This past Saturday, March 22, 2014, I had an opportunity to speak about transgender realities at the University of Rochester. It was my 6th time talking publicly about transgender awareness and education.
A long time ago, in a hospital far, far away…
I start by telling my personal story: from birth to where I am today. It’s limited to key points in my life as they pertain to growing up different (trans) in a world that demands conformity and punishes those who fall outside “social norms”.
Some rather painful and emotionally devastating moments are shared. In contrast, I incorporate humor to keep things fresh, fun, and prevent the audience from loosing interest.
It’s not easy growing up different and feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin. Everyone is different and unique, but some differences pave the way for a rather bumpy, turbulent ride through life.
Sharing difficult memories in painful detail
Confusion, depression, low self-esteem and self hatred were formidable foes while growing up as a heavily closeted trans woman, trying… pretending my best to emulate the expected “male role”. When I was a senior in high school, a near fatal suicide attempt landed me in the emergency room, followed by an extended stay in a psychiatric hospital. These dark, agonizing times are explored in detail, often causing me to tear up and speak with a shaky voice.
This is what I’m supposed to be doing
Talking about transgender issues and realities in public is very important work and I take this responsibility very seriously. I’m still new to the public talking thing. There’s much more to learn to become a truly effective, successful speaker, and I plan to keep at it, practice, and do what it takes to achieve that goal.
Answering questions and interacting with the audience
One of my favorite things about giving public talks is answering questions and having conversations with people in the audience. After telling my story, audience members are encouraged to “ask me anything”. So long as questions are not laced with a hint of underlying disparagement, I’ll pretty much answer anything anyone asks, with a few exceptions.
Bring it on!
Everyone has their personal boundaries, and I’m no exception. I’m an open book, mostly. I rather enjoy the opportunity to address some of the more “difficult” questions that some are uncomfortable answering or take offense to. It’s pretty hard to offend me, unless of course, you’re trying to.
Transgender people are a diverse bunch
It’s important to explain differences in how things work in my life, and how they may work in the lives of others. Transgender people are as varied and different as cisgender (non-trans) people.
I’m happy to share my personal experiences, struggles and answer questions. That’s why I do these talks. It’s disrespectful to go asking random trans people (out in public) personal questions. Trans folk don’t want to be questioned about being trans – they just want to go about their business, just like anyone else.
These opportunities are always an honor and privilege. It is not I who have chosen this work, but rather this work has chosen me. The universe has been grooming me for this roll for more than 40 years. My struggles have offered a rather unique and profound understanding that I am happy to share.
Speaker’s Bureau Presentations – LGBTQ education & awareness
If you would like me and/or other members of the GAVG Speaker’s Bureau to visit your organization, share our stories, explain LGBTQ realities and answer questions, here’s how to make it happen:
Visit this link: GAGV Speaker’s Bureau
There’s a request form to fill out, or you may call or email the Speaker’s Bureau coordinator directly. You may request me specifically, if desired (there’s a space on the form for that).
My next public appearance (is tomorrow)
I’ll be part of a transgender panel at the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival on Saturday, March 29, 2014. This will be more of an hour-long Q&A session. The panel starts at 4:30 PM. The other panelists are seasoned veterans at this kind of thing, and a real joy to work with! We’ll have the audience entertained & laughing while making sure to unravel some of the “great mystery” of what it is to be transgender.