|Posted by Transgender Education Collaboration on September 4, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
A little while ago, we had the great opportunity to interview Jessica "Who" De Leon. She is a blogging, (Check out her website) and YouTube Presence in the Transgender Community. We are excited to share this interview with you today!
1) Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your story?
I was born in the greatest city in the world, Chicago. Several years later, we moved to South Florida. As a kid I played a lot of sports, excelled in school, and had an amazing family. I studied computer engineering in college and earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. While in college, I met my incredible wife. We’ve been married for over three years now and have two small dogs.
Throughout my entire life, I knew I was different from other boys because I had a very strong feminine side that would manifest itself in the form of wanting to dress and look like a girl sometimes. This was a source of confusion, joy, pain, shame, uncertainty, and excitement. Because I knew it was wrong, I hid it from the outside world and tried my best not to rationalize it.
After many years of being unhappy with who I was inside, I decided to really get to know myself inside and out and with the help of my wife, books, and reflection I started on the path to freedom of expression.
2) Why do you VLog and Blog?
I started my current blog because I had done it previously. Though I ended up taking down my original blog, I remembered the positive effects it had on my life. I wanted to reignite that energy and started from the beginning, writing about my lifelong struggle with gender identity.
What started out as a very small personal blog transformed very quickly into a community resource, one that others found informative, valuable, and entertaining. Nowadays, my blog serves several purposes, but it also continues to help me grow as a person and express myself.
I began vlogging because I felt frustrated and I was worried that because of my fears and society’s prejudices, I would never be able to fully express my gender identity. YouTube became my way of “going out” and changed my life in too many ways to list.
3) You have a background in comedy, can you talk with our readers about how you have begun to open up about yourself in the comedy world as well?
After about a year of making videos on YouTube, I decided to try my hand at live comedy and joined a local stand-up club. At my first meeting, after introducing myself I decided to come out to everybody right then and there.
As a kid, I was really into comedy and created a lot of things like comedy tapes and comics, but it was never something that I ever considered doing for a living. Being trans and discovering my true nature catapulted me back into that world and I didn’t want to hide from anybody.
I’m sure everyone in that room thought I was strange at first, but I know that getting to know me was key to them understanding somebody like me. Stepping on stage as my female self for the first time was an unforgettable experience.
My goal is to be able to perform comedy regularly in drab and drag while growing my YouTube presence.
4) How do you identify? Crossdresser? Transgendered? And how do you view the transgender community as a whole? The community is often fractured in to specific subgroups, do you see valuable connection between these different groups?
Most people would look at me and categorize me as a crossdresser, though I definitely eschew labels since I find that they don’t do me justice. When I absolutely must use one, I identify as transgender, since I feel it is all-inclusive.
I discovered that our community had several factions once my blogging started getting more serious and I definitely view it as a problem since it divides similar peoples. There are a few who can be very negative about our differences but I’ve found that most are pretty positive.
A united group can do much more good than one that is cut into smaller pieces.
5) Any exciting future plans?
I am working on booking a couple more public speaking appearances and I hope to take another trip to Los Angeles this year to work with some of my friends in the entertainment business.
|Posted by Transgender Education Collaboration on July 19, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
1) For those who are not familiar with you what is your story?
I am an author, speaker, trainer, and activist focusing on trans issues. I started my transition from female to male in 1997, and I decided at that time that I was going to focus on trans activism, education, and awareness.
When I transitioned, I was not familiar with the trans community, nor was I very familiar with the larger LGBT community. I had lived for 42 years as a straight female prior to transition, and I lived with a “problem” that I didn’t understand. I assumed I was the only one who felt the way I did. I didn’t grow up with the Internet, and the library and the Dewey Decimal System were too hard to navigate for someone who did not have terms or concepts to work with in the first place. I didn’t know that there were other “people like me” out there, and I found out by accident in therapy.
Once I had a name for my “problem,” I made a very quick decision to transition – or at least it seemed quick, but the reality is that it was a lifetime in coming, I guess. When I transitioned, I entered the gay male community, which was a culture shock, since I was coming from the straight “mainstream.” I identified as a gay man for a while, but that wasn’t working for me. What works for me is my identity as a trans man who is gay when I see an attractive man, bisexual when I see an attractive woman, and queer when I see an attractive person of indeterminate gender. It’s a crapshoot, and I really don’t worry about labels anymore, although I personally identify as transsexual, but not transgender. (It doesn’t bother me when people refer to me as transgender, however.)
Since I have to keep this short, more of my “story” can be found in part in my first book, Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience, and in more personal detail in my new book, Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects.
2) Activism comes in many different forms. How would you describe the work you do in and for the Transgender community?
I would describe my work primarily as education. I speak on college campuses, to businesses, and to community organizations. I do Trans 101 training and On-the-Job Transition training, as well as covering whatever topics a class, business, or organization needs and wants. I also do keynotes, which are great for an organization that wants something different – educational, yet engaging and new – for an event .
In addition, I’m a writer – books and an award-winning blog. I feel that these serve a purpose as well, both for educating the general public and providing support for trans people. I have been on local and national television and radio and in five documentary films. I ran a support group for trans men for almost six years, and I do a lot of e-mail communication with people needing help and support. Often they find me through my blog, or they have read one of my books or seen me speak on campus.
I am out, and I also believe that just being out is a form of activism. Research has shown that if you “know one” – a member of a specific marginalized group – you are more likely to support equal rights for that group. So I think that people can make an impact that way. I don’t think people should be intimidated by activism. Being an activist doesn’t have to mean traveling around, speaking, and writing. It can be as simple as coming out to your neighbor. You’ve changed one mind. That neighbor will talk to other people and more minds will be changed. It’s a domino effect, and these small things can often make a bigger and longer-lasting difference than a speech or a book.
3) Can you tell us a bit about your blog or other works?
I blog at www.tranifesto.com, and I would love for people to come on over. I post on Mondays and Thursdays, and it is usually commentary or advice to readers who write in. The best thing about my blog is that I have amazing readers who are willing to share their opinions and experiences, so you can benefit just by reading the comments section. I always say that my readers are really the brains of the operation.
I have written a few books, but those that are trans related are Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience and Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects. Just Add Hormones was originally published by Beacon Press in 2005, but people are still discovering it and I still get fan mail. That’s pretty amazing, and I’m glad that it remains relevant to people. I wrote Teeny Weenies because people who read Just Add Hormones said, “We don’t know anything about your past or your childhood.” So I put it out there.
I am also writing a series of very short Kindle books called the Ten Tips series. The first one is available now, and it’s called My Child is Transgender: 10 Tips for Parents of Adult Trans Children. This is specifically for parents of an adult child who is planning or considering transition. Anyone with a computer can access it. You don’t need a Kindle. You can download a free Kindle app onto your computer or smart phone. I also intend to make it available as a download later this summer, along with other books coming up in the series.
You can find out about all my books on my Amazon author page
4) As someone with 15 years of Transgender activism under your belt, how do you feel the state of Trans-Activism has changed during that time, and what are some of the pro’s and con’s?
Yes, it has changed. Language has changed. Demographics have changed. Politics have changed. I credit/blame the Internet for some of it, because it has allowed us to make connections like we never would have been able to before. We have far more information and far less isolation than we have ever had. When I first transitioned, we had e-mail and a few websites, but we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all the social and information-sharing sites that we do now. This is extremely positive, because it has allowed for incredible connections and the rapid transfer of information.
It has allowed us to find each other, but it has also allowed us to set up factions within our community. This is not all bad, because one voice cannot speak for all, and we need various factions to represent various groups and to make sure no one gets left behind. But it also results in a lot of infighting that we really don’t need right now. We spend a lot of time attacking each other, when we really need to be figuring out how we can move forward together.
Each faction has its own special interests, but I think that there are some things that most of us can probably agree on, such as the need for adequate, accessible health care for our community; an end to the violence against our community, and in particular, trans women, and even more specifically, trans women of color; and equality under the law, including in employment and public accommodations. There are other concerns as well, but I can’t imagine which factions would not agree that these goals are essential for our survival, whether we are men, women, transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, neutrois, or any other noun or adjective.
So my opinion is that, individually, our various factions can be working toward their own goals and the betterment of their position in society, and collectively, we can be working toward a set of goals that transcends individual interests and protects the entire community, as diverse as it is.
5) Similarly, as a male transsexual individual, do you think that there has been a growing visibility for elements of the Transgender community that previously were not well represented, such as transgender men and now also genderqueer individuals?
Yes. There has absolutely been a growing visibility for underrepresented populations within the larger community. Personally, I think this is a good thing, particularly for trans men, because I think that with our increased visibility have come increased and improved surgical options, better-educated medical providers, and increased representation within the larger community.
Some, however, do not welcome this increased visibility (and this goes for trans women, as well), because it makes it more difficult to assimilate and to live a life as a man or a woman without the “trans” label for those who want to do so. So there are always mixed reviews on whatever direction we are moving in.
I also think it is beneficial for genderqueer individuals because I always believe that with increased visibility comes increased acceptance – maybe not right away, but eventually. And I think genderqueer people tend to be marginalized even within the trans community. However, I’m not genderqueer, so cannot speak in depth to the issues that affect this population.
6) Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
I think that we need to understand, both inside and outside of our community, that one size does not fit all. I have been criticized for being too tied to the binary gender system, and I have been criticized for supporting extreme modifications to that system. I have had friends who have paid dearly for being “too binary,” and other friends who have paid dearly for not being “binary enough.”
I believe that we are making some great forward progress, and I would like to see us continue this momentum together and have each other’s backs. We might never be one “community,” but we can be multiple communities working together. There is strength in numbers and numbers provide strength. So let’s go get ‘em.
|Posted by Transgender Education Collaboration on July 3, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (6)|
I had the privilege of conducting an email interview with Stana, of the blog Femulate . I am thankful that she took the time to talk with us, and hope you enjoy her story. When we conduct interviews for our site, we aim to let the individual speak for themselves. We want Transgender stories to be told in a way that is understood by our community, not as filtered through a normal media lens. That being said, enjoy the interview!
1) So how exactly do you pronounce your name? How did you choose it?
Stana rhymes with Donna.
When I was in the closet, I did not need a female name because who was I going to talk to in the closet? But when I joined Genderline on Compuserve, I needed a female name ASAP. I did not have time to think about it because I was anxious to get online, so I did what a lot of transgenders do just out of the closet, that is, use the feminine version of their male name. In my case, I used "Staci," which in a roundabout way is the feminine version of my male name, Stanley. I never really liked the name, but everyone got to know me as Staci, so I was stuck with it.
Years ago, I became aware of the name "Stana" when I acquired a circa 1910 postcard from Eastern Europe that depicted a female impersonator named Stana Behavy. I filed the name away for the future.
About three years ago, I e-mailed some recent photos of myself en femme to a co-worker, who knows about my femulating.
She e-mailed back, "You’re so cute Stan…very lovely. Hot dress…love the color too."
Reading that response made me think: I am out to people who know me by my male name and I intend to come out to more people who know me by my male name.
Why not make it easier for them by using a female name that is similar to my male name? "Stan" and "Stana" are so interchangeable that one does not have to worry about slipping up when speaking my name? No one, certainly not I, will call them out if they say "Stan" when they intended to say "Stana" and vice versa. "Stan" can even be considered short for "Stana."
And I like the name. It is unique (I always like to be unique). And it is a good fit, that is, it simply suits me. So, I became "Stana."
2) What is your story Stana?
Growing up, I did not think I was different, but my peers and adults made it painfully clear that I was different. I was just being myself, but myself did not fit the model of an all-American boy in 1960. However, I liked myself and did not want to change something I liked, so I continued my journey aboard the good ship Lollipop and damn the torpedoes.
Around puberty, I discovered crossdressing and found it to be a good match for "myself." Thereafter, I considered myself to be "a plain vanilla crossdresser," which in retrospect, was my way of denying that I was transsexual. In the back of my mind, I thought I might be transsexual, but that scared me, whereas crossdresser was easier to accept. Go figure.
I was happiest when I crossdressed and I wanted to be happy more of the time, so I crossdressed as often as possible. In June 2009, I lived as a woman in New York City 24/7 for four-days. It was my epiphany; it was then that I realized that I am a woman. Since I have male body parts, that makes me a trans-woman, a transsexual, but that is just a technicality. In my heart and in my soul, I am a woman.
I intend to live as a woman as much as possible, but since I am married to a woman, who married a "man," I plan to honor that commitment and be a good husband to the woman I love. As a result, I live a compartmentalized life. In one compartment, I dress as a woman; in the other compartment, I crossdress as a man.
3) How do you identify?
I am a woman (technically, a no surgery, no hormone male-to-female transsexual).
4) Could you say a little bit about your site?
It is very popular. It astounds me that on average, over 5,000 people visit my blog every day to read what I write.
I invented the word "femulate" to use as the name of my site and to my amazement, even the use of that word has caught on in the trans world!
I think the blog's success is due to a number of factors:
> I post something new every day. As a result, people come back every day because they know there is something new there to see unlike some blogs that post less frequently.
> Many people have written that they read my blog because they live vicariously through me. They are closeted, can't or won't go out, so they depend on me to be en femme for them, which is something I am glad to do and glad to write about.
> My blog accentuates the positive unlike some blogs that I call the "woe is me" blogs.
> I write for a living, so I know how to write. I also have a sense of humor that I attempt to use in my writing.
5) What role do you see Femulate playing in the online Transgender world? Education? Community building?
My goal from the start was to write about my "adventures" out en femme so that it would encourage others to get out of the closet and join me in the real world. (If I could do it successfully at 6 foot 2 and 210 pounds, I figured anybody could do it.) I think I have achieved my goal because I receive e-mails all the time from my readers who say that they were encouraged by Femulate to get out of the closet and go out en femme.
I try to educate my readers on how to femulate successfully. There are so many pieces to that puzzle (makeup, clothing, speech, mannerisms, movement, etc.) that I am happy to share what works and what does not. Sometimes I don't practice what I preach (my skirts are occasionally too short), but when I follow my own advice, I usually get by.
I am an advocate of "community" especially for those who are just stepping out for the first time, after all, joining a support group is how I got out of the closet. However, the community can become a closet, too. Sooner or later, you have to expand your horizons beyond the community if you really want to live. That does not mean you have to abandon the community, but you should explore the real world beyond the community.
6) I have read about many educational events you have been involved in? Can you tell us about these and about your experiences doing them?
Originally, I had an ulterior motive for doing outreach: it gave me another opportunity to go out en femme and in addition, to talk about myself. (What could be any more attractive to a narcissistic T-girl?)
But after I did my first outreach, I realized that most people were clueless about us. They had a lot of false notions concerning transgenders. Some people thought we were freaks and some were actually afraid of us!
When I discovered how mistaken they were, I felt that I had a duty to try and educate them. If I was successful, they might spread the word and educate their friends and relatives and someday, everyone would realize we are not freaks. Rather, we are people just like them.
Besides outreach, I have done workshops with transgender youth similar. In those workshops, I try to teach the attendees how to femulate successfully. I have been femulating for nearly half a century and I am able to teach the young'uns a thing or two. Seriously, the workshops I have done were very helpful according to the critiques of the workshops that I was privy to see afterwords.
7) Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to share with the Transgender community?
Franklin D. Roosevelt was not talking about being transgender, but his words are applicable when he said, "..the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
I retreated into the closet for a very long time before I overcame my fear and advanced into the real world. I realize now that I had nothing to fear and I regret all that lost time in the closet when I could have been living the female life I was meant to live.
My advice is "don't let fear paralyze you from living the life you want to live."
|Posted by Transgender Education Collaboration on May 23, 2012 at 5:25 PM||comments (1)|
Jackie Green is a young woman currently in the running for Miss England. She is also someone who has had a transgender journey. She granted us an exclusive interview, and we hope that this interview does justice in sharing her story in a way that reflects her life, not the sensationalized tale that the media tends to spin. Here is our interview, thank you for taking the time to talk with us Jackie:
(Credit to 'Charles Gervais @ Both Hemispheres Photography')
Jackie, how did you get in to modeling?
I got into modelling when I auditioned for a TV show last year called Models, Misfits & Mayhem. From there I made some good contacts and friends and that is where my journey really began. I then went to the Britains Next Top Model Live Tour and was scouted for the Miss England competition.
I have always been told I have great legs and encouraged to try modelling but I was always a little affraid of how people may react to me being a girl who is trans but I slowly gained more confidence and went for it.
I have seen footage of other pageants and fell in love. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone is so lovely. Also I love making new friends and I, like most little girls, have always had dreams of being a princess and the Miss England is the closest I will ever come. It is a dream come true to be competeing along side so many other beautiful women.
Who are some people that you look up to?
I have always admired Lady Gaga for her strength, creativity and also her attitude. She has been a huge inspiration in my modelling journey for her music is what gives me strength. I always have her playing at a shoot.
So you are a person who has had a transgender journey, can you share a bit about that?
The one thing I want people to understand is that this is not a choice. I have always been a girl and always known I was a girl, I just had a small birth defect that needed to be fixed, a mole that needed to be removed if you like. I am your average woman, I just have a more interesting life than some.
Another thing I want people to understand is I am not a transgender woman, I am a woman who is trans. Being trans is a tiny part of my life, a paragraph in my book of life. I am a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a model, the list is endless, before I am trans. I am proud of my life and my choices but they do not in any way define me.
Have you had issues with your transgender status in the modeling world?
I have been accepted completely in the modelling world, and why shouldn't I be? I am not different to anyone else. I am a good model and that is all that should matter.
Do you see yourself as an activist, or as someone playing a role in bringing visibility to transgender issues? And do you have any encouragement for those who admire you?
I suppose I am a activist. I want to raise awarness of trans peoples lives and the struggles that we go through and also to show kids that being trans is not a death sentence and that you can live your life how you want to, you just have to fight through the hard times. Life can be beautiful and exciting. I never thought in a million years that I would be where I am now, and look at me now! You just need to believe in yourself and you can anything. Nothing is impossible, its in the word. 'Im possible'.
There are not many role-models out there for kids who are trans to look up to. When I was younger I would see articles in the media of these trans people who had left their families and things and was so scared that that was all I had to look forward to. I hope that my coming forward will encourage more trans people to 'come out' because I think it is important that the kids see how life can be filled with happiness, you just need to be strong and persure it.
It makes me blush to think that I have inspired people! I mean I just consider myself to be an ordinary girl trying to achieve extraordinary things so to hear that I am making a difference makes me incredibly bashful but also extremely proud.
Any final things you would like to share?
One thing I would like to mention is the charity I work for, Mermaids. http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/
Mermaids is a charity for children and families of children with gender variant issues. They have been an enourmous supporting pillar in my life and I now work with them as a mentor for kids who need advice or just a friend to talk to. I hope to use my being in the Miss England competition as a platform to promote the work they do for they are an amazing group of people.
If you would like to vote for Jackie- you need to text 'Miss Semi35' to 63333. I am sure many of us would love to be able to support Jackie in her quest for Miss England!