Juli Owens First Event 2008 Keynote: “Choices”

An update on Juli…..
Juli was one of our most dynamic and beloved keynotes.   Her messaged challenged many of us to live beyond ourselves and to accept ourselves.  Since being our FE08 Keynote, Juli and her partner Barbara, who is fully supportive of Juli, met with New York Governor David Patterson in April 2009.  Juli is now a Board member of the NY State Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBT organization that is fighting for LGBT rights, and the Board members were invited to the Executive Mansion.  Juli was the 2009 Grand Marshall of the Long Island Pride Parade in  June and Juli also received the Long Island Outlook Magazine’s 2009 Activist of the Year Award last January.  Finally, Juli and her partner Barbara will be joining us all for First Event 2010 to present a workshop on “Living a Dual Gendered Life”.

Her keynote from FE08….
Thank you for that wonderful intro…..

Ok, I’d like everyone to stand up if you can.  Hit it Mr. DJ.  Let’s get everyone moving and get the blood flowing.  Shake your booty or at least rattle your jewelry!

OK, whoever needs a drink…go now.  I’ll start slow so you can catch up!

Hi my name is Juli Owens, and I’m thrilled to give this year’s Keynote Address. I’m still amazed that they would willingly give a  NY Trans woman a microphone….

Anyway, when I asked what they wanted me to speak about they said “Juli, talk about anything you like, just don’t talk about the “3 G’s”.  “The 3 G’s?” I said.  They said “Yes: Guns, Gays and God”.  Well in the spirit of always doing what I ‘m told, I promise I won’t talk about Guns….

There are a few pieces of business  must attend to before I start:

The following views of this Keynote address are solely the responsibility of Juli Owens and are not necessarily the view point of the Tiffany Club of New England, the Peabody Marriot or the State of Massachusetts.

Additionally, the ASPCA will be monitoring this speech.  No Trans people will be harmed in the delivery of this address.

OK, so who the Hell is Juli Owens, and why should you sit and listen to me for 20 minutes?

In short, I am a Bi-Gendered Trans Woman, who has been able to successfully juggle a career in the straight world, activism in the Trans Community on Long Island and in NY State, and still be a loving father and husband at home.  I like to explain that my life is like a surfer on a surfboard.  For most people it takes their full concentration to stay on the board and continually make adjustments.  Well, for me, I have my left foot on one surfboard, and my right foot on another.  And the surfboards don’t always go in the same direction!

The lifestyle I’ve chosen is the right one for me, because I’m an experiences “Junkie”.  And I’ve been able to take my “Juli” life and make it extremely exciting, challenging, enjoyable, and most importantly, worthwhile.  In a very small way, I know that what I do makes a difference for the Transgender Community.

I plan to talk on a variety of issues, but my main topic is what I’ve entitled “Choices”.

Choice is defined as the act or opportunity of choosing.  It implies the right, the privilege, or the power of choosing freely. I believe that as Transgendered people, we do not take the opportunity and do not realize that we have the ability or the power to make choices.  Many times we avoid choices altogether or make wrong choices because of fear, lack of knowledge, and a severe lack of confidence.  As Keith Ellis, a motivational speaker says:

Like the elephant, we are unconscious of our own strength. When it comes to understanding the power we have to make a difference in our own lives, we might as well be asleep. If you want to make your dreams come true, wake up. Wake up to your own strength. Wake up to the role you play in your own destiny. Wake up to the power you have to choose what you think, do, and say.

Tonight I would like to focus on Choices that are divided into the following groups

  • our mind and our own mental health
  • Our physical bodies
  • our Family
  • our Careers
  • our Spirituality
  • our commitment to our Community
  • our search for happiness and our own personal truths

Although these are 7 distinct topics, as we proceed, you’ll begin to see how they end up relating to each other.

To begin with, I’d like to read the following quote from Buddha:

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

How many of us know Transgender friends who suffer from shame, remorse, anger or embarrassment because they are Transgendered?  In fact, how many of us in this room are holding those feelings inside themselves tonight?  It’s very normal to have these feelings because for the most part, we have no support system to tell us that we’re ok, that it is acceptable to be Trans. Think back to when you first started to “self” recognize that you were different, some of us as early as 3, 4, or 5 years old.  Think about the fact that you seemed to feel things or see things differently than those family members around you.  As children we saw separate, clear cut gender presentations like our father and our mother, our brothers and our sisters, our aunt and our uncle.  By the way, I call these people “Gender Straight”.  It has nothing to do with their sexual orientation; it has everything to do with their Gender presentation and expression.  During childhood it was rare to find a relative or family friend that exemplified that strange middle ground of gender variation.  As you grew, you probably found few, if any, role models to be like.

As adults we’re faced with the fact that our government rarely takes steps to protect us, and since the world is 97% “Gender Straight”, we’re looked at as strange, sick and in some cases “sub-human”.  Pop culture, most specifically in movies and TV shows, either show us as evil or insane.  We are treated as a throwaway people.  How could we expect to feel anything but “wrong”?

When I was a child, I was aware of the funny feelings I had inside, but I had no evidence that there were any others like me.  I felt that I was God’s mistake.  Hey, we could all cut God some slack if he made one mistake right?  I mean, after all his work of creating earth, the stars, day, night, and so on, shouldn’t we be willing to cut him a little slack and allow him one mistake…you know after all the good stuff he’d done?  So I think we’d all agree let’s give God a break and let him make one mistake…and we’ll call her Juli…

Well, as a teenager, I became aware of Christine Jorgenson and as time went on I learned about other people with what we now call gender variation.  That made me think “Hold on a second…you know one mistake is ok, but how many other mistakes are walking around out there.  It didn’t take a genius to finally realize,”Wait a minute…there is definitely a quality control problem going on up in Heaven if that many people are mistakes…”

So I began to wonder, could it be that we are not mistakes at all?  Could it be that the man-made society created rules, traditions and mores that are actually the mistakes?  Which by the way finally takes God off the hook!

Could it be that we are just as much God’s miracle as any other person who has walked this earth?  And if that’s true, then we belong here just as much as anyone else.  We have the right to the pursuit of happiness, and as Americans we should have the freedom to live the life we want to live.

I’ve been extremely lucky in my life.  I’ve had success in my childhood, success in my adolescence, and success in the adult “Gender Straight” world.  This has allowed me to take those positive expectations and carry them with me into the Transgender Life that I live.  If treating me like crap is not acceptable in the straight world, why is it ok to do it to me when I am living as openly Trans?  And more importantly, if I stand up to bullies in my “straight life, why shouldn’t I stand up to bullies as a Trans person?

So what I’m getting at is this:  If you are carrying guilt, remorse, shame or embarrassment – get rid of it.  You don’t deserve it, don’t own it, let it be somebody else’s problem!

Statistically speaking transgender people represent maybe 2-3% of the world’s population.  Be proud of the fact that you are special.  In other cultures and in other times of human existence, we were the Shaman of the tribes…those two spirit people who were healers, gurus and magicians.  Shamanistic traditions have existed throughout the world since prehistoric times. Those tribal people believed that Shamans had the ability to diagnose and cure human suffering, control the weather, and interpret dreams and omens.  The Shaman were an honored people, due to the fact that they had something different than the rest of the members of the tribe.

But our Modern world cannot fathom what it means to be Transgendered.  Think about this, the most masculine woman and the most feminine man will never understand our view of the world.  We are a distinct variation in God’s plan for this world, and our diversity is as natural as anything found in nature.

So when we talk about our minds and our mental health, I’m talking about choosing to be special, choosing to be happy, choosing to create a life filled with mystery, excitement, and challenge.  Our life should be everything that a “Gender Straight” person has to look forward to and more.

I choose to live my life this way.  With as few regrets as possible, and as much control over my life as a human being can have.  I don’t take myself too seriously, and I am constantly laughing at the stupid things I do or the crazy situations I get myself into.

Let me give you an example:

I wasn’t always this open, this confident of who I am.  In fact, First Event will always have a special place in my heart because over the past 5 years I have grown directly because of this conference.  Let me take you back to 2003, when I attended my first, First Event.  I had been out dressing as Juli since the middle Seventies, but for the most part it was always at night or usually to visit a gay club.  Now that I had arrived, by attending my first conference, I decided I should go window shopping.  Not purchase anything, just look around, breathe fresh air and bask in the daylight hours.  And since my favorite store is Kohl’s, it was great that a Kohl’s store just happened to be literally a mile or 2 away from the hotel.  I did not plan on purchasing anything, I was just going there to walk around and look.

Now, at the time there were 5 Kohl’s stores on Long Island and I had had been to each and every one.  This was specifically true at that immediate time because I had just bought a woman’s Denim suit for my wife.  It turned out the jacket fit fine, but the pants were the wrong size.  I visited every Kohl’s on Long Island with no luck.  Since I had bought the suit as a gift, I really wanted to find the pants in the correct size, but it looked impossible.

So off I went to the local Woburn Kohl’s where I was just going to window shop.  And guess what I find while shopping, that’s right, the exact size and color of the pants my wife needed to complete the set.  In fact, there were 5 pairs of the right size and color!!!!  I knew I couldn’t leave without getting those pants, so I decided that I would go up to the register, act extremely distant and hand the cashier my credit card without saying anything which might give me away.  So there I was in line pants in one hand, credit card in the other.  4 shoppers in front of me, now 3, then 2, finally 1.  I know I can do this..just stay cool, hand her the pants, hand her the credit card, and don’t say anything!

It’s time, I’m up, as the nervousness begins to spill all over my insides.  I hand her the pants, my credit card, and then she turns to me and says “What’s your Zip Code?”  I panic and the voice that comes out says “11725”, in the deepest voice I have ever had.  The eight women behind me in line practically break their necks in unison to see the woman with the Darth Vader voice.  I get my bag and sulk out of the store, certain that I will be a major topic at least 9 dinner tables that night.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Realizing that I have some deficiencies in my presentation, I decide to start voice lessons.  And for the next year I work on getting my voice to sound at least a little more feminine.  I was going to be prepared the next time I shop at that Kohl’s!  About a week before the 2004 First Event I decide to apply for a Kohl’s credit card.  When they sign you up, they give you a register receipt with a bar code on it so that you can charge your purchases even though you don’t actually have the real credit card.  So now I’m really ready.  I have the voice, and now I’ve even got access to my own Kohl’s account.  I am ready!

You know, it’s amazing how much difference a year makes.  I shop for about an hour confidently striding throughout the store, grabbing this and that.  I am now a woman of the world, I’ve got a fem voice and a Kohl’s account!

I go right up to the first open register confident that this transaction will go as smooth as silk.  With my new presentation and feminine voice, she’ll think I’m a real woman.  Boy, how great do I feel today!  I lay my purchases on the counter, smile and hand her my paper receipt credit card.  She smiles back and says “May I see your drivers license?”

As all the bravado and confidence pour out of me, I reach into my pocketbook and hand her my drivers’ license…with my male picture!  Her facial expression changes as she realizes I’m not what she thought I was.  I sulk out again, 2 shades of red.

The good news is, I now have a real Kohl’s credit card and my license now has a picture of Juli on it.  I regularly shop at Kohl’s , but I’ll never forget the infamous Woburn Kohl’s!

You need to choose to live your life without regret or shame, but rather with pride and joy.  And don’t take everything so seriously…

I have learned that being transgendered is a lot like riding a train that runs from point A to point B.  For some of us, we will get off at the first stop, find happiness and stay at that first stop.  However, some people may decide to get back on and take the train to the 2nd stop.  Or they may decide to skip the 2nd stop and go directly to the 3rd stop or even ride the train all the way to the end of the line.  The important point that I want to make is that everyone who is a rider on the “Trans Train” has the right to decide their own destination.  And no destination or stop along the line is better or more important over another.  Additionally, no destination is final until we die.  Everyone’s journey takes a route that is right for that person, and that person alone.

It has been my experience to see friends change over time.  This is especially true with my Transgender friends.  I have seen some, but not all, Transvestites become cross dressers.   I have seen some cross dressers, not all, become bi-gendered.  And I have seen some, not all, bi-gendered people become Transsexuals. Or not.

I guess there are several points I’m making:

  1. To all Trans people in the audience: There is no right way to be Trans.  And don’t let anyone tell you there is.  Do your own thing.  Do not get locked into some competitive thing where you feel you most go directly to surgery.  Make the most important choice of all.  Establish who you are, before you decide what you need.
  2. To any friends and family who are in tonight’s audience:  Please do not assume just because your loved one is transgendered, that it automatically means surgery and a complete life change.  Many of us do not need surgery, do not want surgery and will never have surgery.  We will however always live an exciting life….
  3. To everyone in the audience: All members of the Transgender Community are equal.  For example, Transsexuals are not superior to Cross dressers, Trans woman are not more special than Trans men.  Just because you have breasts or because you don’t have breasts, doesn’t give you a special badge of importance.  What does give you a special badge is how you treat the members of our community, and that is with respect and love.  And the sooner we all learn this lesson, the better everyone’s life will be.

If developing a positive and healthy mindset is first in importance, then for Transgender people, having their body match their mind is the next hurdle.  And again there are choices to be made.  I want to strongly point out that this is a very personal and individual decision.  There is no universal correct answer.  Please spend long nights fully contemplating what you need in order to live a happy and productive life.  You will need to perform a self diagnostic test on a somewhat regular basis to discover changes you may be going through as you age.

It is probably easiest if I describe to you the choices I have made for myself, but please understand these are my thoughts, my reasons, and my body.  Your mileage may vary….

At this point in my life, the only changes I have made to my body is that I have had electrolysis on my face.  I have thought long and hard about hormones, facial feminization, and reassignment surgery.  I have tried to come face to face and determine to what degree of gender dysphoria I have within me.  I do a regularly scheduled mental self check ups to determine if my ideas and needs have changed in any way.   I have aggressively tried to determine what I need to remain happy and fulfilled in my life.

I have not taken hormones, because I am concerned with their long term effect on my health as well as other issues I might encounter.  Along with the wonderful effects on your body that hormones will provide, there are physical, mental and social issues that you must be mindful of.

Hormones are not something you should experiment with.  The internet, black market, and even over the counter plant estrogen drugs make it easy to begin a do-it-yourself project.  However, if you determine that you need the effects of hormones, you should be under a physician’s care to make sure your health is not seriously affected.  I am not a doctor, but when I did some research on the topic I came up with the following potential for side effects of Estrogen therapy:

  • The potential for Blood clots to form.
  • The potential for Tumors to form on your pituitary gland
  • The potential for liver functions to be affected
  • The potential for osteoporosis
  • The potential for Depressive Mood Changes
  • The potential for Higher levels of Cholesterol and Triglycerides
  • The potential for Higher levels of potassium in the blood
  • Additionally it’s been found that men who receive large estrogen doses as part of the treatment for prostate cancer are at a greater risk for heart attack and phlebitis.
  • And then there is always the possibility of Chemical Castration…the loss of your secret powers.

I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that hormones should not be taken.  I am suggesting that if you determine that you need to have hormone therapy, that you do it the proper way under the guidance of a knowledgeable physician.  I am suggesting that you make an intelligent choice.

From a social issue stand point, since I still lead a male’s life at work, the development of breasts could get embarrassing for work physicals and especially during the summer wearing cotton golf shirts….

And probably the most important issue for me, is that I have a very heterosexual and gender straight wife who would be severely taxed if I began to grow breasts.  It would absolutely affect our relationship.

Although I’ve toyed with the idea of feminizing my nose, I’m still too concerned about the fallout effect that change could have at work as well as at home.

And finally, in regard to reassignment surgery, I have been blessed in that when I am standing naked in front of a mirror, instead of feeling hatred for my body, I only feel love.  I am comfortable in the plumbing I received at birth.  I know there are many Trans people who hate the sight of their own body and I ache for their pain and suffering.  I pray that all Trans people will someday be able to have the surgery they need as long… as they truly need it.

These are choices that I make freely and without hesitation.  You need to decide for yourself what it is that you need.  And then you need the strength and resolution to stick with it, no matter what others say you should or shouldn’t do.

If we consider the need to be who we are both in body and spirit, then the next issue of importance would be the need for the support of your family.  That is to keep the relationship you have while developing an open honesty of who you are.

If you are married, you are probably dealing with some issues related to being Trans.  It could be something as simple as arguing over who gets to wear the red blouse tonight, or something as serious as deciding whether to tell your wife, husband, or child about who you are.  Again, you need to make the right decisions for you.  I will however tell you of my experiences.

My wife and I were childhood sweethearts.  We met at 14 years of age, started going out at 16, and I told her my secret truth when we were 20.  I have never regretted telling her. We continue to struggle with my Trans-ness, but she has always been supportive of my life.  She has always been my best friend, and she has always been there for me.

I have a 19 year old daughter who we told when she was 13.  Because my wife and I handled it in a truthful open way, she is extremely supportive.  Last summer, on Pride Sunday, at the Pride Service of the local Unitarian church, she spoke to the congregation of what it was like having a Transgender Dad, while I spoke about what its like to be a Trans Dad.  She then marched in the parade with me.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of her.

I think is the most important message I can tell you is that truth has power.  When you finally accept who you are, you probably need to be as truthful as you can with those you love.  But again you need to make the call.  You understand your situation best, so you can best determine what will work.  Just realize that openness comes with dangers but also with wonderful benefits.

It might surprise you that I am probably less enthusiastic about coming out in your workplace.  This unfortunately is where we have to face the hard cold facts.  We all know about the current status of the ENDA bill.  The Employment Nondiscrimination Act would have certainly  had a significant impact on our futures if it retained the Gender Identity and Expression portion of the bill and was passed.  But unfortunately the bill in its current form doesn’t contain the Gender language, and the bill won’t be signed into law anytime soon anyway.

So where does that leave us?  Although the number of companies that include gender expression in the Human Resources policies is growing, it is still a very small number when compared to the total number of businesses that don’t have the proper protections in their policies.

I believe that money is power.  I believe that Trans people need to keep their jobs.  I believe that the world doesn’t need one more unemployed Trans person.  I believe that even if we are fortunate enough to have State level protection (and by the way, we don’t have it in NY), uninformed companies will still act in a threatening and menacing way.  Although more and more unions are awakening to the need for Gender protection, the bulk of the unions are still oblivious to that need. As a result, I believe that it is imperative to keep your job and hide your trans-ness as much as possible.

In my situation, I work in my career as a man.  Every time I do Transgender advocacy work, I take a chance to be discovered.  But I also have made myself as indispensable as possible, so that even if I was outed, it would probably be a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” relationship. And I have made up my mind, that if I were to be outed, I would handle it with strength and grace.  The last thing that I would do would be to show embarrassment or remorse.  I will walk into the meeting with pride and my head held high.

I find the following quote by Immanuel Kant, an 18th century German philosopher to be quite meaningful:

“The human heart refuses to believe in a universe without purpose.”

I’m sure that many of you may be like me.  As a child, you were forced into a religious background that was without deep meaning, and ultimately left that religion feeling uninspired.  Later as an adult, if you had a family, you might have even joined another church so that your children would have some religious training.  But the commitment, the actual belief was probably somewhat superficial.

I’m going to again reminisce about my first, First Event.  Feeling a little lost spiritually, I attended the Sunday morning service with Reverend Sarah Carpenter Vascik.  That simple service had a major impact on me.  It was the first time I had celebrated a religious service as Juli, and I probably felt the most inspired than I had up to that point in my life.  It made me aware that I needed to find a religion that would accept me as Juli, support  me, and allow me to grow spiritually.

In 2005, we restarted up the Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial service, and we decided to hold it at a Unitarian church in Huntington New York.  I was asked to speak at a Sunday Service in order to help explain to the church’s congregation what it means to be Transgendered.  The experience turned out to be extremely positive for both the congregation and for me personally.  I was impressed with their enthusiasm to learn about Trans life, and I was touched by their warm welcome.  I began to attend service regularly, and I am proud to tell you that I am a full blown, card carrying Unitarian Universalist today.

I have friends who have also become Unitarian Universalists in other cities in the U.S., and their experiences are similar to mine.  I also have two friends who are Transsexual women who went to Canada and got married.  They are Catholics, and they are also very supported at their church.  The key is to find an Open and Accepting Church or congregation.

My point here is very simple.  You need to experience religion as an open trans person.  It will be a different and stronger experience than you have ever had.  Going to church on a regular basis accomplishes many things:

  1. On a personal level, you get the benefits of a spiritual life.  I know that after one of my crazy weeks, it’s wonderful to have an hour to spend doing a little soul reorganizing, you know cleaning up my personal hard drive….
  2. The congregation of the church you attend is now forced to deal with a Trans person, face to face.  Ultimately they are forced to realize that we are people just like them.
  3. The congregation is forced to “walk the walk”.  And they have to do it in an environment which says “Love thy brother and sister” .  This is exactly what the Transgender Community needs to accomplish in order for us to gain the acceptance we so badly need.  I can tell you from personal experience that when I spoke in front of the Suffolk County Legislature, it wasn’t my impressive speech  which made an impact, it was my choice of bringing along my pastor to also speak to them.  Whereas, I was just this strange man in a woman’s business suit, my Pastor was an upstanding citizen protecting one of his own.  And that made a monumental difference in how the Legislature perceived our issues.

Please try to get to a church, whatever religion you choose.  I hope that you will find the peace and contentment I have found in my path to spirituality.

A quote by Gandhi:

“To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse then starving the body; it is starvation of the soul, the dweller in the body.”

Commitment to our Community is my favorite topic, but one that is usually tuned out by most of the Trans people I know.  Usually they are too busy trying to figure out who they are on a personal level to give much thought to where the Transgender Community is at this point.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the truth isn’t pretty:

  • Only thirteen states, the District of Columbia and 80+ cities and counties across the country have passed explicitly transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. These laws currently cover only one-third of the US population.
  • National statistics are just as sobering. It’s estimated that transgender men and women are 16 times more likely to be murdered than the average person in the United States.
  • The Transgender Community face a 70 percent unemployment rate, compared with 4 percent in the general population, according to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

Studies show the following factors as contributing to the heightened risk of poverty and homelessness in the transgender community:

  • Employment discrimination.
  • Lack of economic/housing support from family.
  • Lack of education and training because of harassment or discrimination, which results in an inability to acquire jobs.
  • Inability to access standard healthcare due to discrimination by providers and other barriers.
  • Unwillingness of insurance companies to cover almost all transgender related health care.
  • Inability to pay for transgender-related healthcare such as hormones, counseling, and gender reassignment procedures.
  • Discrimination by housing providers, landlords, etc.
  • Discrimination by social service agencies.

The startling thing about this is that these aren’t statistics from some undeveloped country in Africa or Central America,  we’re talking about our country, the United States of America.  How can any of us sit back and allow our community, our brothers and sisters to suffer like this?  Better yet, how can we allow them to treat you and me with such disrespect and disdain?

So where do we begin?  How do we change the situation we’re in?

In my opinion, we are in for some trench warfare, some hand to hand combat in order to change the world we live in.  This is not something which magically will change over night.

In order to create the change that’s needed, each of us has to do more to help the cause than we did last year.  If you are an activist like me, you have to become more organized, gain more members to help with the fight, and continue to gain acceptance in the Gender Straight world.  But I realize that not everyone has the ability or the personal situation to allow them to actively and openly advocate for our community.  That however doesn’t get you off the hook.  We need you to:

  1. Get out more often in your chosen gender.  Don’t stay closeted.  If you feel you can’t be out in your home town, travel to a local city, get out and be seen.  Vacation in other regions of the country.  Get out and shop!  Go to the bank, go to the cleaners…Just get out and be the person you were meant to be.  As Lacey Leigh suggests in her books, if you want to be sure of whether the business is Trans-friendly, simply look for the special symbol on their door…”Master Card and Visa”.  And please remember that when you are out, you are representing a community of people that need significant and serious representation.  Do not bring out your best “Brittney Spears” outfit.  Dress respectfully and appropriately.  But by getting out you take us out in the open air where we can be seen.
  2. Send a check to a Transgender Rights group.  They can be the national groups like NCTE, or NTAC, or a statewide group.  We need money to keep up the fight.  If you don’t have money, donate postage stamps, business envelopes, or copy paper so that we can do mailings.
  3. Write your state or Congressional Representatives, regularly.  They usually do not receive a lot of mail from constituents, so your letters will stand out.
  4. Vote!
  5. Attend gay social functions.  Gay groups require money and most social functions are fundraisers.  When they see trans people openly supporting their causes, they are more likely to support our causes.    I need to take a moment and speak about something which we probably don’t want to talk about.  That is homophobia in the Transgender Community.  Since our issue is one of gender, not of who you love, we may be frightened or unwilling to work with the gay community.  You need to get rid of those feelings in a hurry.  It is my belief that the Transgender Community needs the support of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.  We cannot isolate ourselves from the LGB communities and expect to see progress in attaining our rights. They have the numbers, the money, and the contacts to help us get what we want.  So be prepared to work with and around gays if we are going to have any hope for our rights.
  6. Finally, if you see of or experience anything which affects the rights of Trans people, speak out, act up!

I’d like to do a little training session with your help now.  I’m going to give you 3 tools to help you make sure your rights are not diminished.  Let’s say that you are out with some friends and you are dressed in your chosen gender.  You decide to go to a restaurant.  The Maitre’D smirks a little when he sees you and puts you at a table far in the back, right by the kitchen door.  There are obviously open tables elsewhere, but its apparent that he’s decided to hide you.

What do you do?  One thought is to be thankful that he allowed you in the restaurant and besides, you heard that they had really good food here.  The other is to say,

“I’m sorry, this is not acceptable.”

Notice the polite refrain, the gentle persuasion that he needs to re-think what he’s doing.

Now I’d like you to try it.  Ok, everybody together:

“I’m sorry, this is not acceptable”

Now let’s say that instead of the table next to the kitchen door, he tells you he has a table in the kitchen.  Your refrain will change slightly:

“No, this is not acceptable”

Notice the firm, yet still polite response.  Ok, everybody together:

“No, this is not acceptable”

Now let’s say that instead of the table in the kitchen, he simply refuses to serve you.  Your response should be:

“No, this is wrong”

Notice the clipped, direct, point that you are making.  Ok, everybody together:

“No, this is wrong”

Unfortunately, if you do not protect yourself, most likely no  one else will.  So please consider using these tools when necessary. Choose to make a difference in the future of our community.  Be a part of the change that must be accomplished.  As Gandhi said:

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

This brings me to my final topic, our search for happiness and our own personal truths.  For me, being challenged, laughing at the crazy predicaments that I sometimes find myself in, and truly loving what I do in my career, in my marriage, and in my activist life are the keys to my happiness.  Being bi-gendered, l live 2 lives that would, by themselves, keep most people busy.  But I feel I’m up to the challenge.

I hope you will take the time to determine what will make you happy in this life.  But don’t expect someone else to do it for you.  It’s your choices that will make all the difference in the world.

My last quote is from an unknown author:

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.

Good night and thank you!

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