Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dear Trans Family...Will You Still Love Me When I'm No Longer Young and Beautiful?

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

There seems to always be an issue to discuss in life, especially in Trans life. This week, in the TMP Forum, I discussed the division in our society over the Men's Health Magazine Contest. A contest that one would naturally think the entire community would rally behind all the contestants and potential first for trans men. Sadly, it only raised debates over "passing" and jealousy. The mentality of the trans hierarchy is to say, once you've transition your gender, you are done. That somehow you will never have to deal with being a transgender person ever again. Many who have, have grown to realize that is an idealistic hypothesis. Gender dysphoria may lessen, but rarely completely goes away. So the second approach is to separate those who are what some call, "passing". Everyone comes up with their list of what it means to be transgender, while simultaneously, expecting the world to accept a people that have yet to define what it means themselves.

What it means to a teenager being bullied in Ohio, we often discuss. What it means for trans women of color living in poverty and forced by society to work in the sex industry, we've discussed. What it means for countless trans men, who unlike their sisters, rarely get to see themselves positively represented in main streams society. Everyone has a complaint, and a story. We even have our own sort of awards show, the trans 100, where we celebrate popularity in our community and pat ourselves on the back. We are bombarded by countless images of before and after pictures of ourselves. Along with numerous documentaries debating the meaning of being transgender.

Where is that discussion for those that have walked this life for countless years and now find themselves elderly, alone, and certainly not represented in the young beautiful, and chiseled current world of trans society? It seems even trans society, like most communities, is not immune from discarding it's elderly. As more people find it easier to live their authentic selves, there are even more that are now becoming senior citizens. A time in life where, heart medication, strokes, and medicine for various illnesses trump taking hormones. My brothers and sisters, ask yourself this; when was the last time you saw a gofundme campaign for an elderly transgender person living on a fixed income, with no family or children to help them? When was the last time you've even seen them acknowledged in our community?

This past week my heart was broken. I watched as an elderly trans advocate of the Charleston South Carolina area, who had been evicted from her apartment, be forced to leave a hotel and to find another place to lay her head. Her first name is Olivia and without her, there would more than likely not be any support system within the trans community in this area. Back in 2000, she formed the local trans support group. There they have guided many to find appropriate therapist and doctors to carry out one's transition. The group now has a local support system of nearly 50 transgender individuals, that attend various meetings, and connection to even more who have been in the past. In fact, if you enjoy TransMusePlanet, know this; that TMP has it's roots and was first thought of and nurtured, in the very group created by Olivia. Due to health, the group's directors have changed over the years, but all members, have always and continue to acknowledge it's founder, Olivia.

One of the reasons she no longer headed the organization was due to a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Last year she underwent deep brain stimulation surgery, to counteract tremors that are associated with Parkinson disease. She has no children and few family support, a place in life that many of us will face if we live to call ourselves elderly. Along with medical expenses, she has found herself near the edge of homelessness. Still transgender, but now elderly, frail, unable to make a living even if she wanted to, and no family.

When I ran into her at the hotel, I was surprised to see her and ask what was she there for. She told me her story, my heart broke. Not in just a sympathetic way, but out of fear. I am one of those trans women, who have never had children, approaching the dreaded 40, and may live to see my parents and older siblings pass away. My fear came from the idea that this one day could be me. What if I found myself, old, frail, and alone in the world. My first thoughts came to you, my TMP readers, and trans family. I had to ask myself, honestly, would my community be there for me? It breaks my heart but the truth is I don't know, and I seriously doubt it.

I look at representation of my community in social media, on television and in news, and all I see is the struggle for young people to be who they are. Once we are living our authentic selves, the only other representation is of the beauty and vigor of today's trans society. Does anyone in our community care about what it even means to be trans and elderly? I fear for all in my community as we grow older. I hope we can move beyond the "look at how beautiful" or "how passable" images we want to throw at mainstream society. I hope we can see that there are many of us, disabled, mentally ill, elderly, that are also transgender and need our support.

What can we do for those like Olivia. I admit, I'm not rich and struggle to pay my way now in life but I hope that this letter to my community urges many to help. Between this blog and it's social network pages, there is at least traffic of 150,000 people. I have started up a go fund me page for Olivia and I'm asking that my community show, that yes, we will still be there for our brothers and sisters when they are no longer young and beautiful.

Will you support and help Olivia? At least share this letter, so someone can.

Sabrina Samone, TMP

To lend your support, please visit the Go Fund Me Page.




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Trans Faces #16: Alejandro Santiago Lord; Building A Legacy of Service, One Act At A Time

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

I was recently asked in an interview for TMP's, Spring4Unity partner, "What Does My Identity Means To Me?" Loving yourself is only the beginning, I feel as a transgender person. Accepting yourself is the goal, and ultimately the key to fully grasping your identity. One man who does it with suave de vie is, Alejandro Santiago Lord. A confident identity that is not only helpful, but necessary for a man in a man's world. Before my sisters get angry, true, a confident identity is helpful and necessary for we women as well, but for a man it is almost required or demanded. Especially, if that man is a man of color.

He is an advocate for the visibility of trans-men of color, and therefore all trans-men. Not until all groups are equally represented, are we able to show the world, the true beauty of the mosaic of transgender society. A liaison for the Georgia chapter of Black Trans-Men Inc.,  he is adding in that visibility locally, injecting positive images of trans-men of color,  into everyday society. The vision of Black Trans-Men Inc., is to build an organization that secures a quality reputation that is socially responsible and economically beneficial within the transgender community and our greater society. To remain the indispensable source that brings together people who both need and provide reliable resources that support a healthy identity and to educate and inspire a social movement that secures human rights, nurtures the human experience and uplifts the soul.

Through his work with My Brother's Keeper, he is also an advocate for health care for our minority group. By promoting a healthier transition, monitored by licensed physician, he is also a leading voice in quality health care for transgender society.

Between his work with the homeless, youth, and advocating for trans-men everywhere, I thought it best to grab him for quick TMP ten question interview. This is one Trans Face you'd want to bookmark.

1. TMP: What do you think we can do as a community to better represent trans-men of color? 

              Alejandro Santiago Lord:  I really believe it is up to us to represent ourselves. In representing yourself positively the community is drawn to you.

2. TMP: What has it meant to you to live your authentic identity and express that amongst loved ones?

             A.S.L.: It means everything to me. Imagine living your life inside of a cocoon, that’s what it felt like. I felt trapped in someone else's body,  and someone else's way of thinking. Once I made the choice to live my true identity my life has made a turn for the better. It was very important to me that I express to my loved ones how I felt. I really wanted them to accept me, but had decided that I would live my truth regardless. It took a while but they finally get it.

3. TMP: What specifically, is your role with the Georgia chapter of Black Trans-men Inc.?

              A.S.L.: I am the community liaison for the GA chapter. My role is designed to make trans men visible in the community. We have been invited to participate in several community activities due to our recent visibility. I spoke a few weeks back at the Atlanta Film Festival which  has opened the door to more speaking engagements across the country. My hope is that the Georgia chapter of Black Transmen will be known all over the world. Like I stated in the first question, I feel like it is our responsibility to let the community know that we are here.

4. TMP: Explain to our readers who aren't familiar with Black Trans-men Inc., what is the role of the organization, and who can be apart of the organization?

               A.S.L.: Black Transmen Inc.®, is the 1st National Non-Profit Organization of African American transmen, solely focused on acknowledgment, social advocacy, and empowering transmen with resources to aid in a healthy female to male transition. Black Transmen Inc. programs provide, all female to male transmen, and SLGBTQI individuals, with necessary tools to secure identity and equality within our society regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sexual identity, or sexual expression. Although it is geared towards African American transmen, no one is ever turned away.

5. TMP: Share with the TMP reader why it is important for visibility of trans-men of color?

  A.S.L.: I believe it is very important especially in the trans community. I have met so many trans women who don’t even know we exist. I believe that we blend into society so well that unless we announce we are trans no one will ever know. It is important however that society understands that we are here. I choose personally to be visible so that the new generation have someone they can look to for help. I didn’t have that.

6.  TMP: What is My Brother's Keeper?

               A.S.L.: My Brother’s Keeper is a non-profit organization designed initially to help trans identified individuals with the necessary funds to go the annual conference in Dallas every May, but the need was far greater than what we envisioned. We give away binders for those who are waiting for top surgery, we provide the funds for prescriptions, lab work and doctors appointments. We found that the lack of finances tend to have trans identified individuals seeking hormones through black market. We want to deter that way of thinking.

7.   TMP: What are some of the things you've accomplished through My Brother's Keeper, that you are most proud of?

                 A.S.L.: We have given out over 300 binders, provided over 75 prescriptions and provided well over 100 with necessary medical services. I will not be happy until we are financially able to provide at least one scholarship a year for top surgery.

8. TMP: What are your views of black market prescriptions in trans society, and why is it important that trans people seek medical care in your opinion?

               A.S.L.:  I absolutely hate that black market prescriptions even exist. I understand the desire to have hormones, but if being on them ends your life then what is the point. Having the necessary lab work to find out the proper dosage is essential. Being monitored by a licensed physician is key to leading a productive life while on hormone therapy. I for one had a lab test come back where my cholesterol was extremely high. If I hadn’t had my routine blood work done and been advised by my physician on what to do I could have had a heart attack or stroke. I do understand that it may be financially difficult for most, but that is what My Brother’s Keeper, Black Transmen Inc. and other organizations are here for.

9.  TMP: Tell our TMP readers about the 'I Am Human' campaign, and how can we be more supportive of it?

               A.S.L.: The I Am Human Campaign was founded by my brother Ariq Barrett in Philadelphia, Pa. In his words “the I AM HUMAN campaign which is a worldwide campaign that is not exclusive to any one group or community but is inclusive of everyone. Especially those who have experienced being mistreated or not accepted in society because of race, gender, sexual preference, social class or any type of injustice.” I was so moved by his work with feeding the homeless that I started the I Am Human Atlanta, where we take to the streets of downtown where the homeless population seems to be growing. It is the goal that this campaign is one day worldwide.

10. TMP: I like to ask, if you could tell the world something about Alejandro Santiago Lord, and you knew everyone would listen, what would you like them to know about you?

                A.S.L.: I am a simple guy with a big heart. I thank my mother for teaching me at a young age that what you are given in this world is not yours to keep but to put back into the atmosphere. I
truly believe in service. I am on an ultimate high when I see my work manifested in others. The smile on a homeless persons face when you shake their hand. The look of hope in their eyes when you listen to their story. I have found my calling and that is in the service of others. When I leave this world I would hope my legacy would be one of service. I would want them to say that guy cared and he walked into his destiny leaving behind hope for those he left behind.

Now what an advocate we have in Alejandro Santiago Lord. As I often say, "Inspire, to be inspired", and that is exactly what he has done for this woman. He is an example, that doing something good for our community can never be underestimated or taken for granted. Though, trying at times, moments like this, meeting interesting trans sisters and brothers, if only online at first, can be inspiring to us all, to continue the fight. Every hand is needed and required in this struggle.

To Follow Alejandro Santiago Lord

My Brother's Keeper Trans Support Community 

The Georgia Chapter of Black Trans-Men Inc.

To Donate to support the Georgia chapter of Black Trans-Men Inc.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

TMP's Spring4Unity Contest Winner is...

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

Congratulations to Rudy Mills of Nevada

Part of my mission through my musings with TMP, is to promote Unity. Unity, across the board of trans society. For various reasons many in our society stand at odds with one another...this is sad. A  transphobic bigot , does not walk into a room and choose to hate either men or women, black or white, rich or poor, or care what your sexual orientation is. They simply hate and discriminate against you because you are transgender...period. Why then, must we continue to segregate ourselves and aid in their hateful efforts. If they can stand united in their hate, why is it so hard that we can not stand together in our common struggle.

This year, TMP partnered with other trans friends, to promote unity. Many were for and against the collaboration. Yet, another sign that unity among trans society is an issue that needs to be addressed. TMP's spring4unity had few submissions, but all excellent ones. Through TMP, I collaborated with, and the film I Am The T. For this first year contest, they were specifically chosen to bridge the gap between the sexes in trans society. To demonstrate that a site that is ran by a trans-female of color was more than willing and knowledgeable to assist in the visibility of all trans men. From the countless thankful emails from trans men around the world, I feel it was a success. Many who thought this was just another blog site dedicated to trans female issues, saw that their issues were valid here and respected. and the film I Am The T, were chosen because they, like TMP, wanted to show respect for the issues facing trans women. That is how you start a dialogue of Unity.

One who understood that and sent a submission was Rudy Mills of Nevada. The winner of the Spring4Unity Contest. Rudy is a proud trans man, who states he has felt more connected to the community during this process. Again, another win for Unity. Rudy will be receiving a 50 dollar gift card to trans friendly Target, a clothing item from Point5cc, first look at the first segment of the film I Am The T, and two free downloads from DJ Soul Manifest.

To read Rudy's Guest Post in full, visit TMP Guest Blog Page.



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

56% of South Carolinian's Reject The States Religious Freedom Law

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

Last week, Indiana, passed the Religious Freedom Act. A law that has given many to openly discriminate against TBLG persons.  While many protest the latest law in Indiana, many are unaware that a similar law has already been in place for sometime in South Carolina.

According to the Post and Courier, South Carolina is the only state, other than Indiana, with a law that explicitly gives religious protections to businesses. Raising concerns that it could be used to defend discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgender people. Beth Littrell, a senior attorney in Atlanta for advocacy group Lambda Legal, said South Carolina’s law was “murkier” than Indiana’s, but that it could have the same effect that activists there fear, depending on how it’s interpreted by the courts in S.C.

Currently the ACLU, is unaware of any use of the law to discriminate in this state, as of yet. While many state political analyst have been mulling over the differences of the two laws, many have come to agree that while South Carolina's is not fair by any means, it is far less dangerous than the one Indiana has just imposed. Yet, at the core of the two laws, they basically are the same. The difference is that no such blatant discrimination has been produced from it, but the law is there to protect it if it should arise.

South Carolina's Religious Freedom Law has been in place since 1997, with little if no opposition from the LGBT communities. Many feel, with the recent protest in Indiana, it is now time to re address this law and dismantle it. According to a recent poll in the Post and Courier, 56% of online readers stated that yes, it should never have been established in the first place; To the question, should South Carolina re-evaluate its religious freedom law that was put on the books in 1997?

South Carolina's Religious Freedom Act VS Indiana's Religious Freedom Act