In the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” there is a scene where Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) is asking her husband, Ed, if Ms. Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) can move in with them. She explains how Ms. Threadgoode has changed her life and Ed is all like “It’s not going to happen.” Evelyn persists and Ed finally asks her, “What has changed?”
She says, “The air and the light.” Then the movie goes on without stopping to recognize that Evelyn Couch just said the most amazing thing. What has changed? The air and the light. The air. Every breath I take. The light. Everything I see.
You ask me what has changed since I stopped pretending to be a man and began living as the woman of my soul? The air and the light.
To begin with, there is air now, and there is light. There never was before. Light was non-existent. Every breath contained thoughts of suicide. I could not imagine the day when I could live as my woman self. I could not continue trying to live as the man I never was.
Photos courtesy Dan Brennan. (l-r) Holly Weatherford (Advocacy Director with the ACLU of Kansas), Ann Mah (Former Kansas House Representative), and Stephanie Mott
By Stephanie Mott
Living as a woman in the state of Kansas for the last seven years, I have learned many new things. How does one rightly go about being a woman? After all, I spent many years trying to figure out how one rightly goes about being a man – to no avail, I might add. Thus, seven years ago I began the process of discovering, uncovering, and recovering the woman of my soul. It never occurred to me that one day I would be organizing a women’s conference in Topeka.
Last weekend Capital City NOW worked together with the Washburn University Women’s and Gender Studies department, the Washburn student group STAND (Students Together Advocating Non-Violent Dating), YWCA of Topeka Center for Safety and Empowerment, and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters to present the first-of-its-kind Womyn Rising conference at Washburn University in Topeka. As vice-president of Capital City NOW, I had the honor of being the conference committee chairwoman.
Is transgender education partly responsible for transgender discrimination? Unfortunately the answer to that question is yes. It is time for us to message the message. What does it mean to be transgender? Who are we? What do we need you to see about us?
The single most significant barrier to transgender equality is the idea that transgender women are not really women. So, why do we continue to teach it?
We, which is inclusive of me, have repeatedly taught the very same ideas that stand in the way of seeing us for who we really are. The teachings are embedded in the message we share. Perhaps we should learn to teach the ideas that open up the doors of understanding.
In our own writings; in the words that are found in articles, on blogs, and in our own minds; we unintentionally reinforce the message we most need to confront. We do this when we talk about becoming a woman or becoming a man. We do this when we use the word, “transition”?
The recent CBSstory regarding nine Swedish women who received uterus transplants undoubtedly caught the attention of transgender women throughout the world. Anyone, with even the slightest awareness of the advancement of medical science, understands that eventually there will be few things left in the realm of impossible. The idea that a transgender woman will one day be able to carry a child in her womb is no longer just an idea. It is a reality of the future.
Another story in the Dallas Voice is evidence to this fact as Sarah Luiz has positioned herself as a candidate to become the first transgender woman to potentially give birth. Anyone, with even the slightest awareness of society’s obsession with sex and gender, understands that the word controversy applies to this situation in the same way the word skirmish applies to World War II.
Society is obsessed with sex and gender. Society is also fearful, uncomfortable, and distrustful of anything that doesn’t fit quietly into the imaginary gender binary. And if that were not enough to complicate the simple, society is also fearful, uncomfortable, and distrustful of conversations that question the tidy little fabricated boxes of male and female.
I am about to enter into the last semester of my Bachelor of Social Work program at Washburn University in Topeka. My focus is increasingly toward my future. As a soon-to-be 56-year-old college graduate, there are many choices available to me; including entering the seminary, entering law school, pursuing an MSW, and working for an MBA.
The decision regarding my choice of career has been a process of looking at impact and matching with passion. I spent the first 48 years of my life in a passionless trudge through the existence of not being my true self. The total impact of my first 48 years on the planet can be summed up in these few words: alcoholic, homeless, and spiritually dead. Passion and impact are extremely important to me.
A person might ask, “Why do you say a transgender career? “ I would respond by saying that I am a transgender person. It is a label I choose to place on myself, knowing full well that I am really a person who is transgender, and transgender is only a part of who I am. But also knowing that being transgender is something that has had an encumbering influence on every aspect of my life.
It is amazing how often the LGBT initials are used in blogs, on webpages, and in news stories; but do not mention transgender (except to define the initials – if that). A quick Google search for “sexual orientation”, LGBT, and -transgender yields more than 2,000,000 hits.
At the top of the page in my Google search was a webpage on the American Psychiatric Association website entitled LGBT Sexual Orientation1. This couldn’t be more misleading. There is no specific transgender sexual orientation. In addition to gender identity, transgender people have sexual orientation (just like everyone else).
What is it about writing (or saying) LGBT that creates this anomaly? Is it the way the letters sound? Does it send a message that we can write LGBT and by writing that we have now included everyone? Does it mean that too many people who write about LGBT don’t realize that the reason these letter are lumped together is only because we each, in our own ways, face the same oppression and inequality?
Far too many L, G, B and T people have experienced sounds and images similar to the ones President Obama described when he talked about hearing the click of door locks and being followed in the store. For me, it is seeing a person in my workplace who is smiling and laughing before they set their eyes on me. The moment they see me, the smile turns to a frown and the gaze is quickly diverted in an undeniable statement that there are people who are not even able to look at me.
What we are doing is making significant transgender history in a state where that means more than words can describe for the transgender individuals who are struggling with a society that treats us as lesser human beings.
What we are doing is standing up and saying out loud. We are transgender and we are not less than. The first annual TransKansas Conference is standing up and saying out loud, September 6-8 at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence, Kansas.
The conference, which is presented by Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, will kick off on Friday, September 6, 2013. Representatives of the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project will provide two workshops: One on transgender youth coming out, and one on creating safe spaces for transgender youth. These workshops will be free, enabling everyone to attend part of the conference, irrespective of their ability to pay.
It is a celebration of who we are. It is a statement about who we are and the dangers being visible. And the need to be visible in the Land of Oz. In the home state of Westboro Baptist Church. In the heart of Brownbackistan.
Sometime in the next two weeks or so, I will be asked to pee into a cup. It’s not really a cup. Just a plastic specimen container. It is a requirement that I pass a drug test before I can begin my BSW Practicum at a local community care center.
When I make my appointment, I will smile. When I arrive for the drug test, I will smile again. And when they tell me to wipe front to back, I will smile with glee. Just another one of those things that are not quite the same as they used to be.
The last time I had to pee in a cup was shortly before my gender affirmation surgery in Bangkok, Thailand. The time before that was when I was being hired for the job I have had for the last four years. Both of those times were special too, but I think this one is going to be the best yet.
My last pre-employment drug screen was frightening, to say the least. I had applied as Stephanie and female, my driver’s license said Steven and male, and my surgery was still a dream for some point in the future. I had no idea how the people at the drug testing place would react to the inconsistencies between the paperwork they received from my soon-to-be employer and my driver’s license. When the time came, I told them I was transgender.
A new school year will be starting in about a month. It will be the eighth school year since I moved into a little house across the street from a school. I was so excited that I didn’t need to move into an apartment, what with beginning my transition and all that. Coming and going. Sometimes as Steven. Sometimes as Stephanie.
I worried a bit about sometimes presenting as male, sometimes as female, and how that would work out. It is an elementary school. Would some teacher or parent notice and realize there was a transgender person living so close to where their children played on the playground?
Of course, being transgender does not increase the likelihood that a person will be or do anything inappropriate. Unfortunately, many people believe that it does. There are many people who think that transgender people are a danger to children. There is no doubt that being publicly transgender increases the likelihood that I will meet with violence.
These were the first, frightening days outside the closet. Finally living in the daylight, but feeling very exposed and very vulnerable. Trying to be careful and aware, especially when the children were in the schoolyard.
It took about an hour after SCOTUS announced the rulings before I started getting phone calls from the local media. They wanted to know what I thought about the Supreme Court of the United States ruling that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act – the part of DOMA that denied equality with respect to Federal benefits to legally married LGBT couples – was unconstitutional.
They wanted to know what it means to me that Prop 8 was struck down. They wanted to know what that means for people in states where marriage equality is still being denied. In states, like mine, where there are constitutional amendments banning marriage equality. They wanted to know where do we go from here?
In the next twenty-fours I must have said the words marriage equality more than 100 times – in half a dozen interviews, and at the rally we held that evening at the statehouse. The total number of times my words were quoted were many. One journalist quoted my words as marriage equality. Every other time, every other journalist, wrote same-sex marriage.
This unfortunate truth speaks volumes to me about where we are post-DOMA (section 3) and sans Prop 8. It tells me everything I need to know when it comes to my reaction. It tells me everything I need to know about where do we go from here.