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11 - 15 : 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality

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#11: Hold a workshop on how to effectively advocate for yourself when seeking medical care or therapy

One of the real challenges that transgender people face is accessing appropriate health care. Sometimes it is difficult to find a physician or therapist in the area we live in, but other times we delay care because of our anxieties about whether we will be treated well.

We can learn to be good consumers of medical care, knowing the rights that we have when we walk into a doctor’s office and learning ways to interact with medical personnel that are helpful to us. You can help your community by holding a workshop on how to access medical care and therapy. You can invite a local physician, therapist, social worker, nurse practitioner or other provider who has a proven track record of community support to come and speak to your group. Ask them to focus on issues such as how and when to disclose about your transgender status, how to advocate for yourself as a patient, and how to prepare for a visit.

Daniel Gould, Director of Health Programs for FTM Alliance of Los Angeles, coordinated a program recently on Accessing Health Care. He commented, “Accessing quality medical care is such a critical issue for the trans community. From the research we've done, we know that people's ability to advocate for themselves can make a huge difference in their health. We believe in empowering our community by teaching people their rights and helping them learn ways that they can be effective in working with medical providers. It has been incredibly rewarding to work on this project.”

The FTM Alliance website includes data from their Health Access Survey that identifies barriers that transmen face when seeking healthcare.

#12: Ask Your Local Film Festival to Show Trans Themed Movies and then Go See Them

There are some great new movies showing at film festivals around the world, including some with positive and poignant portrayals of trans people. You can make sure that more people get to see trans themed movies by asking the organizers of your local film festival to show them. You can also find movies that are playing near you and organize a community group to go see them and lend your support. Not sure where to find a film festival? Go to www.filmfestivals.com where you can search for one.

Two movies you don’t want to miss are:

  • Cruel & Unusual, a documentary about trans women who are incarcerated in men’s prisons around the country, denied access to medical and psychological treatment and subject to violence. You can find out more about it at www.cruelandunusualfilm.com. The film was made by Janet Baus, Dan Hunt and Reid Williams.

  • Screaming Queens, which tells the story of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots in 1966 in San Francisco. Three years before the Stonewall Riots, transgender women and gay hustlers fought back against police harassment. More info is available at www.comptonscafeteriariot.org. The filmmakers are Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman.

Filmmaker Reid Williams says of his experiences with Cruel & Unusual, “We just had our first screenings in Austin, Texas to a predominately mixed crowd. It confirmed my belief that a personal story can push someone to connect on a deeper level to someone's experience. I was amazed at the compassionate and thoughtful questions people asked after watching the film. We have so much to teach, and I think film is a wonderful way to make this happen.”

If this inspires you, maybe you’ll want to consider making a movie of your own as well. Whether it is your movie or someone else’s, support trans equality at the movies!

#13: Support the Day of Silence

On April 26, students around the country will take part in a Day of Silence, a program sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Student/Educators Network (GLSEN). The Day of Silence began in 1996 at the University of Virginia with students determined to raise awareness about the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students were silenced by prejudice based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In the last decade, students at thousands of schools have taken part by remaining silent for a day.

Riley Snorton, a member of NCTE’s Board of Directors is a staff member at GLSEN. He notes, “This is the tenth anniversary of the Day of Silence and it looks like more students than ever will be participating this year. This is already the largest student-led action on LGBT issues that happens in this country and has ever happened in American history. I think it is so important that we draw attention to the kinds of harassment and silencing that students face regularly in schools because of their gender identity and expression.”

You can find a resource manual, posters and lots of information at the Day of Silence website at www.dayofsilence.org. Start planning now to make a statement with your silence on April 26.

#14: Preach or speak at a local community of faith, such as a synagogue, church or mosque

April is a month of many religious festivals—you can commemorate the births of Buddha, Muhammad or Rama and celebrate Passover, Easter, Beltane and Baisakhi. Trans people practice the many religions of our world. Whatever your spiritual practice, if you are involved in a community of faith, consider talking to your community about transgender issues.

You might want to preach a sermon or give a short testimony about your experience as a transgender person, significant other, or ally. Another idea is to suggest a book, article or reading for a discussion group. You might organize a speaker to come do a trans 101 training for your community. Talk to the leader of your temple, mosque or church to get ideas about what might be appropriate. If you are able to speak to a gathering, your religious leader can also help you as you prepare your remarks.

Justin Tanis, NCTE staff member and author of Transgendered Ministry, Theology and Communities of Faith (Pilgrim Press, 2003), comments, “People need to hear our voices as transgender people. We have learned important things spiritually from our journeys of self-discovery. The fact that we dig deeper than the obvious about our bodies in learning about ourselves helps us to go below the surface spiritually as well. It is a powerful thing to hear our stories from pulpits and spiritual spaces.”

Other excellent spiritual resources to check out are:

  • Made in God’s Image: A Resource for Dialogue about the Church and Gender Differences (Reconciling Ministries Network, 2003), by Ann Thompson Cook

  • Transgender Journeys (Pilgrim Press, 2003), by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan

So, bring trans liberation to your community of faith.

#15: Adopt a Highway

You know those signs along the highway that tell you the group that volunteered to pick up trash along the road? Why not use them to raise our visibility? A group in Georgia did just that. Our column this week is written by Monica Helms, who organized the effort there.

In possibly every state of the country, the Department of Transportation has a program where you can Adopt a Highway to clean up every three months, or so. The picture you see is an actual sign of the mile adopted by the entire Transgender Community of GA. The Georgia DOT did not have any issues giving it to the community, or with having the word "Transgender" on it. The attitudes and procedures can vary from state to state, but it never hurts to try.

This effort not only gives transgender people more positive visibility, but it shows that we are just as proud of the places where we live as every other person there. Adopting a Highway educates people and gives your community credibility in a way that you cannot otherwise buy. The clean up days can also foster stronger ties within the community and can be turned into a special gathering.

If at all possible, do your best to have the word “Transgender” appear on the sign and avoid acronyms that the general pubic will not know or relate to. After all, we are trying to educate the public, as well as keep our community clean. And, please be careful out there.

Thanks to you, Monica, and all of the other activists out there who are creatively making a difference for transgender people


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