Category Archives: Events

Chaz Bono Interviewed by Tristan Skye of TQ Nation

Original (non-edited) article:
This year, people from across the globe traveled to Atlanta, GA for the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC), which focuses on the Transgender community.

As stated on their website, www.sccatl.org:
“Whatever your connection to the Transgender community – whether you are transsexual, a cross dresser or in between; a spouse, a partner or a family member; straight, gay, bi or omni-sexual; post-op, pre-op or non-op; young or old; married or single; FtM or MtF – if Transgender is an issue in your life, you are welcome!”

SCC celebrated their 20th anniversary this year with the theme “Party Hearty” and it took place at the Crown Plaza Ravinia Hotel September 6th – 12th. The efforts of all who helped with the planning of this conference paid off as it proved to be a very successful event. Special thanks extended to Blake Alford (President of Board of Directors) and Alexis Dee (2010 SCC Conference Chair).

The conference consists of daily informational seminars covering everything from renowned surgeons discussing their procedures to open discussions of a variety of topics pertaining to Transgender life. The seminars focus more on individual needs and the topics are more defined focusing in on either MTF, FTM, Intersexed or SOFFA’s, with some being all-inclusive.

On Thursday of SCC, a TransHealth Fair was provided which included many low-cost services and multiple free options, including HIV/STD testing and Flu shots. The Feminist Women’s Health Center hosted this event. We appreciate their support in helping to provide a bridge to close the gap with TransHealth issues.

Apart from the gourmet dining in the ballroom, scheduled events from morning until evening allowed everyone to meet and socialize. Some popular events included karaoke in the hotel lounge, casino night, Miss Kitty Meow’s pool party and the SCC formal dance, just to name a few. A shuttle was also available to take adventurers shopping at Perimeter Mall and on Saturday evening, many traveled to the New Le Buzz in Marietta where everyone felt very welcome and included.

A marketplace was setup in one part of the hotel that included vendors selling jewelry, hair essentials, clothing and accessories. There were also many make-up artists on site, including Atlanta’s own Bianca Nicole, the Goddess of Seduction. Other booths, including TQ Nation, Lambda Legal, YouthPride and others were spread out outside of the marketplace and lobby area.

One of the main highlights this year included the appearance of Trans-celebrity and advocate of sorts, Chaz Bono, who also participated in many of the events and even hosted one seminar on Media Activism Training with GLAAD Media Awards Communications Manager, Nick Adams.

Chaz mingled with the crowd each day and was very gracious with socializing. He even stood with a smile for non-stop photo-ops with those attending SCC. A documentary film crew followed him pretty much everywhere, yet I was able to set aside a time for him to speak to me exclusively for the readers of The GA Voice.

Tristan Skye: You have been an advocate for the Gay and Lesbian community for many years and now the Transgender community. What are the main goals you are trying to reach and is there a certain topic that is your main focus and priority?

Chaz Bono: In truth, I haven’t thought that much about that yet. I have been really focused on getting these projects [upcoming book, film and documentary] out and done. I also didn’t know anything about the Trans community. In the years that it took to get here that I knew I was Trans, but didn’t have the courage to transition, I really stayed away from the Trans community on purpose. I was afraid of the story getting out before I was ready for it. I have just been taking time and stepping back and seeing what the community’s needs are. With that said, one thing that immediately comes to mind is ENDA. That’s what got me involved in politics to begin with way back in 1995. That is something I have always wanted to see passed, I still want to see passed, but want to see passed with transgender people included. The only other stuff I’ve gotten really into is really young trans people. And one of the things I’m pretty interested in, especially for the kids and it’s not going to happen overnight, but seeing surgical requirements taken out of what you need to do to change your name and gender legally.

Tristan Skye: Yes, I think that’s great. I personally feel the Transgender community has looked for a type of spokesperson, a hero of sorts that can represent us in a very positive light and receive International attention and recognition. Now that you have come out as a Transgender advocate into the public eye, portraying and reflecting us in such a positive way, how do you feel about being seen as that hero for the Transgender community and being that person that can really help take us to where we need to be?

Chaz Bono: Okay, it’s a little complicated. First of all, on the one hand I’m very pragmatic and you know I do know the importance of having someone that is a public figure out there. It really does make a difference and I’m really happy to do it. Personally, in my personal life, I do not feel like a celebrity, especially growing up with huge celebrities. I’ve always tried to walk a tight rope between being public enough to do some good and private enough to have a life and just feel normal. Personally, my goal was never to be really famous – I kind of got born into this thing – I’ve had to make the best of it. I’ve seen, especially within the Gay and Lesbian community we see really clearly what having different people come out does and so I do hope for the Trans community I can do that. I hope that me coming out about this and transitioning publically will help people who haven’t found the courage to transition yet most of all. There are some great people who speak for us in the community and most of them are ladies, so it’s nice to have Jamison Green who is just amazing, and it’s nice to be another guy out there a little bit younger for all the guys out there and especially the up and coming guys.

Tristan Skye: That’s very true. I noticed in your seminar with Nick Adams, GLAAD Media Awards Communications Manager, that there was one question that was asked, “who first heard the word Transgender or first saw someone Transgender from the media?” and I noticed that even you raised your hand. I wondered if you wouldn’t mind telling me who was the first Transgender person you can recall that you saw in the media?

Chaz Bono: I think I’m sure the first Transgender person that I heard of was either Christine Jorgensen or Renee Richards when I was really young and didn’t really think about it. But, for me I’ve kind of tracked down when I started to realize I was Trans and it was about a year after “Boys Don’t Cry” came out. Though I didn’t have like an “Ah-Ha!” moment, I think that really did have an effect and really soak into my subconscious and I don’t think it was an accident that happened. It also seemed around that time, and maybe a little bit before and definitely after, there seemed to be all this news coming from San Francisco about all these guys transitioning and that was definitely being reported atleast in the gay media. You know, where are all the butches going…all the butches are becoming guys and stuff, so that is around the time, around 2000, I think when I started to figure out what was going on with me. To me, it’s definitely the media…I don’t think there is a stronger advocate tool than the medi. I really understood that working with GLAAD and I still believe that is where you get the most done is in the court of public opinion and that’s through the media.
Overall, this event ended with great success as it provided a place for those to be themselves, especially for those who traveled from areas where they feel they still must hide their true expression of gender. It was a moment in time where the “T” in LGBTQQIA was not silent, where the Transgender community could feel like the majority, not the minority. It is such an impactful conference, that once it ends, you can’t wait for it to begin again. Until next year, my brothers and sisters, be safe and keep advocating.

Written by Tristan “Shimmer” Skye
http://www.transqueernation.com President and Co-Founder
“Best Transgender Rights Activist” – Southern Voice (2009), The GA Voice (2010)
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TQ Review: Ian Harvie & Margaret Cho at Laughing Skull Lounge

This past weekend, TQ Nation found themselves on the guest list to attend two nights of outrageous comedy at the notorious Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta, GA.

Headlining the show is one of our favorite comedians, Ian Harvie, who also happens to be an openly transgender FTM.

The comedy acts of the weekend had us in stitches. Side-splitting stitches, that is.

Saturday night, our comedic host for the evening was local-favorite Trey Toler followed by the hilarious David Stone.

After our intense anticipation, Ian took the stage and we roared with applause. We just happened to be sitting so close we could tug on his pant leg (which was very tempting to do).

Interestingly enough, many patrons that attended did NOT know Ian was transgender and when this part of his act came up and you heard him tell the audience he was “born a girl” … there was that moment of “HUH?” and silence which Ian quickly had a joke for and the room again filled with laughter, but now with some faint whispers which I’m sure included questions of what was between his legs. As Ian stated, “This is the part where everyone’s eyes look down around this area,” as he pointed just below his waist.

To me, I was truly proud to see a brother on stage doing his thing while also educating. This might be the first time many of those people ever came face-to-face with a transgender person (that they knew of) and this allowed them to sit back, learn a bit to take home with them and laugh their asses off all at the same time. It’s a way to educate people in a non-threatening environment. Ian is making comedic history and is an icon for our alphabet soup community.

There was a certain point that I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. This was the point where Ian was discussing the men’s bathroom and it rang so personally true that it was nice to not feel alone and hear someone else say my own thoughts out loud. There, I was able to laugh at my own fears and triumph over them. I then knew I wasn’t the only one that ever wondered…”does my pee sound different?”

After the show on Saturday night, they all headed to a wrap party for Margaret Cho and invited us back Sunday night to also see her. Of course, how could we say “no” to that?

Sunday rolled around and as we walked into the lounge, we saw Trey and he invited us backstage to hang out with Ian, Margaret and the other comedians of the night. As we sat back there with comedic celebrities, we couldn’t feel more at home. They were such a down-to-earth, wonderful group of people. Margaret was laid back and engaged us all in a conversation about Atlanta’s longest running strip club, Clermont Lounge, where we all told our own stories of the place I noted as “where strippers go to die.”

The lights dimmed and we took our seats right in front of the stage. This time around the head guy at Laughing Skull, Marshall Chiles, took the stage and the laughter soon followed. Trey Toler was next followed by another comedian, Ryan, and then out came my wife’s ultimate fave, Margaret Cho.

Personally, I “almost” got to see her years ago at a local bar called Burkhart’s, but the crowd was a sea of people and I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of her. Now, here I was in arm’s reach of the lady that has put the world to tears from laughter, none other but THE CHO.

Needless to say, she took the stage by storm and was the ultimate opener for our man, Ian Harvie who nailed it yet again on our second night of seeing him. What a BONUS for us!

If you would like to find out more about Ian Harvie check out the EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW we did with this handsome man this past March. If you’ve never seen him live on stage, you have to do so before you kick the bucket. Add it to your list.

This was one of the best and most memorable weekends of my life and I know my wife will have her photo of Margaret Cho enlarged and proudly hung within the next few days, next to the one of the four of us (pictured above).

Written by TQ Nation Prez:

Tristan “SHIMMER” Skye

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TQ Nation EXCLUSIVE Interview: Ian Harvie

Ian Harvie (photo credit: Kevin Neales)

If you know comedy, you know Ian Harvie. A trans funny man who has audiences rolling on the floor in laughter across the globe. If you can’t catch him in a city near you, then I suggest you  subscribe to his YouTube channel, Fan him on Facebook and Follow him on Twitter.

Sidenote: The word on the street says you should do all of that too … even if you are one of the lucky kids and Ian comes to your town! That’s your BONUS!

This summer he will be swinging by my side of town (flipping “EASTSIDE” sign) and I can’t wait to meet him face-to-face.

Besides his comedy, Ian is as real as you get. He has a humble personality and a “dripping with honey” sweetness. The kind of guy you want as your best buddy, have a “bromance” with and scream out, “I love you, man!”

Ian tackles everything from gender to politics to the funny conditions and dispositions of human beings at their core.

Here’s an example of Ian’s personal “philosophy”:

“I was born female, there is no question that I understand this. I believe that ‘female’ is a biological and legal term; while my gender is something that I get to create and modify myself. I do not consider myself ‘male’, however I do identify as a man – the two are not necessarily connected for me. These are words I like to use when describing my gender: Butch, Trans, Trans Man, Tranny Boi, and Masculine. I don’t feel like I was robbed of the correct biological sex, I believe I was born in the right body, I just may want to change it a little bit. Really, who hasn’t felt this way about some part of their body?”

Most notably, Ian was scooped up by one of TQ’s other favorites comedians, Margaret Cho (we love you & your tattoos!), and she toured with Ian nationally and internationally which then landed Ian on TV shows, gracing the channels of LOGO and CBS.

TQ Nation had the opportunity to hit up Ian with an exclusive interview. We asked 10 questions and received answers that were so honest, real and enlightening it made us want to give Ian a great big bear-hug and a” smoochie-boochie” on the cheek. We really just think he’s super! Not to mention, he’s a TQ Nation citizen! What a smart guy!

TQ NATION EXLUSIVE INTERVIEW

TQ: What do you believe has been your biggest role or accomplishment that has benefited the transgendered community?

IH: I hope that it’s Trans visibility. I don’t want be a comic without being a positive image.  Making people laugh and educating people are important and absolutely connected for me.

TQ: What is the craziest thing one of your fans has ever done to get your attention?

IH: I was on tour this past fall with Margaret and there was a meet and greet back stage after a show in (I think) Buffalo and this girl with a big group of her friends insisted that I spank her. She said she wouldn’t leave until I spanked her as hard as I could. She was not bare-assed or anything, she was wearing a pair of jeans, standing in the painted white, cinder block hall backstage in a big theater with all her friends standing there, waiting, like ‘come on, do it’ looks on their faces.. Our tour crew needed to get our next destination in a timely manner, so I did what I needed to do, I took a single swipe almost as hard as I could and we loaded up our van and went on our way.

TQ: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

IH: Having love and a family, still touring doing standup, maybe producing different projects, writing for others, writing on comedy shows, creating and collaborating, traveling, and frig, I hope exercising more..

TQ: Who is the one person that has played the most significant and positive role in your life? Why?

IH: There’s just not one. There’s so many, and since I’ve got the microphone, I’m gonna share.

My Mom, Dad and brothers have shown true unconditional love throughout many things that I’ve brought to them, that they didn’t understand at first. Not everyone who is Trans can say that about their parents and family. I’m incredibly lucky to have them role model what real love looks like, if I forget, I just look at them.

All of my relationships, friends, partners, partners who became friends, have all taught me and molded me to the good human I am today, I’m so grateful for all of them.

The one who was my friend and became my partner, my beautiful girlfriend Sarah, who is rarely shocked or shaken. She is my anywayfriend (which I heard last night on The Practice), the one who knows about my ego and all my flaws and she loves and accepts me anyway. I can only hope that I add to her life as much as she adds to mine.

I have to mention one of my best friends and mentors, Margaret. She changed my life in so many ways, my comedy career is definitely part of that, but she keeps teaching me things that are unrelated to comedy. Encouraged fearlessness and sharing insight just when I need it.  I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard with someone, I will always remember this time in my life.

TQ: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far in life?

IH: I spent a lot of years not being okay with my body. Thinking: ‘who would ever want to fuck me?’ After lots of therapy, getting clean and sober, being honest with myself, a commitment to spiritually feeling better, and the decision to modify my body, I think my greatest achievement is loving myself and my body for the first time ever.

TQ: Being a face in the “limelight”, what types of privacy or safety concerns have you faced? How did you deal with them?

IH: I have not experienced any privacy issues really. I think when you’re as out as I am, there’s little ‘new’ to discover, I’ve likely said it all on stage at some point. But if you mean the other translation of privacy, I live in Los Angeles, where it’s so huge (14 million people in the greater LA area), it would be a little hard to try to find where anyone lives, etc. I really think no one cares enough about me or what I’m doing to try to disrupt my life or invade my privacy or even stalk me at shows. Maybe that’s a little naïve..? But there are, of course, always safety concerns for all Trans people, and I’m no different. I do tend to watch my back a little more when traveling in places I’m not familiar with, especially overseas! I definitely rush in and out of the men’s restroom in public places. But I think (maybe falsely) because I’m soooo out, that I forget sometimes to be more concerned about my own well being. I think ‘what’s the big deal, I’m Trans’ and go about my business, but forgetting that it’s not really like that yet out there in the real world. Some day it will be like that, where little to no one cares. I look forward to that.

TQ: What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

IH: Write tons. Be funny! Always say yes, the best jokes come from new experiences.
It’s okay to be afraid, but just put it your pocket, and jump, the wind will catch you.
Trans people need visibility in the LGBT community, so if you get nervous to go on stage, remember you’re doing it for you and for them and that should help your feet move to the stage.
Be honest and leave a piece of yourself on the stage.
Love yourself like no one else.

TQ: How did you first get your start in comedy?

IH: I started in my home town, Portland, Maine at the comedy club there. I took a comedy writing/performance workshop with a great guy named Tim Ferrell. How he found me was divine for sure! He taught me joke writing structure and editing. After the class was over, I began performing right out of the gate and haven’t stopped for over 7 years. I performed all over New England and decided that I wanted to chase this dream and to do so I needed to move to LA or NY. I grew up in Maine! It’s fucking cold there, so the choice was easy for me, LA all the way. Since moving here I’ve had some great opportunities and I just keep saying yes to everything. It’s been a ball!

TQ: TQ Nation is giving you a personal soap box – What do you want to say? (include your spout outs: vents, complaints, thanks or anything you want people to know)

IH: I’m always kind of surprised that there are so many people out there that think that they don’t understand how Trans people feel. I especially love when people play confused or fascinatingly concerned when the word Transgender is mentioned. For those who think they don’t understand, I challenge them with this notion.

No one out there in the entire world feels 100% okay about their body. NO ONE! And if you do, then you’re the freak. There are so many people out there that are, what I like to call Bio Trans. These are biological women who modify their bodies to be more feminine and biological men who modify their bodies to be more masculine. When a biological woman elects a breast augmentation procedure so she can feel more feminine in her body, how is that any different than me taking mine off to feel more masculine in mine. The core feelings that motivated us to change our bodies are the same. There are so many people out there that have these feelings, what they do with them, varies from person to person but In my book, everyone is a little Trans.

When I first came to understand that I was Trans, I felt alone and I thought I was the only one who had ever felt at odds with their body. There was even a brief period for me where I wrestled with feelings of resentment, and used language like ‘robbed of the correct sex’. Which was strange coming from me because I’d always been this eternally optimistic person; being resentful didn’t suit me. So I started looking at my life, body and birth name with acceptance. At first I had to fake it and in no time it seemed to become true. I was accepting of my given, biological body, but absolutely knowing that I could, if I wanted to, change it. And since then, this is how I’ve made sense of things for me.. I believe that sex is a biological fact and gender is something that I get to create; it’s changeable, fluid, and infinite. And I am not the only person who has ever felt these ways. I think everyone has felt at odds with their given body at different times.. wanting something different, wanting something more, wanting less of.. I think everyone has felt this way at some point in their lives and our feelings are what connect us to each other; that is what make us alike and understandable to each other.

So in my book, we are all a little Trans. And if you need examples of other Bio Trans folks, just look at Cher, Dolly Parton, Charro, Barry Manilow, Kenny Rogers and Bruce Jenner.

I went from feeling completely alone to feeling like this is something that we all have in common. I don’t feel so different anymore and that keeps me from feeling alone, no matter where I am.

TQ: What upcoming event/tour can your fans look forward to in the future?

IH: I am booking lots of college shows these days, so let me know if you’re school needs a Transgender funnyman. I’m working tons of Pride Festivals and Comedy Festivals all over the world. I’m headlining at mainstream comedy clubs around the country. I’ll be on some LGBT cruise ship vacations this summer and fall 2010. And I encourage all people to hit me up about doing house shows near places that I might be performing. If you want to know when and where I’ll be, please go to www.ianharvie.com and look at my tour schedule.

Love you, mean it!
XOXO Ian

TQ: I love you, man!



Written by TQ Nation President, Tristan Skye

 

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Chaz Bono Keynote Speaker to Educate School Counselors on LGBTQI Issues

Chaz Bono - Keynote Speaker at Event

Today, over a hundred K-12 school counselors and educators from around the country will descend upon San Diego to take part in the first ever conference to educate them as to the myriad of issues surrounding LGBTQI youth.

The conference, driven by Dr. Trish Hatch and her grad students at the SDSU school-counseling program, is sure to provide attendees with an experience like they’ve never had. It will also offer them more definitive information, clear guidance without prejudice and, more usable tools than they’ve ever had; all to assist in the very important role they play in these sensitive and often troubled children’s lives.

In this final segment of the four-part series, SDGLN focuses on the list of distinguished presenters and fascinating keynote speakers. When Dr. Hatch and her colleagues (including presenter Stuart Chen-Hayes) kicked this idea around last year, it’s clear they weren’t taking this concept lightly. The individuals they have brought together to share their personal knowledge, experiences and unique perspectives, are truly inspirational on every level.

When SDGLN first spoke to Dr. Hatch about this highly ambitious endeavor, she told us her attendance goal was 150. It was the first year, after all; the economy is down and most attendees would be forced to pay their own way. Just two days before the conference, the tally has reached 170. She couldn’t be more thrilled. With the line-up she’s installed and the wide range of topics covered, there should be no doubt that the annual event will grow in popularity.

Friday night will kick-off in the Malibu Ballroom with Senator Christine Kehoe, who will speak to the attendees just before the Awards Ceremony and dinner.

“In California, we’ve spent the last ten years working to protect our LGBT youth,” said Senator Kehoe. “They deserve nothing less than safety at their schools so they can succeed academically. In 2000, California passed a law guaranteeing all students and staff in public schools the right to a safe learning environment, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That put public schools on a par with other state institutions. In 2007, California went one step further by banning negative depictions of LGBT people in the classroom. It is one of the most far-reaching protections for LGBT youth in the country. However, we know that LGBT youth are still harassed at their schools, and clearly more needs to be done.”

After dinner, the microphone is handed over to keynote speaker Chaz Bono. Bono, who needs no introduction, suffered a very painful and public outing in the 1990’s and is currently experiencing a very public FTM gender transition process. He will surely draw from his truly unique personal journey and impart words of wisdom he acquired along the way.

Just this week, SDGLN got the chance to catch up with him on the phone about that journey and what it was like for him growing up.

A tumultuous but satisfying journey
“I was one of the lucky ones of my generation going through high school,“ said Bono. “I had a really easy time. I attended a Performing Arts high school in NY and it was very open. I was out to all of my friends.”

Much to his surprise, he found his school and friends were much more supportive than his family, and that might be where his experience is very much like the children this conference seeks to rally support for. He notes that his much younger siblings- who didn’t have a similar secondary education experience- have gay and transgender friends of their own.

“We’ve really come a long way,” he said.

Having first identified as lesbian, and now transgender, Bono has a perspective that few of the LGBT community can claim.

During the course of the conversation it became clear that he and I shared many similar tomboyish childhood experiences, but I never felt – innately – male. Could he maybe explain that difference?

“One is a behavior [acting like a boy]; you still felt comfortable in your skin. I had a constant feeling of discomfort and it never went away. Nothing female ever felt comfortable to me in any way.”

Bono admits that in his experience, it is common for most female-to-male transgender (FTM) to initially identify as lesbian. On the flip side, it is not so common for their male-to-female (MTF) counterparts to first identify as gay; and they clearly have the more difficult time. Since many MTFs begin to explore the boundaries of their gender at much younger ages, larger numbers are victims of violent hate crimes, even at school. In February of 2008, Lawrence King, an Oxnard middle school student, was shot by his 14 year old classmate for wearing effeminate clothing to school.

“We live in a patriarchal society which makes MTF taboo,” said Bono. “[the feeling is] how can a man give up his power and masculinity? Even in the gay and lesbian community, often effeminate men are looked down upon. But we all have a difficult journey.

“The gay and lesbian community has gotten more acceptance [in recent years], and transgenders are just poking their heads out. There is probably a 20 year gap between the movements. That’s not to say gays and lesbians are immune to homophobia.

“I didn’t know how people in my community would react [to the news of his transition],” he said, reflecting on his journey. “Would I be considered [a traitor]? I was pleasantly surprised that was not the case.”

When asked if he felt he had personally put a forward-moving-face on the transgender movement, he, for a moment, paused before speaking.

“I can’t take total credit for the movement. I certainly hope I can move it forward, but I wouldn’t be having the experience I am, without those who came before.”

Bono is very much looking forward to taking part in this conference and his impact will surely resonate through the ballroom when he does. Note: CESCal opened up Bono’s appearance to the public and there are still some seats left. Tickets to the evening’s events, including drinks & dinner, are $50 per person or $75 for VIP seating. If you want to come, you must act today so they can order meals. Call 619-850-1761.

A view from the platform
Olympic diver Mary Ellen Clark, Sunday’s keynote speaker, is also a celebrity in her own right; however she thinks her experience has been completely normal. Growing up just 30 minutes north of Philadelphia, she came from a loving, supportive catholic family of seven children. Her father, along with four of her siblings, were also divers.

Clark became a platform diver in college and eventually made the Olympic team, training under Ron O’Brien, the award-winning coach of another member of the LGBT community, Greg Louganis.

She took to the platform in Barcelona in 92 and Atlanta in 96, taking away Bronze medals both times. Winning her second medal at age 32, she became the oldest female Olympian diver to do so.

Diving is still her passion, but she’s also branched out beyond the pool. She spends her time shuttling between Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College and Amherst Regional High School, as a diving coach. In whatever spare time she has left, she also exerts herself as a personal trainer and a motivational speaker.

That’s a lot of hats. Yet, in the middle of all this, she is hopping on a plane late Saturday, to come speak at this conference.

“It’s important. I believe in connections. My life and story is very normal – it’s been a process, it’s still an ongoing process. Who you are, what you like, what is important- and people play important roles [within that process].” Roles like the ones charged to the counselors and educators who will listen to her speak on Sunday.

“This is another layer of giving back for me.”

She may wear many hats, but she certainly isn’t into wearing labels. “I’m me. I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a coach, a mentor, a motivational speaker, a personal trainer….I am all these things. Who I choose to be in a relationship with shouldn’t matter, and it’s changed throughout my life. I’ve been with men, I’ve had relationships with women, it’s fluid,” said Clark.

Although people closest to her have always known, Clark has never felt the need to officially come out, and she is still fine with laying low under the radar. “No one ever asked me, and that was okay,” she said of the media when she was diving on the Olympic circuit. Still, one could sense a tremendous amount of pressure, just under the surface of her explanations.

“Your journey has everything to do with you, not everyone else,” she said assertively. It is clear she still has some axes to grind.

“My biggest issue was always, ‘hey, I need to decide.'” Then she finally realized that she didn’t need to decide; it was everyone else’s need to define her that made her desperate for that decision.

“I can only express my process, but if you can just put yourself in these kid’s shoes,” she said, referring to her upcoming audience. “They are not accepted, they are confused, they are being teased, and you must step outside of yourself and be there, despite your religious or cultural backgrounds. If you can just create that trust…” her voice trailed off. It appears she may be passing around all of her hats on Sunday.

Clark seems to pick her public appearances very carefully. She once slid out of an Olivia Cruise commitment when the attention might have impacted a new job, but then jumped at the chance to appear as Grand Marshal at a gay parade in a small, western Massachusetts town. It would seem, then, her decision to attend this conference and speak openly to SDGLN, is a real coup.

A multi-cultural twist
Stuart Chen-Hayes, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the graduate program for Counselor/Education and School Counseling at City University New York (CUNY) / Lehman College, met Trish Hatch 10 years ago. “She is an incredible inspiration and without a doubt, the leader in how to use data and how to work with equity issues.”

Last year, they got together with several colleagues and discussed the importance of broaching the subject surrounding LGBTQI issues. Ironically, these were gay scholars themselves, working hard to make schools a better place for children of all subsets, but they had yet to hold a conference like this. Hatch knew she wanted to hold the conference in San Diego, using CESCal as the base.

Once a plan was in place, Chen-Hayes, although 3000 miles away, was more than happy to help. He quickly got Shane Windmeyer on board and began planning his own presentation. (Windmeyer is the leading author on gay campus issues and is the national leader in LGBT civil rights issues on college campuses. He will be speaking Saturday morning.)

Chen-Hayes’ topic for the conference, LGBTQI 101 – What do all these letters mean? will break-down all the faces and names of the community, and he plans to add a couple more that come from other languages and cultures, to prove that we really are “everywhere.”

“My message to the group,” Chen-Hays began, “is that we need to be all of whom we are, all of the time. School counselors and educators need to look at every student as multiple contexts and multiple identities.”

He uses his own six year-old son as an example. Chen-Hays and his partner started their family with a little help from his sister. Their son is multi-racial, already speaks fluently in both Mandarine and English, and is raised in a “gay affirming household.” In other words, there is a lot going on behind that curtain, and counselors and teachers need to recognize that every child’s personal experience is unique.

“It hurts to be excluded, and it gets complicated when [the system] is only looking at ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability,” he continued. “There are lots of simple ways to include them all.

“Take for instance, forms at school. Does it say ‘parent / guardian’ or just ‘mother / father’? Under marital status, does it only offer married / divorced / single or are there other options?”

Chen-Hays expects this conference to provide the attendees with the ideas and tools they need to go back to their districts, “assess the environment, and create policies and practices into place that support all kids, with the assumption that there are all identities and orientations.”

But what about school districts that might be resistive to these types of policies? Chen-Hayes acknowledges that in some cases resistance will be imminent, but they will be connecting people in the districts that are oppressive with others in districts that are tolerant, which will be empowering by itself.

“Our work is to make sure that the next generation of school counselors is LGBTQI friendly, are allies and are competent on all LGBTQI issues.”

The down-under-side of the coin
The conference is so important to one presenter, he flew all the way from Australia on his own dime. William DeJean taught at Rancho Bernardo High School for ten years. His experience is coming from the other side of the coin – that of being an isolated gay teacher with no resources of his own. He now teaches openly in the Department of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where he writes extensively on queer matters in education.

“This conference excites me as it is providing all educators with resources to ensure schooling is safe for all members of the community. I had to be here,” said DeJean.

“K-12 schooling is not kind to the queer community. Hell, it isn’t kind to many communities. For that reason, I have made a commitment to myself to surround myself with women and men who are birthing new consciousness for education and for the world. I am looking forward to who I will meet, what networks will be created, and who I will become as a result of the conference.”

DeJean is conducting a 2 ½ hour workshop at the conference, and as eager to impart his knowledge to others as he is to learn from them.

The brave heart
On Sunday, as the lead-in to big names like Stuart Milk and Mary Ellen Clark, is a young lady whose courage in the face of hatred made headlines.

Rochelle Hamilton has been out since she was 13, but after three months of intolerable harassment as a sophomore at a Vallejo, CA high school, her mother couldn’t take it any longer. Her family sued the school district and won a very important judgment; one which not only included a monetary award, but also forced awareness training on the entire district. Still, the whole process was a not an easy one for this young, but very resilient, teenager.

Hamilton was forced to leave her high school for safety issues, so she knows full well the importance of a conference such as this. She didn’t have one person at her school to look to for support. Not one ally. Everyone, including (and in some cases especially) the faculty, was against her.

“At first I was scared, nervous,” said Hamilton. ”Then I realized, ‘I have to stand up for myself, they were wrong.’ Now I stand up for my LGBTQ family, because someone has to do it.”

Since her ordeal, Hamilton has had seven speaking engagements and won numerous awards from the California state legislature. With that kind of experience under her belt, telling her story this weekend at a conference designed to educate counselors and educators about kids just like her, will be a piece of cake.

When asked if she appreciated the opportunity to speak to such a relevant audience, her voice perked up. “I’m very happy about it. I love to change minds and change hearts,” she said, as she fondly reflected on her previous engagements. “As much as I touched them, they touched me, too.”

After she graduates later this year, she hopes to continue her motivational speaking, but her sights are really set on law enforcement. “I want to do anything that has to do with being a police officer,” she explained. “I guess that comes from wanting to protect people.”

Hamilton says her mother Sharee (who accompanies her to each engagement), always sums things up by saying, “We’re not looking for a sorry; we’re looking for another 5 letter word – change.”

These are just a few of the amazing individuals that will grace the Malibu Ballroom with their presence. The workshop topics are so varied, attendees are sure to leave not only educated, but empowered and confident in how to approach LGBTQI youth from this weekend forward.

Original post: Click here

Written by: Morgan M. Hurley, SDGLN Copyeditor

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Where Were YOU? TDOR: Transgender Day of Remembrance

TDOR flyer at Atlanta gathering. (T. Skye)

On November 20, 2009 my wife and I joined two of our closest friends on a cold evening and headed south. We traveled by bus and fought the crowds and time delays as we finally approached the closest station to our destination of the evening. Bundled up and holding each other tight, we walked several blocks to the church across from the Georgia State Capitol.

Traveling by bus had delayed us, so we entered the building as one speaker was talking to an engaged audience. I was surprised to see an abundance of food and drinks provided since the gathering was free. We sat at one of the long buffet tables alongside fellow transgender women, men and supporters. Atlanta mayor-elect Kasim Reed spoke as well as multiple other political community figures. Other speakers included a long list of activists for the trans community.

Photos displayed of some of those remembered - Phoenix, AZ. (J. Weil)

The evening was primarily arranged by Tracee McDaniel, founder of Juxtaposed Center For Transformation, with the help of many others.

As my eyes spanned the room, I couldn’t help but notice something. Though the crowd fit the definition of a “crowd”, there were not as many people there as I had presumed. The room was filled primarily with those who were trans and their partners, speakers/performers and political candidates running for office…with a handful of supporters. It hit me hard that the “GLB” part of the community were very few and far between.

This initiated my mind to re-wind back to an article I wrote a few years ago entitled: “The Minority Within the Minority”. Fast-forward  to December 2009 and from what I see, it virtually remains the same. Sure, I have witnessed a steady growing support for the transgender community, yet when it came down to a day of remembering those who were murdered for being who they are, I dare to ask, “Where Were YOU?”

Several names of those remembered - Phoenix, AZ (J. Weil)

One Atlanta pastor said exactly what my wife, our two friends and I were thinking. He spoke first to the political candidates  there and stated that he hoped they were not attending this evening  just to gain our vote, but that they will hold true to the promises in their words and help protect us and provide change. Next, he spoke out to the GLB crowd that was virtually non-existent. He mentioned the Atlanta Eagle bar raid underwear protests (Sept. 2009) and how that event had gathered a much larger crowd of community supporters. How sad to think many members of our community would rather be on the street in their underwear to protest a bar raid than to make their way to a candlelit vigil to call out the names of almost 100 people (that we know of) across the world that were murdered in the past year.

Where Were YOU?
When we walked across the street and gazed at the candles lit in front of the glowing capitol?

Where Were YOU?
When the 96 names were read giving the name, location, age and description of how they were killed…and then the haunting bell would ring?

Where Were YOU?
When taps were played to remember everyone, not just from the past year, but from the decades of years proceeding?

Where Were YOU?
When those who tried to hold back tears…couldn’t.

More faces on display in Phoenix, AZ (J. Weil)

This message isn’t just for you, it’s also for me.

There have been many other important gatherings that I missed in the past. I was one who would have full intention of being there, then at the last minute, something else took priority. Of course, there are some things that truly will prevent us from being at evenings such as this one. Yet, my voice sounds off to those who didn’t show up and could have made it. My voice especially grows louder to the ones who bear a title of “activist” within the GLBTQI community and didn’t feel the need to be there that night.

A night for the minority within the minority.

A night where we celebrated the lives, yet felt the pain (and some fear) of the reality of hatred that still floods the cities across the globe.

We are there for you. We support the GLB community and their efforts. We rally, we protest and we let our voices be heard and signs be seen.

I’m am asking this:
Be there for us in return.

Remember, we ARE a family. Just as you might not be understood within your biological family, we are still mis-understood some times (not just within our bio-family), but also our community-family – our chosen family. Some within our community still judge us. Some within our community label us “freaks”.

We saw this backwards-thinking most recently by an article written by Ronald Gold on a website called The Bilerico Project.

Photos of CHILDREN murdered who appeared to be transgender - Phoenix, AZ (J. Weil)

The post was so disturbing that founder and editor-in-chief, Bil Browning, had to remove the post and also remove Gold from the list of contributors (Thank you, Bil). This “anti-transgender” article was published on a website bearing the tag-line:  “daily experiments in LGBTQ”. In short, the article claimed (in so many words) that being transgender doesn’t exist and it is something psychologists misdiagnose and label us with.

On the up-side, comments flooded the page of the article and the support was incredible within our community as a whole.

This past year at Atlanta Pride marked the first year ever for a Transgender march. Progress.

For those in the GLB community that support us, THANK YOU.

This message is extended to everyone, not to  “bark” up the GLB tree inclusively. I’m even barking up my own tree and the trees of my trans brothers and sisters and queers…and, well, everyone. We are all held accountable and one thing I know to be true is that “Actions Speak LOUDER Than Words.”

The next time you hear of an upcoming event to support the transgender community and someone after the fact asks you, “Where Were YOU?” I hope you will be able to reply, “I Was THERE.”

Written by Tristan “no holds bar” Skye
President of TQnation.com

Tristan & Sicily Skye in front of Georgia State Capitol.

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World AIDS Day: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

The fight for AIDS is still a very large battle that affects people around the world. This infectious disease rips the lives away of many we love and it is a terrible way to leave this earth. Just because you might not personally know someone who has died or is living with this disease does not make it go away. HIV/AIDS is a REALITY.

Today marks World AIDS Day…it is a day to remember those we have lost and those living with this disease.

The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day back in 1988 – it is celebrated each year on December 1st.

Over one million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS and it is estimated that over 33 million are living with this disease worldwide.

There are over 80,000 people living with HIV/AIDS the United Kingdom (UK)  – read some of their stories at: www.worldaidsday.org

“World AIDS Day provides governments, national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations, and individuals with an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic.” — http://www.hhs.gov

Take Action

There are many ways you can take action in response to HIV/AIDS:

  • get tested for HIV
  • practice safer methods to prevent HIV
  • decide not to engage in high risk behaviors
  • talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
  • provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS
  • get involved with or host an event for World AIDS Day in your community

Resources

Put on your Red Ribbon today and take action!

Written by: Tristan

 

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Community Meeting to Name Your New VOICE

Please join us for a community meeting on Dec. 3 to discuss what you feel is most important in a new LGBT news outlet for Atlanta, and to help name your new voice.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at First Existentialist Congregation, 470 Candler Park Dr. in Atlanta. Many thanks to Rick Westbrook and the good folks at First E for donating the space.

Come to the meeting and be the first to know the new name! Here’s how it will work: To submit a name for consideration, please email your suggestion to savesovo@gmail.com with “name” in the subject line. Please send your suggestions by midnight on Sunday.

We’ll narrow them down to a few choices, make sure that they aren’t copyrighted by anyone else, then you’ll get to vote at next Thursday’s meeting.

In the meantime, please keep the ideas, support and, yes, donations coming.

Here are those details again:

Name suggestions: Email to savesovo@gmail.com by midnight on Sunday, Nov. 29.

Community meeting: Thursday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m. at First Existentialist, 470 Candler Park Dr.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. The events of the last few days have certainly shown us how much we have to be thankful for in Atlanta’s LGBT community.

Original Post — http://www.savesovo.com

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