Our Transgender Community: Colby’s Story

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 correlations 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 anymore from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

Cleveland gives a different dichotomy of being Transgender. While most of us see Cleveland as a small town, there are many Transgender people from even smaller towns and smaller southern towns. Colby is a 39 year old Transgender man that works in the healthcare field and lives in Floyd, Virginia. Colby is also married to my sister. While this is not specifically about the community here in Cleveland, Colby is my brother-in-law, so his story is directly personal to me. While he isn’t directly aware, his journey has been one that was the seed for much of my change in thought. Things that are the closest to you challenge your beliefs most’

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Tell me about yourself. Name, age, where you live, and what you do.

My name is Colby Byrd, I live in Floyd, VA, and I am a registered nurse.

What does transgender mean to you?

Transgender to me is simple it is your body looking on the outside what you feel on the inside.

What are some common misconceptions you face about Transgender men and women?

Some of the misconceptions I face are that transgender people are confused, that we only want to use the other bathroom because we are creeps, that we don’t belong, that we are gay/lesbian, that it’s just a phase. These are among a few.

How should someone ask a Transgender person which pronouns they prefer?

For me most people don’t question my pronouns anymore because I look very much male. However, when I first started transitioning I preferred that people just ask me my name and then listen to what pronoun people who knew me called me. Most transgender people will politely tell you if you use the incorrect pronoun.

Do people ask you if you have had any surgeries and how does that make you feel?

Many people who know ask what surgeries I have had, and I am ok with answering because I would rather a person be informed then create their own opinions on lack of knowledge. However, it is uncomfortable when I go to a new physician or surgeon and must explain myself because the whole purpose of being transgender is to be seen as the sex you feel you are and people tend to look at you differently when you must give that information.

What are things that we should avoid doing with Transgender person?

Don’t treat us differently. We are who we are. Don’t be uncomfortable around me like I am going to do something perverse or that I am an alien. I have the same heart inside that I did before I transitioned the only thing that changed is my appearance and my confidence because I finally feel right. We face a lot of the same challenges as many of the rest of the LGTBQ community.

What has been the hardest part of your transition so far?

For me the hardest part of my transition has been trying to create a new past. By that I mean I live in a very small town so I don’t tell a lot of people so if I talk about my past including a previous marriage I have to remember to use the correct pronouns myself for the past and I have to be careful what pictures I post on social media and what family tags me in or comments they make so as not to be found out.

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Tell me about your normal day? – being a parent of a Transgender child/ Transgender person-

My days are pretty much the same as a male born person. I get up and get ready for work and go through my day the same as anyone else. The only difference is I have to wear a prosthetic to fit in in the bathroom and as I said before if we start telling stories about our past I have to be careful. I have been in transition for six years, so it is a lot different now than it was in the early stages.

What are some microaggressions that make you feel unsafe? (“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”)

Unfortunately, I see this a lot in the field I work in. I work in behavioral health and many of the people I work with are more ok with a person being gay than with a transgender person. Many of them do not know about me so I must sit and listen to them talk horribly about transgender patients and though I do speak up and try to defend them I must be careful as to not give myself away because when I do speak up too many rumors start flying and questions get asked. My bosses do know the truth and they fully support me and have said they will not tolerate any negativity against me. It also hurts the transgender community when adolescents come in and say they are transgender and you can obviously tell that it is an attention thing.

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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?

For me just treat me as you would any other male (no flirting I’m married to your sister). We want to be treated the same as anyone else in the world, same rights, same privileges, same level of acceptance. We struggle the same as any heterosexual person does on a daily basis, so we don’t need the added stress of wondering who’s going to find out and who’s going to judge us because we did what we needed to do to be whole.

How can people best support Transgender children?

I believe that a parent can tell if their child is truly transgender or if it is just what is “cool” at the time. I knew when I was six years old that I was “different”, but I grew up in the same small town I live in now and had no idea what transgender was. It wasn’t until I was much older that I even knew what gay was and then even longer when Chaz Bono came out and I met another transgender man in my community that I finally was able to figure out what (who) I was. Let them be who they are! Don’t try to change them and if they are older transgender and have no family support be their family. Give them all the strength and encouragement they can’t find from the people who should love them most.

Do people question your sexuality when you tell them you are Transgender?

Yes! Every time. Most of them know that I am married to a female but that makes them say that I am a lesbian. No, I am not. I am a heterosexual male as far as I am concerned. My wife and I are legally married and the only thing we can’t do that any other heterosexual couple can do is produce children.

With the recent news of Scarlett Johansson over being offered a role as a Trans man in Rub & Tug, what are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?

The most common misconception I notice from Hollywood about transgender is putting it in the public. For me, as I know it has been with many of my trans friends, we don’t want anyone to know. Not because we are ashamed but because we are who we’ve always felt like we were meant to be. I don’t need to publicize that I am a man that used to be a woman because I never wanted to be a woman to begin with. I am a man and that’s who I want to be seen as. Hollywood, as with Miss Jenner, has made it look like we are confused and unhappy with our decisions and that we question what we’ve done. I have not questioned my decision one day since I made it.

What gives you strength day to day?

My strength comes from two places. My wife and God.

Can you describe for me why it is important that our laws and people treat each other equally?

We are all human and we are all equal. No one is more or less important. Who is it hurting if my wife and I adopt a child if we can give it a better home than the straight couple who destroyed their life to start with. Who is it hurting if a gay or lesbian couple who love each other marry. I have always been a strong believer that the media makes a big deal about things and makes them more than they are. Most LGBTQ only want the same rights as everyone else. To be able to love who they want, provide for their loved ones and make sure they are taking care of once we are gone. I am not sure of any spirituality from Christianity to Buddhism and everything in between that says anything more than love one another, not only love heterosexual people, so why are we so hard on each other. Love begins with us.

 

Our Transgender Community: #Calltoarms

It seems appropriate that, while discussing our Transgender community, we discuss the rights that LGBTQ have or do not have here in Cleveland. It is important to understand them in context to where we are and what we should be thinking about for the future. The current administration has shown us that they do not care for the LGBTQ community and are taking steps to reverse the progress we have made. Let me be clear in saying that we have made progress, but our fight is far from over.

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Ohio adopted its first sodomy law in 1885 in and four years changed it to include fellatio. This wasn’t removed from state law until 1972. Ohio was one of a few states that were already repealing their sodomy laws, however it was still considered a misdemeanor to express interest from one man to another. In 1979 the importuning law, expressing of interest romantic or sexual nature, as a misdemeanor was changed to read as an unwelcome or unsolicited interest by the Ohio Supreme Court based on the case State vs. Phipps. This wasn’t overturned until 2002 when the courts reported that the First and Fourteenth Amendments did not allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation in these cases. It wasn’t until June of 2003 that the United States Supreme Court ruled to remove all remaining sodomy laws from the states. These statutes were used to specifically target LGBTQ people.

Same sex marriage wasn’t passed until June 26, 2015 from the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges. Adoption and parenting for same sex couples is legal in the state of Ohio. In 1987, Ohio enacted In re Ladrach, which made it illegal for someone undergoing gender confirmation surgery to be able to change the gender on their birth certificate. Though it is perfectly legal for Transgender people to amend their driver’s license to reflect their gender identity. It wasn’t until March of this year (2018) that four Transgender Ohioans filed a suit against Ohio Department of Health to revoke In re Ladrach and to have their birth certificates re-issued with their correct gender. At the time of this filing, Ohio was one of three states that Transgender people were banned from amending their birth certificates.

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While Cleveland offers protection from discrimination based on race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, Ohio at large does not have any protection laws in place. Nor are their any hate crime laws in relations to sexual orientation or gender identity. Some State protection does come into play from Federal laws. There are no laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy  in Ohio. In 2015 a bill was introduced to prevent the usage of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors in Ohio by senator Charleta Tavares, however that bill died due to no legislative action. Since 2016 four Ohio cities (Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati) have enacted bans on conversion therapy. That’s right, Cleveland does not have any laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy.

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Conversions therapy suggests that it is possible to change the sexuality or gender identity of someone by using spiritual or psychology interventions. These are measures that took the place of things like institutionalization or castration to prevent homosexuality. They stem from a period in our no so distant history where it was believed that to be a LGBTQ was a mental illness that could be treated. Today they include things like electroconvulsive shock therapy. The Mormons use a version of this that combine audio/visual stimulation in conjunction with electroconvulsive shock therapy. There are electrodes connected to parts of your brain that monitor your reaction to the visual and audio cues they provide you. Essentially, if they show a young boy images of gay sex, two men kissing, of various other things that can trigger a response from someone who is gay, they are given large amounts of electric current. The mindset is that given enough of this kind of “treatment” your orientation would start to change. These types of interventions are nothing short of torture and are not quantifiable by any medical standard. None of these studies have shown to “cure” anyone of being LGBTQ. These therapies do more damage than help, causing feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety, which only creates larger issues needing more help. Suicide rates amongst LGBTQ or question youth is already horrible numbers to consider. LGBTQ and questioning youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 40% of Transgender adults have reported attempting suicide, of those 92% have attempted suicide before they turned 25. Numbers are often hard to quantify in these studies since more often than not, they are misreported or not known.

We cannot become complacent in our fight for our rights. We definitely should show support to Cleveland for what it offers, but at the same time we need to challenge for better situations. Ohio was home to one of the first cities (Toledo) to pass a ban on conversion therapy, we should push to be the first state to completely ban it. In December 2015, MTV.com reported that 77% of the LGBTQ population live in states where it is legal to conduct conversion therapy. We must #uniteandfight, let our voices be heard that we will not stand by and watch our community still be treated this way. We must get out there and vote every election to ensure people who support us are representing us and the changes we want made for out country. Make your voice matter and show them our votes do count. #votethemout

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