|Posted by Transgender Education Collaboration on July 19, 2012 at 8:00 AM|
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.