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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.

 


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

Stories, News + Politics, SocialNyra Wekwete
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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.


#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.


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.

 

 

 


Every Day Is Trans Remembrance Day

Stories, News + Politics, Social, Home and CommunityPersephone Smith
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By Persephone Smith

“This is a day when we remember those who were taken from us this past year.”

“Let’s take a moment of silence to remember those who have passed.”

“Tonight we remember those who were taken away from us this past year.”

“Let us recite the names of those who have passed on this previous year.”

These four lines are burned into my memory. One line for each year I have been out as transgender. Four years of me living out and proud to be the person I am. Every November 20th is a reminder that I do not live a lie anymore. And each year in the days that follow November 20th (Trans Day of Remembrance), I always feel invisible and silenced by its weight. Transgender Day of Remembrance has held a space in my memory and soul, reminding me and others of those of us who have fallen.

But from the time I became aware of this day I, like many of us, forget what it is about.

So let me remind us again.

Trans Day of Remembrance started as a web project in 1998 called “Remembering Our Dead” in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman, who was found murdered in her apartment in Allston, Massachusetts on November 28, 1998. This led to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a trans woman, activist, columnist and graphic designer, to found Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999.

I am not here to give a history lesson. I am here because I have a chance to voice my anger, opinions and sadness. This is my chance to have a voice and not be silenced. If my words make you feel attacked or chastised in any way, then perhaps this is a chance for you to look deep within yourself and re-examine why that is. Perhaps I am chastising you for some of the choices that are made in the name of this day.

What I am here to talk about today is those who are being remembered. Let us not overlook them as we are attempting to remember them. 

I want to say something about statistics and the various places that we all find the numbers. Knowing these numbers does not express the problems we are facing. Because the problem is more insidious than we want to believe. It is not just that we are being erased and silenced. It is more about the question of “Who?”—by whom are we being erased and silenced? And in what ways other than murder are we being silenced and erased that then lead to murder? Is it by those who proclaim they are helping us? Is this at all possible?

So who is it that we are remembering? To me, it seems that we are only remembering the people that organize these events. We memorialize the people who use hashtags to demonstrate their anger. We idolize the allies that dress up their Facebook avatar with whatever filter of the day is on tap. This day is not about remembering those who were killed. It seems to have become about selfish pride, social capital and shameless plugs. Has it been effectively co-opted?

I want to see trans people bolster the voices of trans people of color and let us kick-start this movement again.

I want to know how we got to this point. How did we get to this place where people’s reputations are built on the graves of the oppressed? Oh wait, it has always been this way. And it will continue to be this way until we do something about it. In the microcosm that is the LGBT community, I have seen calls for our dismissal. We, who have kick-started this movement of fighting for respect and equality. To this day, we are still the ones who are the oppressed and marginalized. Still there are those we have fought alongside for so long that want to throw us under the metaphorical bus.

In these times, Trans Day of Remembrance is not just about mourning those who have been taken away from us. To me, November 20th and all of the days before and after are to remember us all. Because to so many we are already dead and forgotten even as we exist in the here and now. This needs to change.

We are as dead as the many personal friends that I have lost to suicide over the last four years. We are as forgotten as the uncounted number of trans people who have died worldwide who have gone unreported. We are as erased as those who fear coming out and realizing their true self due to the uncertain fate of this country from the impending Trump presidency.

I would like to see us reclaim Trans Day of Remembrance in a new and different way. Bring it back to the people it was meant for. It is not for cis folks, gays and lesbians or allies to score cookies with us. It is by us and for us, the trans people who are continually disregarded and often even derided as being divisive. I want to see our flag held high by trans people every day of the year. I want to see trans people bolster the voices of trans people of color and let us kick-start this movement again. I believe every day should be Trans Day of Remembrance.

 

 

Persephone Sarah Jane Smith is a non-binary trans femme of color. She is a writer, poet, musician and programmer turned activist. She is a resident of Northampton, Massachusetts.

 

 


Meet The First Trans Homecoming Queen In North Carolina

Male-To-Female, Stories, News + Politics, For Kids + Teenagers, Work + School, Community + AlliesBasil Soper

On Monday, October 24, 2016, an 18-year-old transgender girl said she experienced a feeling of "nothing but love and support" when her North Carolina high school announced that she was homecoming queen. Selena Milian had recently won the popular vote for the school award at Overhills High School in Spring Lake, NC the previous week—on Friday, October 21st.

It’s believed that Selena, who is also Native American, is the first transgender homecoming queen to be crowned in the state of North Carolina. 


Sleep Away: An Interview With Nick Teich, CEO & Founder Of Camp Aranu’tiq For Trans And Gender Variant Youth

Stories, Female-To-Male, Male-To-Female, News + Politics, Family, For Kids + Teenagers, Social, Allies + VolunteeringCharlotte Lieberman

Within mainstream media, childhood and adolescence are typically depicted as “magical.” As a kid, I was probably my most anxious, self-doubting and socially-neurotic self. I felt estranged from my body, and mistrusting of my friendships. And all of this was as a cisgender, white, pretty privileged kid. What I mean to say is this: growing up is—or can be—hard.


How I Explore Androgyny In My Self-Presentation

Questioning, Gender Fluid, Stories, In Transition, Women's Style, Men's Style, Non-ConformingAri Utria

Androgyny is defined as the combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics—an expression of gender ambiguity.

It’s worth noting that androgyny is by no means a modern concept, though if you look at the current trends among many celebrities, you will see that the notion of blurring the gender lines when dressing oneself has become increasingly popular.


The Best Days Of Transition

Stories, Coming Out, Female-To-MaleAri Utria

The first step I took towards self-discovery was coming out as a gay female. When I was able to do that, I felt myself consciously letting go of conventional ideas of how a female should present herself—clothing, hair, makeup, etcetera. It was liberating. I started to change my style and progressively moved towards androgyny—choosing an unconventional way to show my identity gender-wise, incorporating both feminine and masculine elements into my self-presentation. 


"How Do You Know I'm a Boy?": A Mother On Her Child’s Gender Quest

Stories, Coming Out, Male-To-Female, Family, For Kids + Teenagers, Community + Allies, Work + SchoolJulie Tarney

Twenty-four years ago, in 1992, my son, Harry, told me, “Inside my head I’m a girl.” He was two years old. I had no idea what that meant. I felt disoriented even trying to process it. The internet was no help, because there was no internet. Books didn’t exist on how to raise children who didn’t fit neatly inside a box that was either pink or blue. And terms like transgendergender nonconforming, and gender fluid were rare or nonexistent.