Our Mothers

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Today we mourn the loss of our trans siblings to violence and celebrate their lives, bravery, and accomplishments. Today we honor our elders and those who paved the way before us. Today we use our mouths to speak the voices that have been silenced.

Below is a collection of art created by Amelia Meman for Women’s History Month 2015. These women, some alive and some not, are some examples of the amazing abilities, resistance, and resilience found in our community. This art has been compiled in zine format, available in print at the Women’s Center and in PDF form here.

Dedicated to Viv. We miss you.

cece-mcdonald-print

cece mcdonald was arrested on june 5, 2011 for the death of dean shmitz after shmitz’s girlfriend threw a glass in her face. shmitz and a group of friends harassed mcdonald and her friends outside a bar, shouting transphobic and racist slurs and comments at the group. when cece confronted the group, shmitz’s girlfriend threw the glass and a fight ensued. cece was charged with second degree murder and plead guilty to a charge of second degree manslaughter on june 4 of 2012. she was released on jan 13, 2014 after 19 months in men’s prison. activists raised a cry against anti-trans violence with shouts of “free cece” during her trial and prison sentence. since her release, cece has become an activist herself, working and speaking against the prison system and anti-trans violence and she has received the bayard rustin civil rights award from the harvey milk lgbt democratic club. a documentary titled free cece, directed by laverne cox and jac gares, is expected to be released in 2016

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Healing My Community

Daniel Willey A reflection by Women’s Center staff member Daniel

Trigger warning for suicide mention; resources at the bottom of the post

My community experienced a tragedy early this October, and the ripples from the impact are still cascading across campus and beyond. I woke up that morning to several messages from friends and coworkers telling me what I already knew: a dear friend had passed from suicide.

This friend was a very private person whose spouse has also asked for privacy. In order to respect their wishes, this blog post isn’t about her. That said, I’m incredibly sad about her passing and I miss her every day and I certainly don’t want anybody to forget her. Ever. She was insatiably curious and incredibly smart. She cared deeply for her community and the students she encountered. And now she’s gone.

My friend was a trans woman and she was active in the community of queer and trans students on campus. Her death had an enormous impact on that community, and we continue to be impacted by it for many reasons. Many, and in fact most, of us in the queer and trans community live with mental illness, neurodiversity, or both, and to see it overtake someone who tried so hard for so long is discouraging at best. Mostly, it’s frightening. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on health and health care, 41% of trans people attempt suicide in their lifetime. In the face of all of this, it’s been so hard for my community to see the light.

But also in the face of all of this, I’ve seen some incredible coming together. We are a community who has had to learn how to take care of each other. It can be difficult because sometimes we can’t even take care of ourselves, but when shit really hits the fan I know I have people I can be with. There are people with whom I can cry and talk frankly about how fucking bad it feels. And then we hold each other and support one another and even though we’re all having a hard time, we’re doing it together.  Continue reading

Reading Redefining Realness

Shira

 

A short book reflection by Shira Devorah 

Just a few moments ago I finished Janet Mock’s memoir, Redefining Realness, My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. I’m still stunned. I’m not much of a memoir reader, but I’m pretty sure this book has changed that.

Thanks to a generous donation from UMBC’s LGBTQ Faculty & Staff Association, I was able to snatch up this book from the Women’s Center’s very own lending library! Over the past couple of days, I have been relishing every moment of Janet Mock and her story. Mock, a trans woman of color, takes her readers through her life from early childhood until now. In a whirlwind of wit and poignancy, she shares herself with us.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried a whole bunch throughout this book. Mock fought tooth and nail to become the woman she is today, and though she has been through a lot of pain and oppression, she never falters in her stance as an activist. Every personal recollection comes with a lesson Mock has for her readers. She challenges us to be better people, to see others more complexly, to  be critical of systems of inequality and injustice that exist all around us. Mock allows her readers to peak into incredibly sensitive parts of her, and trusts us to learn from the barriers she faced in her girlhood and adolescence.

I think this memoir is a wonderful introduction to intersectional identities and social justice. Any person who picks up this book will be gently introduced to many concepts that they might not have been privy to beforehand.  While I feel like I know a bit about many issues touched upon in this book, I have been changed  by her discussions. Continue reading

Trans Identities + Mental Health Resources Round-Up

A resource round-up provided by Women’s Center staff members

In case you missed yesterday’s roundtable on Trans Identities + Mental Health (or if you were there and want to keep the conversation going), we thought it might be useful to summarize some of the discussion in addition to linking to some useful reading materials and resources. Trans + Mental Health - event

As with all of our roundtables, we reached out to our panel members and asked them to keep some of guiding questions in mind as they shared their stories and examples. Some of these questions included:

  • Where do the intersections of trans identities and mental health show up for you personally? In the classroom? In your activism? In your peer networks?
  • How does stigma against mental illness impact trans people’s experiences seeking support or other mental health services?
  • How are the needs of trans people different and/or similar to those of LGB+ people with regard to mental health?
  • Why is the intersection of trans identities and mental health a social justice and/or feminist issue?

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On Self Love and Testosterone

Halloween was this Friday (as if you didn’t already know that– I know, I’m still recovering from my candy coma, too) and I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection on the past year. Most people do their reflecting in January at the start of the new year, but Halloween is my “new year.” I started my medical transition on October 31, 2013, so as Friday rolled around I began thinking about all the things that have happened and who I’ve become since last Halloween.

guhhh…This Halloween definitely paid for my dentist’s vacation.

I am so much happier than I was 18 months ago. I have a group of very dear friends who care about me. I have made my own family and my own home here in Baltimore, and my family’s house back in Frostburg feels much more welcoming. I feel joy again. I’m doing well in school. I feel validated in my work and I feel like I have the ability to make change not just at UMBC, but in the larger community.

If you had told me all of this before I went on testosterone, I would have said, “Wow! It’s amazing all the things testosterone can do for me!” Now, I’ve realized that the testosterone had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t some magical elixir like a Felix Felicis potion. It didn’t fix something that was broken. It didn’t give me friends or make people like me more. All of that was me. I did that.

“Bottled good fortune. Brewed correctly the drinker of this potion will be lucky in all their endeavors…” –J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

It’s amazing the things you can discover about who you are and what you’re capable of once you stop putting all your energy into hating yourself. Being on testosterone didn’t make me hate myself less– just like losing 20 pounds isn’t going to make your body image issues go away. It removed the thing I was using as an excuse for hating myself. It’s easy to say, “I’ll love myself once I’m on testosterone,” but I realized that self love doesn’t come in a 10mL vial. You can’t diet your way to self love, either. You have to work towards it and it’s hard, but it’s totally worth it.

What I’ve learned in the past twelve months is that I am worthy of my love unconditionally and let me tell you, that Halloween candy tastes so much sweeter now.