Gay Men Trying To Guess Trans Terms

Jake Edward, a trans YouTuber gathered together 3 gay YouTubers for a fun and lighthearted game of guessing trans terms. A nice respite from heavy news and politics. Jake has cautioned this was for fun and shouldn’t be treated as an official trans glossary.

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Coming Out To All My Facebook Friends 

A week ago I decided to come out to all my friends on Facebook even prodding to see if I got a reply from people I wasn’t sure of. This is the letter followed by observations about the response:

Dear Friends,

As most of you know in late Summer of 2014 I began a gender journey. All my life I had felt insecure about my gender. There were a number of opportunities earlier in my life to look at my own gender identity. In the second half of my Junior year in high school at Pine Tree Academy I boarded with a local dentist and his wife. They had a daughter a few years older than me in college where she stayed in a dorm. As the dentist and his wife worked I often had a couple hours every now and then when I was alone. I discovered the daughters wardrobe or at least the part she left at home. I tried the clothes on and remember feeling that this was more than simple curiosity. Meanwhile at school there were a couple bullies who had made comments and shoved me when they knew no one could see them. At the end of the year I passed around my yearbook for signatures. Two of the entries were quite hateful. One used “gay” as an insult and the other called me a “faggot.” So come Senior year I made it a point to butch it up a bit, (appear more masculine), to avoid the bullying.

After graduation I left for college at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. In my first year there I met up with 3 or 4 gay guys. One of them was gender non-conforming, I became friends with him and had chats with him in the dorm stairwells where we found a measure of privacy. One memorable night he even took me and a couple others to a gay club. This was the fall of 1975 and my young mind was just overwhelmed by the experience. We continued to share secrets and concerns with each other. I came out as being attracted to guys and he shared both some of his exciting weekend encounters and his sadness at not being able to reconcile his sexual orientation with the church’s beliefs. Soon Winter break came and we went in different directions. As the break ended I was informed of something pretty horrific. My flamboyant gay friend had committed suicide. I was scared, sad, confused and determined to keep my secrets hidden which I did until 1987.

I came out as gay in February of 1987, thirty years ago. I quickly got involved with the community. I began working with people with HIV/AIDS (PWA), devising outreach programs and assisting PWAs secure services and support. During that time I heard a sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church by a guest preacher who ran the denomination’s LGBT Program. He quoted Harry Hay, an early gay rights pioneer and founder of The Radical Faerie movement. What he said really struck a cord because his belief was that gay and lesbian people were different then straight people not just in the choice of sexual partners but also in our gender expression. The belief was that people like me were shamans, magicians and priests who stood between men and women and helped heal stresses and misunderstandings between men and women. I thought that I had found the answer.

During this time I got to know several transgender individuals beginning in the late ’80s. They were for the most part trans women and while I didn’t feel completely like a man, I didn’t feel completely like a woman either. So, while I felt an affinity with my trans friends back then, their gender identity didn’t match up with how I was feeling. By this time I had entered a relationship which became quite well known given our willingness to open up to the press. In an effort to be attractive to my partner who like hairy guys known as “bears” in gay subculture, I grew a beard stopped trimming hair off my body and became a bear, at least on the outside. I really grew to hate how I was frequently read – many presumed I was hyper masculine and probably into leather and S&M. I was really repulsed by that idea. I kept this a secret and our relationship weathered lots of challenges that came our way unitil August of 1996. On that date, for several different reasons, my partner and I changed our relationship from partner to close friend.

In 1996 I came to New Mexico and continued to work in HIV/AIDS work, focusing on prevention. As a way of deflecting presumptions about my masculinity I grew my
hair out and declared myself a fairy bear which sometimes morphed into a “care bear.” I got to know some wonderful Trans people here and learned a lot from them, particularly a couple Dine’/Navajo trans women who shared the ancient wisdom passed down by their elders about genders beyond male and female.

By 2009 my disabilities, symptoms and medication side effects made it difficult to work. Eventually I was declared disabled and left work. I began searching the internet for information that would answer the lifelong confusion I had about my gender. I began to see talk of genderqueer individuals. At first it didn’t click with me because all I observed were individuals who were assigned female at birth. Finally a news story changed everything. I happened on a news story about a hate crime that occurred in California. I’ve shared the story many times so I will just lay out the facts. A high school student who identified as agender, (who had been assigned male at birth), was riding home on a bus and had nodded off to sleep. A boy sitting nearby who thought it would be a practical joke to set the person’s skirt on fire. The agender student sustained serious burns on his legs and their story, (many agender individuals prefer people use a singular version of they as their pronoun), made local and national news. In response the community rallied round them. The high school the agender individual attended had an event where most students and teachers in the school wore skirts for a day to show their support. Other schools and groups honored diversity and showed their support in other ways. This story, particularly the explication of what an agender and genderqueer person was, really meant something special to me.

I continued to explore, I came out as trans/agender on my blog. I will not rewrite what I already have in my blog. If you haven’t read it leave a comment and I’ll give you a link. After this gender journey I’d been taking on my own I felt the need to connect with others. I discovered a trans support group here in Santa Fe and went to my first meeting. I wasn’t sure I’d be accepted but that fear soon left as I was warmly welcomed. Soon I became involved in the group and helped out with a website and a Twiiter account. I also help facilitate meetings now and then. I have met so many wonderful trans men, trans women and nonbinary/genderqueer individuals. I have learned from their stories and continued to engage in self reflection.

I am very grateful to all the people I have met on my journey. Everyone of you has played a part in my life and your kindness and knowledge have been very important. I now identify as a trans femme, agender, nonbinary/genderqueer person, but if it’s easier for you to remember you can call me transgender.

I am part of the trans community, a community that is now under siege. I consider the trans community as a very large extended family. When a black trans woman is murdered it breaks my heart, when someone is bullied and tormented so often they consider suicide I am deeply saddened. I also am dismayed that some on the right have reduced our community to mythological bathroom predators. I want my trans men and trans women friends to be free to use the facility that aligns with their gender identity and I, along with other nonbinary trans people want to have a gender neutral restroom available. Just like you all we want to do is take care of business, wash our hands and leave. We’ve been doing this for years without a problem. It’s simply a fact that after losing the marriage equality battle the religious right aimed their sights on trans folk. A mythology was created and occasional incidents involving cis men were woven into the tale. I promise you we aren’t putting ourselves in further danger by lingering in the bathroom one second longer than necessary. It’s trans people that are the victims in some bathrooms. Bullies in schools are on the lookout for anyone who isn’t their idea of normal. So it’s trans students, gay and lesbian students and gender non-conforming cis students who get verbally and physically attacked. This needs to end now! I am proud to be a member of the trans community. This community has changed my life and made it meaningful again. If you don’t understand, that’s okay. Ask questions, read up on who we are and remain our friend. On the other hand, if you don’t understand and refuse to learn and open your heart then, regrettably, I can no longer remain friends. I am too old to deal with negativity! I faced enough of it earlier in my life. As for my wonderful friends, family of choice, biological family and fellow activists who accept me and my community I thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤️!

Hugs,
Jerry/Jeri

After this post began to receive likes and kind comments I was moved to respond. Here is that response with the names removed

I am feeling so blessed and overwhelmed with gratitude at the response to this post. Three of my friends, from way back, during my years in Norridgewock, Maine from 13 – 16 years old. Your simple “likes” were so moving for me. It shows you may not understand all I’ve shared but your willing to try. You’ll never know how much that means to me and the literal tears of gratitude I’ve shared. Thank you so much! I was also moved by the “like” from my high school classmate at Pine Tree Academy. A time filled with both wonder and joy as well as internal turmoil I didn’t show anyone.

And… my friends from my college era who left comments or “liked” this post. I’m so overwhelmed by their memories, their acceptance and/or their willingness to understand, even if it’s with some trepidation. This means so much.

Then there are all friends who knew me during my gay/AIDS activist 🏳️‍🌈 era your acceptance means the world to me. Finally my new trans family 🦄 who’ve welcomed me with open arms, gave me encouragement and advice and support and love ❤️ your literal and virtual embrace have sustained me during the last two and a half years. Thanks so much. Finally my two unwitting fairy godmothers, your inspiration means more to me than either of you will ever know. I owe you so much and I will try and pass it on by being an inspiration and activist in our community. Before I end I should acknowledge my friend and dare I say apprentice, we embarked on our new journey together and I wish you all the best life has to offer. I may have missed someone, if I have I’m sorry but know your friendship is gratefully accepted. To all thanks🙏🏼, hugs🤗, love❤️and unicorns🦄!!

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Is Gender Fluid? | Imogen Walsh | TEDxYouth@Manchester

A TED Talk about gender fluidity and non-binary gender identities…

Imogen challenges us to think beyond the gender binary and instead choose new expressions from our evolving language to reflect and embrace gender fluidity.

Fallibroome Academy student Imogen Walsh talks at TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016.

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Trans youth are real

A timely article in light of a recent controversial BBC special on trans youth that included “specialists” that are critical of the trans youth affirmation approach of health care professionals

Gendered Intelligence Blog

by Dr Jay Stewart, CEO Gendered Intelligence

Following the broadcast of  Who knows best? documentary by John Conroy on BBC 2 last week, there has been a lot of rich discussion, debate and thoughtful insight online by members of our trans, queer and LGB communities and beyond.

Part of me feels there isn’t anything constructive that I can add, so much has been said. I’ve been reflecting and some time has passed. However, I’ve been thinking about the impact of this programme on our young members and their families, and wanted to address it.

The young people at Gendered Intelligence often tell me of their general sense of not being listened to and also of not being taken seriously. Sadly, that’s their norm. Sometimes what young people want isn’t deemed important, or they are told that it’s not ‘doable’ or even ‘sensible’.

Well intentioned teachers, parents, carers, nurses, GPs…

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On the Nonbinary Community

A look at a community I’m proud to be a part of.

color it queer

Happy New Year! Let’s go back to talking about specific identities, yeah?

I think I’ll start the year off talking about a community that sometimes gets put under the transgender umbrella, but not really talked about specifically: the nonbinary community.

The term basically just means existing or identifying outside the sex/gender binary. The gender identity can be described as being a man nor woman, partially or a combination of these.

Similar to my format of the Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Community, this post will follow the format of: History, Myths, and Facts.

History

Contrary to popular belief, the gender identity of nonbinary is nothing new; it’s just a fairly new term used to describe one’s gender. Examples in history would be those who identify as hijras that dates back to the 15th Century and the two-spirit community, which dates back to the 18th Century…

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Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It) — Everyday Feminism

A useful reminder!

Fairy JerBear's Queer/Trans Musings From The City Different - Santa Fe, NM

I have written here before about why I, as a disabled, Trans/ Agender person designated male at birth, am a Feminist and what I perceive it to be. It can be an eye opener to discover that their are disputes, disagreements and outright hostility between different groups and individuals who use the word Feminists to describe them. Their are various “waves” of Feminism that emerged at a specific time and are aligned with viewpoints of particular spokespersons/writers/activists. The most problematic to Trans people and in particular, Trans women are the “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists,” as they’re labeled by some, (the people that adhere to this belief system just call themselves Radical Feminists).

I have grown to prefer what is called Intersectional Feminism (also called Fourth Wave Feminism). Intersectionality is a term that was introduced by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. The concept already existed but she gave…

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Virginia House Bill 1612 Would Negatively Impact Transgender Adults and Trans Youth

Speaking out against transphobic law proposed in Virginia.

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da

HB 1612 Would Also Create Costs for State Businesses, Budget and Economy 

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-10-52-28-amOn January 11, a Virginia lawmaker offered House Bill 1612 (HB 1612), which would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings, and public universities based on “sex,” as determined by one’s “original birth certificate.”  Additionally, the bill would require schools to inform parents or guardians within 24 hours if their child seeks “to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronouns inconsistent with the child’s sex, or to use a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex.”

HB 1612 would negatively impact over 34,000 transgender adults in Virginia.  Virginia ranks 24th in the United States in terms of adults who identify as transgender (0.55 percent) and over 40 percent of transgender adults in Virginia are People of Color, including 25 percent who identify as non-Hispanic Black or…

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How K-Pop and J-Pop Construct Masculinities

Another look at how KPop and JPop are redefining masculinity.

Digital Asia

Masculinity as it is constructed in Australia is seen as typically “hard”. An idealized Australian male is white, rugged, practical, heroic, and dependable, but also laid back (Morris; Murrie, cited in Tunstall 2014). Let me be perfectly clear about this right now, I am not even close to meeting the criteria of Australian masculinity. During my autoethnographic studies exploring YouTube, SBS PopAsia, and the internet at large I have come across videos of both Korean and Japanese male performers (singers/dancers/rappers) that not only construct masculinity in a very different way, but are also labelled as “attractive” and “sexy” by fandoms coming from a range of cultural backgrounds (see screen grabs of YouTube comments found below).

My Thoughts and Experiences on the Masculinity constructed by EXO-K (Sheridan n.d.)

EXO-K are a Korean “boy group” who serve as good examples of the complex mix of masculinities that seem to…

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K-Pop and an Alternate Masculinity

A fascinating look at the alternative version of masculinity in KPop…

上り口説 Nubui Kuduchi

Show the stereotypical/average American these pictures and videos, and they’ll likely make fun of how girly these young men look. Even while the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction enjoy incredible popularity, there is also (among their non-fans) a very prominent and prevalent discourse about how girly they are. Soft, weak, effeminate, whatever words might be used. For all of our claims of openness, of diversity, and freedom, there are a myriad things a young man in the US (and, likely, in many other parts of the Western world) cannot do, cannot be, cannot wear, cannot look like or act like if he wants to be accepted as “masculine,” and if he wants to avoid being called sissy, pussy, wuss, or faggot.

And yet, in K-pop (and in S. Korean and Japanese popular culture & youth fashion more broadly), we see young men dressing, looking, moving, being, the kind…

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Regarding My Gender Identity: Let’s Be Clear!

I love Justin Hubbell’s Comic art! This strip breaks down “concerns” people have about our gender identity/expression, to what is really important.

Fairy JerBear's Queer/Trans Musings From The City Different - Santa Fe, NM

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Wishing All My Followers & Readers A Happy New Year. I Hope 2017 Will Be Fabulous!

 

 

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New Year’s Day – U2

Another song to welcome in the new year.

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What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? // Auld Lang Syne | Anthem Lights

A gorgeous way to celebrate New Year’s Eve from some pretty gorgeous looking guys.

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Happy New Year 2017!

This is an HD version of this ABBA classic. First some fireworks and then the music video which starts about 50 seconds in, (if you want to fast forward). Those of you who know me won’t be surprised at this selection; I’ve been an ABBA fan since I first heard Waterloo In my teens. In 1978 I was in Singapore for a few days stopover enroute home from Indonesian Borneo, when I first saw two movies, Star Wars and ABBA The Movie. I was one happy young person! Ever since I sort of connect those two films which, I have to admit, are a very unlikely pairing. So as I welcome in 2017 I am thankful for the music in my life and the film that helped me dream of a place long ago and far, far away where an amazingly strong woman was played by an equally strong woman we will miss terribly. So, goodbye to Carrie Fisher and all of the wonderful people we lost in 2016 and hello to 2017 where we will band together to fight oppression whether it emits from the new occupant of the White House later in January, or from the alt-right or religious extremists. Here’s to a new year where love trumps hate!

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Ugla Stefanía | Moving Beyond the Binary of Sex and Gender | TEDxReykjavik

This video is an honest, heartfelt presentation where Ugla talks about their gender journey. Here’s the information shared along with this video:

In their talk, Ugla puts the focus on the binary categories of gender and sex and their personal experience as a trans person in a binary, two dimensional society. They will share personal stories, along with informative and radical ideas about gender, sex and sexuality. This talk aims to challenge your ideas the topic as well as give you ideas on how to improve, be more critical and contribute and learn how to be a better ally to trans and queer people.

Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir is a trans and queer activist from Iceland. They have been involved in activism for the past 8 years and have been a part of many NGO‘s, including Samtökin 78 – National Queer Organization, Trans Iceland and IGLYO – International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth and Student Organization. They are currently doing their masters in gender studies at the University of Iceland.

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The Losses of 2016: The Passing of My Youth and Earlier Adult Years

Carrie Fisher, George Michael, David Bowie, Prince, Pete Burns, Alexis Arquette, all, each in their own way, significant in the lived of many LGBTQ people. Alexis showed us how to be brave in confronting your gender identity. Bowie, Prince and Pete Burns from Dead or Alive all challenged gender norms and used gender as another color in their palette in creating iconic onstage personalities. George Michael was pin up boy that became a gay hunk and superstar. These four singers and musicians, David, Prince, Pete and Michael produced music we sang along with, danced to and inspired us to take chances with our wardrobes. Carrie Fisher inspired mind gender creative gay boys, trans femme, non-binary youth and trans girls and women. She was tough and glamorous an irresistible combination.

The there were those who were part of my life and the lives of many others. We saw Muhammad Ali stand up against the draft and an immoral war and went from showing bravery in the boxing ring to bravely battle a debilitating disease. Gene Wilder was the one that made us smile and feel good in so many amazing films. Debbie Reynolds was the woman who lit up movie screens and showed how to deal with personal trauma with grace and style. Florence Henderson was the mom we seventies kids all loved as she and her husband dealt out corny but heartfelt advice to their Brady Bunch. Alan Thicke was the tv dad we all wished we had. Alan Rickman became a hero to nerds everywhere in Galaxy Quest and thrilled us in the Harry Potter films. Glen Fry, along with his band mates in The Eagles brought me and others such joy with their lush harmonies and wonderful instrumentation.

I was coping okay up until the shocking deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher. Carrie and I were the same age so we lived through the same eras. This year has felt like the worse years of the AIDS crisis when people your age were dying and you felt sad, vulnerable and helpless. Yes it’s different when people are your friends but loosing the touchstones of your life in entertainment is also traumatizing. Music, movies and television are important parts of our lives. We use them to relax, to dance, to thrill us, to make us think, to make us laugh or cry and yes, to take us to a galaxy long ago and far, far away

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The Third Gender in Thailand – Kathoey

An interesting look at kathoey persons in Thailand, one of several Asian cultures with traditions of more than two genders.

Service Learning in Thailand

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By: Janessa Ilada & Ry Mount

The term “transgender” is rarely used in Thailand. Instead, the common term is, “Kathoey” which was once used to define intersex people, human beings who were born with ambiguous genitalia. Kathoey have become entirely common in Thai society, like everyone else, they go about their daily affairs: shopping, meeting with friends, using public transport, visiting the temple.

It is important to outline the beliefs of Thai-Buddhism to relate it to kathoey in Thailand. In Buddhism, there are 4 genders, not only male and female, but also bhatobyanjuanaka and pandaka.

Bhatobyanjuanaka originally translated to intersexed, but has now become the common interpretation of kathoey, though there still isn’t an adequate translation of this word. Many later texts would include in this category that people who are not physically intersex may be mentally of another gender, i.e. someone in a woman’s body may feel like a…

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On Being Agender – Update December, 2016

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Being Me

I originally wrote this two years ago and since then some things have changed and/or I have become more comfortable with. I want to clarify what my particular gender identity is and is not. For me it’s about not being defined by gender which is why I call myself agender. I want to be free to be who I am without constantly censoring myself. I think some confusion arises when people confuse non-binary genders with people who identify with the opposite sex from a binary perspective. I don’t identify as a woman or a man. As an agender person I am genderless; I am beyond gender and am a mixture of traits and style associated with masculinity and femininity as well as a mix of young and old and a bunch of other traits, likes and passions thrown into the mix.

image(Graphic from Hell Yeah Agender)

The issue of dysphoria also is part of the discussion. Dysphoria is the feeling of disconnect and sometimes revulsion with the parts of your body that identity you, to most cis gender people, as either male or female. At first I felt I didn’t have those feelings which is why I identified non-binary and not a trans woman. Now I recognize that I do in fact have dysphoria in some aspects of my life. First let me tackle the non gender related stuff I feel uncomfortable with. I’d love to be thinner. Yes, I lost weight and have continued to do slow slowly. I am left with excess skin in places and, sadly, the fat doesn’t always come off where you want it to. I am hairy and would like to be less hirsute so recently (November of 2016) I shaved a good bit of my hair off. Now I know all women aren’t naturally hair free that’s why there are women’s razors. Hell, if there are bearded ladies why not a bearded agender person?  Nonetheless I have shaved and am becoming more and more pleased with the result. I am editing this from a previous version and notice that my feelings have evolved in the year and a half or more since I originally wrote this.

As I have become more and more comfortable with myself I find something interesting happening. I have become uncomfortable going out dressed in a more masculine manner. This is different from feeling less anxious which can be the feeling when I am dressing more masculine as a way of feeling safe in a taxi with an unknown driver. This feeling though, is more about clothing feeling right for me as a person . I realize this means I feel dysphoria dressing more masculine and less dysphoria dressing more feminine.   As for my “bits” I am comfortable with them. I am a small person “down there” anyway so there is not much to be dysphoric about anyway. 🙂 Sorry if that was to much information but what’s a few inches, (very few), among friends. Ouch, I can’t believe I wrote that back then but since it still applies I will leave it in.

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Now let’s get to how I want to decorate my body. This is what is known as gender expres-sion as opposed to gender identity. I  originally wrote “I want to feel comfortable wearing a skirt and knee high socks as part of an outfit that includes clothes some may consider male or unigender/unisex.” I am please to report that I DO feel more comfortable dressing more feminine.  I am beginning  to wear makeup more often. It is usually just concealer, different shades of powder and  lipstick. Still there are times when I feel like just going out as is. It’s about being authentic and just being myself without constantly looking over my shoulder and worrying I’ll be verbally or physically attacked for my wardrobe choices.

I discussed in my coming out piece two years ago how much of my gender identity is related to how I feel inside. The fact is that I have always preferred a personality that some consider feminine. I am a nurturing and gentle presence or try to be. I reserve any anger for systems and people who want to deny me and my LGBTQIA family equal rights or fail to act to save our lives as was the case in the first decade if the AIDS crisis and is true now in the inadequate response to violence perpetrated by haters against LGBTQIA people. I guess what I’m saying is I feel like a mama bear protecting my family.

Perhaps an even better way of looking at it is that between white and black in the visual light spectrum, are all the wonderful colors that the human eye can see. That’s where non-binary genders come in; filling up the gender palette with many different identities just like light breaks up into many different colors when passing through a prism.

Bisexuals face skepticism about their orientation from people who think their clinging to heterosexual privilege. Similarly people with non-binary gender identities, particularly if they were assigned male at birth, are accused of hanging onto male privilege. Neither bisexuals or people with non-binary gender identities are trying to cling onto privilege. In fact if you speak out and are open about your sexual orientation or gender identity you open yourself up for criticism. In my case being perceived as someone who flaunts wardrobe convention and behavioral expectations opens me up to not just verbal abuse but physical abuse as well. That’s the sad reality of a prejudice known as transmisogyny. Trans femme non-binary people like me as well as trans women are disrespected because of the feminity we embrace. Sadly society is still very sexist and that sexism is reflected in misogyny in the case of cis-women and transmisogyny in the case of trans women and trans femme non-binary people like me.So, despite the prejudices and other barriers I just want to be me. The REAL ME! The only thing holding me back is fear and I am  still chipping  away at fear like it was a marble statue. As I’m chipping away more of the real me is revealed to the world!

Scroll down to the bottom of this post to view my piece for Trans Day of Visibility, including a look at the new me!

Here is a great comic from Chaos Life, created by the talented artist A. Stiffler, that defines agender from the perspective of someone designated female at birth (so I am a bit different but not in what really matters):

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One more graphic I can’t resist, pardon the language:

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Finally here’s my post for Trans Day of Visibility 2015:

I’m Agender and Part of The Trans Community #TransgenderDayOfVisibility

Name: Jerry aka Fairy JerBear

Gender Identity: Agender (neither male or female – beyond gender)

Sexual Orientation: Queer

I came out first as a gay man, then Queer many years ago. Then 8 months ago I came out as Agender. I had always felt that I wasn’t really male but I didn’t feel female either. When I came out as gay and later queer their was no real understanding about non-binary gender identities. You were either transsexual or just an effeminate gay man. There was a movement that merged sexual orientation and gender non-conformity called the Radical Faeries which I admired. It’s founder Harry Hay, felt that gay people were set aside as special to serve as a bridge between genders. Unfortunately the majority of gay men went in the direction of insisting that they were just like straight people except for who they loved. Then along came Queer Nation which radicalized gay politics and rebelled against the mainstreaming of gay culture. They are still around but the focus is radical politics now.

Finally a few things happened for me. A former neighbor of mine identified themselves as genderqueer. I still didn’t recognize myself because what I saw, (I know better now), was more a phenomenon restricted to people who were designated female at birth presenting in a masculine way. Then along came a news story that put all the pieces together. You remember the story from three year’s ago about an agender teen in Berkley/Oakland, California who was riding a bus when their skirt was set on fire! A boy, presuming the skirt wearer to be a boy as well, acted on impulse and set the skirt wearer’s skirt on fire. In any case, as I read how this person, Sasha Fleishman, came to their gender identity I finally realized that their identity was also mine. I love the idea of being beyond gender, of behaving and dressing without regard for gender roles. I like the idea of mix and matching your wardrobe from all of the clothing open to people. A shirt from the men’s section here, a skirt from the women’s there and so on. It was a totally liberating feeling.

I was aided in my coming out as Agender by the wealth of information on tumblr from other non-binary identified people. I owe my new life to people decades younger than I am. I sometimes feel like an honorary millennial. 🙂 I was afraid of how I’d be accepted by those who were binary transgender people but I needn’t have worried the response from the Trans community I’ve connected with has been very welcoming. I’m sure there are pockets of prejudice all around but those are in the minority. I am proud to be part of the Trans Community. I love giving back by, for example, providing some feedback on issues that arise in numerous Facebook non-binary/agender groups I belong to. Sometimes I help others and sometimes they help me. I have become active with the Santa Fe, New Mexico Trans community and marched with them in my first two LGBTQIA Pride events as a part of the community. This is me a chubby, disabled, queer, agender person over (gasp), 55:

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The photo above was taken around two years ago. So, to go along with this December 2016 update, I will show you my latest photo in the form of a meme:

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More on my story here and here and here.

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Operation Rubber Storm, 1993 – Memorable Events In My Life

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This is the first of  a new series I call Memorable Events In My Life. One of the more memorable experiences I had in HIV/AIDS activism was the time a small group of us (sadly two are no longer with us including Michael Quercio who livened things up a bit), decided to make a point about a high school’s refusal to have condoms available in school or offer comprehensive sexual health/HIV Prevention classes. This was the third year of annual event falling on Valentine’s Day, (or in this case the closest school day to February 14th),  which, of course, falls during National Condom Week. We held these annual events, at high schools and youth hangouts every Valentine’s Day. We called these Operation Rubber Storm and what’s part of our overall outreach effort we called the Rubber Posse.

I created a safer sex/HIV prevention Valentine’s Day card and we stuffed it along with condoms and lube into a zip lock bag. On this particular day we targeted a school that two members of our team happened to attend. We all bundled into our vehicles and headed to the high school. This all happened while a bit of a blizzard was happening, perhaps it was on omen.

We arrived at the school and dutifully set up just off school property. When it became obvious that we weren’t reaching as many as we hoped because busses were loaded back washstand up the school driveway. Well Michael in a spontaneous whim, decided that wouldn’t do. So he walked up the drive to the first bus and began distributing our Valentine’s packets. Soon the principal came storming down the drive yelling call 911, call 911! We retreated back to school entrance. When the principal got there he tried to block us from reaching the students. So one or us, probably Michael, tossed condoms over the head of the principal to the students. A few missed the students an landed by the principal, treating them like they were poison, kicked them to the side of the road..

By then a reporter had arrived, (we sent out a press release). His report is below.

Our final tactic was to toss the packets through the open windows of the buses to the eager students inside. Michael even emulated basketball players and slam dunked some packets through the window.

By then the police had arrived. I think the officer was bemused by the goings on. Nevertheless he dutifully asked if we’d gone in the school. We of course said no, if the question was worded differently to include school grounds we might have gotten in trouble but thankfully he just shooed us away. Here’s how the local newspaper reported the event:

Worcester Telegram Gazette

February 13, 1993

CONDOM GROUP SENDS VALENTINES \ SOUTH HIGH PRINCIPAL DEFENDS TURF

Author: Clive McFarlane; Staff Reporter

WORCESTER – In the early hours of yesterday’s snowstorm, a high-spirited group of local activists called the Rubber Posse, stormed the gates of South High Community School, unloading condoms and preaching safe sex.

The group included Michael Quercio, one of President Clinton’s Faces of Hope, Jerry Cheney, the coordinator of the group, and “Bud,” a former South High student who is HIV positive.

In an effort to attain maximum impact, the posse moved onto the school property to intercept students boarding buses.

INTERDICTED BY PRINCIPAL

The trio, however, was quickly chased back through the gates by School Principal James Garvey, who told them the school has an adequate health education curriculum.

“Do not let your principal stop you from getting life-saving information,” shouted Cheney, as Garvey positioned himself between the posse and his students.

Suddenly, a shower of pink valentine cards sailed towards Garvey and the students. The cards, tossed by the posse member, held information about “waiting for sex, safer sex and how to use a condom.” They also held a pair of condoms.

The cards fell to the ground around Garvey and he nudged them with his boots to the side of the road.

POLICE ARRIVE

Then out of the snow flurry came the flashing lights of a police car. The car pulled up to the posse and a middle-aged officer rolled his window down and asked if the group had been into the school building. Quercio said no, and asked the officer if he needed some condoms. The officer opened his door and spat on the ground.

Not everyone held the same disdain for the group which described itself as a multicultural/multi-agency HIV/AIDS prevention team and boast of distributing some 32,000 condoms and several thousands safer-sex fliers over the last year.

South High students Leo A. Goodwin and Naya A. Byfield, two of a number of students who accepted the group’s valentine packages yesterday, said they have no problems with promoting condoms in their schools.

“I am involved in an HIV program and I believe it’s a good thing that this group is doing,” said Goodwin. “They should do more of it.”

“Not so,” according to Edward Thompson, a parent liaison at the school. “Students should be taught abstinence.”

Educating kids on what they need to do to protect themselves is one of the purposes of their mission, according to Cheney. The other purpose, he said, is to state their displeasure to the School Committee’s continued opposition in allowing condoms to become an integral part of the school’s health curriculum.

“We are concerned that there is a number of gaps in their health curriculum, and we are saying that we and a number of other agencies can augment what they are currently doing,” Cheney said.

But according to Garvey, the School Department is offering a comprehensive K-12 health education curriculum. Freshmen at South High, as at all Worcester public high shools, are required to take a year and half health and safety program, for example, while sophmores are given a sexuality course of 20 class periods, subject to parental approval, he said. In addition, outside health educators are brought in periodically to augment the school’s program.

School Committee member Stephen E. Mills agreed with Garvey.

“I am not against introducing condoms to students and I not against those who take part in these distributions,” he said. “But I belive (condoms) are readily accessible to anyone who wants them. It is my feelings that over the past 30 years the school has taken on a number of social issues that they should not have shouldered. Our job is to educate the children, not to become a convenience store.”

Caption:
Michael Quercio offered free condoms to people leaving South High Community School yesterday, including man, above, who shook his head “no’ when Quercio said: “Take some home to the kids.’ PHOTO

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Thoughts on Another World AIDS Day

Soon after my first coming out early in 1987 I attended a workshop on AIDS. Soon I was volunteering at a new organization called AIDS Project Worcester. I attended the October 11, 1987 March on Washington that included the first display of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

In January of 1988 I was hired as an Advocate and Gay Outreach Coordinator at AIDS Project Worcester. Those events set in motion a drastic change in my life. Soon Iwas visiting patients in hospitals and trying to secure benefits they were entitled to like Social Security. Before too long one of my clients who had become a friend, lay dying in a room at Ul Mass. Medical Center. I was there as he took his last, breaths of life. It was a sound I will never forget and still haunts me when I recall that day. My friend died that day, the first of way too many friends to die.

I channeled my frustration, sadness and anger into action. I started an outreach effort to reach young gay/bi youth, hustlers (male prostitutes), gay men and injection drug users. Later we expanded to also reach out to female sex workers. I spent many a eerie night on the streets and parks of Worcester carrying my bag of condoms, lubricant, safer sex cards I designed and, before the days of needle exchange, bleach and instructions to disinfect syringes and other implements.

As illnesses and deaths continued I joined with ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) for a number of actions. I also organized my own rabble rousing to combat fear and ignorance.

It is hard to explain to those who weren’t there just how your life changed. I changed agencies to focus more on prevention but, because I involved people with HIV as outreach workers and part of our school HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, I was still very involved in the struggles of friends and colleagues living with HIV and in far too many cases dying of complications related to AIDS.

A couple years ago I chronicled the lives of these amazing people. You can read my tribute to those lost here: https://jerbearinsantafe.wordpress.com/shalom-and-lchaim/

As we observe yet another World AIDS Day I urge you to pause and remember those lost and the continuing challenges we still face in countries around the world. That period of my life changed who I was as a person. I no longer can sit back and be a passive observer when I see injustice. I also became more appreciative of life’s daily wonders. Sunrises and sunsets, natural wonders and wonderful people are all more precious to me.

I am now into my third year since coming out as Trans/Agender/Non-binary. I see some of the same attitudes and prejudices faced by communities affected by HIV/AIDS in the eighties and nineties, once again used to target the trans community. As we face the prospect of an administration that is shaping up to be very anti-LGBTQIA+, sexist, and insensitive to racial and ethnic minorities, we must remember the lessons learned and fight like hell for individuals and communities we care about.

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