LGBTQ History and the Holocaust

Pride Flag

I have found, personally, that when discussing the history of LGBTQ rights that it can lead to very different conversations. Some feel that the past is best kept there and focusing on current issues are more important. Others feel that we should use our past struggle as a guidepost for how to meet the challenges of future issues. It is important to keep in mind what has transpired so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. With this current administration, it definitely is important to know what we have gone through as we may lose all we have gained.

It is always shocking to look back in history and see cities that have more open mindsets when it comes to LGBTQ lifestyles than our own. We often believe that we have come so far and that we are more enlightened due to the small steps we have gained. Close examination of history often shows that many places were much more tolerant than today. A shocking one is pre world war Germany. We remember, all to well, Hitler’s rise to power and how it affected Jewish culture. Hitler’s view of the Aryan culture was such a narrow view of what was considered viable people that any and all that didn’t fit it must be eradicated, this included Jewish people, gypsies, Jehovah witnesses, and any LGBT people. This year marked the 73rd anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, it only seems proper to reflect on some events that happened.

Before 1914, Berlin had been one of the most open cities in the world. German penal code had prevented homosexual acts since 1871 and while it was considered illegal it became mostly redundant. Many homosexual men and women led open lives and frequented bars and dance halls. It was considered by most to be the golden years of Berlin. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a physician in Berlin at the time and the founder of the Institute of Sexology, which was considered to be the first organization in that era to promote LGBTQ rights. Dr. Hirschfeld was pushing for a reform of the German Penal code and his reform was backed by some 5,000 influential signatures. It was reported to have included the likes of Albert Einstein. Initially, this reform met resistance, but Dr. HIrschfeld kept pushing forward and even using tactics like “outing” of public officials who were known closeted homosexuals. These forced outings caused the beginning of legal reform for equality by 1920.

remember-pink-triangle-1

January 30, 1933 that changed when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, with his appointment he ordered the closing of all venues perceived as “gay.” “There was an incredible atmosphere of fear,” the last gay survivor, Gad Beck, who died in 2012, recalled of those early Nazi months. “Things used to be happy and carefree, but now they were being persecuted. It didn’t seem like persecution to me, since the bar was still open. But they said this bar is only open to round us up. They did this again later with the Jews. They’d let them keep their meeting places so they could snatch them up.”

It was the mission of the Nazi regime to eradicate gay men. More than 100,000 people were arrested and sent to camps like Auschwitz, here thousands upon thousands perished through acts of torture and the gas chambers. The Nazi regime insisted that homosexuality was a disease that could be cured. Gay men were rounded up and labeled with pink triangles and sent to various concentrations camps, Once they arrived in these camps they underwent forced castration and beatings. They became subjects for cruel medical experiments to try to “cure” homosexuality.

In these camps they also faced homophobia from other prisoners. Rudolf Brazda, who died in 2011, was quoted remembers other prisoners saying ” Oh look, this one’s a fag.” Brazda kept what he went through a secret from everyone until 2008 when a monument was erected in Berlin for LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust. Until 1937 he had lived a happy and open life in Leipzig, Germany. At that point he was arrested for ‘unnatural lewdness’ and sentenced to six months in jail for writing love letters to his partner. In 1941, he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camps. Here he was given the number 7952 and had to sew a pink triangle to the left side of his camp uniform. Most didn’t understand why they were being arrested but had no means of retaliation due to Hitler’s regime leaving the vast populace powerless.

camp

“I arrived in a very big room. There was a pool there. In that pool we had to undress, and we had to bathe, naked. It was called ‘disinfection.’ In that moment, an SS officer pushed my head under the disinfectant liquid. I still had my gold chain, with a cross. It was a gift from my boyfriend. He ripped it and asked if I was a churchgoer. Of course I didn’t answer.” said Brazda. in August 2011, Rudolf Brazda died at the age of 98. Until that day, he continued to share his story as a means of warning to future generations. During these last years, he said: “If I finally speak, it’s for people to know what we, homosexuals, had to endure in Hitler’s days. It shouldn’t happen again.”

By 2012, all LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust had died. It is through their words, alone, that their stories survive. They are the teachings to remind us of what we have endured, the plights that should give us hope that this will never happen again. With the current administration rounding up children of “illegal” immigrants and putting them in detainment camps, is it so hard to believe that we are that far from this happening again. Daily we watch our rights, that we have fought so hard for, being taken away from us. Use this history as your lesson, use it to derive strength to fight, use it so that we never have to live through this again, and use it to honor those that have given their lives in  hopes of making a better future.

IMG_0193

Flaming River Comic-con

I know what you are thinking, this year’s Comicon was a blast, but what can I do to rock out my Queer Geek side until it comes back next year. Flaming River Con is your answer and it will be held Saturday September 22nd, 2018. This is the first ever Midwest LGBTQIA+ event for all things Queer and Geek. You need to come out and support this group.

FlamingRiverINC

Founded in 2017, Flaming River Arts is a Cleveland based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to foster, showcase, and celebrate LGBTQIA+ voices and the community, and combat bigotry by increasing the visibility of marginalized persons within geek culture. Their first event, Flaming River Comic-Con, was last year with this one being far larger and is a place for LBGTQIA+ artists, authors, and vendors to showcase their talent. You can come and learn about queer history in comics, rock your favorite Cosplay, learn to Cosplay on a budget, and sit in on various Queer themed panels.

 

Their special guest this year is Los Angeles’ own Sina Grace, writer of Marvel’s solo Iceman comics. Sina has received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book. You can also take part in a host of panels about topics such as; queer comics, social activism, cosplay on a budget, queer representation in horror, and much more. There will be 40 vendors to quench your queer culture thirsts, so come thirsty. So dust off that Light saber, grab your Sonic Screwdriver, put on your Red Shirt and join the away team at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. Also to appear is Dale Lazarov, Father of the American Bara Comicsas the writer, art director and licensor of Sticky Graphic Novels. The Sticky Graphic Novels are picture based, gay character based, and sexpositive graphic novels. His fans rave that his works are “a joyous expression of male/male sexuality that, while erotic, is neither grubby nor tasteless.” Also, Dr. Ken Scheck, author of LGBTQ Cleveland, will host a panel on Cartoon 4 Change. This panel will discuss the evolution of Cleveland’s cartoon as the discuss HIV/AIDS, racism, and how the LGBTQ community interacts.

 

Here is a list of some of the vendors that will be at Flaming River Comicon. Pointless Peaches, LLC, a retail store that makes handcrafted items by the founder LaShanta Knowles. Northcoast Armor & Jewelry , their specialty is custom made chain and scale mail jewelry, clothing, armor, and accessories. She also makes her very own line of dragon jewelry.  ArtsParadis Handcrafted Jewelry  is a LGBTQ owned and operated business that specializes in handcrafted jewelry. Charlene and Jeff, owners and crafters behind the company, specialize in handcrafted jewelry.

FRC

FRA is pleased to announce its first annual Flaming River Con! The all-day event will take place Saturday September 22nd, 2018 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. The event will be the Midwest’s first all LGBTQIA+ geek convention, showcasing everything queer and geek, including comics, zines, podcasts, art, books, cosplay, panels, and workshops. Author and illustrator Sina Grace will headline the convention. Grace has published several graphic novels in addition to working for Marvel Comics, IDW, Valiant, and more. Grace is currently writing the solo Iceman comics for Marvel.

Flaming River Con will be holding a book signing and meet and greet with Sina Grace at John and Carol’s Comics on September 21st, 6pm-8pm.

For more information, including panel, vendor, and sponsor applications, please use the contact information below:

So, come on out and support your local LGBTQ community and get your geek on!!!

comingout-300x285

Website: www.flamingriverarts.org

 

Email: flamingrivercon@gmail.com

EIN: 82-5337147

 

Sincerely,

Flaming River Arts

 

 

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’

.AprilColby2

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.

1aprilcolby

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.

IMG_0955

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.

IMG_0039

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.

conversion-therapy

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.

russian-ex-gay-360x303

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

Pride Flag

 

Our Transgender Community: Transgender Teens

Trans+Flag+Template+JPG

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.

When it comes to talking about civil rights, we seem to always focus on groups that are similar to our point of view. We all are guilty of it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just normal. I do it when I write. I elected to talk and share stories of our Transgender Community, but I forgot that also includes adolescents and teenagers. What we forget are the struggles of those younger than us. We forget the LGBTQ teens and adolescence and the sad part is the statistics show this is where a large number of LGBTQ suicides come from. So we need to make sure we include those that are younger than us in our fights for rights.

July 13th of this year, BJ Colangelo did an article for Scene magazine about a Transgender teen who was denied the rights of a name change. For most adults it’s a fairly simple process, you go to court and petition for it to happen, they may require you to post to a newspaper of your name change, and then you show up for the actual date to make it happen. Stressful and scary, but easier that it was for an Ohio Transgender teen. And it isn’t just in Ohio.

15-year-old Elliot went with his parents to make his change, so that he would be ready for the simple things like a driver’s license and applying to colleges. He has already been to doctors and affirmed with his parents, who agreed with him, that this is what he truly wanted. They similarly thought this would just be a formality. What happened was far worse, Judge Kirby, who presides over Warren County, decided he knew better than Elliot, his parents and his doctors and that it was only a phase brought on by media and as such denied him his name change. At 15 the struggles of living as a teenager are hard enough. You have hormones, peer pressure, what will happen after graduation, finding and maintaining friendships, and just learning about whom you are physically and mentally. To come to a point where you have made a decision about who you are and have the support of those more important to you be ripped away from someone who thinks they know better can shatter your world.

trans rights FB image

I admit that in my earlier years after coming out I was guilty of the mindset that kids and teenagers couldn’t understand the world full enough to make decisions about being a homosexual or transgender. Still dealing with changes and not fully understanding their place in the world. After meeting many kids who knew themselves much better than I am, I came to realize that revelations like this do not have an age criteria like some amusement park ride. How could I stand and tell someone that I am who I am because I was born this way and not validate someone else for that statement simply because they were much younger than I am.

During the whole process, Judge Kirby continued to refer to Elliot as “she” and calling Elliot by his “dead name.” Even though he later mentioned that he understood that using improper pronouns can be offensive to the transgender community.

           

“Whether [the teen] is experiencing gender dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal,” Kirby wrote in his decision. “Is [the teen’s] distress brought about by confusion, peer pressure, or other non-transgender issues – or is it truly mismatch between her gender identity and her body.”

The journey that Elliot and his family went through to get to the point of wanting the name change was simply tossed aside by a judge who thought he knew better than Elliot, his parents, or his doctors. This is a reaction that is all too often the normal. Elliot and his parents are in the process of appealing this decision with help of LGBTQ attorney Josh Langdon.

“This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that Elliot and his family are treated with dignity and respect. We hope the 12th District Court of Appeals moves quickly to overturn Judge Kirby’s decision to put transgender children on trial.”

Judge Kirby told Elliot and his family to ask again “once you become an adult.” In his footnotes of the case he wrote “Age, Develop, Mature. The court was cited saying that they are not saying ‘no’ to the name change, ‘just not yet’. Elliot at least had the support of his parents.

IMG_6644
Photo Credit to Ginger from her interview

In 2014 Leelah Alcorn of Warren County committed suicide and was reported she was being forced to go through conversion therapy. Leelah was 17 and left a note stating simply “I’ve had enough.” She had reached out to friends and transgender suicide hotline for help. At 14, she was already experiencing problems with her family accepting her for who she identified as, so she turned to friends for her support. She struggled with accepting who she felt she was and what her family wanted her to be.  She wanted her struggles to be a catalyst for progression for Transgender rights.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in a post on her Tumblr account.

She left a message to her parents stating “you can’t just control other people like that.” Even in death, her family refused to acknowledge her. There are no statistics on how transgender suicide, since it is not always known or accurately reported. However, in 2010 it was reported that 41% of 7000 transgender people had attempted suicide.

This, all too often, goes unnoticed by our community in Cleveland. We forget that many of the rights we have, here in our city, do not translate to our municipalities in Ohio. And these incidents are far too common throughout our great nation. This is why we need to #uniteandfight, stand together with our community to ensure that all civil rights are ours. And that no one should have to suffer these kinds of indignities.

We have to realize that we are the stewards for the future LGBTQ people. We need to lay the appropriate groundwork to give them a better place than what we are leaving. We have to ask ourselves if our mindset is holding back progress and if so how can we change it. You don’t have to agree with everyone, you just have to realize that his or her lives aren’t your journey. Advocacy is about realizing the cause or person is the right thing to fight for, not necessarily being the person who needs the cause. Are you being the best possible steward for the future?

CLEPride2018

Our Transgender Community: Ginger

Transgender people are often overlooked in our LGBTQ community and in the community at large. Animosity and misinformation is at the root of how most people interact with them. 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 some their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

Ginger is Transgender Woman, known in the CLE transgender community, and does some activism. Ginger has been involved in organizing the Metro Health Transgender job fair for 3 years and works to educate medical students, nurses, and others on caring for transgender patients. Strong in her convictions, Ginger was the first to step forward to help me with this project. I am honored to share her story and hope that it will shine a light into the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding out Transgender community.

IMG_4250

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

I am Ginger. I grew up in Painesville then moved away from Ohio for 3 decades. I came back to Cleveland in 2010 and I currently live in Brooklyn. I am a teacher, I work with medical technicians teaching them to draw blood, read EKGs, provide patient care and do medical billing and coding.

What does transgender mean to you?

Transgender is an umbrella term that means moving away from the gender they thought you were at birth and toward the gender of your mind, soul, and spirit. While I personally identify with the gender binary (male/female) others are non-binary or float between the two.

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

Some of the common misconceptions I’ve encountered include the belief among some that gender is rigidly determined by the XX/XY chromosomes and nothing else. Modern genetics identifies at least 25 genes and alleles (genetic switches) that impact gender, and intrauterine hormones during pregnancy have a powerful effect on neurological development.

Other misconceptions include the idea that cisgender people can always spot transgender people and that transgender people are spying on others in the restroom. Neither are true.

Oh, and “cisgender” is not an insult. It simply states that a person continues to identify as the gender that was declared, based on a cursory external physical examination, at birth. You are not considered normal and I am abnormal or other; you are cisgender and I am transgender.

Desistance is the idea that most or many transgender people or transgender kids revert to their birth gender, or regret transitioning. The latest research puts the number at less than 2%, while the number of people who have tattoo regret is above 30%, and marriage regret is about 50%.

Possibly the biggest myth is that transgender people are mentally ill and can be cured with some form of conversion therapy. We’ve already settled that conversion therapy is nothing more than torture. But, beyond that, until very recently access to transition required months of therapy and mental health evaluation by multiple professionals… It can be categorically stated that “transgender” is not a mental illness. In fact, based on the regret statistics, people who want tattoos might be best to undergo extensive mental health evaluations and be required to provide a letter from a psychologist and a psychiatrist to confirm they really want ink and it isn’t a passing phase.     

IMG_6644

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

Pronouns are tricky. I am a woman, 100% of the time, and I blend with other women 100% of the time – to the point that at my last three medical appointments at clinics I have never been to the nurse has asked me if my hormones are due to hysterectomy or menopause. So for me, personally, being asked my pronouns is disconcerting – it causes a lot of paranoia.

I do teach, however, that when in doubt the polite thing is to say something like, “Hi, I’m Ginger and my pronouns are she and her. Can I get your name and your pronouns?” Asking about pronouns should be equitable instead of othering or demeaning.

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

Asking about surgery is always a huge no-no. My response is icy polite and goes something like, “You want to talk about genitals? Cool. Since you started you can go first. I will ask you a complete history of your genitals, starting with appearance and current medical problems, and then going into development, sexual history including masturbation, intercourse and experimentations and orgasmic response, sexually transmitted infections, and then finally probe your psycho-sexual hang-ups. I have a medical background so I will be clinical and very thorough. When I am satisfied you can ask your questions. Okay? “I’ve had to use it three times, and each time the person backed the fuck off. If you want to know how the surgery works, Google has plenty of information. If you want to be a voyeur about my genitals it becomes a wide-open two-way conversation.  

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

Besides not asking questions about our medical history, don’t make a big deal about us being transgender. Your friends don’t need to know when you introduce us. It has no place in normal conversation and shouldn’t normally come up. Don’t ever use the words “tranny” or “he/she” or “trap” or any of the other common slurs, because I will cut you.

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

The hardest part of my transition is accepting that I cannot have certain experiences in this body, at least with the current state of medicine. I can’t get pregnant. That, alone, took me the edge of suicide – I have a screaming empty void down deep inside that will not, in this life, be healed or filled. Even touching it this little bit brings terrible pain and darkness.

Tell me about your normal day?

My normal day is… normal. I get up. I get dressed for work – including light makeup and doing my hair- and I go and teach. I socialize with friends. I go to the store or run errands. At night I come home and wind down and read or watch some TV and go to bed. I take some pills, daily. Yes, estrogen and progesterone, but also for diabetes and blood pressure and a multi-vitamin. My life is little different from my neighbors.

trans rights FB image

What are some microaggressions that make you feel unsafe?

Microaggressions have become pretty simple: Trump supporters. I was talking with a coworker, a nurse, a few days ago. She made an off-hand comment, out of the blue, that she wishes Trump would hurry and build the wall because it would take care of so many problems. With that simple statement she became totally unsafe for me, personally and for people I love and for many of my students who are immigrants or who are not clearly white.

Beyond that, since I am rarely seen as transgender, I’ve been alternately bemused and infuriated by the micro aggressions I experience as a woman on a daily basis – being interrupted, dismissed, subtle put-downs, and so on. I’ve also seen some micro aggressive behavior because I am open about being a witch – being told I am going to hell or that I am a danger to children or that I should be burned at the stake.

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?

You, as a cisgender man who is also gay can be an ally in a few ways. The most important is this, here. You are allowing space for transgender people to speak about our experiences. Make sure that extends to transgender women who are not white, and transgender men. Transgender women of color and transgender men of all races are often overlooked or actively excluded.

Remember that “identity” and “orientation” are two different things and should not be conflated.

A transgender woman is not a gay man in drag. A transgender man who says he is gay is as valid as a cisgender man who says he is gay. Make space. Be open. Be accepting.

Remember that the first two Pride events were riots started by transgender women. When the government – at any level – mistreats us, they are warming up to come after you. When a company or a coworker or some random on the street mistreats us, they are looking at you, next. You will not gain points by trying to appease the Religious Right, the Neo-Nazis, or any other group of bigots.

Trans+Flag+Template+JPG

How can people best support Transgender children?

You can support children by believing them and accepting them. Somewhere between 3 and 5 years old kids have a firm grasp of gender and know where they fit – try to convince a kid in that age range they are the opposite gender and you’ll get a massive push-back. Trans kids are exactly the same – they know who they are, and they don’t care about the genitals.

Understand that the key is “insistent, persistent, and consistent.” They insist and cannot be dissuaded. They persist over time. Their claim is consistent regardless of situation. It is not even remotely like your kid who pretended to be a dinosaur one afternoon when he was 5 years old.

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

Publicly, I openly identify as pansexual because whom I am attracted to is open for sharing, but my medical history is not open. So I usually do not get questioned. When I am in teaching mode I explain the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. It can be friendly conversation or deeply pedantic depending on the situation.

What are some common misconceptions about Transgender people portrayed in Hollywood?

Hollywood portrayal of transgender people is frustrating at best, with exceptions few and far between. First, while some transgender people resort to sex work to survive, the great majority do not. While some transgender women look like Patrick Swayze or Wesley Snipes in a dress, most of us don’t… and transgender men exist and are not simply “really butch lesbians.” Transgender is not the same as “drag queen,” regardless of RuPaul’s bullshit.

Real transgender people are like Nomi Marks of Sense8 minus the cool powers, and Sophia Bursett of Orange is the New Black, minus the orange jumpsuit. What I want to see is transgender actors and actresses being offered mainstream parts where their medical history is not important because they can simply play the part needed. I mean, if Neil Patrick Harris can be accepted as the womanizing Barney Stinson on “How I Met Your Mother” and Jim Parsons can be accepted Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory” and Sara Gilbert can be accepted as Darlene Conner, then transgender actors can play cisgender characters.

What gives you strength day to day?

My daily strength comes from my innate sense of self: I am Ginger, I created myself and here I stand. It comes from The Morrigan, the Celtic goddess of War and Sovereignty who walks with me daily. And it comes from a circle of people who I love and who love me unreservedly.        

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

We know what happens when we allow the legal mistreatment of some at the demand of others. As Martin Niemöller warned, “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

That is enough reason.

IMG_8481

*All images for this post were provided by Ginger and published through permission from her.*

Our Transgender Community

Something that I have only briefly touched on in my blog is Transgender issues. Not being trans, it isn’t something that I can write effectively on or give it the proper respect it requires. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be giving space to the people in our community to share their stories and letting their voices be heard. It is important, as it is for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, for them to be seen and heard, for people to realize that their lives more than likely already touch someone. So I have wanted to make people aware that there are far more Transgender men and women here among us, especially in Cleveland

Already with the current administration, we have seen the stripping of so many rights of LGBTQ people. Transgender people are now not allowed to serve openly in the military, unless they were already in and, as the government quantifies it, “stable.” Many states are picking us legislature that will force teachers and doctors to disclose to parents if any of the children they support identify as transgender. States are slowly revoking bills that were in place that would prevent discrimination of varying sorts, including gender-neutral bathrooms, protection of employment status, and simply hate crime laws. Even locally we have seen crimes committed against the transgender community misreported as cisgender crimes.

mqblxrbecgjehmz-1600x900-nopad

Recently, in London LGBTQ Pride we have seen representations of our own community committing acts of protest against the Transgender Community. Radical feminist groups are protesting that the only real women are the ones born as a woman with the XY chromosome, pushing forward binary concepts of gender. Many have taken to labeling these radicals as TERFs (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism). This mindset is not indicative of the Feminist movement, but a more smaller radical side.

Also recently, the controversy over Scarlett Johansson being offered a transgender role in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug instead of a Transgender actor. There are 70 transgender actors, currently, in Hollywood and most transgender roles go to cisgender actors. Transgender actors have said that when they come to these auditions, they are told they are too passable to play a role. How does one get labeled too passable to play a role about a transgender person? Scarlett Johansson was quoted as saying “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.” Still strides need to be taken to ensure proper casting for the future. This is also an issue that still plagues Native American actors, to this day. Clearly Hollywood and civil rights haven’t progressed.

This will be their space to share the struggles and triumphs they face in their lives. A place to speak unfiltered, share without judgement, and be who they truly are.It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration and these types of views before we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share some their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.

resist-rainbow-flag-fist-lgbt