Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlation to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes any more from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. We have already seen the Trans ban that has been passed by this administration, we cannot rest until every right being taken away from us is returned. That requires us coming together as one community, no matter our points of view.
Each of us live our lives on our own means. We are forced to make a living and must, in doing so, be ready to fight how it best serves our greatest good, do not judge someone by their words as much as their deeds or actions. Remember that I share stories of our community and how we/they live in it. Names are only changed when asked to do so, words are only changed for spelling or ease of flow. So, join with me as I share their stories and let’s celebrate their fight and stand with them. Be supportive, without judgement.
Today, let me introduce you to Belle Ursa, a 22-year-old business owner in Tremont area of Cleveland. Like many others I have interviewed, Belle wants you to understand that day to day lives are no different between Trans/Gender Non-conforming people and Cis-gender. We all eat, sleep, work, and have the same worries. Belle is co-owner of Amplio Fitness and focuses on mind, body, and spirit of the LGBTQ community. Make sure you check it out and support our community business owners.
Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.
My name is Belle Ursa, I am 22 years old currently living in Tremont! I am the co-owner of Amplio Fitness in Rocky River and I am also a certified Health Coach! My business focuses on the LGBTQ community, specifically the Trans community in order to provide health and fitness services. https://ampliofitness.com/
What does transgender mean to you?
To me, Transgender is any gender identity that is different from the one you were assigned to at birth.
What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?
There a lot of misconceptions, but I think some of the common ones are usually based in a medical context. A lot of people believe that the end goal of every Trans person is to get “the surgery.” A lot of the times its true, Trans people do want to get gender affirmation surgeries, but there are many people out there who are fine with just receiving hormone therapy or even no medical interventions at all! There is no “right” way of being transgender, there is no end goal or perfect example. It’s just changing different aspects of your life until you are comfortable with who you are and how people perceive you.
How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?
Just like the question phrases it, you just ask! I know it can be awkward to ask but trust me when I say it’s much more respectful to just ask rather than guessing. By asking you are not only breaking down the social habit of assuming someone’s gender based on physical appearance (which is rooted in transphobia anyways), but you are also giving the individual complete control of how the world sees them. They have the power to claim their identity, claim their pronouns, and decide how they are perceived. Sometimes straight up asking pronouns out of context can be extremely harsh, so if you meet someone for the first time, I suggest introducing yourself and your pronouns first like so: “Hi! My name is Belle, my pronouns are she/her/hers” and then usually people follow suit. This lets folks know you’re “down with pronouns” and you’re not here to pre-judge anyone about theirs!
Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?
Yeah, all the time and it’s completely uncomfortable. I divulge my journey when I feel like it’s important. If it helps someone or can educate people at the right time, I like to talk about myself. But that’s on my time and it’s my decision. Often times people ask me questions because they want to satisfy their sexual curiosity or know very private things because they want to feel special and at that point, I’m not longer a person to them, but a mystery that they want to “solve.”
What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?
Asking private questions, especially one’s related to their bodies or their medical experiences.
Not paying them for their labor (i.e. education, vulnerability, expertise)
Tokenizing them in work situations
Using the terms Tranny, Transgendered, Transgenderism, Transsexual
Gatekeeping on what a trans person “should” be.
What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?
For me I think it was finding the courage to stick to who I am. In my experience when I came out the comments were often really passive aggressive like “Are you sure you want to do that? What would other people think? It’s going to be hard. It’s so expensive.” Most of the time I suppose these concerns were rooted in people caring/worrying for me, but it was a terrible way to interact with me coming out. I felt no support. I just felt doubt and fear which then piled onto my already growing sense of insecurity and anxiety. It was also a little insulting because it felt like people assumed, I didn’t think about these things daily. It takes so much strength to come out and for people to not react in a positive and loving way is awful. It’s soul crushing. There were so many times I wanted to quit. I wished I didn’t have to go through this. But I think that’s also where the magic of Trans people come from. No matter where their journey takes them, they almost always experience hardships and backlash for who they are and, in that chaos, we are able to find resiliency and magic that fuels our compassion for ourselves.
Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person
I think this is a little weird of a question. My normal day is like any others. I get up, I do things like go to work, I eat, I play with my animals, I sleep, I watch Netflix. Just because I’m a Trans person doesn’t mean that may day have to be revolutionary different than anyone else’s. Sure, there are small changes like maybe I have to take medicine, but like 80% of the population takes some type of medicine or vitamin with their breakfast so…
I am a cisgender Gay male, and always want to know how to be a better ally for trans* individuals. What are some things I can do to aid in trans* visibility and helping to create a safe environment, based on your personal experience?
Support Trans business (hello my fitness studio is Amplio Fitness)
Pay trans people for education
I think you’re involved with ALL AXS bar in Willoughby, right? Try putting on a Trans night or hire Trans DJs etc.
Educate yourself, look into articles and vocabulary so the burden doesn’t always have to fall on a Trans person
Educate and advocate to your cisgender allies. If you hear something say something. Correct misunderstandings you see, defend a trans person in public. Be a vocal and visible ally.
How can people best support Transgender children?
Oh, love this question, my research in college was about the emotional and social development of Trans adolescents. Basically, you know how bullying can cause children to have higher rates of negative social and emotional development like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, intimacy issues, etc.? Multiply that by like 300% for Transgender/Gender non-conforming kids. The more non-passing they are (i.e. the more out of the box they look) the harder their isolation and bullying is and the higher the correlation with mental health issues they face. Children identifying as Trans/Gender Non-conforming need friends and family who support them, they need to find other people who identify the way they do to understand that they are normal, they are valid, and that they can grow and become successful adults. They need policies and rules in place that protect them. They need schools that educate the whole institution about their identities to start creating a more accepting environment. They need teachers who advocate for them. They need classroom policies in place that protect them. They need bathrooms that they can go into and be safe. I literally have so many thoughts about this lol, but we can convene later/more in depth if you want.
Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?
Not really, I mean it sometimes doesn’t go hand in hand. Like sexuality is based off gender in a way, but not vice versa. To whom I am attracted to plays zero roles in my gender identity.
What gives you strength day to day?
Myself and my freedom that I have worked extremely hard for over my life. I’ve been transitioning “officially” for 4 to 5 years now but I’ve always been gender non-conforming ever since I was a child. My entire life I’ve been told no, I can’t do certain things, I’m not allowed, and my strength comes from being able to prove everyone wrong. To live as myself, authentically and without regret. If I can do that and I am still alive today, I have the strength to do anything I want.
Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?
Because I should not be able to be murdered. No one in my community should be murdered because of who we are. Laws influence society and society dictates how we exist. Most trans people I know have been verbally harassed, physically assaulted, or worse because of who they are. Do you know how many people report it? Little to none because of how poorly it is received. I’ve gotten statements like “Well you deserved what happened because you deceived them of who you really are,” meaning they saw me as a man and that I was just “pretending” to be who I was. You know I’ve seen some court cases where a man who murdered transwoman claimed the panic defense and got away free because of the simple fact that courts and society often times don’t see trans-people as a valid identity? A woman was MURDERED because a man assumed, she was cisgender and her biology was different and… he…walks…away. Some people claim “Oh she should’ve told him” but do you not see the fact she was murdered for being trans was THE REASON WHY SHE WAS MURDERED? Again, I can go into this in much more detail, but I don’t know how long you want my responses.
Thanks for this opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts!
Belle shows us that while our journeys may be fraught with hardships, we must endure and gain the strength those situations give us. Life takes courage, facing each day as the person you are takes courage, it is these steps that foster strength in us and allow us to move forward. Our words and actions, as small as they appear to us, can be beacons for others. Always fight for what you believe in and never be satisfied with what you are given. Her story can give each of us knowledge we did not have before, while our stories are different, taking cues from others can give us new perspective on how to better handle new situations. Support and understanding of our fellow brothers and sisters is what will make us strong. One voice and one vision.