PFLAG’s Events for April

PFLAG’s mission is uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies.  PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy.  PFLAG has 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

PFLAG was the first support organization I heard of when I was growing up.  I attended their meetings a few years ago and found it was a supportive and inclusive community.  PFLAG is a wonderful group, especially for our spouses and family members and I am happy to promote the events the Twin Cities chapter has scheduled.

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Please join us for our April 16th support groups.
Tuesday, April 16th, 6:30 – 7:45 pm.
Union Congregational Church
3700 Alabama Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55416
At every other monthly meeting we will be holding special programs we feel may be of interest to you, along with our regular Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans support groups.  In the alternate months, we will meet and hold our support groups only.
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Love, Hannah

More Than Just a Flag

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The kind people at MB Books sent a copy of ‘More Than Just a Flag’, an autobiography of Trans Flag Creator and Trans Activist, Monica F. Helms, to review.

I love to read and I especially like to read what is called ‘micro-history’ which is usually a deeply researched book that focuses on something very specific that has had a significant impact on society.  I believe our community should be familiar with our history so I was very excited to read this.

The book covers her time serving in the Navy, her journey of discovering who she is and her days as an activist.  In addition to creating the transgender pride flag, she also fought for creating a union when she worked for a civilian employer which is where she worked when she transitioned.

According to the introduction, some of Ms. Helms’ other achievements include:

-Before TAVA’s launch in 2003, Monica was active on the
board of directors of the nonprofit National Transgender
Advocacy Coalition

-Monica was Georgia’s (and the South’s) first transgender
delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She has
been active in lobbying state legislators in Arizona and
Georgia, and the U.S. Congress.

-Along the way, Monica managed to pick up three college
degrees, two in television production. She maintains a
channel on YouTube with some 250 videos.

-Monica has six books available for purchase on Amazon.
Five are science fiction, three of which – perhaps
unsurprisingly – involve submarines.

The memoir is insightful, relatable, serious and lighthearted.  It is also heartbreaking, especially when Helms recounts her relationship with her parents:

As I left their house again, I tried to give my mother a hug goodbye, but she wouldn’t put her arms around me. Instead she told me, “We’re taking you out of the will and we don’t ever want to see you again.”

So, I walked out of my parents’ home, never to speak face-to- face with my mother for the next seven-and-a-half-years. I would never get the chance to look into my father’s eyes ever again, because he would end up dying a few years later. Even though the rejection
caused me enormous pain, I knew I had no other option than to continue with my transition. To the outside world my actions may have looked selfish, but I can truthfully say that I only did what I had to do to survive.

At Church

I learned a lot more than I expected about this history and creation of our iconic flag.  But as the title implies, this book covers more than just our flag.  Ms. Helms writes about her experience and her perspective on gender.  Much of what she writes is a reminder about every transperson is different and how different the meaning of ‘transgender’ can be from person to person.

From the text:

As my life has progressed, I’ve found that I’m both man and woman, neither a man nor a woman, and sometimes both at the same time. I am not confused, rather I believe I’m enlightened. I feel that I have been blessed to see life through the eyes of a man and the eyes
of a woman. It has given me an amazing viewpoint of the world. As such, I believe I am an amalgamated person.

An amalgamation is “the process of combining or unitingmultiple entities into one form.” In  metallurgy, in an amalgam or alloy, the elements do not chemically combine, but mix together to form a stronger byproduct. I feel that the amalgamation of male and female in me has helped to make me a stronger person. I identify as female, but I’m more of a bigender person. This allows my brain to float between multiple worlds, or solidly take on one role or another. Sometimes I am a man and a woman at the same time, or I can
change in a nanosecond, then change back just as fast.

If you are interested in our history I recommend ‘More Than Just a Flag’, but I also encourage you to read it as I found Helms’ perspective on gender fascinating.  She writes well and succinctly gets to the point of what she is saying.

You can get a copy online or from your local bookseller.  Thank you to Ms. Helms for writing this, for your contributions to our community and for creating a symbol for us.  Thank you to MB Books for sending this!

Love, Hannah

 

Ask Hannah!

I’m curious if you’ve ever felt any hostility from the trans community regarding your definition of transgender? I mentioned on a Reddit post that I consider myself transgender even though I’m ultimately just a guy who likes to dress up every now and then, and I received a large amount of hostility and even some relatively harsh replies. I think I deserved some of it (saying I’m just a man who likes to dress up can definitely act to group others on the more “transition” side of things as an attempt of grouping them with me), but I was shocked at some of the comments (such as “no… you’re a crossdresser, and that’s it. Don’t use our term!”)

I’m just curious if you’ve ever had any similar responses, or what your view on the whole thing is.

This is a pretty familiar conversation our community has.  I have a friend who has a little joke about this:

What’s the difference between crossdressing and transgender?
Six months.

This is also a pretty common question we all ask ourselves.  Many of us start by identifying as a crossdresser and many of us will transition (no pun intended) to identifying as transgender.

I think some people feel that if it’s all about, and only about, the clothes, then it’s just crossdressing.  But once feelings and gender identity are factored in, then it crosses into trans territory.  Others say it takes hormones to strut into trans-land.

It’s not easy to explain who we are.  Usually we stumble through coming out and get frustrated because it’s hard to really pinpoint the reasons we are who we are.  It’s even harder for someone else to understand.

It may be hard but if we want others to understand us then we have to do the best we can to communicate with them.  Of course, you are under no obligation to explain to anyone (besides your significant other) who and why you are who you are, but if you do, then you need to take the time to do some soul-searching and kind of sort yourself out.  To this day my mom thinks I am a crossdresser as opposed to being trans.  Why?  Because that is how I can out.  I came out to her about five years ago and I didn’t quite do it correctly.  I told her it was about clothes, about dressing up, and that I didn’t know why I did it.  It is what it is.  Perhaps I downplayed it in an effort to spare her feelings or calm her worry?

But pulling these punches did me no favors.  Were I to come out today to her, or to anyone else, the conversation would be more about my perspective on identity and not feeling restrained by societal and gender norms and how I don’t know why I am who I am and that I don’t really care about figuring it out.  Just like I don’t lie awake wondering why I like coffee I don’t lose sleep over why I heart mascara.

The sticking point is that there are many perspectives and opinions on these terms and there’s no universally agreed upon definition.  I suppose it would be fair to say that these terms are open to interpretation and your definition is likely different than someone else’s.

What this thinking falls under is that there is no right or wrong way to be trans.  Just like there is no standard or expectation you must meet to be able to identify as a girl, you do not have check off certain boxes to be able to identify as transgender.  You do not have to wear a size 8 in heels to be a girl, you do not have to transition or live full-time to be transgender.

Just like you can’t let anyone tell you that you are or are not the gender you identify as, you can’t let others tell you if you are transgender or not.  If you say you are, you are.  Personally I would say you are transgender but my opinion means nothing.  It’s all about what you identify as.  I think the transgender term can, and does cover more specific ways to identify.  Some identify as gender-queer, agender and non-binary.  I think I identify as a bi-gender.  Crossdressing, drag, all of these terms fall under transgender.

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If you haven’t done so already, I recommend reading Mia Violet’s book ‘You Are Trans Enough’ which talks about this better than I could.  I have never experienced any push back from our community about my definition.   In many ways my definition is my perspective and my opinion.  Were I to be challenged on it I wouldn’t fight to the death trying to convince someone else of my definition.  I would impress upon them that this is my opinion and no one has to agree with it.

I hope this helps!

Love, Hannah

 

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Have a question for me?  Oh yes you do.  Ask me here!