by Sarah Rushakoff with Alexander Hauptman, OUTMemphis Transgender Services Manager
(Above photo: Alex Hauptman (left), OUTMemphis Transgender Services Manager (he/him), and Mackenzie Williams (she/ her), who currently holds the Trans Services Fellowship with OUTMemphis).
Transgender Awareness Week is Nov. 13-19 with the Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. What is OUTMemphis planning?
We’re going to do a week-long event on our social media accounts, having LGBTQ community members post photos and quotes about their experiences of what it means to be part of the community.
It’s important to have the week of awareness before the day of remembrance so that we have something that focuses on the positive aspects of the trans community. While I think it’s important to hold space for our community members who were lost, it’s also important to consider how we can stop the violence. We can do that by normalizing the existence of trans people.
What resources does OUTMemphis have for trans people?
We are in the process of going through our Trans Best of Memphis survey, updating this year’s guide to doctors, gyms, and many types of places where trans people have told us they feel comfortable going.
The Latinx trans community is helping us by translating the survey into Spanish. The survey is still open. We want the best community resource representation possible before we end the survey and publish the guide.
If someone needs a specific resources now, email info@ outmemphis.org or call (901) 278-6422. Trans Lifeline is also available for community members in crisis. Call (877) 565-8860; all the operators are trans-identified.
Does OUTMemphis still have support groups?
Yes! We have weekly virtual groups on Zoom for trans- identified folks. For LGBTQ+ or allied youth, we have two groups split by age: for ages 13 to 17, we have PRYSM; those 18 to 25 can attend GenQ.
Virtual T is another group for ages 18+ on the trans spectrum including gender non conforming and non-binary folks. Some people attend GenQ and Virtual T, especially if they need that space to connect with other community members.
How can CIS people learn more about the trans experience to be good allies?
Look up people like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, who have really good social media presences, written works, and interviews that are easy to find. Great websites include GLSN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network – info especially for youth); HRC (Human Rights Campaign – basic information); TSER (Trans Student Educational Network); the National Center for Trans Equality; GLAAD; and others.
Books, even older ones like Transgender Warriors, talk about how long trans and gender nonconforming people have been in different cultures throughout history. It makes the point that we’ve always existed and we’re not just going to go away. It’s important that people understand that, acknowledge it, and celebrate it.
What can we change in Memphis to better support people on the trans spectrum?
No one thing is gonna make trans people safe, and get jobs, and get housed. I think even just doing the work in your own head to check your assumptions, educate yourself, and learn how to call people out and disrupt some of the harmful patterns in our society. You have the ability to improve your behavior, and model it for others.
Do what you have the power to do. If you’re working in an office and you deal with paperwork, make sure people can list their pronouns and the name they go by if they haven’t changed it legally. If you work in an apartment complex and see trans people being discriminated against, speak up for them. It doesn’t take a lot to start shifting systems to be more welcoming.
Even for me, someone who “passes” pretty well, there are still plenty of men’s bathrooms that I can’t use because there are no stalls and no lock on the door. That’s my pet peeve, not being able to pee.
What changes would you like to see in Memphis and beyond between now and Transgender Awareness Week 2021?
Access to gender-affirming healthcare and medical transition measures, finding doctors who care about interacting with trans patients in a respectful manner and who put the effort into actually learning about hormone treatments would be huge.
With trans youth, there’s a ripple effect. If a child doesn’t feel safe in school, they’re not going to go. If they don’t go to school, it’s hard to get good jobs. When they’re bullied and harassed and kicked out of the house, sometimes they have to turn to alternate means of getting by. They’re more likely to turn to self-medicating, attempt suicide, become incarcerated, and end up with HIV, which has infection rates that are much higher in the trans population.
A lot of progress has been rolled back over the past few years when it comes to creating safer spaces in schools for trans youth. Legislators have been going after access to sports, extracurricular activities, and the bathroom. With better policies, and teachers who are supportive and use the correct names and pronouns and shield vulnerable kids from bullying, kids can succeed rather than fail.
Recently there was another trans woman murdered in Louisiana, which was the year’s 32nd reported murder of a trans person, the highest reported number of any year so far. We still put our focus on the violence. Why aren’t we also putting effort into addressing the unhealthy masculinity that perpetuates it? Giving these perpetrators access to mental health tools without shame or stigmas, so their own internalized issues aren’t causing someone else to be assaulted or murdered. That’s a piece of the conversation that’s typically missing.
For a full list of OUTMemphis’ trans services, go to outmemphis.org/programs- services/transgender/
Trans Awareness Week activities are on facebook.com/outmemphis/?ref=page_ internal