Category Archives: outreach

Addressing Ben Carson’s Transphobic Remarks in a Public Forum

How Absurd Ben Carson Is

On July 19, 2016, politician and former presidential candidate Ben Carson referred to transgender people as the “height of absurdity” (see video clip). His disparaging remarks were met by the audience with laughter and applause. On August 7, 2016, I addressed Mr. Carson’s poor behavior during an event called “Breaking Bread, Building Bridges“.
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Recognition for a Mother and Her Transgender Daughter (Me)

Volunteers of the Month: Cille Haley and Gabrielle Hermosa

The December/January issue of The Empty Closet is honoring a mother and her transgender daughter for their volunteer work with the Gay Alliance and efforts to make the world a better place. If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s my mother and I. :)

From coming out to volunteering
On January 16, 2014, I came out to my mother as a trans woman. Earlier that day, I had just completed my second (or third?) public presentation about LGBTQ awareness and education. Mom took the news rather well, commenting: “I always wanted to have a daughter!”.

She had a lot of questions about what it means to be transgender. We talked for about 2 or 3 hours the day I came out. Eager to gain more insight about her trans daughter and learn as much as she could about the diversity within the LGBTQIA, Mom started volunteering at the Gay Alliance as an office worker.
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An Interview with Yours Truly in “The Empty Closet” and Speaking Publicly About LGBTQ

Gabrielle Hermosa in The Empty Closet

The Empty Closet is New York State’s oldest “gay newspaper”. I prefer to think of it as an LGBTQ focused publication, which it very much is. It’s published monthly by the Gay Alliance in Rochester, NY. Don’t let the name “Gay Alliance” fool you, either. They’re tapped into the whole alphabet soup of the LGBTQIA… not just the “G”. In my opinion, it’s more about the “H” than anything. The H is for human being, which is what we ALL are, regardless of how many of the other letters apply (or don’t apply).

Editor and photographer Susan Jordan reached out and asked if I’d be interested in being featured in the “My Own Private Rochester” column for November, 2014. I was honored by the request and pushed the “let’s do this” button without hesitation.

Why me?
Susan learned of me through my work with the Gay Alliance as an active member of their Speaker’s Bureau. To date (as of making this post), I’ve talked publicly about LGBTQ issues and realities on more than 30 occasions. This includes LGBTQ panels, SafeZone training, transgender-specific and general diversity presentations.
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Rising to Your Greatness: A Community Discussion with Gabrielle Hermosa

Gabrielle in Pride Parade 2014-07-19

Rising to Your Greatness, Sharing Your Journey and Transforming the World
A Community Discussion with Gabrielle Hermosa on Saturday, September 20, 2014 @ 6:30 PM.

About the event
Life can seem hectic, stressful and unfair. Social inequalities, separatism and disparities have many of us feeling helpless, lost, alone and without options.

But we’re NOT alone. We’re all in this world together. By making changes in the way we think, feel and act, we can turn things around and super-charge our lives. Working together we can build strong, uplifting, supportive communities. By rising to our greatness, sharing our gifts, passions and journeys, we have the power to transform the world and make it a better place for everyone.
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A Documentary About Transgender Realities and Addressing Public Questions

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the documentary “Just Gender. It was shown at the Little Theatre downtown, Rochester, NY.

The film explores various myths and misconceptions about transgender people. It was very interesting to learn about experiences shared by some of the people interviewed, that closely resemble my own. Things such as creating a “character” for oneself (of the socially expected gender role prior to coming out) in order to fit in and having to come out to people a second time after figuring out one’s true identity, really hit close to home. I was impressed with the very polished, informative presentation, and the depth of the people interviewed, offering a realistic look into many of the dangers and challenges we face in today’s society. Transgender people are shown as human beings, dealing with some very unique and difficult obstacles in life. I was almost brought to tears a few times.

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Speaking About Transgender Realities at the University of Rochester

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.
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Talking to Teens and Coming Out to Mom

Gabrielle and MomLast week, Thursday was a day of teaching, personal growth, and another adventure in coming out. It started out with an early morning SafeZone presentation at a local high school.

Along with two other speakers, I was deployed by the GAGV, to educate teenage students about LGBTQ realities, share our personal stories and struggles, and answer questions. The school’s health teacher requested the presentation. There was a complete lack LGBTQ coverage within the standard curriculum in my school days (back in the 1980’s). This is, unfortunately, still pretty much the standard today. It’s promising to know there are such forward thinking teachers working hard to offer more of a real-world and well rounded education, above and beyond the status quo.

Talking, sharing, educating
Matthew (not his real name), a well spoken and very stylish gay man in his 30’s (who runs a local gay youth group) started out the presentation with a general overview things, and then we each told our personal stories. I went first, followed by Linda (not her real name), an attractive 30-something lesbian, and then Matthew. Having only met Linda and Matthew for the first time only minutes before the presentation, it was really interesting to hear their stories.

After sharing our personal stories, Matthew did a superb job explaining aspects of LGBTQ people that are often confusing to “straight” folk. The social structure in high school can be pretty brutal and restricting. As a result, teenage students may be reluctant to ask questions (verbally, in front of the class) out of fear of ridicule by their peers. We asked them to write down their questions on a piece of paper and place it in a basket that was passed around the room.

Getting shy teenagers to open up
During our first of two presentations, very few questions ended up in the basket. For the second presentation, I added, “I’d like everyone to please write down something and place it into the basket. If you don’t have a question, then write down the name of your favorite band.” That seemed to work better now that every student was expected to write something. There were several good questions submitted by the second class… and a few favorite bands.
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