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THEA Peach State Conference

February 22, 2016

I attended the Peach State Conference last week and wanted to share my experiences and thoughts about it. It was not your average conference. What emerged was a group of transgender people and allies committed to address the serious local issues of being transgender. Since all local issues are also national issues, the hope is that other local groups can benefit from lessons learned. First a divertissement.

When I first came to Georgia, I started looking for the peach orchards that I expected to dominate the economy. Finding none, I started to make inquiries. Turns out all of the peach growing mainly occurs in South Carolina as the big peach-shaped water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina along I-85 symbolizes. I continued to look for the sources of the Georgia economic activity and had some surprises. Turns out that the biggest center for economic activity is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and its associated businesses. That made some sense since in order to fly people or goods to most anywhere in the South one has to go through that airport. But I was surprised to find the next biggest industry was chicken farming. So I guess Georgia continues to be the Peach State because they do not want to be known either as the airport or chicken state. The South Carolinian peach growers must not mind because Georgia is a good market for them.

You are probably all aware that Southern Comfort was in Atlanta for many years but moved to Florida this year. This left the many local Atlanta SCC volunteers without a conference to host and they began to question their purpose. They found a new purpose of improving life for transgender as well as LGBQQIA people starting at the local level. In the process they discovered existing local assets and initiatives. No use feeling bad that SCC had left town, they discovered that there was too much to do. I did not meet one person at the conference who seriously held a grudge for SCC. They were all too busy.

Consistent with the maxim, “First preserve life,” the first group up was the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition (SNPC). I met most of these folks last year when the homeowners association in my Atlanta district wanted the city to banish transgender prostitutes working in the area. Banishment means legally forbidding them to return. In case you were wondering, banishment is unconstitutional. The mayor called a task force to consider this proposal and eventually it lost steam. But the impetus for diversion from arrest to providing social services and housing still exists. While these folks continue to push for diversion, they are also taking direct action to deal with harassment and violence toward transgender people. Police had been harassing transgender drivers in a small suburban Atlanta town but the SNPC sat down with the mayor and police chief and got them to establish a standard operation procedure document and training for the police to treat transgender people fairly. They have also been picketing MARTA, the local subway, to improve security on trains. There have been a rash of attacks against trans people on them.

Next up was a group that is trying to establish a gender clinic at Emory University Healthcare. They are taking baby steps right now but are already prescribing hormones and prescribing puberty blockers for kids. After the Johns Hopkins fiasco with McHugh (he was brought in to kill their gender clinic), it is good to see that university health centers are getting back into the game.

The Atlanta police GLBT liaison officer provided a good session on community and cyber security. He greeted me by my first name and it surprised me that he would bother to remember me from previous encounters. I grilled him on the aborted DOJ police training initiative to train local police how to treat transgender people and got all my questions answered. This is something neither than the DOJ Community Relations Bureau, nor my City Councilman nor our Washington, D.C. advocates could answer. The course was evidently cancelled because local police wanted to integrate their own courseware into their normal training rotation. He talked about cyber security and an app called “Circle of Six” which allows a person to notify six of their friends if they felt danger. I hope to try it.

The Health Care Initiative located in the Rush LGBT Center in Atlanta provided a good run down of the ACA and other healthcare options for transgender people. I grilled them on when transgender-specific Medicare coverage would be available and they gave me a valuable referral.

The Trans-Housing of Atlanta Program (THAP) is seeking to get shelter for trans people in both the short and long term. The short term shelters here do not welcome transgender people and force them to change their gender presentation according to what the shelter people think it should be. Short term, THAP is setting up shelters and, long term, intends to provide poor transgender people with homes so that they can more easily get jobs. They seem to be making progress.

The conference had a panel of local therapists and a doctor to answer any questions the attendees. So I took advantage of this session. I told the doctor about the problems I had getting a mammogram at his hospital. He wanted to know about the social and financial problems so that he can get them solved. As for the therapists, they have all started using the ICD billing codes which means that the DSM is dead. It also means that we are continue to be pathologized because the ICD uses gender identity disorder as a code. I also tried to get a discussion about whether a counselor could be simultaneously a gatekeeper and a therapist because a transgender person might not want to tell them about an issue that would prevent authorization letters. They seemed to think that this was not an issue but I did not get what I thought was a satisfactory reason why.

The universities in Georgia have started a historical archives project for LGBT information and they are urgently seeking historical information on transgender people in the state. Representatives came to the conference in search of people that might be able to donate files or give oral interviews. The next session was right in line with the archivist one. Dallas Denny gave a talk about transgender history in Atlanta. All agreed that she should be one of the first people from whom the archivists should seek information.

Finally, I went to a side meeting billed as “professionals meeting” and figured that if they did not want scientists there, I could leave gracefully. To my surprise, I was welcomed by the nurses, therapists, transgender people and doctors there who want to start a research initiative on transgender topics. This group represents all of the concerned people needed to do some good research and it will allow me to get a board set up to vouch for my research according to Federal law.

In conclusion, the Peach State Conference was not just your average get together. I believe that the people and groups who attended can make some real progress on transgender issues right here in Atlanta.

 

Dana J. Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of “The Transsexual Scientist” which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book "The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism" is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Both are available from Amazon. She can be reached at danabevan@earthlink.net.

Southern Comfort board members cited dwindling attendance numbers as a factor in the move, which came after all 24 years of the event taking place in Atlanta. But the local transgender community didn’t spend much time bemoaning the loss.

“The night that Southern Comfort released their news flash that they were leaving, I resigned from the group because I no longer agreed with how they were doing things,” says transgender activist Blake Alford. “There were a lot of people concerned with not having a place to go. Also there was an issue of Southern Comfort not really being a family-oriented conference.”

Lisa Raman, a nurse practitioner and mother of a transgender man, had already developed and chaired the first family conference at Southern Comfort. So she took that conference and together with Alford expanded the scope and formed a new organization—Transgender Health and Education Alliance (THEA) Plus.

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Lykee's Story....

May 20, 2015

I met a person at the Pride School event. I took a moment to say hello and saw a person that epitomized the non standard lives we live. Transgender people do not fit in boxes and cant be defined by a box. Lykee is a wonderful, now, Woman whom was on a road to find a path to whom she was inside. And like Lykee, every road, and person, is different.

Below you will see a short glimpse into Lykee's life, as it evolved and how understanding can not be defined by a stereotyping...

 

When I was a child I played with Transformers and G.I. Joes, I loved Star Wars, and I made wooden swords to play with.  I was a rough and tumble kid. As far as I knew this adventurous little boy would grow up to be an adventurous man. I had no idea what a wondrous adventure I would one day set of on. However, I always struggled to fit in, while at the same time I fought tooth and nail to find my unique identity. I hated clothes, I hated being in pictures; the only time I was satisfied with my appearance was when I was acting out a fantasy though dress up, even if it was dressing up as a soldier. I just never felt satisfied with my body. It was easy to pass of my discontent as resulting from the isolation that was often imposed upon me by my pears. My Learning Disability (LD) often left me the odd man out at school, but you know all things considered I managed the Disability adeptly. Then Things started to get complicated for me as the other boys around me began to change I did not, the joys of being a late bloomer. The difference between me and my peers led my parents to seek growth hormones for me. I remember wanted nothing to do with that concept I was ready to run had the doctor come at me with a shot fortunately this did not happen. My body never did catch up with the other boys and most my adult life I had a sense of disappointment in how I looked. Yet, I also became confident in not measuring up to the other boys. I did not like what I had become but did not want to become a man and as far as I knew there was no other choice. I was dealing with what I would latter come to understand as Gender and Genital Dysphoria, back then I had no name for it so It went unaddressed. I knew one thing though, I knew I had an attraction to boys and that I could not tell others about. I would come home from school having been called a fudge packer and I would read about homosexuality in the encyclopedia trying to figure out how that was not me.

By this time in my life I was attending a private religious school, (I am going to name them here because they need to know the harm they let happen to me), I attended the First Presbyterian Day School (FPD) in Macon, Georgia because of problems I experienced in public school. I was bullied and had trouble with the staff.  While attending FPD I found myself constantly exposed to Focus on the Family and 700 Club rhetoric about the LGBT community.  This hurt my self-image so much that it might have well been conversion therapy. I wanted nothing more to escape what I was now coming to understand as bisexuality. Every step of sexual exploration was followed by guilt for almost the rest of my life. The one exception was my relationship with the woman that would become my wife. Meanwhile, I remember thinking over and over that if I just cut my penis off maybe things would be better. The freedom of college loomed on the horizon.

I went on to college and became very active in LGBT politics until the moment approached to begin my teaching career and my marriage. I set my politics aside and began a working man’s married life. All the while the closet closed in around me and so did the guilt; worst of all was a hatred for God and myself.  As far as I was concerned any God who would create me was not worthy of praise. I literally explained my Atheism as resulting from the belief that I could not be made because I was to flowed and could only love myself if I was a consequence of a accident of nature. Though all this internal strife I built a life and a family. The Guilt took over, depression set in and so did the anger, it was often not pleasant at home and that’s putting it mildly. I would go off for the weekend to sell my art and this offered opportunities to find out who I really was. I would come home and be unhappy knowing there was something else out there I wanted, not really knowing what that was. My wife could not do it anymore and the process of ending our relationship began.

And now I set out to find myself. This process was not without pain and this pain I know was felt by others, and I am sorry for that. I found spirituality first. My pagan community made me feel at home, even when I only went to their events to sell my art and refused to participate with them. Then It happened and I discovered my own path and a sense of value in my soul, I fell in love with the symbolism of wolves. It was this love of wolves that brought me to the world of Furrys who are fans of anthropomorphic animal characters. Most of these characters are developed by the fans and often bend gender lines. It was then I began to role play as Lykaios, a she wolf. Over the next 4 years I began to bend gender lines both in role play and in my real life. I also began to develop loving relationships with other people who let me explore things about myself. As I grew the marriage with my now ex-wife drew closer to its end. I began to realize that being a husband was not me but still did not know what was.

That is until I met some people who treated me as both boy and girl and let me really play with my gender identity in public and private. I began seeing myself as Gender Queer, I still did not really know what it meant; I just knew I liked the word. They gave me the idea of going to a convention as a character called “Apple Jack” so I did; I put together an Apple Jack costume. I was telling another friend about the costume on the phone when she said “so your going as a transvestite,”and “bam”, the walls went up and I said “no” in went through a hundred different ways of saying“no”. That was in September. November I came out as Bisexual, and wanted to be more politically active.  I was at the Furry Convention and decided to buy “pride” patches for a jacket of mine. I got a rainbow flag for the right shoulder and a Pink Triangle for the Left, but the only triangles they had was one with a transgender symbol on it. I put it on upside down because In my mind I was not transgender. By the end of December, I was headed home from Iowa and stopped at a goodwill store. Instead of looking a girl shorts which I had been wearing for a year or so, I looked at a blouse. 10 below is too cold for shorts no matter how much you are proud of your legs. I have always liked my legs. I got this blouse, put it on along with a jacket I got. I got in the car and drove home. It is a long drive from Iowa to Georgia. That night I found out Ms. Alacorn ended her life. Now you got to know this, I have a big “Rainbow Dash” tattooed on my ass to remind me to stand up to bullies. I got it in support of Michael Morones who had attempted suicide after being bullied because he liked “My Little Pony”. I made a commitment to do everything I could to keep kids safe. I got home from this long trip and did not take the blouse off. I realized I would have to live my truth, and that was what I had to do to protect kids. I had to follow the teachings of Milk. I went to work and would come home and put the blouse back on. Now it became about figuring out how to live this truth when I still had a long way to go to understand my truth. Things were happening fast, 5 days later I had my first date with a boy in my life and I wore my blouse with some huge man purse. In the middle of dinner I just melted down and during this melt down just blurted out “how am I supposed to be a girl when I don't even have a real purse.” I said it. I said “I was a girl”. What did that mean? I got to work next day told the boss I had to go. I was getting a divorce and needed time to deal with some emotions. That day I went and bought clothes at Maurices where a very nice lady saw me looking and asked if I needed a dressing room. Sometime latter walked out dressed as a girl from head to ankle (though still needing shoes) with a smile on my face, I got my nails and hair done that day also. Things went bloody fast from there. Over the next 4 1/3 moths I learned that there had always been a real adventure waiting for me, a story of transformation, a story all my own. I could now name what I felt; I am a Gender Queer Transgender Women. But most importantly, I feel happy with my changing body. I find excitement in each new change I look in the mirror and I see me, I see a future for me.

This is by no means the whole story of how I got here but it will do for now.

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Planet Fitness...

May 4, 2015

Planet Fitness and Transgender News

Yvette Cormier claims to be overtly offended when a Transgender Woman walks into a Planet Fitness business and puts her coat and purse down.

Yvette has the right to her opinion and, In America, has the right to be offended. Carlotta also has rights given to her in this country as well. Yvette has taken it upon herself to discriminate against Carlotta.

Yvette never sees Carlotta undress or even change before she is so offended. And as it appears to be stated in the story, runs right to the office to complain. I have seen how Carlotta chooses to dress; it was shown on a Fox edition special on this story. In my opinion, she is dressing very conservative and appropriate for her age. Dressing feminine can be subjective.

Yvette is given understanding in her statement that Carlotta looked like a man and is allowed to complain to the management without judgment. I feel Carlotta’s dress was feminine and appropriate for her age.

All this so far, is understandable and can be resolved by communication or education. This went much farther. Yvette took this too far. This is the real reason she lost her membership. Her behavior was the problem not her belief or desire to complain to the management.

Yvette made this her witch hunt to get policies changed by influencing other members and calling Carlotta a man and telling everyone that “HE” was allowed in the locker room. She even went to corporate to try to get this policy changed.

Thank you Planet Fitness for your policy and support of the Transgender Community.

Now, let’s look at the issues that are here.

In the Fox Interview, we constantly hear the fear presented that Transgender women, are MEN. Everyone, media, politicians and others, are presenting all inaccurate, negative views of the Transgender Community. In many interviews Transgender people are accused of changing their choice day to day what gender they want to be. In other words, they present our situation as if it is a ploy to get into the woman’s restrooms.

This is a made up accusation. Fact is, Transgender women whom are on HRT therapy, Hormone Replacement Therapy, are sterile as a result of the medication. This means, first you can’t just change your mind about whom you are. It is a definitive decision that cannot be changed. And second, the male parts they have do not function. Let’s be a bit clearer: the plumbing does not work; the air does not fill the balloon, etc. So, Carlotta, given she is on HRT cannot get….excited in the masculine way.  This means, she is not a threat to anyone in the woman’s locker room.

Next, there is no information on whether Carlotta is pre-op or post-op, meaning she may or may not have manly parts. The accusations of her flailing parts around may not even be possible if she does not have them. Carlotta never got undressed, so Yvette has no clue if she was going to or not going to undress. It is likely that she was just going to drop off her items and go back out to the facilities. Even if she took her shirt off, that would not have been offensive at all.

This dissuades any argument of women being or feeling unsafe. I would also suggest that Carlotta was more uncomfortable about being in there then Yvette. People having unfounded beliefs and misinformed ideas of what Transgender means is creating  a dangerous situation for all Transgender people.

We have seen in the news time and again where Transgender women are attacked in bathrooms. We have seen videos on the internet of Transgender women being attacked in public transportation areas. All of this and the cis-gender women feel in DANGER?!?!!? Statistics of Transgender women being murdered and assaulted are incredible, and you want us to go into the men’s bathroom??? Really??? It would be paramount to killing transgender people yourselves.

I suggest to Yvette to learn and educate herself on Transgender people. This will prevent any issue from getting out of hand as this one did.

I also suggest to all the Transgender people that are pre-op, before reassignment surgery, keep your panties on; you can change down to the underwear, even shower in them. This is a compromise that is reasonable and will still allow everyone to use the appropriate locker room.

Now, a personal issue with some of the “professional” hosts on any show, and I am sure many of the community members will agree, we are not bullies and are not bullying anyone. Fighting for equal or fair rights is not bullying, in our case, it is survival. Our lives are in danger and your being inconvenienced by having to allow PEOPLE to have EQUAL rights in America. Get off your Arrogant High Horse. No one has the privilege to deny rights to ANY group in this country.

This goes for Politicians as well. How can you possibly in good conscience, create any kind of bill that would put people in danger and base it on your own Transphobia fears?

In the year 2015, there has been a Transgendered person murdered every week. People like Lealah Alcorn killing herself and hoping that it will help promote some kind of change for the better. Did Lealah Alcorn’s death not mean anything to you TV hosts and Politicians? Did it not get you high enough ratings and enough votes to let her life mean anything???

Sarissa Farman is a Transgender Activist promoting equal rights and opportunities including normalization of the Transgender Community. A working, single Mom of 3 children she strives for equality and fairness for her family and others. She served in the US Navy as a Data Specialist and traveled to many countries. Early years of education were horribly difficult having a second grade teacher that preached how stupid she was. Education became pivotal for her and she absorbed everything. This drives her to be a better person and gives her the desire to believe in people and help made the world a better place.

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