason Hettesheimer offers critical perspective as he recalls a meeting he recently held with trans and queer high schoolers, *TW* “…They didn’t know their rights or how to find support. We could use the momentum from Leelah’s death to work on empowering trans kids but instead we spend it on impractical policies and vigils for someone who died a year ago.” Memorials and vigils serve many purposes, including being a healing space, demonstrating the need for change, and most importantly, motivating people to make that change happen. Hettesheimer says, “Instead of using dead trans youth as the face of trans youth activism, we could empower living trans youth to fight against the systems oppressing us.” His statement speaks volumes about communities experiencing epidemics of violence, torn between survival and remembrance. Despite the violence, there are countless trans organizers around the globe, but as the community and its needs increase, so does the pressure on trans organizers to fill the gaps left by cisgender run systems of healthcare, housing, education, and human service to name a few. And when unsupported activists burn out, we are finding fewer and fewer people to replace us. For six years Hettesheimer has been one of the most vocal trans youth in Cincinnati doing everything from creating youth groups, to lobbying for policy change, to teaching workshops. Now, he finds himself against a wall. “Adults like to tell me how smart and strong I am,” he says, “They love to invite me to events, but when I speak they don’t listen. I don’t want to work with people who only care about trans kids when we are dead.” Yesterday he posted an announcement on his Tumblr stating that due to ageism and a lack of action in Cincinnati, he will no longer participate in the city’s trans activist movement.
Hettesheimer is far from the first trans activist to step back as a last choice for self care. Over the years I watched activist after activist back up or burn out in minimal time from Cincinnati’s toxically conservative environment which, in one way or another, mirrors all cities including more “progressive” ones. I could never blame a person for leaving the movement, or more frequently the city, for the sake of self care, but I couldn’t avoid the heartbreak that came each time a glimmering hope of a comrade fizzled out. Speaking for myself, while my work in Cincinnati filled me with humbling gratitude and joyful purpose, over time my work drained me emotionally, physically, and financially. In the eight plus years I worked on Heartland Trans Wellness Group, over six of which I was the only full time organizer, I averaged a 50-60 hour week and never once received a paycheck or benefits. Because the organization had no funding, I took touring gigs and odd jobs alongside my activist work and paid Heartland’s bills with the same checks that paid my rent. I worked in consistent isolation, suspiciously monitored, and in a few cases harassed by colleagues and other members of the LGBT community. I was constantly stressed out by my inability to provide enough resources, haunted by the people I’d lost to violence, and the impeding doom of losing more.
*TW* After Leelah’s death, Heartland experienced a huge spike in service requests from within the trans community. After the news broke, Jonah Yokoyama and I worked three days and nights to address trans community distress; Jonah was juggling a full time job on top of it. In addition to addressing the community’s and our own emotional upheaval, we fielded responses from the media and the cis community. The organization had been little more than a wallflower to the cis community, but cis shock and guilt quickly elevated it to being the most popular kid in school. But that popularity didn’t last, and when the dust settled promises of volunteers, donations, and fundraising never materialized. Some of these promises came from the very people who continue to block trans voices with their own. Heartland continues to strive to meet trans needs, and Yokoyama presents a positive picture of its growth, but what is not mentioned is that it is still an unfunded organization resting on the shoulders of a few trans community members, primarily Yokoyama, who continues to go under-recognized and unpaid for their work.
*TW* When we talk about “fixing” society, it is important to pay attention to where it is broken. The trans movement is not easily split into heroes and villains; there are complex systems of oppression at work here. When you think about trans community leadership, who comes to mind? How many people are celebrities versus those working on the ground every day? This lack of representation is not because trans leaders don’t exist and it is not accidental. It is a symptom of systematic trans erasure which is caused by the glass ceiling of cissexism and privilege. It keeps trans people trapped in the water, drowning, and society only looks down when one of our bodies floats to the top.
To be clear, I am not promoting the idea of a “trans only” movement where you have to be within the trans community (including partners and family members) to contribute. There are a lot of awesome, hardworking cis people contributing to the trans movement and the best, most credible folks are doing it quietly, not giving interviews and speeches. Whoever is involved in the work, the focus of the trans movement must always be on trans people and trans experiences, being told by trans voices – more specifically by the voices of those who are the most targeted such as trans people of color and trans youth. Yes, trans activists struggle, but like gentrification, the solution is not for cis people to take over or for LGB non-profits to adopt trans projects and siphon funding away from trans lead ones. It is to support the people and organizations who are already doing the work. Give us your money, collaborate with us on a grant and give us control of it, give us spaces to meet, educate yourself, and volunteer with a closed mouth and an open mind. This is what will help the trans activists of our movement and create ways for more trans community members, including partners and family, to take on leadership. It is common knowledge that there is strength in numbers, but strength is relative. I truly believe that any person that feels compassion for trans people is capable of valuable, important work. That said, capability does not equal competency. There is no exchange for a trans voice for a cis one. It is only through supporting and empowering trans communities that we can hope to combat our oppression.
If you are struggling, remember that it is a sign of strength to ask for help. Talk to the people you love. If you are in the Midwest, you can call Heartland Trans Wellness. You can send me an email to talk it out. OR 24/7 call Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-TALK, or Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. If it is an emergency, call 911. You are not alone.
If you would like to help the efforts of Cincinnati’s trans community, you can donate to Heartland Trans Wellness Group, offer to volunteer, or share the link and encourage others. Thank you for the support.
*I chose news articles from smaller media outlets because they did not include text from suicide notes, mug shots, given names, or misgendering. **TransGriot is run by the well respected trans activist, Monica Roberts.
*** Common label used by trans people, especially youth, to describe the name given to them at birth (verses their chosen or true name).
Friends, it is with joy and pride that I announce that I am stepping down from my post as the Director of Heartland Trans Wellness Group. Seven years ago, I stumbled into the “real world” of community organizing with a dream to address a lack of trans resources. Soon, I was teaching a workshop outside of Cincinnati for the first time. Afterwards, a nervous young person approached me with tears in their eyes and said, “This is the first time I have ever been in the same room as someone like me.” Looking at this person, I could see myself. I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to building resources that empower trans people to help ourselves find each other, support each other, access health and wellness care, and obtain the rights and recognition we deserve.
In all honesty, I had no idea if I could do it; many days I still wonder at how the project has come so far. Looking back, specific things stick out in my memory: the first time I pressed “publish” for the website; hosting support group meetings in my shabby living room; the first time a stranger asked me for help; the first phone call the organization ever received; the first faces coming to meetings; the first moments I truly felt I could help someone. I remember the desperation I felt when there were so few options to provide. I remember the first time I could say, “Yes, I have a resource for that.” The first time I could say, “Yes, I have a place where you can go.” I remember being angry at things not changing fast enough; I remember unadulterated gratitude for the little victories of a smile or a thank you. I remember the first time someone said, “I want to work with you,” and that person was Jonah Yokoyama. It doesn’t feel like it’s only bee two years since I went from being a staff of one, to that of two. I still laugh at the strange, but delightful novelty of going to start a task only to find that Jonah had already done it. Jonah, thank you for helping me grow my dream into an full organization that serves our people. I always knew I would not want to be a non-profit director forever, but I can’t imagine being able to hand my ‘baby’ over to anyone but you. Thank you for taking Heartland into its next chapter in life. I am grateful. I am happy. I know with your leadership, it will continue to help people in ways I always dreamed it would.
The work I have done at Heartland has provided me with the most fulfilling moments of my life. Thank you to every person who has supported me; the ones who assured me I could do this; who listened to me vent and cry on the bad days and celebrated and hugged me on the good ones. Most of all, I am eternally grateful to every trans person who has ever trusted me to lend a hand; and to every partner, every parent, every friend. My life has been greatly defined by the gifts you have given me. For the last seven years, you have empowered me with purpose. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you, and our people. I will still be helping out with CTCG in the coming months, and no matter what, I will always do my best to be there for you whenever you may need me. I am looking ahead to the many amazing activist adventures we will have together in the future. I am sure they will be just as amazing as the last seven years have been at Heartland Trans* Wellness Group. Yay *Little Flags*
This March I will be the Keynote speaker at ComingOut 2013 Conference in Duluth, MN. Come out and see me!
It’s that time of year again! Summer is over and I’m getting ready to bounce out into the world with lots of activisty presentations, performances, workshops, and more. Maybe this year, I’ll bounce over to you! Visit the Booking Page for more info or reference the ad below. Hope to see you this year!
“Midwest GenderQueer, commonly known as JAC Stringer, is a trans genderqueer activist organizer, writer, and performance artist and he is booking for his 2012-13 tour. Bring him to your school this year!
JAC has lectured and performed across theUSAandCanadawith his work focusing trans, genderqueer, and queer education, social justice, (dis)ability, and trans/queer artistry. JAC is the founding director of The Midwest Trans and Queer Wellness Initiative, is a leading activist in the gender identity disorder removal movement, and is a strong advocate for health care reform, sexual assault awareness, and comprehensive sex education. JAC has founded several projects, is an Advocates for Youth Alum, and is member of several organizing boards including TransOhio, The Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference, The Greater Cincinnati Youth Summit, The International Femme Conference, and The International Drag King Community Extravaganza. As a performer, JAC has done genderbending dance, music, drag, and spoken word as a solo performer, as co-manager of The Black Mondays Drag Troupe, he is a national gender performance showcase producer, and is the founder of the Gender Queeries Tour. JAC is a life-long dancer, poet, musician, and rabble-rouser whose work’s purpose is to generate unity, action, and empowerment and achieve rights and recognition for trans and queer communities through education, art, and other various forms of revolution.
What leading trans activists and performers are saying about Midwest GenderQueer:
“I’ve had the great good fortune to attend several of JAC’s workshops and lectures. He is a skilled, knowledgeable, and talented teacher who gets complex ideas across to a broad audience with warmth and a terrific sense of humor. Please do yourself a great big favor and bring this high-fashion genderqueer wonder to you as soon as you possibly can.” — Kate Bornstein
“JAC Stringer is a charming hurricane of glitter and big ideas, so cute you can’t help listen to the smart things he says (and so smart that you can’t help think about them). A brilliantly accessorized example of how flexible the ways of gender can be, and how tender.” – S. Bear Bergman
“Midwest GenderQueer should be known as Super GenderQueer because he’s everywhere, doing just about everything… His work weaves activism, boas, art, glitter, humanity, make-up and the biggest smile that just melts your heart.” – Ignacio Rivera aka Papí_Coxxx
Offering Trainings and Workshops Including:
* Trans & GenderQueer Allyship for students and/or faculty & staff
* Trans-Focused Activism – Policy, Bathrooms, All Gendered Spaces, & Pronouns
* Gender Performance and Drag
* Make Your Own!
Offering Presentations Including:
* Trans & GenderQueer 101
* “You look like a Freak…” Gender and Societal Recognition
* Bending Desire: Sexual Attraction and GenderQueer Identities
* Disorder or Defiance?; Gender Identity “Disorder” and Pathologizing Difference
Offering Performance Art such as:
Spoken word, music, films, dance, and drag – each a poetic romp through Midwest memories, musical flashbacks, body visions, and musings of a genderfucking femme boy.”
I was just very pleasantly surprised by a fellow human being. This evening I was very suddenly tossed into a resources search for a local community member in need. I called the local YWCA hotline, but honestly was not expecting much. I started to describe what I was looking for and dropped the word “transgender.” The operator gave a long pause, “Can you say all that again?” I repeated my statement, a little slower this time. She paused again and, to my amazement, she was able to give me an answer, instead of another question.
I could hear the operator flipping through pages of her referral manual. She said to herself, “I’m just not findin’ what I’m looking for. Seems like there should be something for that ’cause everybody deserves help, no matter what they’re like.”
Her language was all wrong, but her warmth and willingness to help was everything that is right about humanity. I am so grateful for the moments when we, the trans* community, are reminded that we are not alone.
October 17th, in Chillicothe, Ohio a teenage boy was jumped and brutally beaten by his classmates because of his perceived queer sexual orientation. One boy attacked the 15 year old freshman while a second filmed the incident. The video has gone viral, but since I tend to find the promotion of such things without the express consent of those involved to be exploitative and sickening you will not find it on this blog (no matter how ‘moving’ it may be to the audience looking on from the safety of the present). The story didn’t break until a few days ago, and just after it did another attack happened in the central Ohio town of Westerville. We talk about bullying a lot now days, but what do we actually do about it? Facebook blasts, Tumblr reblogs, and attention from national organizations are good for visibility but how can we touch the reality of those who are out in literal fields battling oppression and violence?
Three weeks ago: I cut through the Appalachian hills of my beautiful Ohio. On my way home from a gig, I planned a somewhat impromptu pit stop to visit a dear friend and activist colleague who lived in Chillicothe. I drove into the town, taking in the Fall air and quaint scenery through my open window. I turned the corner toward the small town “Main Street” and was immediately hit with muffled shouts from the street: “What…. pink hair! Fucking gay! …Sick!” Not five minutes later it happened again, this time from a passing truck. It’s the same every time. You feel it in your gut; the panic and fear washes over you leaving behind tough-guy thoughts and extreme hyper-vigilance… you get used to it in that weird way where you never really get used to it. Just the sight of my friend brought me some relief. I watched her walk down the street without apology, surrounded by overall clad factory workers and towering historic buildings worn from wind and winter. She wasn’t afraid like I was. To her, Chillicothe is her her ancestral home town and her backwoods battlefield. Her fight: to make a safe place to live with her partner, to raise her children, and to foster her community. The two of us are bonded for a lot of reasons, one being that she and I often commiserate with each other about the over all conservative hellishness of where we live… But Cincinnati is one thing, Chillicothe is another. I listen to her talk about her daughter dealing with a bully (who assaulted her and made continual threats including being calling her a lesbian and a dyke) and how the school’s administration would do nothing to help her. Sound familiar? It should because it is the same cry for help the mother of the boy beaten this past month is voicing, and that of most parents of bullied kids. This is not an isolated problem, and it is not the fault of one child, one school, or one administrator. This is a historical, systematic problem.
I was bullied growing up, but I was lucky. I was lucky that any insult I heard I got over and any fight I was thrown into I ‘won.’ I was lucky that I found a way to survive the hatred of other people as well as the hatred the built up inside myself. Still, here I am as an adult; back in school and I am afraid. I am afraid to walk down the hall by myself, afraid to talk to my classmates about my life, I am afraid to call out others (including professors) when they speak/act in ways that are harmful to me and my people. I am afraid of being physically and emotionally hurt because of something I can not change: Who I am. Imagine what that must be like for a kid; someone with no power, no voice, and no way out. Now days people are coming out younger and younger, but in this world of homophobia and transphobia we think that Glee, Lady Gaga, and Facebook are enough make things right. And while I appreciate the visibility of national media attention and seeing local organizations posting ONE article on facebook, it isn’t enough.
Yes, I live in a conservative mire full of complacency and incompetency. It is frustrating, and a lot of times I want to give up. Even with that, I was lucky to be born in a city – no not lucky, privileged. I complain about being the “only one” in my city, and while in some ways that may be true, overall I am not alone. My friend in Chillicothe can not say the same thing: she really is the only one. Most of us will never fully understand what it is like to experience the level of isolation, fear, and frustration that rural trans* and queer folks deal with every day. For this reason, I admire and respect my friend more than most people I have met. Standing alone, she keeps fighting. It may sound sad, but to me it is a message of hope. For almost a year she has been trying to found a local LGBTQ group but she could not find a single business or church willing to host it out of fear of “being burned down.” This week she told me that finally the Chillicothe LGBTQ Peer Group is launching (see plug below). This is the example to follow. We must be in our communities fighting, working to building something real It starts at home, and whether you live in a small town or big city, there are things you can do that influence everyone in your state. The more visibility, support, and education we have the less people will hate us, attack us, and misunderstand us. One person being attacked is too many and one person fighting back is not enough. We need to get off our computers and start talking to one another, talking to our representatives, and talking to our children about how to make the real world better. We need community groups, we need legislation (see Ohio House (155 & 208) and the Senate (127)), we need it enforced, and we need it now.
If you would like to do more to help Ohio become safer for our communities’ youth, you can sign this petition for Ohio Safe Schools but remember that an online petition is not enough. We must make phone calls, write letters, and lobby directly in the offices of those who are supposed to be our voice in government.
For Resources and Support:
Chillicothe LGBTQ Peer Group
1st and 3rd Thursdays of Every Month from 7 to 9pm,
Fellowship Hall of Orchard Hill United Church of Christ, 105 N. Courtland Dr.
*The Chillicothe LGBTQ Peer Group is a secular (nonreligious) peer led support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and queer identified individuals to discuss their experiences living in the Chillicothe and surrounding areas, to share resources, and to create a greater sense of community and support for all. For more information contact us at LGBTQ45601@gmail.com.
I am so excited for this weekend and co-producing Mind the Gap! – A Drag Uproar. This international show is going to rock the Midwest like it’s never been rocked before!! If you’re in the area come on out for a full weekend of shows, discussions, and awesomeness.
Come out for queerness in epic proportions this weekend in Chicago at Queerpocalypse! Two nights, two shows featuring performances of spoken word, comedy, dance, drag, burlesque, and more! I’ll be the one with pink hair, in case you can’t spot me.
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.