2019 Transgender Stellar Awards

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The Transgender Stellar Awards celebrates outstanding work and contributions transgender people have provided in our community within the past year.

The Transgender Stellar Awards to give families, friends, allies and community advocates an opportunity to recognize “stellar” transgender individuals who have made considerable impact in our local community in the areas of Health & Wellness; Communications; Entertainment & Culture; Innovative Services/Inventions; Community Service(s); Teamwork; Transgender Youth of the Year and Transgender Adult of the Year.

Date: Saturday, August 17, 2019

Time: 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: Minneapolis Central Library

300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

Pohlad Auditorium 2nd floor

Free food, music, and entertainment

Voting Deadline: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 12:00 noon

Nominate and vote here!

Love, Hannah

 

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Pride Weekend!

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It’s Pride weekend in Minneapolis/Saint Paul!

There’s a lot to do all month and you can see what events are happening here but the biggest events are happening this weekend at the Pride Festival.

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The MN T-Girls will be at the Pride Festival tomorrow.  If you’re there, come say hi!

Love, Hannah

 

 

Keep Trying

…to convince me that Trump and the GOP don’t hate us.

From The Washington Post

New Trump administration rule would weaken protections for transgender people in health care

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services determined that rules against discrimination “on the basis of sex” applied to transgender people. Today HHS proposed a new rule that protections against sex discrimination should apply to “the plain meaning of the term,” an interpretation civil rights groups say may be used to deny care to transgender patients (more here)

From The Intercept

The Trump Administration Wants to Make It Harder for Transgender People to Access Homeless Shelters

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced a new rule that would permit homeless shelters receiving Housing and Urban Development funds to turn people seeking shelter away based on their gender identity.

The plan, which is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget and could result in a formal change as early as September, would modify the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Equal Access Rule. That rule, issued by the Obama administration, required single-sex or sex-segregated shelters to admit people based on their gender self-identification (more here)

Love, Hannah

#girlslikeus

There is a hashtag that a girl like us uses on social media.  The tag, conveniently enough, is #girlslikeus.   This tag is used to bring attention to our community for the purpose of relatable problems, whether it’s trivial such as getting frustrated that Target doesn’t normally carry heels in sizes larger that an 11, or more serious issues like our president slowly and methodically stripping our rights away from us.  It’s a tag that is used for personal pride, like when you take an amazing selfie, accomplishing something amazing (like finding heels at Target that fit) or just a way for our community to connect with each other.

It’s important that we have support, and it’s important that we have each other’s backs.  It’s very challenging to understand who we are, not only to others but also to ourselves.  But we don’t have to explain who we are to girls like us.  Sure, being trans might mean something different to each of us and we all have similar journeys but we might have different destinations.  I’m done.  I’m at the end of my journey.  I went from underdressing to where I am today.  I am no longer discovering who I am.  I have found myself, I have accepted myself, I have created myself.

But you might still be on your journey.  Maybe you just accepted yourself.  Maybe you just left the house for the first time.  Maybe you just told your wife.  Maybe you just started hormones.  Maybe you just received your updated birth certificate.  Our journeys start and stop.  We might rest for years between next steps.  We may want different thngs at different points of our lives.  There are no timelines to any of this.  You are never too old to start anything.  It’s not too late.  Besides wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels, there’s no wrong way to be transgender.

The point I am trying to make is that t-girls get it.  We may not understand ourselves, but we understand each other.  I don’t really know why I like to dress, but I know why you do.  We all remember the thrill of when we first tried on heels or panties or lipstick.  We remember how less alone we felt when we learned the word ‘transgender’.  There are others like us!  So many like us that there is a word for us!  We all can relate to the tension between us and the cashier as they rang up a dress when we first started to build a wardrobe.  We all have had the same conversations with our partners when we came out.

At some point in our journey (and for the record I want to say that I hate that word but it’s probably the most fitting and relatable), we find that we want support.  We want to talk to someone.  We may have spent decades in our heads wrestling with this side of us and we need to sort it out.  Or shout it out.  Or cry about it, whether it is because we are scared about this means, or cry from relief that we have accepted this part of us, or tears of joy.

It’s hard for someone else to understand who and why we are.  They may want to support us but they will likely have questions.  It’s important that we are patient and honest with the people in our lives that we come out to.  Being patient is hard, though.  I think one of the reasons I am not out to more people is because it takes a lot of energy to do that.  I know what questions they’ll ask, I know there will be a conversation about how my wife reacted and what she thinks, and discussing what being trans means to me.

Just typing that part exhausted me.

I don’t feel I need support from anyone in my life that I haven’t already come out to.  Yes, sometimes I would like to be out to more people but I don’t feel a burning or desperate yearning to do so.  The truth is I never really felt that I needed support from many people.  I wanted acceptance and, more than anything, friendship.  I wanted Hannah to have someone to shop with or talk to.  Not only is my wife the love of my life, she is also my best friend…in both of my genders.

I think it’s important for a t-girl to have other t-girls for friends.  Not only to have someone to hit the mall with, but it’s important to have someone who absolutely gets it.  I never have asked another t-girl why they are who they are.  It’s none of my business anyway.  I’ve never been asked that either.  We don’t need to have that conversation.  We already know what we would say.

I talk to a lot of t-girls on different points in their journey (ugh, that word).  It’s exciting when we first come out because accepting yourself is one of the hardest and most wonderful things you can do.  It’s also the time when we will make the most mistakes.  These mistakes can be bigger than wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels.  We will often get lost in the pink fog and make bad decisions.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is overwhelming our partners.  Most of us want our partners to know about us, we want their support, and we want them to…well, participate.  What participation means is different for all of us.  Some of us want our wives to teach us how to do makeup, pick out a wig, hit the town, or have a girls nights in.  I see too many of us tell our partners about this, and then the next day we tell them we want to go out en femme and the day after that we ask them to come with us.  It’s easy to understand why our partners are wondering what’s next or where all this is going. Being who we are can be lonely.  We want friends.  We want to know girls like us.  We feel we are the only ones like us.  We have no one to talk to about this.  On that note, our partners often feel that way, too.

When we come out we are opening up and discussing feelings and experiences we have been silent on for years.  We are so ready for what’s next.  But our partners aren’t.  They are processing what we just told them and they need time to sort it out.  Understanding this part of us is not simple.  We don’t understand ourselves and we have had our entire lifetime to figure it out.  Our partners need more than a couple hours, or a weekend, or a decade to let it sink in.

The most important thing we can, and should do is be open and transparent with ourselves and our partners.  It’s also important for girls like us to be friends with girls like us so we have others to talk to about this.  Again, we should avoid overwhelming our partner and it’s easy to do so if they are the only person we talk to about this.

So, how do we do make friends?

I don’t need to tell you about this new thing called the world wide web.  It’s a wonderful way to connect with others.  Of course, if your partner has requested that this side of you doesn’t have social media accounts, you had best respect that boundary.  It drives me crazy when t-girls tell me they have a Facebook profile that their wife doesn’t know about.  Don’t do this.  Seriously.

You can create profiles and chat online at places like crossdressers.com, The Gender Society and urnotaone.com.  Even just chatting and posting on the forums can give you support and friendship.  I spent a lot of time online in the early days and found it helpful to read about others like me and I gained a lot of information about everything from beard cover and color correcting to understanding what our partners are feeling.

I met girls online that I later met in real life.  In fact, one of the first times I went out was to meet up with someone I met online.  I hope I don’t need to explain why you shouldn’t meet someone at a hotel room or at their house.  If you are meeting someone you know from the internet, meet in a public place.

When I was ready to make friends, I started attending a local support group.  There are a few in Minneapolis and I went to two different ones off and on for a few months.  One of those groups was PFLAG and I am willing to bet you can find a PFLAG support group near you.  Going to the groups was wonderful.  If anything, they help me get used to going out en femme.  I built confidence and it soon became second nature to get in and out of a car wearing a skirt, walking in heels outside, and interacting with people as Hannah.

After a few months, I started to feel that the groups weren’t right for me anymore.  All t-girls are different and are at different points in their lives.  Some had just started hormones, some were there with their wives as they were both struggling and coming to terms with this, some just had gender affirmation surgery and just hit the reset button on life.  I wasn’t conflicted about who I was, I didn’t want to live full-time and I wasn’t about to transition.  I was no longer looking for support, it was time to make friends.

I talked to my wife one night after a meeting.  I felt ready to start going out to other places besides the support groups.  I was ready to move from seeking support to finding a social circle.  A group to shop with, go out to dinner with, and just do…stuff.  Places to go that weren’t built around gender identity.  I didn’t want to just frequent gay bars or drag shows, I wanted to go to the mall and Starbucks.

So, my wife suggested I start a group like that.  And I did.  As of this writing, the MN T-Girls has existed for almost six years.  It started small like most things do, but the group now has hundreds of members from all over the state, the midwest, even girls from outside of the area who travel to the Twin Cities on a regular basis.

The first step in creating the group was to decide what kind of group we would be.  This was kind of like writing a mission statement.  I remembered the first time I went out and how scared I was.  I could think of nothing but the sad and horrific and terrifying stories of girls like me getting harassed, attacked, or worse.  These instances understandably stop many of us from leaving our living rooms.  So, safety in numbers became the driving force behind the group.  Not only safety from those who may hurt us, but the security we give each other when we know we are not the only ones like us.

The second goal of the group was to create a social circle for those like myself.  Most of the members of the group are secure in who they are.  Most know where they are in their journey.  Most members of the group live comfortably with their gender identities and go back and forth between them.  In 80% of their lives they are husbands and fathers but every other Saturday they strut out of their closet looking fabulous.  Most of us are out to our partners.

Sure, support for each other is a given.  It’s not uncommon for members to talk about something they, or their partner, is struggling with.  Our shared experiences help each other and offer a perspective we may not have had before.  So, I guess I created a support group after all.  But I like to think the group offers a social part that many of us need.  The group meets once a month and we have different adventures.  Sometimes it’s the group going out to dinner, or attending a play, visiting a museum, annual holiday parties, or going to a pride festival.  We’ve had a lot of private shopping events where businesses will host our group after hours which gives us an opportunity to shop for everything from lingerie to shoes to clothes to accessories.  Our most popular and requested events are the private makeup lessons that I organize at least once a year.

Our first event was meeting for coffee at a cafe owned by a transwoman.  There were about five of us there.  Today the group has close to 300 members.  Growing the membership was one of the hardest parts of starting the group.  I had been blogging for a couple years at this point so I had a little following.  I was active on forums and had attended local support groups and knew a few girls like me.  I wrote about the group on my site, I told others about it at the support groups I attended and soon word spread.  After a few months of, well, recruiting I guess, we had our first meet up.

The group was formed for girls like us to find and make friends with others like us.   I wanted to meet other girls like me, I wanted to shop with girls like me.  There wasn’t a local group that offered that, so I created one.  I’m glad I have the group and thankful for the friends I met because of it.  I get emails from t-girls from all over the country looking for a group like this.  I encourage them to start one.  It takes dedication, consistency, and probably a kind of madness to do something like this, but it can be done.

I keep the group going because I know how important it is for me to have friends who are like me.  It’s important to every girl like us.  I wholly believe the group is a form of activism in a way.  We are showing the world that girls like us go out to dinner, shop, and do whatever everyone does because #girlslikeus are just like everyone else.

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Bans Conversion Therapy

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From Minnesota Public Radio

The Minnesota House has taken a stand against conversion therapy, a practice used to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lawmakers voted 72-53 Thursday to include a statewide ban of the therapy on minors in a larger health and human services bill.

Under the measure, mental health professionals in Minnesota would be prohibited from engaging in conversion therapy with clients under age 18 or with vulnerable adults.

Here are some pictures from the rally held yesterday at the Minnesota capital.   Photos from Outfront MN’s Twitter page.

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Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen!

Love, Hannah

It’s Not Political, It’s Activism

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemöller

I think about this poem a lot these days.

I believe that keeping us safe is the most important thing we can do.  This takes on many different aspects.  For some of us, this means keeping this part of us secret from our family, our friends, our employer.  Safety also means avoiding danger and harassment as we are out in public.

But on a broader scale, it also means protecting our health, the way the world sees us, and our rights.

Some of you hate it when I discuss what is sometimes perceived as politics.  Every time I write about potential legislation I get comments (which are deleted) and emails (which I ignore) that ask me to stick to posts about high heels and leave the politics to someone else.

I also get emails from t-girls who are afraid to leave the house for fear of being attacked.  I understand and sympathize with you.  I get it.  There are stories every day of someone from our community getting hurt or killed.  We are not understood.  We are demonized.  We are hated.

Public perception of the trans community is something I take very seriously.  I believe that when we strut out of the house we are representing every trans person out there.  The more often we are seen, the more often we can show the world we are just people.  Trying to live our own lives.  In a way, we are speaking up for those who are not ready to leave the house yet.  I am thankful for the generation that came before me.  At the risk of their safety they made the world a little safer for my generation.

But when we are labeled burdens and problematic by the president, it reverses all the good that we are trying to do.  This fear-mongering of our community creates hatred towards us and redefines us in an inaccurate and offensive light.  The president’s ban on transgender individuals in the military was created because of his insistence that we are a financial strain on the government and portrayed our community as people who all want to get surgeries and hormones.

We all know that not all trans-identifed individuals want, or need, that.

Being painted as a burden creates misunderstanding and prejudice against us.  This creates hostility toward us and emboldens those who already hate us.

The military ban is in effect and is a blow to our community whether or not you served our country.  Serving in the military is one less thing we can do because we are portrayed as a burden.  Add that to many states prohibiting us from adopting or being able to use the bathroom that matches our gender identity, we are seeing more and more things a transperson can’t do.  It used to seem far-fetched but I can see malls banning the transcommunity because of the financial impact we cause by stores needing to have an additional unisex bathroom.

There are two things our community needs to be aware, and afraid of, from this week.

From The Hill:

Trump poised to roll back transgender health protections

A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expected in the coming days would make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients, as well as women who have had abortions.

The proposal in question is likely to be a reworking of an anti-discrimination section of ObamaCare.  

The worry: Advocates fear the administration will eliminate the gains made in ensuring transgender people have equal access to care. Coming on the heels of the military transgender ban, there are fears the administration could go even further and use the proposal as an opportunity to narrow the definition of gender.

From NPR

Supreme Court Will Hear Cases On LGBTQ Discrimination Protections For Employees

The Supreme Court has accepted three cases that ask whether federal anti-discrimination laws should apply to sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, putting the court on track to consider high-profile LGBTQ issues after its next term begins this fall.

…Depending on how they are decided, the cases could be seen as either continuing a move toward greater rights and protections for LGBTQ people in the U.S. or representing a shift in momentum, four years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

You may be wondering that this has to do with you.  If you are not out or living full-time, you might think this doesn’t apply to you.

Well, for starters anything that impacts anyone who is transgender impacts all of us.  If you are a closeted crossdresser and hate how the world doesn’t understand or accept you, laws like this won’t help the public’s perception of you.  These laws will allow discrimination against our community.

Many of us fear we will be caught or outed.  I get that.  If you don’t identify as trans and just enjoying wearing panties, you are still at risk of getting fired.  Do you think your Human Resources understands (or cares) that you are a crossdresser, not transgender?

To paraphrase Niemöller’s poem, they are coming for the transgender community and we must all speak out.

We can speak out by voting.  Whether you vote for someone or vote against someone.  There are things we can do.  Things we must do.

Elections matter, elections have consequences.  Republican presidents nominate conservative judges.  Republican members of congress pass conservative laws.  These are things that do not help our community.

We’re all in this together.

Love, Hannah

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

If you are looking for a new perspective on life, there’s nothing like walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

This can also be accomplished by walking through a mall in heels.

It’s quite incredible to visit somewhere en femme that you have been to previously in male mode.  One of the first times I went out during the day was to a coffee shop in Uptown.  Uptown is a neighborhood in south Minneapolis and is considered to be very LGBTQIA friendly.  Over time we are seeing fewer local businesses and more chain stores but the neighborhood still has some of that independent spirit.

This was a coffee shop that I used to go to pretty regularly in male mode.  I would park about two blocks away and then walk there to get my eight dollar coffee.  I did this almost every day for a few years.  Returning as Hannah was a different experience.  For one, I trembled like a leaf in the wind the entire time.  It was a summer day but I shook from my nerves.  I remember thinking that it took a lot longer to walk there in a tight skirt as opposed to the long strides I was used to in male mode.

I walked into the coffee shop, a place I had visited hundreds of time and I immediately looked at it through new eyes.  Did I see anyone I know?  Was anyone looking at me?  Is there anything here I should be cautious of?  Scanning a room when I walked into it was a new experience for me.  Trembling I approached the counter but I noticed how my heels sounded on the floor.  This was something I had never heard before.

The baristas couldn’t been nicer.  They smiled (without any hint of suppressed laughter) and called out Hannah’s name when her coffee was ready.  My hands shook as I took the cup.  I had passed the first trial.  I walked out, braver and more relieved than ever.  My heels clicking against the floor now sounded like music to me.

Emboldened, I went to two malls, Target, a couple more coffee shops, a bookstore and out for lunch.  I was giddy from nerves, excitement and caffeine.  The world had never looked more beautiful.  People stared but no one laughed or smiled cruelly.  My first real adventure was a success and I returned home safely and smiling.

I felt I had conquered the world.  I did conquer the world.

Before my epic journey, I searched online for places to go.  I was afraid to shop somewhere where I would be laughed at or turned away.  I wanted somewhere welcoming to a girl like me.  So, I googled things like “crossdresser friendly places” and…came up with virtually nothing.

Looking back it’s not surprising that I didn’t find anything.  Very few businesses will go out of their way to specifically state that a particular segment of the population is welcome.  It’s not much different than a business stating that all left-handed customers are welcome to their store.

I get a lot of emails asking where a girl like us can go to eat and to shop and, you know, exist.  We search online but come up with nothing.  It’s true that there are businesses out there that carry products specifically and almost exclusively for our community.  Glamour Boutique and Janet’s Closet both have retail stores and advertise themselves specifically to girls like us but if a girl like us wants to get a cup of coffee, dine out, spend the day at the museum or the mall we want to find somewhere we are welcome.

Or at the very least not be mocked, humiliated or turned away.

So, how do we do know where to go?

There’s a few things we can do.  Instead of googling using the term ‘crossdresser friendly’ we can expand it to ‘LGBTQIA friendly’.  That long acronym covers us.  Even by expanding our search to that, we may not find much.  You can modify your search to “LGBTQIA + (city name)” and you will usually find a list not unlike a travel guide to the city you enter.  When I search ‘Minneapolis LGBTQIA’ one of the first results is a website that lists various bars, restaurants, stores and events that are friendly, or at least of interest to the queer community.

We can also be be mindful of different organizations and their stance on social issues.  I shop at Target in both genders and I will continue to do so.  I find Target is more progressive than most retailers.  In 2016 they received a lot of media attention for their bathroom and changing room policy which, according to their website:

In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

Oh, people were mad.  Boycotts were threatened but Target never backed down.  It says a lot about their company culture and values and I will gladly shop there.  Activism is something many corporations do and take a stand on these days.  Pay attention to what they do and how they donate their money.

On the flip-side, there are organizations that I will never support in either gender.  I used to shop at Victoria’s Secret and was disappointed by comments from one of their CEOS regarding the transcommunity.  I was even more disappointed by how they reacted to the controversy.  A weakly worded statement but no action.  If they were truly regretful of these words they could have donated money to an LGBTQIA charity, they could have fired the person who said these things, they could have implemented diversity and inclusivity training across the organization.  Their inaction speaks volumes.  I do my shopping elsewhere these days.

A lot of people would prefer that they didn’t know about the political or charitable donations of an organization as supporting that business may be in conflict with their core beliefs.  I vowed years ago to never go to Chick-fil-A after learning about what they do with their profits.

According to Vox:

The Chick-fil-A Foundation donated more than $1.8 million to three groups with a history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in 2017, according to recently released tax filings analyzed by ThinkProgress. That year, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm gave $1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a religious organization that requires its employees to refrain from “homosexual acts”; $150,000 to the Salvation Army, which has been accused of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and advocacy for years and whose media relations director once claimed gay people “deserve death”; and $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a Christian residential home that teaches young boys that same-sex marriage is a “rage against Jesus Christ and His values.”

So, not very friendly to our community.  I like knowing information like this because I absolutely believe this is a reflection of their company culture.  When I bring this to someone’s attention it’s not uncommon for them to shrug this off and continue to dine there.  Some people have core values until it is in contrast with what they want.  It reminds me of a Bob Dylan lyric:

people don’t do what they believe in,

they just do what’s most convenient,

then they repent

I think about this every time I drive past one of their restaurants and I imagine you will too.  Hopefully you keep driving by as well.  I sincerely believe if we want to find more “crossdresser friendly businesses” we need to stop supporting organizations that aren’t.

A guide I find helpful is if a business has an ‘All Are Welcome Here’ sign on their door or window.  That’s about a good of an indicator one will get.  It’s not uncommon to see this image on a company’s website these days.  An all-gender bathroom is also an encouraging sign.

Another thing to keep in mind is that every single business is staffed and run by people.  Company core beliefs and policy aside, not everyone you interact with is going to be happy to see you.  I don’t know of a single organization that specifically tells their employees to be mean to the transcommunity, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.  You can go to the queer-friendliest place on the planet, but if the cashier is having a bad day, or they hate everyone, or, let’s face it, they specifically hate transpeople, you’ll not have a pleasant experience.

The MN T-Girls have done a lot of private shopping events and I am always appreciative of the kindness of the salespeople who volunteer to stay after hours to help our group pick out everything from lingerie to foundation.  I am thankful that companies are willing to pay their staff to work these events for our group.  Again, this says a lot about their core beliefs.  These events are also a little nerve-wracking because as supportive as a company is about our community, they also want to make a little money.  I keep my fingers crossed that when the T-Girls have a private shopping event that we spend enough to make it worth it for them.  Time after time these events are more financially success for them than they expected and we are invited to come back for another event any time we want.

I love hearing that.  I think it sends a message to retailers that when there are salesclerks out there that understand and respect us that it can be profitable.  Of course, if they are only doing that to make money and lack any sincerity in supporting our community then that’s a different story.

I know that this isn’t easy.  I would love to be able to list a hundred places in every major city that would be tickled pink to see us, but it’s just not realistic.  Being who we are requires us to stop waiting for the world to love and accept us.  It will never be okay.   We can’t wait to go shopping or dine out until the world loves us.  That day will not come.  Instead we need to shake it off, put on our big girl panties and hit the mall.  If a cashier is rude to us or a server stifles a snicker, then leave.  Never return.  Send an email to their corporate headquarters.  Or don’t.  Take your money and business and time elsewhere.  Life is too short and too beautiful for us to be treated rudely.