As someone who survived and recovered from an eating disorder, I hope others will support Generation Mirror by attending their fundraising event on Feb 26th. Read below for more information.
Generation Mirror presents a night of fundraising and fashion on February 23, 2012 with the debut of Chicago’s own “Black Cap & Bib Debut Collection” at Leavitt Lofts. The event will highlight a debut fashion show by the up-and-coming Chicago designer of Black Cap & Bib, Kristine Campbell. Campbell's show will feature retro inspired designs with a quirky and colorful twist worn by her stunning models that display all shapes and sizes.
The event will also include live entertainment by DJ Adam Savin, and a kangaroo auction with packages from Chicago’s finest.
The event will be held on February 26, 2012 at Leavitt Lofts (324 N. Leavitt) on the Near West Side from 7:00 – 10:00 pm. The fashion show starts at 8:15 pm.
Tickets for the event are $40 when purchased in advance, and $45 at the door.
They include, among other things, hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer & a specialty cocktail will offered throughout the evening and a complimentary drink ticket and access for the official after party at Public House.
For more event specific details, please visit http://genmirror.org
About Generation Mirror
Generation Mirror is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to spreading awareness and increasing education of eating disorders. Eating and associated disorders (EADs) are serious, dangerous, and increasingly prevalent problems that plague people worldwide, of all shapes and sizes, genders and ages. GM thereby endeavors to:
(1) revolutionize the way young people perceive eating disorders by working to decrease the stigma and increase education of these disorders and
(2) encourage those dealing with eating disorders to accept their reflections and feel empowered in their recovery.
Please visit genmirror.org for additional information about the organization.
Being an out transman and a public speaker means that I’m a susceptible target for people who either don’t understand transgender issues or who are fearful, ignorant and immature surrounding things different than them.
I have been fortunate over the years that the transphobia directed at me has not been physically hostile,(verbally
is a different story). The newest incident is one that happened while
ironically training staff on ways to create a safe and trans-inclusive
environment on a college campus. I found out about the incident just after
arriving on campus after traveling all morning through airports and by car. The
staff person that handled my booking informed me that a poster on campus used
to advertise my evening talk had been defaced. My shirtless torso, aligned
right of a description of the evening event and directly below my name had been altered, not by a black sharpee or pen, but by items cut out from a magazine and added on top my frame. The transphobic individual first changed some wording on the poster by printing off new lettering and taping over “FTM” to make it “FML.” They then proceeded to find hair and a bra that fit the poster
and taped them on me along with two shiny piercings on my lower lip and belly button.
The defaced poster had been found in
trash, (obviously someone appalled by it tore it down) and it was taken to the
department that was sponsoring my appearance. The college could have not shared this with me, but I’m happy they did because it allowed us to have open conversations and it has allowed me to think more about how to compose and create dialogues that address transphobia. Through conversations with the staff, I knew it was something that shouldn’t be kept secret, it should be talked about and the most powerful person to do it, was the one it was targeted at.
So, during the evening program I decided
to share the poster with the audience of more than 300 students. I joked with
them that this poster has shown me that if I could grow my hair out (it is too
thin for this) I would look like a rock star, how I had never seen nor wore a
bra like that before, and how I definitely shouldn’t pierce my lip or belly button because it isn’t a good look for me. (I often find that using humor can help defuse a situation and allow the people I talk with to approach each other in a more comfortable manner.)
After the audience laughed with me, I
then moved into my concerns. For me personally, I am used to this type of
treatment, by students or hecklers or by organized groups like the Westboro
Baptist Church. When I am attacked, I find myself feeling first angry and hurt
and then numb, I have had too many hurtful incidents in my life to allow
anymore to penetrate my skin. What I don’t allow to be forgotten is the fact
that when these type of incidents happy on a college campus, I am not the one
that has to stay in that environment. I give my talk and then get on a plane or
in my car and return home, but the students and staff who are either
trans-identified themselves or are allies to the community have to remain. I feel numb when these things happen, but others may feel fearful about their
safety and treatment if their own identity is made public. The question may be raised, If someone makes this statement with a poster, what would they do to someone they knew was trans?
From my experiences across the nation, I
feel that a large majority of students, staff, and faculty are accepting and
desiring an inclusive campus. But sadly, it often feels like support won’t help
if we experience hate either visually, verbally or physically. If you are
a student who has experienced transphobia, or has heard or seen things around your campus that concern you, I strongly encourage you to visit your counseling center and talk with someone there who may help you with your anxiety and, if needed, help you develop a safety plan. If you are staff or faculty that are wondering what to do with actions that result in things like the above poster, consider educating other staff and having open conversations instead of keeping it quiet or within a department. If you need support or help, I work to provide consults and training on trans-inclusion, or I can refer you to other professionals.
The last thing any of us should do is
stay silent on the matter.
The last thing any of us should do is NOT report a transphobic or hate crime incident.
I will continue to reach out and provide guidance, and I am more than happy to be
the “joke,” if that joke can lead to a safer environment for those that live there.
In my public speaking events, I joke that the “f-word” in my family is “feelings.” People generally laugh by the comment, I do too because in a way it is a joke, but more so it’s just the truth. This lack of understanding feelings has caused my skin to become a barrier that keeps my emotions from pushing through the darkness I hold inside. I carry all that I feel in a chamber that runs between my lungs and the back of my throat, the heart being the container that holds what will never be expressed.
I don’t think I’m unique, I think many of us don’t know how to express what is felt inside through words. This is one of the reasons I am a writer, I communicate more effectively through written words versus verbally allowing them to exit my mouth. Due to this hindrance of emotional expression when I give talks about my life, I may come off as cold, aloof or ambivalent toward my own past interactions with my family.
I recently completed a talk with a room full of two-hundred people, leaving it a standing-room-only event. I felt a little off during the talk, especially when I was asked about my parents or my previous relationship. Throughout my transition and my public speaking I have kept my families’ reactions and stories guarded. There are pieces that I’ve been willing to share, but many events I keep inside; some I was the only witness to, others are known and felt by all that lived within the walls of our country home. What I just wrote is all I am going to say about those memories.
People don’t like this.
I find that in our society today, it’s a struggle to keep all of one’s life and emotions private, especially when what you do is share your life with the world. But some things, including my rawest emotions expressed toward my family aren’t meant to be seen or heard by strangers.
Going back to the talk I referenced earlier, my guarded answers were picked up by a member in the audience who then felt the need to email me and tell me, “I lacked a connection to emotions and her heart went out to my parents.”
The first part of her statement is partly true, I even said that during my talk, but the second part pissed me off. I don’t want to take away the potential pain that a family member feels when they discover their child is transgender, but I also don’t want someone to slap me across the face with a statement that is basically saying, “You are emotionless, and I feel so badly that your parents have to deal with you.”
I would feel for my parents if I was the type of person that stole from them, abused them, and/or verbally lashed out at them, but the reality of the matter is, the only thing I did was try to figure out myself and make a life worth living. All while knowing that I wouldn’t receive the support that any kid deserves from their parents. My heart would go out to my parents if as a kid and young adult they would have supported my forms of expression, instead of trying to control or put me down. I grew up constantly apologizing for what I felt and who I was. I became embarrassed and ashamed by my body, my expression, and my personhood.
The email obviously upset me. I’ve learned that when I have this type of physical or internal reaction to something it means it’s something I’m still dealing with. From this, I realized that for the past thirty-two years of my life I have also felt sorry for my parents. I felt sorry that they had to have a kid like me who didn’t fit into their world. I felt sorry that I had to put them through my bouts of depression, my struggle with an eating disorder, my coming out as lesbian and then as trans. I felt bad for the stress my mom went through and the six months of non-communication with my dad. I felt bad that they never really talked to me because they chose a life of travel and infrequent phone calls over seeing me or their other kids. I took out their avoidance and reactions on myself.
As I had this realization, I felt a rush of sadness overtake me, which included tears trying to push through my held breath and mind telling them not to come out. I know that I am not responsible for their reactions, and no matter how hard I try, my family will never be the family we all wish we had. It’s sad, but also ironic. My whole family adores the old movies that show families bonding through vacations, tragedies, hardships or laughter, but much like how my emotions are stuck, so are we. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to fix it, but I know that because of this realization, I’ll continue to be someone other families can contact, with the hope they can open up to each other and develop a bond that goes beyond an aspect of one’s identity.
It is supposed to be a time of merriment and joining together of family, but for many it just winds up being a time of despair, dread, hangovers, fights, tears and sadness. For those of us who are trans this can also include wondering how Grandma will respond when she sees you either with a new haircut, masculine or feminine clothes, sporting some sweet sideburns or binding/enhancing your chests. It can mean a time where you endure the odd and/or disapproving and confused looks from your parents every time a family picture is suggested or an outing into your community. It can mean listening to questions that are really more comments about your appearance, thoughts and feelings. It can be a time, if you are in schools, where you count down the days before hitting the books again. For older people, it can be a time where you count down the hours before you can go home, which may be preferred to be a home several hours or days away from the scrutiny that is your family.
For many, the holiday season has lost it’s magical appeal and now, just sucks. So with all that can suck around the holidays, how can one make it through and maybe even enjoy it a little (I said a little, not a ton) … This is a hard list to write, but here are some ideas for any of you out there reading this.
1) Check to see if your friends will be in town or around/available for some hang out time or an instant SOS.
2) Make sure the internet is working where ever you are staying and that there is a cell phone signal. (This last point may require wondering around the house with your arm up in the air or around outside to the furthest corner of your property if you live in a small town like the one I grew up in.)
3) If you are of age, and DO NOT struggle with addiction, perhaps having a little flask with your favorite spirits handy for those little moments where you need your own lifted may help … or make it worse, use your best judgment on this one.
4) Align with a family member that you do get along with and try to avoid rooms with the ones you can’t stand.
5) Offer to run errands for any item on the grocery list that was forgotten.
6) Show up late, leave early.
7) If when you come and go is not an option then sleep in and go to bed early.
So, after re-reading my list, I realize it may not be all that helpful … a part of me isn’t feeling inspiring today (I think it is too cold to think at the moment).
So here is something I do want to toss out there that is on more of the serious note. Getting along and feeling accepted by family is one of the hardest things to do for many of us, which is ironic since family is supposed to be the one group of people where we should feel accepted and loved. During the holiday season, ask yourself what type of relationship you would like with your family, then ask yourself where you think they are at at this time. How far do you think you can move them toward understanding you and how much effort do you think it will take?
One of the best ways to try and heal the wounds and move everyone forward is to sit in the discomfort, avoid going on the defensive, and honestly express how you are feeling and what you’d love to see happen with the family. If someone in your family starts going on the defensive, first take a step back, nothing can be resolved when there is yelling and projection of uncomfortable feelings at you.
Next, remind yourself, any hurtful words being said are not really words directed at you, they are the individuals own fears, confusion and anger that is just getting tossed at you. The only way we can start to heal relationships is by addressing the hard stuff. If we stick with avoidance, that is what we get back (which is a good reason not to listen to my 7 suggestions above).
Just like people who advocate for LGBT rights, we have to advocate for love in our family. If we stay silent or allow them to walk all over us, we’ll never be able to move forward (or it will be a more painful process to do so).