Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Story Part 30 – Outreach

Very early when I first started going out as Diana, I use to attend the Board meetings of the support group mainly because it gave me another opportunity to get out of the house dressed as Diana. At one of the Board meeting they mentioned about doing outreach at a conference and it sounded interesting and it also gave me a chance to go out in public as Diana again.

My first time speaking in public was at a Children From The Shadows (now True Colors) conference in March of 2002. I was on a panel that was called “Bridging the Gender Gap”; it was a discussion about “How it was back in my day”. We had a small turnout at the workshop, but those that were there ask some good questions and I felt that doing outreach was worthwhile. In September of that year, I did my first outreach at a college and in my diary I wrote…
But the best day was Friday when I went on the “Outreach”. It was for a class in Human Sexuality, at the University of Hartford. The professor was Dr. _________. B, W and I gave them a brief biography of ourselves and then answered questions from the students. They asked very thoughtful and interesting questions. Through these encounters, I feel that we can increase awareness of the Transgender community and give them a face and a person that they can learn from, not just from a book. It makes the whole exercise personal. As one of the students was leaving she stopped and thanked us for coming, she said to me that she had only one complaint, that my legs looked so much nicer than hers.
I think that what I said is so true, that we do make a difference and put a human face to an abstract concept. I few years later, that feeling was validated when I was standing in-line waiting for our dinner reservation when this young woman came up to me. She said, “You probably don’t remember me, but you spoke my class at the University of Hartford. I now have a client who is transgender and I remembered what you said that day and that helped me treat her in therapy.”
I have continued doing outreach and on average, I do about a half a dozen outreach a year, but I am also doing training for state agencies or organizations on working with gender variant clients. I have giving a number of workshops to professional therapists, one of the workshops was at the True Colors conference (photo on the left) and another workshop was at Uconn School of Social Work. It actually has been a two way street, I have learned from the questions that they have asked and in one training session, someone asked a question about coping skills that I didn’t know the answer. When I got back to school, I asked one of my professors what are some of the coping skills he teaches and I also did a Google Scholar search and I found a number of references.

Not only am I doing outreach, but I am also educating the public on the need to pass a gender inclusive anti-discrimination legislation, both locally and nationally. (Photo on the right) Talking about legislation is different from doing outreach, doing an outreach we basically talk about ourselves, but when I talk about legislation, I talk about the marco view. How legislation and policy affect the trans-community. After one such talk, a woman came up to me and said that she never really thought about what it was like being transgender and she said that we had her support in passing the legislation.

So, one person can make a difference. We can affect how society sees the transgender community and us. By our actions, we can make another trans-person life a little bit easier.

Photos by Glenn Koetzner

3 comments:

CeCe Savage said...

I like this post. It reminds me very much of posts written by homosexuals or ethnic minorities about the effects of getting out there in the public and talking to people who aren't familiar with their background.

I think this world would be a better place if people took the time to understand our differences and not reflexively fear them.

kt moxie said...

Good for you! I think you are right that it really helps for people to put a human face to an abstract concept.

Keep it up!

Tara said...

I think what you are doing is such a powerful thing, beneficial to not only the transgender community, but humanity in general. The more ways of life we can accept and treat with respect, the better off we are as humans.