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

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.

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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.

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Shock and Awe

This title recalls the Bush era of going to war in the Middle East where he said he would give them Shock and Awe. Its seems this current president has gone to war with the LGBTQ people of this country with his own brand of shock and awe.  Daily we see how our rights are changing and the horizon looks more dark that hues of rainbows. The Goose stepping Government Goons are determined to hit us as much as they can. One right, as of yet, they can’t seem to refuse is that of LGBTQ rights to marry. Because of this, he and his anti-LGBTQ cabinet are targeting everything they can.

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In the two plus short years he has been in office he has overturned or put into place so many hate filled vitriol pieces of legislation. He has enacted a ban on Transgender People from being allowed in the military. He has judicial nominees that are fully against any further LGBTQ legislation set to be pulled into their positions or already have been. These officials are poised to remove any protections LGBTQ workers may have. He has rescinded a right of all K-12 students that are Transgender their basic civil liberties and are now forcing teachers and doctors to tell their parents, if they do not already know. He has rescinded another memo from the Obama era granting protection to Trans workers from being fired. He is allowing and siding with business after business the right to discriminate based solely on being LGBTQ, whether it is workers or patrons. He even argues that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal, as the Federal Civil Rights act doesn’t include LGBTQ people. He has allowed The Department of Health and Human Services to enact new regulationsand created an agency, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, that will purportedly work to ensure health care providers’ religious liberties aren’t violated, which essentially gives protection to health care provider the ability to deny giving care to LGBTQ patients. He also fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without an explanation; this came before recent news that shows he is allowing the Ryan White Fund to be drained to support his Child internment camps. He refuses to recognize June as LGBTQ pride month, a month that holds historical significance for our community in its fights for rights. And as of yesterday, the House of Representative passed a bill that will allow adoption agency to deny, legally, any LGBTQ couple from adopting children and provides no recourse if the Federal government chooses to step in and impose fine to those state agencies denying those couples a chance to adopt.

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This, my friends, is the same person who stood up and held a Pride Flag claiming that he was a friend to the LGBTQ community and that he would fight for our civil liberties. And many people bought into this line that he tried selling us, like so many others. Here we are on the precipice of change, yet again. This time we are witnessing 50 years of struggle being washed away and many times without the public even realizing that it is happening until it is done.

Recently, long time activist Larry Kramer was quoted saying “For Gays, the worst is yet to come. Again.” The article he wrote for the New York Times states how we do not have the activists and leaders our cause once had. It almost seems we laxed into a time of complacency because of the progress we thought we were making. I feel we were to easily riding the wave of feeling good. I remember in 1999 when my lover asked me to marry him and he was making plans for us to fly to Hawaii to get married, since at the time it was legal. I never thought it would last. I doubted we would ever get some of the rights that we did in the last 20 years. When it happened I was in awe about it and thinking we are on our way to finally being treated as an equal.

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On this day, as I look forward and backward, I grimly see that we were only on a step stool that has quickly been pulled from us like a childish prank. The generation of LGBTQs that grew up with it being legal to get married, adopt and safe from losing your home and job for being who you are now have woken up to realize that this dream is fading. It is to them we must look for our next leaders and activists. We must be there to offer them strength.  Strength because they didn’t witness what happened to us in the recent past. Pride month may be over and our rights may be diminishing, but we must remain strong in the pride of who we are. We must Unite and Fight to take back that progress and push it to new heights. We must show the oppressors that we will not settle for going back to the shadows and closets we have already burst forth from. We will fight every inch for what is ours, we will fight with our very lives if it is necessary. #RiseandResist

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

You have the right to what, exactly?!?

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LGBTQ rights are always a slippery slope. Since the first fights at Stonewall Inn in 1969 till this very day, we have fought and clawed to have the views of us changed from degenerates with mental illness to being treated as real people. We always get one small step forward while being pushed back two steps. We considered it a major win during the Obama administration when first, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed and then when DOMA was defeated. I still pause and wonder if we should have made the focus about the right to get married. That, however, is a subject for another post.

Today, while flipping through Facebook, I was treated by an article touting that the Trump Administration is in support of employers being able to fire people due to being gay. Granted, living in Ohio that was something that was still legal for the state to do. This is purely outrageous A case, currently under investigation, involving Donald Zarda says he was fired from him job for being gay. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was on his side and quickly they found out that the DOJ (Department of Justice) was arguing that his employer, Altitude Express was within their rights to fire him based on Title VII

Are you familiar with Title VII, maybe not? Even as someone who has been a manager in retail for a long time, it wasn’t a Title I knew. Title VII says employers under Title VII are permitted to consider employees ‘out of work sexual conduct in regards to their employment. In this case, DOJ lawyer, Hashim Mooppan stats that “there is a common sense, intuitive difference between sex and sexual orientation.” Basically meaning, it’s ok to be gay as long as you aren’t having sex with your same sex partner. Essentially coming down to the fact of applying different roles based on gender. This can also affect Transgender People, since gender is the focus here. More about this can be found here Department of Justice says rights law doesn’t support LGBTQ

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This is majorly important since this statement came days after Trump’s tweet that stated Transgender People will be banned from serving in the military. This basically starts undermining LGBTQ rights we have won from previous administrations. As the administration has moved along in the President’s term, he has worked to rewrite language of legislation to omit LGBTQ from it and first of it being with healthcare. Being a child of the 80s, I fully remember the stigma and fear surrounding AIDS patients and LGBT health. Doctors refusing to assist patients for fear of catching AIDS. Not treating LGBT members just out of fear, in general.

Roger Severino, an appointee of the Trump administration for health department civil rights official has said “Same-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda, the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.” This is the mindset of people who are currently making decisions in this government. We are allowing it due to our own complacency. This is why your right to vote is so important, if you aren’t voting you are assisting.

Fighting for our rights is essential. If we acquiesce to this now, other minorities will start to feel it as well. You can already see the seeds of it in the Trump America. Racial hostility is on the rise. Families torn apart when they only come to seek asylum from their tyrannical governments, only to end up in this one. Enter Rise and Resist, the modern incarnation of what ACT UP was for the 80s. Using Civil Disobedience to fight back. Rise and Resist is “a direct action group made up of both new and experienced activists committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties. We work collaboratively, creatively, respectfully, and with all the joy we can muster for the health of the people and the planet.”

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Not everyone feel comfortable joining this type of group, but there are still things you can do. Contact your elected officials about any law you feel strongly about. Let them know you have a voice and opinion about how you are treated let them know your support. Don’t just do it once, do it often. Make an impression and be heard. If you aren’t registered to vote, change that by going to Register to Vote and then get out there and vote. Vote in every election, about every bill that means something to you. Know the ballot, who stands for what, what bill effects you and how. Get educated and get empowered to make a change. Let your family know your feelings and get them to vote with you.

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