Category: transgender

Alive in Philly

My body arrived back in the USA in NYC on Monday night; my soul finally caught up to it in Philadelphia sometime last night.

I don’t know about you, but sleep serves as a vital time to process and sort, particularly as I dream. After much air travel, several days at the Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference, and a bout of chest-binding-induced stomach gas, my sleeping life filled with images of yellow and blue life jackets, broccolli, and vulvas. I don’t assign any meaning to these images. I let my mind sort and file as I enjoy the show.

I plan on spending more time blogging later this weekend. Far too much cool stuff happening to keep me on-line right now. Ah and the brilliant, beautiful people!

Attention CT Residents

I’m blogging live from the CA Transgender Leadership Summit and currently sitting in on a workshop on Legislative Advocacy.
I am learning we all have a lot of untapped power.

If you live in Connecticut, your voice is needed TODAY and the next few days to contact two key lawmakers to encourage them to be fully inclusive in an upcoming law. Please follow the link below and send an e-mail or call.

It only takes a moment, and feel free to leave me a comment that you took action.
www.transadvocacy.org/?p=145
Thanks!

Gratitude

This week will mark six years since the premiere of my play, Doin’ time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and the begining of LGBTQ activism that has shaped, challenged and aided me in my own recovery from the Ex-Gay Movement and a life of rotting under the weight of homophobia and heterosexism.

How lovely to walk in the light, to be a peace within myself about who I am and how I am wired, to get beyond the crime of trying to fit in to please other people in the name of God.

Thank God I am gay. What a gift to be given! I once would have sold my soul to be straight. How I begged God to fix me or at least to collude with me to reject a part of me. It proved unecessary. No need for all that violence against myself. I am a man who desires men and who presents in what some say is in a feminine fashion. This is not only normal for me, and many others, but a most excellent way to be wired.

Today as I prepare for my play about transgender Bible characters I experience joy and gratitude.

Assorted Goodies

So much good stuff out there that has come to my inbox recently.

  • Candace Chellew-Hodge, the creator of Whosoever.org, has a new book out, Bulletproof—A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay & Lesbian Christians. You can hear a public reading here. Check out what Desmond Tutu has to say about the book.

    Gay and lesbian Christians are constantly demoralized and told they are not children of God. In Bulletproof Faith, Chellew-Hodge reassures gays and lesbians that God loves them just as they were created and teaches them how to stand strong, with compassion and gentleness, against those who condemn them. -Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

  • Allyson Robinson gets quoted in a great piece that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ruling Inspires New Hope for Transgender People.

    But for transgender women such as Robinson, the County Council’s passage of the law was a key reason she chose to live in Montgomery when she moved to the area this year from Texas to take a job at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization.

    Before settling on a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Robinson and her family sought to rent an apartment. She worried, unnecessarily as it turned out, that the landlord would want to pull out of the lease upon meeting her. Until the law took effect this week, Robinson said, the landlord could have rejected her application because she is a transgender person.

    In the past, Robinson has also worried about taking her four young children to public restrooms at restaurants, because she fears that someone will identify her as a transgender woman and call security. “You find yourself on guard, and mentally and emotionally prepared for that,” Robinson said. “You just never know. For many of us, this kind of thing we fear happens rarely; for others it happens constantly, and the fear of it is very real.”

  • Over the weekend I got to hang out with poet Karla Kelsey. She has done collaborative work with her partner visual artist Peter Yumi. You can see samples here.
  • If you go in for the whole debate thing, check out Opposing Views, which includes polar opinions on politics, religion, money, health and more.

Prevention Week

Chris Paige from TransFaith Online sent the following message this week.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, with World Suicide Prevention Day landing on September 10. In honor of the occasion, TransFaith Online has launched new InterSections on Suicide and Depression. Please spread the word!

The Transgender community faces incredible stigma and isolation. Transgender people, when faced with depression, are too often unsure where to turn for support. Fearing judgement from family, from friends, and from mental health providers, transgender people may not get the help that we need to manage depression. And untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.

Suicide is yet another area where research and statistics are scarce. Studies generally report a pre-transition suicide attempt rate of 20% or more, with MTFs relatively more likely to attempt suicide than FTMs. But some studies indicate that the rate of attempted suicide for transgender youth is higher than 50%.

Please help us break the silence about depression and suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Educate yourself about suicide prevention and how you can help.

Suicide is not a solution. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, if you need it. Don’t try to journey through depression and/or suicidal thoughts alone. Help is available.

With isolation and stigma such important factors in the disproportionate suicide rate among the transgender community, we hope to further expand this new area of the website to include stories from suicide survivors, who can speak about what it means to have survived and found supportive community. If you would be willing to let your story be told through TransFaith, please contact Chris Paige (215-840-2858 or chris@transfaithonline.org).

Homeward Bound

Today I leave Seattle and spend a long day traveling home to Hartford. Because of Gustav, the conference I had hoped to attend in New Orleans got canceled. 🙁 The upside is I now get 10 uninterrupted days at home. This has not happened since March.

I cannot begin to write about how special I found the Gender Odyssey Conference.

Gender Odyssey is an international conference focused on the thoughtful exploration of gender. We strive to create an empowering environment where people of all genders can share their experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

Through dialogue, peer-led presentations, and sharing skills and expertise, we work to create broader and evolving language, social support, and life pathways that support all gender identities. By doing so, we hope to strengthen ourselves and develop communities that celebrate all expressions of gender at any age.

I met so many amazing trans men, heard many of their stories, and participated in excellently facilitated workshops. You know when you step into a place that at first seemed foreign with new people and new constructs but suddenly you find yourself in the midst of community? That’s what it has been like.

Last night I had a long and fruitful discussion with Ron, an ex-gay survivor, about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement and our next steps. He attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we held last year in Irvine, CA and has felt a desire to get more involved with the movement. Now that the summer has ended, I feel able to begin to prepare for our upcoming ex-gay survivor events in Nashville and Denver later this year.

Anthony Venn Brown, an Australian ex-gay survivor, also attended the conference last year. He recently posted a blog entry that consists of a series of questions for ex-gay leaders to consider. You can check them out at his blog: 20 Questions for Ex-Gay Leaders.

I leave the Pacific North West excited that I will return soon. In October I will go to Vancouver, BC and then in November return to Seattle to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m still hoping to get back to Portland soon to visit Doug and Bruce and the guys at Anawim.

Now that summer is basically over, how is everyone doing?
Okay, I must get ready to board my plane…

Doin’ Time in Seattle

After a whirlwind adventure in Washington, DC, which included a heated toilet seat with special cleansing superpowers, I landed in Seattle, Washington with a full blown case of the cold. Fortunately I had a full two days with nothing to do but indulge in a NyQuil induced coma. I emerged 48 hours later c0ld-free but muddy in the head. One stiff cup of a Seattle soy latte cleared away the funk and gave me liquid courage to explore the city.

The Gender Odyssey Conference began today with registration and meet & greet. I saw Katie, partner to Paige, so I didn’t feel so all alone and awkward. Tomorrow I will attend a few different workshops including, one on being Genderqueer and another on Class, poverty and the trans community.

I will leave the conference right after lunch to head two hours north to Blaine, Washington near the Canadian border where I will perform at a music festival (well with some comedy thrown in).

With Tropical Storm Gustav threatening to slam into the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, I may have to change my travel plans to New Orleans. Portland anyone???

Okay, off to bed with me with visions of trans men dancing in my head…

Transfigurations in DC & Beyond

On Monday I begin a three city tour of my new play, a one-person, multi-character, multi-gender play, Transfigurations — Transgressing Gender in the Bible, which explores the lives of transgender Bible characters.

On Tuesday August 26, 2008 I will present the play at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 1640 Rhode Island Ave, Washington, DC. An hors d’oeuvres reception begins at 5:30 PM with the performance starting at 6:00 pm.

On Wednesday I fly to Seattle, Washington for the Gender Odyssey Conference where I will mostly soak in the many amazing workshops, but I will also offer Transfigurations as a workshop on Sunday afternoon.

Then I fly to New Orleans to take part in the Many Stories One Voice Conference. In addition to performing Transfigurations, I will also attend and present at For Such a Time as This: A Transgender Pre-Event.

The last time I presented the play was earlier in the summer in Malta. The response there surprised me with many people telling me how deeply moved they were by both the material and the way I presented it. I feel so fortunate to have this play to perform. Please tell your friends in DC, Seattle and New Orleans about it!

For my full performance schedule, click here.

Blogging from Lambeth

Thanks to the expert driving skill of Auntie Doris I arrived safely at Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. Fortunately (or not) I have wi-fi in my dorm room on campus here at the University of Kent so I can blog some.

On the way to Canterbury we listened to LBC Radio (a talk radio station for the greater London area) and the show hosted Jeni Barnett. She offer topic after topic in a frenetic random order, but the one issue that caught my ear had to do with English people trying to change their accents to sound more like the Queen. She asked for callers who had also tried to change their accents.

I turned to Auntie, “Should I?” and with little more than a nod from her, I called. (Joe Gee, that fabulous podcaster, will be simultaneously proud of me and appalled by me). I explained that in the US I get much better customer service when I speak with a posh British accent. This accent is a perceived by many in the US to carry class and sophistication (and it may possibly be a bow to our former colonial masters :-p ). In fact, when I was quite young, I tried to emulate some of the British accents from films in order to alter what I considered my “gay accent.” I thought I might get people off the gay scent.

I then talked about the Ex-Gay Movement and how much of it has to do with gender including getting one’s voice to adhere to gender norms. Some ex-gay leaders taught me that proper men speak with a downward inflection and use less words than women. They also instructed me to drop to my lower register when I spoke. I wrapped up the brief radio segment by letting Jeni know that I was off to Lambeth (pointing towards Canterbury as I spoke on the phone in the car) to do a talk/performance/cabaret act about my time as an ex-gay and the process to integrate my sexuality and spirituality.

Joe Gee will no doubt call me a media whore. I often remind him that I am simply a press magnet. Auntie Doris wants to have a goal that every time I travel with her by car in England, I need to find a reason to call into one of these programs.

After this encounter with Jeni, Auntie and I arrived at Lambeth. I had been invited by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM). Richard Kirker of LGCM met me, sorted out my room at Darwin Hall and then pointed me towards the exhibitors hall.

Auntie Doris and I walked into the hall then froze with our mouths wide open. No, it was not a display of fine dark chocolates from around the world. What greeted us proved to be much richer and appealing. The most gorgeous, colorful, artful robes and stoles captured our attention. They hung draped on racks and hangers calling to us to wrap ourselves up in ecclesiastical prêt-à-porter. As a Quaker, I suddenly felt envy for these Anglicans and their brilliant plumage. As a gay man with a penchant for auspicious and flamboyant clothing, I felt right at home.

We walked around the stalls, and just like Auntie Doris’ uncle (an Anglican vicar) told us, several exhibitors expressed a strong pro-LGBT message. In fact, I counted at least four stalls set up with colorful posters and lots of literature all about the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Zacchaeus Fellowship, a Canadian Anglican ex-gay type group, had a small stall set up with some literature, but they had no staff present when we passed by. They provided booklets with stories of four ex-gays and a hand-out with suggested books and links for “those struggling with homosexuality.” These included books by Andrew Comiskey, Joe Dallas, Leanne Payne, Mario Bergner and Joseph Nicolosi (A Parent’s Guide to Presenting Homosexuality). In their list of “Websites of Interest” they mention several groups including PFOX and NARTH, and Ex0dus Global Alliance. At the bottom of their list of resources they provide this disclaimer:

Please note: The above information is provided as a courtesy. The reader must determine the suitability of the contents found under these links for his or her purposes, interests and beliefs.

Speaking with two women at the Integrity/Changing Attitude stall we agreed that ex-gay promoters and providers would also offer warnings similar to those found on cigarette boxes here in the UK.

WARNING: Immersion in ex-gay theories and practices may harm you and those around you.

In offering ex-gay treatment (in whatever form they suggest) as an option, I do not often hear the fact that most people come to the conclusion that they do not need alter their orientation or submerge it or cut it out of themselves. In fact, in trying to do so many of us have actually experienced harm. Sure a handful of people say that such a change is possible and that they are happy no longer identifying as gay or lesbian, but from my experience of 25 years in and around around the ex-gay world, these folks represent a tiny majority of the many people who attempted it before them.

The good news is that I heard mostly positive messages today about LGBT people, especially in with the screening of a new film, Voice of Witness: Africa. Filmmakers Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod traveled from the US to Africa to film LGBT people in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. They state:

It is an awesome responsibility, for just by talking to us these folks are risking more than any of us privileged people can begin to understand.

Among those we talked to is
* a transgendered [F to M] Nigerian
* a partnered lesbian activist in Uganda
* a transgendered [M to F] Ugandan
* one of a pair of gay 20-something twins in Kenya
* a gay Ugandan farmer whose dream is to own two acres of land to grow his sugarcane
* gay partners in Kenya who dream of having their union blessed
* a gay Nigerian who was beaten badly simply for being gay

I felt especially moved by the stories of the trans people in this 20 minute film. Apparently traans people face even more risks and dangers than lesbian, gay and bisexual people. All the stories moved me especially when they spoke of their faith. Then seeing the retired Ugandan bishop, Christopher Ssenyonjo, speak passionately about LGBT issues and even starting a Bible study for gay men floored me.

Afterwards I got to meet many LGBT and affirming people in the Anglican/Episcopal Church including:

At dinner I ran into William Crawley, who I first met in Belfast in May. He will do his BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence from Lambeth this week. Do check it out. (No Joe Gee, I will not be on it).

I also got to meet Christina Rees, chair of Women and the Church (WATCH) I’ll put a link but their site was down tonight. We had a great chat about gender and sexism in the Church and about how so much of the gay issue comes down to gender and an anti-fem attitude. (which goes back to the point above about how I changed my voice to sound more “masculine” as part of my de-gayification process). After Christina mentioned to me that about 70% of the Anglican Church attenders/members are women, I suggested she change her organization’s name to Women and Their Church.

So I guess this is the part of the blog entry when I share my first impressions and my current feelings. I feel happy to be here, honored in many ways. It also feels less of a big deal than I had imagined. I mean reading the press reports for the past few months, seeing the photos and such, I came with this big notion of LAMBETH. Having arrived, now I see people. Sure some dress in exquisite tailored frocks, but under their finery, I see people. People can connect. They can listen to each other. They can affect each other emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The concept of LAMBETH intimated me. But people? I like people.

(Wed and Thur at 8:00 PM I will present here at Lambeth–The 70% Show, a talk/performance/whatever about my own spiritual journey as a Christian who happens to be gay and my nearly 20 years as an ex-gay. For more info see: LGCM site)

Creating a Trans-Friendly Gathering

Yesterday I arrived in Johnstown, PA for the yearly meeting of the Friends General Conference, a gathering of about 1500 Quakers from North America and beyond. In my welcoming packet I found a one-page info sheet entitled Creating a Trans*-Friendly Gathering written by Kody Hersh. Kody gave a plenary address last year and shared some of his transgender experiences with the Gathering.

In addition, an Interest Group entitled Trans 101 will be offered later in the week. I feel so pleased to be part of a community that seeks to welcome all. The language in Kody’s info sheet struck me as thoughtful, clear and helpful. So much so I thought I’d share it with you.

*trans: transsexual, transgender, or genderqueer; a person who experiences or expresses gender in a way that is different from social expectations of their assigned birth sex.

FGC Gathering seeks to be a welcoming space for all Friends, with a variety of life experiences and needs. It is our experience and belief that the entire community benefits from the diversity that can only be achieved by careful listening and accommodation.

A growing opportunity exists to welcome Friends into the fellowship of the Gathering who are “stretching the gender box.” These Friends may identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, or they may simply present themselves in a way that challenges traditional models of female and male behavior or appearance.

The term “trans” includes a wide range of experiences, identities, and forms of expression. We can accommodate many of the needs of these Friends by small changes in how we live together at Gathering, such as the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms and housing options. We can all help to create safe space by our willingness to think outside the box, question our society’s messages about gender and, most of all, to be respectful and loving listeners to the needs of those around us.