trans.cafe

How I Reduce Work Related Anxiety

trans.cafe

By Quentin Vennie

I'm sure we've all experienced some form of anxiety at some point in our lives. Whether it was right before a big presentation or while waiting to see if you got a promotion at work, anxiety has always had a prominent presence in our lives.

But for many of us anxiety is not just an isolated emotion, but rather a collection of fears. There's a fear of limited control and a lack of understanding, which is often accompanied by a fear of criticism and a loss of confidence.

Many of us are unaware of what causes these anxiety attacks, let alone how to prevent the onset of another one. This creates an additional fear — the fear of having another attack. This can often lead to isolation and paranoia, occasionally progressing into monophobia and/or agoraphobia.

In fact, many of the symptoms associated with an anxiety attack often mimic those of a heart attack, so fearing death by way of cardiac arrest is not uncommon in those of us who suffer with anxiety disorders.

Truth is, I'm all too familiar with those fears.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder and it quickly took over my life. I ended up with a two year addiction to my anxiety medication, which lead to an accidental overdose. Fortunately for me it wasn't fatal.

Nonetheless, I've learned a few valuable lessons along my path of discovery. I've divulged my truth and accepted the position anxiety has in my life.

Today I view my anxiety as more of a privilege than a curse. I've been on both sides of the anxiety spectrum and understand what it's like to feel hopeless and helpless. But I've also uncovered the unconventional methods of prevention. Through a shift in perception and a change in my lifestyle, I've been able to regain control over my life and this debilitating disorder.

My aim is for you to do the same.

I have compiled a list of five things that I want everyone who feels burdened by the grips of anxiety to not only recognize, but to understand. Because if no one else understands you, find comfort in knowing that I do.

Here are five things all anxiety sufferers need to know:

1. You're not overreacting.

How many of you have been told to "just relax" during an anxiety episode? Told that you're overreacting and you need to "chill out."

But if it were that simple don't you think we would just do it?

Anxiety is the automatic response to a perceived threat, causing our fight-or-flight stress response to take over. That's why the most common reaction when anxiety is present is to flee and try to escape whatever environment we're feeling the most anxious in. So essentially you're not overreacting, you're simply reacting.

Nonetheless, I encourage you to continue whatever course of action is needed to help you get over your attack. Don't let the naive opinions of others force you to change your way of dealing with this disorder, unless you're causing harm to yourself or someone else.

2. You're not alone.

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling like no one understands you — like you're on your own.

I've experienced this before, but what I didn't realize at the time was that there are also millions of people who have felt the same.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety. This is not a battle you have to deal with alone. Today there are more resources for anxiety sufferers than there were a few years ago. Anxiety is now a main topic of discussion, so get in on the conversation.

Look for ways to connect. Whether through blogs or social media, knowing you have someone that can relate to you will help you immensely. The only way for us to beat this is to come together and share our stories and experiences.

3. It's more than mental.

Despite anxiety being classified as a mental health disorder, there are many physiological associations — dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, numbing in the arms and/or fingers and tachycardia to name a few.

People don't necessarily associate these symptoms with a mental health disorder. I made weekly hospital visits for about a month before I was officially diagnosed. So I'm sure there are countless others who are living with anxiety and aren't even aware of it.

If you're not sure, get checked out and be certain. Treatment is available, so why wait?

4. It's telling you something.

Around the time I was diagnosed, I was smoking close to a pack of cigarettes daily. I was consuming well over 300mg of caffeine and my eating habits were terrible. Plus I was drinking a lot more frequently than normal.

Despite all of these factors, I honestly thought I was healthy. My chaotic lifestyle had become my normality. But underneath it all, I was killing myself — literally.

My anxiety saved my life!

Without it, I'm not sure how much longer my body would have been able to uphold.

Anxiety has a voice — listen to it. There is an underlying issue that your anxiety is trying to make you aware of. Don't avoid it, go toward it. It could possibly save your life.

5. You CAN control it.

Anxiety can be triggered by a few things — diet, stress, lifestyle, etc. Although there are a few factors to consider, understand that there is a cause and cure.

During my journey, I realized that my diet played a large part in my ability to control my anxiety. Once I recognized those things, it was my responsibility to make adjustments as I saw fit.

In addition to changing my habits, I needed to change the conversation I was having with myself. I needed to stop allowing my anxiety to dictate the course of my life. So I stopped running. Instead, I learned to stay present, I learned to feel everything in every moment. I learned to differentiate my emotions and accept them as they were.

I learned that by running I was giving my anxiety power, but by staying present I took back control even if only a little bit. As time went on, I became better at it. Today my anxiety is no longer an issue for me. It's still there, but it's been dormant for a few years. As long as I maintain my new lifestyle, I'm not concerned about it ever becoming an issue again.

Stop letting your anxiety dictate your life. I know it's hard, but it IS possible. Your anxiety is only a small part of you. Take small steps daily and stay focused on the journey, for the destination is inevitable.


Why Trans Movements In India Must Be Anti-Caste

News + Politics, Community + Allies, Relationships, FamilyGee Imaan Semmalar

By Gee Imaan Semmalar

It is a recent development that the word “transgender” has made its way into common usage in India as an umbrella term to describe various gender-variant identities. Though there are many local terms to refer to trans feminine gender identities—aravani, kinnar, hijra, thirunangai, mangalamukhi and others—the term “transgender” is increasingly being used in state policies as well as by activists. Scholars Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah explain, “Because transgender can be imagined to include all possible variations from an often unstated norm, it risks becoming yet another project of colonization, a kind of Cartesian grid imposed on the globe for making sense of human diversity by measuring it within a Eurocentric frame of reference, against a Eurocentric standard.”

On one hand, globalized activism, NGOs, the classification regimes created by the state for administrative control, and the pressures felt by gender-variant communities to make themselves legible (in order to access state benefits) form the politics that have popularized the term “transgender.”

On the other hand, there is a particular way in which some trans activists rely on Hindu epics to prove that gender variance has always existed—to counter criticisms of homosexuality and gender variance being “western imports.”

Some of the local terms like “aravani” [1], in fact, are derived from Hindu myths. While this is a result of an unfair burden of proof imposed on vulnerable communities, relying on Hindu myths to affirm our identities gives rise to another danger—of a regressive kind of trans identity politics that does not take into account the brutality of the caste system that finds its origin and sanction in the same Hindu religion.

Caste is a system of vertical social stratification based on exclusion and violence, and intrinsically linked to Hinduism and its notions of purity and pollution. According to it, caste is transmitted intergenerationally, and occupations and social status are fixed based on caste. For the caste system to perpetuate itself, people are required to marry only endogamously (within one’s caste). Similar to the anti-miscegenation laws that were practised in the U.S. until the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 1967, the caste system even today enacts a stringent punishment on those who defy the rules of endogamy.

Many inter-caste couples who defy the rules of caste endogamy have been and continue to be expelled from families, made to flee, and often, brutally murdered.

Anti-caste revolutionary and leader, Dr B.R Ambedkar, historically places the system of sati, child marriage and compulsory widowhood as mechanisms to maintain caste endogamy. According to his formulation, when a woman and a man marry endogamously, and one dies before the other, it creates the problem of the surplus man / surplus woman. Now, after the death of the husband, the surplus woman becomes a threat to endogamy and caste morality if she loves or cohabitates with a person of a different caste. So, the practice of sati, in which the woman burns herself on the funeral pyre of the husband, was created. To prevent the husband from outliving the wife (which would result in the “problem” of the surplus man), compulsory widowhood or marriages of older men to younger women/girls was promoted. Many inter-caste couples who defy the rules of caste endogamy have been and continue to be expelled from families, made to flee, and often, brutally murdered.

I strongly believe that our movements for gender justice compulsorily have to be anti-caste. Apart from the fact that anyone with a sense of justice and equality should do everything to destroy the caste system, there are various ways in which the violence faced by trans communities are rooted in the caste system.

It is a fact that many trans women across castes are disowned by their families, or leave their homes due to violence and join trans/hijra families, which work in a matrilineal (from the mother) system. The 1881 imperial census classified the hijras in Berar, under the title “hijada” and included them under the category of a “Mendicant and Vagrant Caste” whereas in Bombay, they were listed as a caste of dancers and musical instrument players. In Central Provinces, the hijras were included under the caste category of singers and dancers at birth and marriage feasts; beggars.

Whether it is British colonial records, media, court judgments, Hindu myths, modern day cinema, academic writings or social movements, the trans person is a figure who is hyper sexualized, overdetermined by gender characteristics/expression who is engaged in immoral activities and who is to be relegated to the peripheries: the perpetual “other” against whom public decency and caste morality could be constructed, reinforced and perpetuated.

I grew up hearing my relatives say with pride about me, “You know, she can do anything a boy does and at most times, even better.”

Most narratives of family violence are rooted in the shame that families feel when their kids are trans. Shame and respectability in the Indian context are entirely linked with caste. I have often wondered why most trans men across caste stay with their families longer than trans women. The reasons could be the difficulties in establishing financial independence, the increased control and anxiety over our sexual safety and choices and the fact that masculinity as a trait is more revered than femininity, which is generally seen as a weakness when expressed by a person of any gender. So as a kid, I grew up hearing my relatives say with pride about me, “You know, she can do anything a boy does and at most times, even better.” Many years later, I have wondered whether they would have taken pride if I had been raised as a boy and expressed femininity.

There are many exclusions that trans people face in health care, education, employment and more, all of which which are compounded by factors of caste, class and ability. In the third world, apart from government hospitals lacking trans-specific health care services, privatisation of health care makes the cost exorbitant and the culpability under medical negligence laws minimal. Since trans people constitute a group that is neither numerically large nor in possession of much buying power, very minimal funds are allotted to trans-specific medical research. This results in poor knowledge about trans health care even among medical professionals. It is common knowledge that historically until now, a significantly smaller amount is spent on cis women's health and research than on that of cis men. Thus, compared to cis people, hardly any money or attention is given to trans people; our lives don't seem to matter to governments or medical institutions

What is the most accessible trans surgery globally? Breast augmentation. Why? Because, in a hetero-pornographic sexual division, cis men want cis women to have . Tbigger breasts. And so, a small number of trans women are able to access a surgical intervention designed for maximising the pleasure of  cis men and reclaim it to affirm their own gender identity.

Most trans women in India either beg or do sex work for a living. This could be because most of them are rendered homeless at a young age and drop out of schools. The possibility of continuing education within the hijra family is minimal due to financial and social reasons. Add to that the fact that most cis people are prejudiced. They fear or mock trans women (this is a common representation of trans women in most regional and national cinema) and are not willing to employ them.

As my sister Living Smile Vidya says, “Begging and sex work have become almost like fixed caste occupations for trans women in India.” The only other jobs are provided by NGOs which depend on HIV funding and retain feudal power structures of having cis, dominant caste people at the decision-making level in high salaried posts with trans women from lower caste backgrounds working in low-paid positions as condom distributors or community mobilisers. Having said that, the fact that NGOs provide a semblance of dignity in employment where a trans woman can work in an office rather than face public and police harassment doing street-based labour cannot be denied.

 In November 2014, 53 trans women were rounded up by the police in Bangalore city under the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975. Trans women who were in any public place were rounded up regardless of whether they were begging or not and forcibly taken to an infamous rehabilitation home called Beggar's colony. Just as certain tribes were deemed criminal in the British colonial period, the entire trans community is targeted and criminalised under various laws like the one mentioned before, the Karnataka Police Act 36 (A), the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (which in practise, criminalises all women in sex trade and not just traffickers) the public indecency and public nuisance provisions etc. Trans women are seen as a “polluting” presence along with other marginalised communities that do street vending and other street-based  labour. Public indecency and the notion of immorality are concepts  intrinsically linked to caste patriarchy.

Trans communities have a familial system in which sisterhood across caste is possible and often practiced.

The rejection of endogamous reproductive function by trans people means an abdication of the reproduction of caste relations and labour force making us lesser citizens of the Brahmin empire/Indian nation state. I opened my heart and mind to the possibilities of creating families outside of heteropatriarchy and caste endogamy after I started living among trans communities. Trans communities have a familial system in which sisterhood across caste is possible and often practised. There are of course, caste practices and differences among trans communities, however the collective experience of being disowned by families, structural exclusions in employment, education and housing create at the very minimum, the possibility of a strong sense of belonging and “consciousness of kind”. I have seen trans women raise orphaned babies into strong, beautiful people. My most beloved trans brother was raised by his trans mother. I am inspired by so many such stories of resilience, courage, love and beauty. On the most depressing days I just think about how privileged I am, and how much harder I need to fight to destroy systems that oppress me and systems that benefit me

Nina Simone when asked in an interview about what freedom meant to her said, “lack of fear.” I believe we all need to fight until every single one of us can say, “I have no fear. This is what freedom feels like.”

 

[1] In the Mahabharata it was prophesied that the Pandavas would win the battle of Kurukshetra only if they sacrificed a ‘perfect’ male from among themselves. Aravan, the virgin son of Pandava prince Arjuna, offered himself up for sacrifice. But he had a request: that he be allowed to spend one night as a married man. No king was willing to give his daughter in marriage only to have her widowed the next day, so finally, Lord Krishna assumed female form and married Aravan, and after a night of sexual bliss, Aravan was beheaded. Some trans women in Tamil Nadu consider themselves to be the female form of Krishna and perform widowhood as Aravanis at the Koovagam festival conducted every year.

 

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Gee Imaan Semmalar is a 29 year old writer, trans activist and theatre artist from India. He co-founded Panmai theatre along with Living Smile Vidya and Angel Glady in 2014 and toured extensively in India and internationally with their debut production Colour of Trans 2.0. He works voluntarily as a working group member of Sampoorna, the largest network for trans* and intersex Indians globally. He scripted, directed and acted in Kalvettukal (Sculptures, 2012) on Trans men in South India. Recently, he co-directed and acted in a stop motion animation film, "Won't the Real Transformers Please Stand up?” He can be reached at gee.ameena@gmail.com

 


Transgender 101: A Guide To Gender And Identity To Help You Keep Up With The Conversation

Community + Allies, Work + School, News + PoliticsSam Dylan Finch

If you haven’t noticed, the Transgender Train has definitely left the station. Transgender people are now featured in magazines, television shows, books, websites—you name it. And yet, for some of us, it can start to feel overwhelming.

After all, it’s not like we were taught what any of this gender stuff meant when we were growing up. And it’s true that a lot has changed in a short amount of time. How can we be expected to keep up?


Supporting Your Transgender Students: 6 Tips For Teachers And Administrators From A Trans Student

Community + Allies, Work + School, Stories, Coming OutSabian Mignone

When I began my transition from female to male in high school, I was prepared for the worst. Horror stories of rampant bullying, hostile teachers, and bigoted administrators filled my head. Why would I expect anything else? All I had ever heard was that being trans in school was hell.  When the school year began, I headed into the classroom anticipating a war.

 


Sex, Gender, Sexuality + Beyond: An Introduction

Questioning, Male-To-Female, Female-To-Male, Gender Fluid, In Transition, Non-Conforming, Family, Community + Allies, SocialKC Clements

The past few years have seen an exponential rise in the visibility of transgender people, particularly in popular media. Many such representations have done the work of showing transgender people in a positive (or at least neutral) light, taking down some of the stereotypes about us that have prevailed for decades.


7 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Being Trans + A Minority

Stories, News + Politics, SocialNyra Wekwete
nyra.jpg

By Nyra Wekwete

Trans Day of Remembrance is upon us (November 20), and we as the trans community sure have come a long way—but still have far to go. Being trans, black and an immigrant in 2016 has its own set of unique challenges. Different from those behind us. In my trans experience, I’ve learnt many things but these are at the top.

1. Non-binary identities exist, and there is no such thing as “trans enough”.

Transgender is an umbrella term used to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender/sex at birth, or the binary gender system.

Non-binary describes folks who choose to identify themselves as such when their gender identity does not fit within the gender binary.

Trans-ness comes in all shapes and sizes, in different variations crossing multiple lines and just as the entire sexuality spectrum is fluid so is being trans. There is no specific point where you are deemed worthy enough to fly the trans flag. If you are trans, and identify with that term, then you will know it. It’s something you will always be no matter what critiques or policing others may try to impart on your identity from the outside.

2. You don’t have to transition to be trans.

For a long time, trans women who have undergone MTF transitions have been the poster girls for all trans people. This is understandable as many of those women have had it the hardest, but this image has also allowed us to think that the only way to be a “true” trans person is to “fully transition” and that is not the case.

Transitioning is a privilege experienced by people with the resources necessary to pursue transitioning, and more often than not, they are surrounded by people who understand and are willing to listen. These folks are, by and large, safe and tend also to have the ability to move to a new place where no one knows who they used to be. Transitioning is a process that is only available to very few and I myself know many trans folks who can’t transition for a whole slew of reasons…

So let me ask you: does that make them less trans? Because they can’t afford the hormones, medical care, clothing or other resources? Because it isn’t safe to? See my point?

3. POC folks are already outsiders...

Without even telling the world I am trans, I am black, followed by the fact that I am a (perceived) woman and an immigrant. Already the odds are not stacked in my favor. The sad truth is that white queers are treated a million times better than their PoC counterparts. I am surrounded by white supremacy, hoteps and misogyny, all of which are trying very hard to break me (as a black woman), to eradicate me from the world, and make me “know my place.” Add in being an immigrant and we reach a new level and in addition to racism, xenophobia kicks in. Mix that in with being queer and we have a lifetime of hell.

Growing up, I have gotten used to how the world sees and treats me and it has made me resilient. Being raised in countries far from home has taught me how the real world treats little black children, especially girls who are far from their people, far from home. I grew up thinking I was wrong, I was broken, that the skin I was in was a curse, that I was less than human, that I was a savage from Africa…

This went on for many years and it took many years to unlearn it all. But through it, I did learn one thing: being different doesn’t make you wrong it just makes you different. Your self worth is not defined by what others think and say about you. The only opinion that matters is your own. Being a minority helped me in being trans, as I was already accustomed to rude remarks and hate speech. Suffering gracefully had become second nature.

4. Pronouns matter. (AKA: #Pronounsmatter)

This cannot be stressed enough. I have always said that misgendering someone by mistake is fine (it happens) but continuing to use incorrect pronouns is an act of violence and is transphobic. There is no excuse under the sun that excuses you from using the wrong pronouns. None. No, not even the one you are thinking of now.

No matter what you think or how you feel if someone tells you their pronouns, you respect them, use them, and correct the next person using the wrong ones too.

That said, a note for all my trans people: don’t be afraid to enforce your pronouns. Don’t let people erase how you feel. Feel free to get mad at people who don’t listen and cut off those who don’t comply. It’s your right to be addressed how you want to be; the same way no one would stand to be called the wrong name their whole life, you should never stand to be misgendered

5. We (you) don’t HAVE to explain anything to anyone.

Believe it or not my story is no ones business but my own which I can choose to share or not to. Many people harass transgender people with 101 questions that most of us don’t want to answer. Constantly have to deal with ignorant people asking the most personal and invasive questions gets old really quickly and I soon learned that it is not my job to educate anyone on being trans. For many trans people this has been a hard and heavy road and not something we want to have to relive by talking about it. You do not have to tell anyone anything if you don’t want to. You don’t have to explain your choices to anybody. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. If people can’t accept you without you having to prove yourself then they don’t deserve you anyways.

6. Intersectional trans experiences are valid.

As a queer black trans person who is perceived as a straight cisgender black women, my trans experience has collided head on with many different aspects of my life and as a result my trans experience has been different from the rest. Being trans is not an isolated event in one’s life and cannot be treated as such there are many things that shape and define it. Just because one experience doesn’t reflect your own or one that you know of doesn’t make it invalid. There is not a single trans person who has not suffered in some way at the hands of society and we must all be sensitive to the pain that has been endured. Everyone’s story is different and every story is valid.

7. It gets better—but it’s nowhere near perfect yet.

I know it often doesn’t feel like it doesn’t but the world is slowing getting better and like I like to say “The Revolution is coming”. This is a time of change all around the world we can clearly see that things are moving more drastically than ever and the same goes for the trans community. More and more people are coming out every day. Trans brothers and sisters holding their own and providing hope for those of us who are lost. Stay strong but remember it’s ok to fall, have faith in yourself, surround yourself with people who really love you and learn that it’s ok to cut people off (even your own blood). This life of yours is precious. Don’t let anyone take that from you.  

 

Nyra is a 22 year-old transmasculine science student and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa.


Transcestor Wisdom In Trump Times

News + Politics, Community + AlliesAaron Rose

Last week, we shared current trans leaders’ reactions to the election results and their inspiring words of solidarity and encouragement. This week, as we recognize Trans Day of Remembrance, we pause to remember the generations of trans leaders who came before us. Whatever ability we have to embody our genders authentically and survive in the face of oppression is directly tied to the work they did, in their individual lives and on a collective level. 


#NotTransEnough

Stories, Coming Out, Female-To-Male, Family, For Kids + TeenagersKonner Jebb
Image by Kajdi Szabolcs

Image by Kajdi Szabolcs

By Konner Jebb

Most people in the trans community have heard of the idea of #nottransenough, but we all likely have our own definitions of what it means to us. This is because one trans person’s experience is rarely the same as another’s. While we may share transgender identity, it’s not as though each of us identifies with the standard, “x-gender trapped in a y-gender body,” knowing our true self from a young age and being able to recognize that. We’re also not all white, straight, and able-bodied. Being trans may push up against normative cis media in and of itself, but it’s not as though there is a homogenous and single thing that transgender identity is, or means.

And yet this same, singular story told of us in the media and even by doctors promotes another idea that there is only one way of being transgender. In some places, doctors still assess transgender and questioning patients as to whether they are “trans enough” to go on hormones or other transition necessities that require medical attention. If they are not “trans enough” for the doctor, they can be denied access to any of these transition needs. This is called gatekeeping.

They’ve been ignoring my transness in hopes that it will just fade away.

Gatekeeping is now not just a problem when facing doctors, but within our own community. Fights about trans people not experiencing enough dysphoria to be trans, not presenting feminine enough to be trans, or masculine enough to be trans, non-binary enough to be trans; the list goes on. That has led many to worry that if their own diverse transgender experiences are valid.

I think and worry about this a lot with my own unique transgender experience. Despite the transgender community’s support of trans siblings with families who are not accepting, it often seems like the voices most loudly heard are the ones of those who were accepted or are now accepted. Those of us who haven’t been accepted are less visible. Being transgender in a family that doesn’t accept you comes with a lot of different emotions and experiences, all of which have made me feel more alone, more isolated. Quite frankly, I often get the sense I’m made to feel #nottransenough.

I experience more doubt about my trans identity than is #transenough. I’ve effectively been told by my parents time and time again that they know me better than I know myself. Therefore, they imply, how can I possibly be transgender? Since they aren’t able to see my identity, why and how should I be able to be so sure about it? They refuse to use my pronouns and use my birth name. They don’t even bat an eye when my friends use “Konner” or “he” around them. They’ve been ignoring my transness in hopes that it will just fade away. (It’s been five years—and guess what? I’m still trans!) I feel invisible at my old home, and often confused more than anything else. Confusion because, after all, these people are still my parents, right? I’m tempted to rationalize their behavior—they must just be looking out for my best interests. And that kind of thinking sends me into a spiral of doubt: how can my parents possibly be wrong? I know I am transgender. But what if they’re right?

My life is trudging ahead of me and I’m not there to enjoy it. I’m always paranoid. My brain hasn’t slept in five years: Can I trust what I’m feeling?

From there, more negativity arises. I feel guilty. I used to love getting gendered correctly, marching proudly into the men’s department, placing “Konner” in the heading of all my college papers, until over time it began to feel like betrayal. Gender dysphoria feels wrong. Yet gender euphoria feels worse. If my parents knew how being transgender made me feel, it would disappoint them. I fight them every day. Sometimes I feel I’ve developed a severe case of internalized transphobia because I’ve internalized my parents’ own transphobia.

I describe this lack of acceptance as a grey area because I often feel stuck. My life is trudging ahead of me and I’m not there to enjoy it. I’m always paranoid. My brain hasn’t slept in five years: Can I trust what I’m feeling? I need to go on T, but what if they’re right and I am making a mistake? Could I be financially and emotionally stable if I transitioned without their permission? Am I ruining my life? The answer is this: now I am 23, living on my own and in graduate school. I’m in a place where they can’t take my undergraduate degree away from me if I went on T, or my ability to support myself if I went on T, nor would I be homeless if I went on T and yet, I still worry. I deeply, sincerely, and painfully know transitioning is the absolute right choice for me. It’s just getting the courage to accept that permission to be myself does not have to be granted, and that parents don’t always know what’s best for you.

What’s most harmful about a parent’s lack of acceptance of their transgender child are the thoughts that hold us back. As a community, I wish we would engage with these experiences more and have a discussion on how we can help anyone else who feels like this. More importantly, I want to hear the voices of trans people who come from unaccepting backgrounds so that we can feel #transenough, too.

 

 

Konner Jebb is currently receiving his MFA with hopes of using his poetry and other writings to become an activist for the transgender and LGBT community as a whole. He plans on sharing his transition and experiences on YouTube, blogs and articles so he can contribute to the same community that helped him. For now, you can follow @trainersarecoolest on Instagram and kawnerwithak on Tumblr.


Transiograph

Male-To-Female, Home + Community, SocialKatherine Day

Navigating sexuality as a trans-woman isn’t always easy nor is it as clear-cut as some would prefer it be. Inquiring minds want to know if I’m straight or bi, lesbian or pansexual, or the even more obscure, asexual. For clarity’s sake: I identify as heterosexual. I am a woman in a man’s body, who is transitioning her inner-reality into her physical one, and who likes men. All men in fact, but don’t be alarmed. I’m only looking for THE ONE (for me). It might be tough to find him though, with my low tolerance for blind ignorance and easily hurt egos.


10 Things Cisgender People Can Do To Support Transgender People Right Now

Home + Community, Community + AlliesKC Clements

In light of the recent election results, many cisgender people have reached out to me to ask what they can do to help support me and other members of my community.

With threats to reverse policies that have made it easier than ever for trans people to change their gender markers on federal IDs, to overturn Obama’s recent directive demanding schools allow trans people to use bathrooms that align with their gender, to enact state and federal anti-transgender legislation, and to repeal the Affordable Care Act, trans people, like so many other minorities, are increasingly concerned for our safety and well-being.


What It Means To Be An Addict + Trans

Stories, Mind + Spirit, Home + Community, Social, Intervention Support, CommunityMJ Eckhouse
Image by Rebecca Lieberman

Image by Rebecca Lieberman

By MJ Eckhouse

My interest in drugs began at age 11. My classmates had begun tormenting me for my masculine appearance, and I was terrified of impending puberty. So when an older kid offered me weed, I jumped at the chance for some escape.

Over the next ten years, I watched myself do literally whatever it took for another hit of meth or crack cocaine. By then, I had already come out as trans, but that wasn’t enough to motivate me to stop using. It wasn’t enough being hospitalized, or threatened with jail time. Finally, after an experience getting high with the only other trans person I knew, I finally became ready to quit. There I was, still feeling paranoid and alone, despite the company of someone who actually understood me. It was time.   

While considering treatment, I ran into a problem: Inpatient rehabs are segregated by gender—restrooms, locker rooms, and even activities. I knew these programs probably wouldn’t be the safest places to be trans. Though I found “LGBT-friendly” rehabs over the course of my research, I felt skeptical that the “T” was anything more than an afterthought.

Ultimately, I didn’t go to rehab. Fortunately, I haven’t used drugs or alcohol since 2013. Instead of inpatient treatment, I decided to try 12-step meetings. As a queer agnostic, the “God” language concerned me at the get-go, but now that it’s been more than three years, I can say confidently that it hasn’t been a problem. Belief in a monotheistic religion hasn’t been a requirement for support from the 12-step groups, and I’m still as queer and agnostic as ever.

A First Step: Do I Have A Problem?

Studies show that trans people are more likely to use substances. And in a way, substance use seems built into queer culture. Most cities have several gay bars, but rarely have LGBT homeless shelters. Queer sex and drug use have intertwined for decades. Many trans folks end up doing sex work as a response to discrimination, and that might include drug use. With substance use so prevalently positioned in the community, it can be hard to determine if you have a problem with substances, or if it’s just habit. If you think you might have a problem, or if the question seems worth exploring, here are some questions you can consider as a starting point:

  • Do you frequently think about drugs/alcohol?
  • Does your use of drugs/alcohol interfere with work, school or relationships?
  • Do you use/drink alone?
  • Have you ever stolen or had sex to obtain drugs/alcohol?
  • Do you use/drink to change how you feel or escape reality?
  • Has your using/drinking gotten progressively harder to control?
  • Do you still use/drink despite legal, financial or other consequences?  

Before I quit, I would have answered “yes” to all those questions—that is, if I answered honestly. For years, my friends, family and therapists told me I had a drug problem, but I denied it, always finding a way to rationalize my way out of coming to terms with it. “I’ll stop eventually,” “I still have a job,” “l’ll just get another job,” “I don’t shoot up, so it’s not a big deal”—the list goes on and on. Fact is, I put drug use first. I didn’t need to live under a bridge and share needles to have a problem.

What Might Be Next: An Overview of Treatment Options

Inpatient Rehab

Residential treatment centers are a well-known method of addiction recovery. However, they pose some drawbacks for trans people. Plus, the costs of private facilities can be prohibitive. But if you’re still deciding, it may help to consider the “pros” and “cons.”

There is one trans-exclusive rehab in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it has only eight beds and only welcomes Philadelphia residents.

Advantages of Inpatient Treatment:

  • Takes you away from your environment, dealers and drinking/using buddies.
  • Provides structure and routine to your daily activities.
  • Constant access to support.     
  • May include medically-supervised detox.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment also provides structure and guidance for staying sober but on a part-time basis. Instead of living in a facility, people attend individual and group counseling. This allows time for work or school and might relieve some of the problems trans people face in gender-segregated rehabs.

Many areas have state-funded inpatient and outpatient programs, which can help with the cost.

Therapy               

Due to medical gatekeeping, trans people are often familiar with therapy. Over the years, I’ve seen several therapists. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t know how to help me with transition or addiction. However, some are knowledgeable, and often, finding the right therapist comes down to just finding the right fit. Therapy is worth considering—it may just take patience, and a willingness on your part to ask around for references for therapist who have experience working with trans people and/or substance users.

If there is an LGBT clinic or community near you, it’s worthwhile to ask other trans people for suggestions. “Find A Therapist” sites list therapists who describe themselves as “LGBT-friendly,” which may be better than not.

12-Step Meetings

I maintain my recovery with a 12-step program. The “God stuff” in the 12 steps worried me, but the people are far more accepting and open-minded than I expected. At meetings, I speak openly about being trans and I’ve never encountered hostility.

12-step meetings are:

  • Free.
  • Widely accessible.
  • Sometimes designated as LGBT-friendly or for agnostics/atheists.
  • Based on suggesting abstinence from all substances.

Other Peer Support

12-step meetings aren’t the only non-professional recovery option. Other programs include Smart Recovery, Moderation Management, LifeRing Secular Recovery and Secular Organizations for Sobriety.

These nonprofit programs,

  • Don’t use religious language like “God” or “Higher Power.”
  • May or may not emphasize complete abstinence from all substances.
  • Have fewer in-person meetings.       

Recovery coaching is a professional form of supportive mentorship, usually with a coach who has personal experience with addiction recovery. Through early recovery, I spoke with a California-based recovery coach over the phone. A new practice, recovery coaching is growing in coastal states. This may benefit trans people, since many of these states are strong champions of trans rights.

Along the Way: Consider Harm Reduction

Two years ago, a close friend of mine died of a heroin overdose. Naloxone is a medicine for harm reduction, which immediately reverses the effects of opiate overdose. Other harm reduction strategies include,

  • Safe injection sites
  • Hiding your keys or giving them to someone if you might drink and drive
  • Needle exchanges
  • Opioid replacement treatments (Suboxone, Methadone)

Bottom Line: Know You’re Not Alone

Society misunderstands trans people as well as people with addictions. So, as a trans addict, it’s easy to feel isolated. I can’t say it’s easy to find community, because it’s not, but it’s also not hopeless. In early recovery, I told people I was trans, expecting them to reject me.

To my surprise, people welcomed me, respected my gender and even told me about other trans people in recovery. We’re out there and if I can do it, so can you.

 

 

MJ Eckhouse is an activist, writer and student of political science. Though he's still in Ohio, MJ dreams of someday being able to afford San Francisco's cost of living. Contrary to popular belief, MJ regularly uses public restrooms without attacking anyone or provoking societal downfall. He's also the editor-in-chief of Kent State's LGBTQ magazine, Fusion.

 

 

 


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