Category Archives: Testamonial

July 2017 Trans Talk on KKFI

Transition_Family
Hello everyone! We have two guests with us today. Rhyan is a new guest to Trans Talk, and he is here to discuss his own transgender journey with us and to talk about his life. Also with us is Julie, the mother of a transgender boy, who was on our program before to discuss their family’s transition along with her son, as well as her battles with the Odessa Missouri school district.

As usual, we will share with you the transgender news and the community calendar update. We do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, July 22 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

P&G Transgender Advertisement Continues to Lead Debate in India

Earlier this year Proctor & Gamble released a short film sponsored by their Vicks line of products, which highlights the real-life story of Gayatri, a young Indian orphan who was adopted by Gauri Sawant, a 37-year-old Mumbai-based transgender woman and social activist. The video has gone viral, with almost 10 million views on YouTube, and is notable that no professional actors are used – both Gayatri and her mother Gauri appear as themselves in the video. Thus avoiding the nearly ubiquitous marginalization of our people via transface (artistic portrayal of transgender persons by cisgender persons).

The video tells the story of Gayatri’s life, starting with how when she was 6 years old her mother, a sex worker, died of AIDS. Gauri, her mother’s friend, decided to raise her as her own (despite the fact that she is forbidden legally from adopting the child herself). The video has spurred debate yet again regarding the rights of both transgender and third-gender, or hijra persons in the country. Statistics vary widely on the number of transgender persons in India, but it is estimated that as many as 2 million citizens are hijra, with potentially another million being transgender persons. Both communities face institutionalized class-based and caste-based discrimination in employment, housing, voting rights, and even access to basic social services.

The film composition is very well done and heartwarming, and highlights the inhumanity of denying transgender persons and their families basic human rights. It emphasizes this when Gayatri says the following:

My Civics book says that everyone is entitled to basic rights. Then why is my mom denied them? That’s why I’m not going to be a doctor, I will be a lawyer. For my mom.

The film is well worth your time to watch.

September 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

carmen3Hello everyone! We begin this month’s Trans Talk edition of the Tenth Voice speaking with Haley Bridges, the Director of TrueGender, which is a new local organization working to tackle the problem of high medical costs for transgender families. Next we will continue our Transgender Kaleidoscope series, speaking with Carmen Xavier, a transgender woman with a wonderful outlook on life and local political aspirations to help the community.

As usual, we will share with you the transgender news and the community calendar update. We do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, September 24 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

August 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

Transition_Family
Hello everyone! We begin this month’s Trans Talk edition of the Tenth Voice speaking with Dr. Courtney Marsh, a Reproductive Specialist at The University Of Kansas Hospital who provides hormone therapy to many of the Kansas City transgender community. Dr Marsh will be answering questions about hormone therapy and other transgender medical issues. For the second half of our program we continue our Transgender Kaleidoscope series, and this time we’re highlighting not just one individual, but an entire family of hope: Libby, a transgender woman who has just finished high school, and her father Michael, mother Louise, and fiancé Eliza – who also happens to be a transgender woman.

As usual, we will share with you the transgender news and the community calendar update. We do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, August 27 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

THIS SUNDAY: A Presentation on the Bible and Transgender Identity

Deuteronomy_23_Eunuch_and_Philip
Transgender persons are often told that their gender identity and presentation are forbidden by the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Insults are hurled, jobs are lost, and discriminatory laws crafted based upon this belief. But is this really accurate? Does research into the linguistic origins and the historical context of the Bible suggest that rather than being condemned, transgender persons may actually be accepted within the texts?

This lecture is intended for peoples of all faiths or no specific faith as a way to help understand how different interpretations of religious texts can yield significant differences in the meaning of the text – and how to respond to some religious-based arguments against the validity of transgender identity.

Please join Una Nowling, Director of Transgender Studies at the Transgender Institute, hostess of “Trans Talk” on 90.1 FM KKFI, and the founder of Transas City, as she presents her research on a positive relationship between transgender persons and the Bible.

Location

Johnson County Central Library, 9875 W. 87th Street, Overland Park, KS 66212 – Carmack Community Room

Date and Time

3:00 – 4:15 pm, Sunday, July 31st

There is no cost to attend, although donations will be accepted for transgender persons in need in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

July 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

kaleidoscope
Hello everyone! We have two special guests this month on Trans Talk. Earlier this year, we started a series called Transgender Kaleidoscope, where we highlight interesting transgender individuals from the local Kansas City Metropolitan community. We skipped that session last month due to having two time-sensitive topics to air, so today, we’re going to have two Kaleidoscope guests. Our first guest will be Grace Cox-Johnson, a transgender woman who has a passion for music, and who acts as music director at Transfinity KC, Kansas City’s own transgender chorus. Our second guest will be Gus, a transgender man who has been an educator, mentor, and voice in the community, and who is here to share his own story with us. While Gus has been through many challenges in his life, but in the end one of his greatest feelings of accomplishment is in finally being just a “normal guy” and living an authentic life.

As usual, we will share with you the transgender news and the community calendar update. We do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, July 23 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

May 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

KKFI

Hello everyone! We have two great topics this month on Trans Talk. First, if you’re a frequent listener of our show, you know that we always give out props to LikeMe Lighthouse and its programs and events – well today we are joined in the studio by three folks representing the Lighthouse – Skyler Whittaker, Joy Brungardt, and Samantha Kay. They’re here to discuss the Equal Trans* support group at the Lighthouse, talk with us a bit about other transgender subjects, and a little bit about themselves. Next we have the second in our series of interviews with individuals from the transgender community in Kansas and Missouri, which we call Transgender Kaleidoscope. Our guest will be transgender woman Larissa Vitt, a former US Army Specialist who worked in aviation, and a local published fantasy author.

Fiona Nowling will be co-hosting today’s program, and she will give us the community calendar update, while I will provide my view of some of the LGBT news this week. I do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, May 28 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

April 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

KKFI

Hello everyone! We have two great topics this month on Trans Talk. First, we’re going to talk with Bonyen Lee-Gilmore from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, who is going to discuss a new effort by Planned Parenthood to provide health services to transgender men and women. Next we will kick off a new series of interviews with individuals from the transgender community in Kansas and Missouri which I call “Transgender Kaleidoscope,” and our first guest in this series will be Rachel Mollie Martin, a retired Lt. Colonel and decorated Army Ranger, who has recently seen some major triumphs in her transition, and some serious stumbling blocks as well.

Fiona Nowling will be co-hosting today’s program, and she will give us the community calendar update, while I will provide my view of some of the LGBT news this week. I do hope you will be able to join me this Saturday, April 23 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

Reminder: Intersex Awareness Talk at UMKC, April 6, 2016

Intersex_FlagThe Intersex Pride Flag

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 6th, there will be the ” ‘Who Am I?’ Intersex Awareness Talk” at UMKC. The talk will feature testimony from intersex individuals, such as myself and my guest Sieran from my February radio program. We will talk about growing up and living as an intersex person, and how it shaped our lives, as well as discussing some of the science of intersex, and take questions from the audience on any intersex or trans*-related subject.

The talk will be held in the UMKC Student Union, Room 302, from 2 to 3 PM. Please park carefully, as the UMKC parking police do not mess around; just take my word for it. There is metered parking in the Cherry Street garage, and other metered parking scattered about the campus.

A Kansas City Transgender Event – Free Screening of “The Danish Girl”

Danish_Girl_Flyer

As Caroline Gibbs, founder of the Transgender Institute announced on my Trans Talk program on KKFI last Saturday, Kansas City is honored to be presenting a screening of the Universal Pictures film The Danish Girl. The film is a semi-biographical drama of the groundbreaking journey of Einar Wegener, the husband of artist Gerda Wegener, to become one of the world’s first transgender women – Lili Elbe (I have only posted a very small amount of information about Lile Elbe on my site here).

Academy Award winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables) directs the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Einar/Lili and Gerda. Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Les Misérables) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, Anna Karenina), star as Einar/Lili and Gerda, respectively.

What’s more, thanks to the sponsorship of the Transgender Institute, you can register online to receive free tickets for the screening! There are 200 seats available, and they are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. You can register for the event by clicking the link below, and you need not create an account to use it, just proceed as “Guest.” Click here to get your free tickets, while they last!

Date: Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Time: 7:00 P.M.

Location: The Glenwood Arts Theatre, 3707 W. 95th St., Overland Park, KS, 66206.

There will be a brief introduction before the film to provide some historical background, and yours truly has been invited to deliver an introduction – so I hope to see many of you there!

Family Ties : Trans Spouses

VitalVoice

The Vital Voice reached out to the KC SOFFA group that Fiona Nowling leads to ask if people would share their stories with the magazine.

SOFFA is a support group for Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies of Trans People.  They can be reached via www.facebook.com/SOFFA.KC & they have a private group on Facebook too.

Fiona and another member shared their story – and then Fiona and Una were asked to have a photo shoot done for the article.

The Vital Voice is an LGBT issues magazine which started in St. Louis, but has extended to cover Kansas City.  August’s issue focused on families, and the article is about how the transition of a trans person affects the family and the people that love them and how the family supports and affects them in turn.  It is available online and physically in lots of places in St. Louis and Kansas City, including LikeMe Lighthouse.  The August issue is still available, or you can read the article at the link below.

Family Ties: Trans Spouses

 

 

Kansas City Transgender Teen Nominated for Homecoming Queen

First I must apologize for linking to a Fox4KC story, as I know many of my audience do not care very much for the station. And I must apologize for being days behind in posting this. My preparation for my month in Asia has taken a lot of my time.

The story is simple, but also highly important. Landon Patterson, a Senior at Oak Park High School in North Kansas City, came out on YouTube to reveal to the world that she was transgender. Not only wasn’t she expecting the show of support from her friends, who rallied behind her, but she certainly wasn’t expecting to be nominated as homecoming queen for the high school.

She will find out on September 12 if she made the grade, to become the first transgender homecoming queen in the history of Kansas City.

Source: Transgender teen nominated for homecoming queen at metro high school | fox4kc.com

Una Nowling to Speak on “Trans 101” at Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ

Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ
Hello everyone,

I will be speaking about the basics of the transgender experience, along with giving a transgender history lesson, at 7:00 pm, August 19th, 2015. The venue will be the Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, which is located at 205 W 65th St, Kansas City, Missouri 64113 (there is a map link below). Anyone who wishes to come and hear a little bit of “Trans 101” is welcome!

The electronic flyer put out by the Church reads as follows:

Trans 101 with Una Nowling
August 19th at 7 p.m.

Are you interested in learning more about the transgender community and how to be an ally to transgender individuals? If so, you are invited to an evening with Una Nowling on Wednesday, August 19th at 7 pm!

Una Nowling will share her own story and also speak about issues affecting the transgender community. Una is a transgender activist, researcher and historian who mentors local transgender folks, especially throughout the coming out process. She is the hostess of “Trans Talk” on KKFI. She also spends her time working on Transas City, a non-profit educational website and blog for the transgender community in Kansas City. This is an important educational opportunity for our church as we continue to evolve in our understanding and celebration of the LGBTQ community.

Please contact Bethany at bethany@cccucc.com for more details.

Trans Talk : Local Musicians and a Successful Transgender Marriage

KKFI

On today’s show on the Tenth Voice’s Trans Talk program, Una Nowling (me), and Luke Harness (my bro) will discuss two very different topics. In our first segment the topic will be transgender musicians, and three local transgender musicians will join us in the KKFI studio to discuss their art and their lives – Melody Burns from the External Combustion Orchestra, solo performer Mercury Mad, and Ceri Anne, who is working to form a band called “The Transistors.”

In our second segment we will have Blake and Ali in our studio to discuss the challenges of their transgender relationship. Together for seven years this October and married as a same sex couple in 2010, they became husband and wife in October 2014, after Blake got his gender marker legally changed. They’ll be with us in the studio sharing their experiences of being in a relationship prior to, and throughout, Blake’s transition.

Listen to us at 1:00pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City’s Community Radio. If you are outside of the area or do not have a wireless receiving device, you can stream the program by going to our station’s website.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? – A Personal Essay on Transgender Violence and Boy George

Boy_George_4Screen capture from “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”

Growing up in a small town or the suburbs can be a challenge for transgender persons, simply due to the small size of the community and the lack of transgender-friendly resources. Now imagine if you can that you are a young teenager, learning that you are transgender in a small town, but in the early 1980’s.

That was the life I lived.

Anyone born after 1995 takes it for granted that you can open up any computer or smartphone and get near-instant access to an incredible amount of human knowledge. What’s more, with e-mail, social media, online gaming and other communities, no transgender person need ever think that they are the only person in the world who has this “condition” of believing they are a different gender on the inside than on the outside.

Consider again that LGBT awareness, rights, and respect were virtually nonexistent prior to 1990. This was especially true for the case of transgender persons. Every year or so, one of the transgender pioneers would make the news – Renee Richards and Jan Morris in the 1970’s, for example. But even in the rare case where a transgender person was treated well by the media, their story was a flash in the pan. Typically, we appeared in news stories telling us about how we were “sexual freaks”, “kinky transvestites,” or just simply “mentally ill.”

Better_Off_Dead“In the high school halls, in the shopping malls / Conform or be cast out.” The 1980’s were incredibly brutal if you didn’t fit in.

To be a transgender person at age 14 in the suburbs of the early 1980’s was akin to being on a deserted island. I had learned early on from physical abuse from my father that one did not speak about being transgender. Actually, even the word “transgender” was unknown to the general public at that time, leaving one with no good definition for oneself. The only reference source available to a kid with a bicycle was the Olathe Public Library. I’ll never forget one blazing hot Kansas summer morning, when I rode my bike to the library and searched the card catalog in vain for any book or magazine which talked about people like me. Finally, braver than smart, I asked a grey-haired librarian “Where can I find books about boys who know they’re really a girl inside?”

Card_CatalogOur version of Google, circa 1982.

Her smile vanished, she drew herself up to her full height, and she replied “Young man! We do not carry books on pornography! Give me your library card now!

Of course I beat it out of there, terrified that somehow the librarian knew who I was and would be sending the police to come grab me at home. I spent a couple of worried days wondering what the fallout would be, and I didn’t visit the library for a year or more afterward. But returning to the narrative, the point was that a kid like me basically was left feeling completely alone.

Boy_George_1Boy George, circa 1982. Allow me a single “rrrroooow!”

And then, one day in 1982 while killing time in front of MTV (Yes, MTV did actually play music back then!), I saw a video which absolutely stunned me. It was “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” by an English New Wave band named Culture Club, and the video prominently featured lead singer Boy George. Dressed androgynously and singing in a gentle tenor which could have been male or female, I watched and thought “OK, it must be someone just playing around crossdressing for the video. But I wonder, if they are the same kinda whatever I am that I am?” Then came other videos from that album – “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” and still there was the seriously gender-crossing clothing, singing, makeup, and manners. Shortly afterwards, the band was interviewed on television, and George kept to the image.

Boy_George_3When I first saw Boy George, I wasn’t even certain what gender he was. It was uplifting.

Mind you, Boy George certainly wasn’t the first musician to cross gender boundaries – David Bowie comes to mind as a ready example at the time. And androgyny was a prevalent feature of musical cultural movements like the New Romantics and New Wave. But Boy George kicked it up a notch.

I was now convinced – “This is someone just like me! And they’re out in public, and singing, and making money, and not only that people are listening to them!” Both “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Time (Clock of the Heart)” made it to #2 on the US charts, and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” made it to a very respectable #9. Boy George proved to me right then and there that one could transcend gender, be in the public eye, and people could accept you! I felt as though I had found a distant cousin, rather than an idol. Not only that, but in the music video for “Time (Clock of the Heart),” we see other band members toying with gender expression – for example, bassist Mikey Craig is wearing a yellow dress.

Mikey_CraigMikey Craig, wearing a very 80’s yellow dress.

My feelings were complicated by the fact that I really, really had a crush on Boy George. Androgyny attracted me very strongly back then (it still does, to a lesser extent nowadays), and I thought that George was beautiful – especially in the video for “Time (Clock of the Heart).”

I generally did a good job of hiding my transgender identity from my friends, peers, and family. But I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm for Boy George and Culture Club, for the aforementioned reasons, and I didn’t realize at the time how dangerous that could have been. Then one day, while over at a friend’s house with two other friends present, we were hanging out and watching MTV, and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” came on the screen. One friend changed the channel, and I switched it back and said I wanted to watch the video. I started to say how much I liked Boy George and Culture Club, when – to quote Wodehouse – suddenly the atmosphere turned black and scaly. I don’t have an eidetic memory, so the following is from my recollection of the exchange that took place.

Friend 1: “Do I really want to hurt you? Hell yeah, I do!”

Friend 2: “Look at that fucking fag. I hate him and his ugly fucking face. If I saw him out somewhere, I’d run over him.”

Friend 3: “I’d like to set him and his gay dreads on fire. I wish MTV wouldn’t play so many faggy videos.”

Friend 2: “No really, he gets off dressing like a girl. He’s a freak. My brother said if he ever saw that freak in public, he’d bash his face in.”

Friend 1: “I heard if you get buttslammed enough it breaks your balls and you become a girl. Wonder how much buttslamming he had?”

Friend 2: “I’d cut his balls off with a rusty chainsaw. You know he dresses like that to trick guys into fucking him.”

Friend 1: “Doesn’t fool me. Only fags would fuck something like that.”

Friend 3: “I’d rather burn him alive. All that makeup would flare up just like gasoline. Woooooooosh!”

Boy_George_2Not everyone appreciated androgyny in the 1980’s. And by “not everyone,” I mean “almost no one.”

And they carried on, moving into a general condemnation of “fags” and all things “faggoty” in the world. Did I stay silent? No. To my shame, I forced myself to laugh with their jokes, and got up and changed the channel. “Yeah, I thought it was a different video. I don’t want to watch this shit.” I was sick with fear. My friends had seen someone crossing gender boundaries on television, and these teenage boys in Olathe, Kansas, were so enraged by this that they boasted of wanting to burn him alive, vivisecting him, and outright cold-blooded murder.

I tell people when I lecture sometimes on anti-transgender violence that I’d rather be attacked by a pack of wild dogs than a pack of wild teenage boys. At least with the wild dogs, it’s not personal.

And I should have guessed the reactions in advance, really, as homophobia was rampant in that time and place. In 10th grade I witnessed a boy beaten bloody by about half the football team because he wore a pink button-down shirt to school. Was he gay? No – he wore it because Don Johnson wore them on “Miami Vice,” and he wanted to look like a macho character on television. The mistake he made was in thinking he could “get away with” wearing a pink shirt.

Miami_ViceA gay crime-fighting duo? Hardly.

We had the “no blue jeans or you’re gay” day, leading to clueless me, who missed the memo, being punched, kicked, tripped, and verbally abused. I tried to grow my hair long, to at least have some trappings on the outside of the ghost of a girl inside me. Guess what? Long hair also meant you were a “fag.” Beatings ensued. After the HIV/AIDS drama “An Early Frost” was aired in 1985, anyone who had a cough was asked mockingly “Is it an ‘early frost?’ Got something you want to tell us? Fag?”

The junior high and high school cliques of the mean girls and the jocks decided ad hoc what did and didn’t make you a “fag,” and therefore a target. One girl was almost beaten up by her peers for wearing a Eurythmics concert shirt, because the group was fronted by Annie “Lezzy” Lennox.

Annie_LennoxShe has to be a lesbian, because, um, short hair, and, um, suit? Right?

I used to wear an amethyst ring I had bought at the Renaissance Festival, as a connection to my inner girl, until a school counselor acted on his own to call me into his office and order me to remove the ring, because wearing it “meant you were gay.” One day someone declared peanut butter and jelly to be gay, because – well, just because. This, from the “future leaders of America.”

I know a lot of these folks nowadays. Some of them I talk to from time to time, while others I see as Facebook friends. I wonder sometimes – “Did you teach your kids to do as you did – pick on the weak, the different, the misfits? Or, did you teach them that who someone loves or what they have in their jeans isn’t your doggone business? Did you do the right thing, the second time around?” In some cases I know the answer is yes; in many others, I’m uncertain.

The popularity wheel turned, as it shall for everyone except Madonna, and Culture Club moved off the scene. In later years, Boy George was known primarily for his drug use and misdemeanor escapades. Perhaps ten or more years ago, I came across a fan-run website all about Culture Club and Boy George, with several references from his autobiography.

I cried when I learned Boy George was cisgender. If you’ve read this far, you understand why.

Boy_George_5Boy George, circa 2014.

I had some time to convalesce while recovering from pneumonia recently, and I spent some time re-watching old 1980’s music videos on YouTube just for the heck of it. I came upon the old Culture Club videos, and the memories came flooding back. I remember being the scared, hidden transgender teen, sitting in a suburban living room hearing epithets and threats thrown towards a young man who just wanted to sing and have a different gender expression. I remember the fear, and how I felt like even among my friends if I made one slip, let them get one glimpse through the door of the real me, that I could at best end up a pariah, and at worst end up in the hospital.

Transgender youth today unmistakably have that same fear. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:

  • Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%).
  • The harassment was so severe that it led nearly one-sixth (15%) to leave school in grades K-12 or in higher education settings.
  • Teachers and staff members, whose job in part includes ensuring student safety, were too often the perpetrators of harassment and violence in K-12. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the sample reported harassment by teachers or staff, 5% reported physical assault by teachers or staff and 3% reported sexual assault by teachers or staff.
  • More than half (51%) of respondents who were harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or expelled because of their gender identity/expression reported having attempted suicide. Of those who were physically assaulted by teachers/staff or students, 64% reported having attempted suicide. And three-quarters (76%) of those who were assaulted only by teachers or staff reported having attempted suicide.
  • Respondents who identity as female-to-male transgender people today reported a higher rate of these abuses (65%) than male-to-female respondents (53%) and those who identify as gender non-conforming experienced abuse at a higher frequency (70%) than transgender-identified respondents (59%).

Injustice_at_Every_TurnGender non-conformity is still a no-no (from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey).

I never seek to minimize someone else’s oppression and suffering, and the National Transgender Discrimination Survey tells a dire tale. But aside from Boy George and that briefly-lit candle of hope, it’s stunning to me when I reflect that the situation for transgender teens in my youth was so very much worse.

References

Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.