Catching Up

It’s been more than a month since my last post, sorry readers! Life got incredibly chaotic for a while there, a new job, a new start… I even cut my hair short! (Always a new look for a new phase) But I have missed writing! Now that things are starting to settle down, I’m excited to start writing again! Lets catch up with some of the big news since my last post, starting with…

Obama will be the President of the United States of America for the next four years! I am really excited about this, but I don’t want to get carried away with what he might do in the next four years… Over the last four, he has been incredibly good for the LGBT community, seeing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, pushing for acceptance and equality, standing up against the Defense of Marriage Act, passing the Affordable Care Act (which includes a great deal for LGBT patients), and much more. Since my last post, even more positive things have happened:

So, those are a few quick headlines. I plan on updating more regularly, now that I’m settled in. I’d like to have a few more personal stories, theories, and opinions on here, rather than reposting news, but I thought it was important to highlight those 3 stories. If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to post about, just leave a note in the comments!

New Section – Events

Over the past few years I have hosted dozens if not hundreds of events, be they on campus or in the community at large. I’ve learned a lot, and I want to share that knowledge. To that end I added a new section under “Activism Tools” called “Events”. Here I list some general event formats, specific dates for National Events, and other events I have hosted or worked on in the past. For now it is rather bare bones, but it will quickly be fleshed out. If you have any questions or think of other events, please comment here and I will be happy to take some feedback!

New Site Structure

Some of you may have noticed some pages on my blog over the past few days. I’m in the process of implementing a new structure to make this site more useful and usable. I wanted to highlight a few of these changes and hopefully get some feedback.

The biggest change is adding several new pages you can find along the top bar, “About Me”, “Information”, and “Activism Tools”. For now, some of these sections are somewhat bare bones. I plan to flesh out each of these sections over the next few days, especially the “Activism Tools” section, which will include lists of event ideas for LGBT based groups, and some best practices from my experience as an activist. If I can find a free half hour over the next day or two, I hope I also have time to make an actual blog entry!

New Page: Workshops

Some of my readers may have noticed the new pages popping up in the menu just above this post, “About Me“, “Public Speaking“, and “Website Developer“. All of these pages are very much works in progress, but for now they get some basic info out there for anyone looking for a public speaker or for any website work. Feel free to follow the links for more information about getting in touch with me!

Earlier today, I added my newest page “Workshops” under the “Public Speaking” category describing some of the template workshops. If your group is looking for someone to speak on transgender issues, LGBT theory, or oppression at large, make sure to check it out!

Looking Forward

Looking Forward

What a busy month or so it’s been; I’ve come a very long way in a very short time. I just moved up to the Lehigh Valley for a new position as a website designer at a small local company, and I cannot even begin to express how positive of a change this new start has had on my life. I truly enjoy my job, my new apartment is absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve even started making some very good friends in the area. Given how long it has been since I really contributed to this blog, and since so much has changed, I wanted to do something of an introduction/get to know me post.
My name is Ashley and I am a 24 year old transgender woman. I identify as female, and I express as female (two distinct characteristics). As far as my orientation, it shifts somewhere between lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual, depending on the day. I am not closeted; I am very out about being a queer transgendered person. That being said, in the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about when it is appropriate to explicitly come out or to stay quiet and let people think what they will. If someone specifically asks a question though, I have no problem answering. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that respects and values my decision, and I do not have to worry about being out at work.
I started hormones in the fall of 2009, just a few weeks after becoming the president of my college’s GSA. Over the next year, I became very involved in queer activism and advancing rights and acceptance of LGBTQIA individuals on my campus. While it was incredibly challenging to participate in over a dozen groups and university committees on top of being a full time student and working 20 hours a week, I thrived and was able to make significant change on campus and in the immediate surroundings, with the help, support, and guidance of several amazing people. Just a few of the most significant changes at my university include the establishment of an LGBTQIA committee made up of administrators, faculty, and students, several awards being presented to the GSA or to myself, and a new standard ensuring a gender neutral bathroom included in any major building renovations or new buildings that are constructed on campus.
Since graduation, I’ve shifted my focus to my career as a website developer. I’ve found that website design allows me a unique way to combine my creativity with my technical skills. Very recently I have come to the realization that I can even use website design as another tool in activism. Because of my experience, I can help small groups get a website up and running, improve an existing site, or help come up with creative solutions using technology to answer some of the consistant issues in activism, such as educating people in the entire alphabet soup without overwhelming them.

The past year has been a chaotic whirlwind of trials, growth, and change. Now that things are finally starting to settle down, I want to gradually get back into activism. Updating this blog is just the first step of many to come.

A New Hope

It’s been almost exactly six months since I last posted here. A lot has changed. Then again, with me, things always seem to be changing quickly. I’ve come to accept that, even embrace it. I’ve become well trained at being adaptable and I’m looking forward to some of the big changes coming in the near future.

The story of the past sixth months is one for another day, but suffice to say I’ve gone through several major transitions. To name a few, I’ve gone from an inexperienced programmer to a successful professional web developer. I’m single now, and learning a lot more about myself and what I want in a partner. I’m moving to a new city on my own, getting onto my own two feet, and starting again. My activism has also evolved; while lgbt activism and especially trans activism is still very important to me, I’ve shifted a lot of my focus to the larger systemic problems oppressing our society. I’ve brought the concept of the commonality of oppression to the Occupy Harrisburg movement and I plan to do the same when I move. I’ve brought lgbt issues into the common dialog of Occupy, and I’ve been learning constantly about what is occurring throughout the world, and I am constantly struggling to balance my drive to be an advocate with my drive to become a successful professional programmer. I’ve learned how critical self care is, and getting myself stable has to take priority at this point.

Thinking about this precarious balance is why I originally stopped posting (along with a bunch of personal issues). However, with my new beginning, with my new involvement, and with my new hope, I’ve decided to start again. I really enjoyed writing here, seeing people were reading, and being able to express my views, and I’m looking forward to writing more and more over the next couple months. Thank you so much for reading everyone. Over the next few weeks, I plan to write about lgbt issues, transgender concerns, occupy, politics, and whatever else is going on. If you have anything you’ve wanted to ask or something you’d like to hear about, feel free to leave a comment or message me and I’d be happy to answer.

Poll: What is your favorite type of post?

So today I was out far too late and I just do not have the time or energy to do a blog post (Sorry!!!). I’m going to be speaking tomorrow at Millersville at the Safe Zone training for Healt services. While this is incredibly last minute arrangement (I have to be up in <6 hours), I am really excited to go back to campus and speak.

So instead of a post today,  am putting up a poll. If you read my blog, I’d really encourage you to vote on this poll (Please please please!). This is my first poll, so I am trying to figure it out.. but if everything works as its supposed to, you will be able to select multiple answers and add your own. Also, Please please comment on this post if you want to let me know more details, or if you find my answers silly and want to mock me, or whatever! Feedback lets me know what you want, how I can make this blog more interesting. If you think I need more media on my page, or my about me section looks shabby, let me know!

Favorite type of post?

Thanks so much and wish me luck tomorrow!

Trans FAQ

For whatever reason, I’ve lacked inspiration to write for a while. I posted on Facebook looking for recommendations and its time I start working on each request.The first post I’m going to do is one of the most basic, the Trans FAQ.

Whenever I give workshops or lectures, I leave at least ten minutes for open ended questions. Many people have things they are intensely wondering, but rarely have the opportunity to ask. I have found some questions that are asked over and over again, so I am going to go through some of them now.

The first I will address is a rather awkward one. At one lecture I gave, during the middle of some discussion about being trans, a student suddenly shouted out “Wait wait, do you still get horny?” Of course, the entire classroom burst out in laughter. None the less, questions about sex are asked at almost every presentation I’ve given. People want to know about the effects of hormones on a person’s body pre-op. While I’m not going to give a lot of the details about the actual effects of hormones (Just google MtF Transexual without a filter on, I’m sure you can find what you want to know), I do want to address the subject of sex. The blunt answer is, I’m just like any other person when it comes to sex. Sure, it may be a little different than usual, but sex is usually a little different anyhow from person to person.

This question usually leads to a follow up question. “But if you are pre-op, and you have a girlfriend, are you gay or straight?” This question is unfortunately reflective of people’s nature to need categories to put people into. Either you are gay or you are straight. I try to take this opportunity to explain that sexuality is fluid; you can be gay, straight, bi, pan, poly, or any mix of the above. It’s not an either or situation. I prefer girls, but I like guys as well, so I’m somewhere in the middle. Also, this is a great opportunity to pose the question: is a lesbian couple two women, or two vaginas? I personally believe that gender identity is what should be used to determine whether you are straight, bi, or gay. If you feel like you are a woman, you act like a woman, you look like a woman, what you do in bed shouldn’t really matter, in my opinion.

Another frequent question I get is “How does your family take it?” While I feel a little uncomfortable speaking of it here, I will briefly say, things with my family are..complicated, and not very good so far. They still use my old name and male pronouns.

Speaking of stories of my past, another question I am often asked is “Have I always known I am transgender?” This conversation is often somewhat complex. People ask if I wore dresses as a kid, if I told my parents I was a girl when I was a baby. While it is true some trans people, my case was more complex. I was very much afraid of my family finding out, so I was very covert about my gender expression. When I played pretend  with friends, I would usually play my heroic boy character, but would also play several supporting characters, several of whom would be female. I found it increasingly difficult to connect with people as I grew older, so I retreated to online games like Nexus: The Kingdoms of the Wind and World of Warcraft where I played female characters. Most of my online experience was as a woman. I couldn’t explain just why I always felt drawn to make female characters, but now it makes much more sense. It was my way of expressing myself, off asserting my gender identity even before i knew what that was, exactly.

“What bathroom do you use?” used to be a question I was posed frequently, though now that I quite obviously pass, so it is less of an issue. A year ago, though, when I did not pass so well, bathrooms were a nightmare. I didn’t pass well enough to use the woman’s room, but I was obviously not completely male either. As a rule, I avoided any none-single stall bathrooms as much as humanly possible. The next option would be to find the most isolated abandoned bathroom in the building and only use that one. Campus had refused to say whether I would be in trouble if caught in the woman’s room. It wasn’t until I met a very nice transgendered police officer (with something like 40 years on the force) at Transcentral PA that I was told I would not be in any real legal trouble for being in the woman’s room. I might get removed from campus, but there wouldn’t be any legal consequences. I’m not sure if this is entirely true, but her words gave me the confidence to start using the bathroom I was most comfortable in. It took a while, but now the thought of using the men’s room is just humorous.

LGBTQIA Community

This post is going to be a more genereal introduction to the LGBTQIA community (Yes, that is the current length of the acronym, according to some people at least).

Before we start with all that though, I want to discuss some more basic terminology. Please note, as usual, these are my opinions/views, they are up for debate and conversation always.

  • Sexual Orientation – Who/what you are attracted to. Though it is often considererd a binary, there is a range of sexualities from straight to gay, and it is possible to have no sexual orientation.
  • Gender Identity – How one feels, internally, about their gender, whether it is female, male, somewhere inbetween, or somewhere totally off the scales.
  • Gender Expression – How someone outwardly expresses their internal gender identity.

I will first tackle the acronym LGBTQIA. Let’s start by explaining the basic four letters that are almost always agreed upon

  • Lesbian – A woman(not necessarily female sexed) who is sexually and/or romantically attracted primarily to woman
  • Gay – A man (again, not always male sexed) who is sexually and/or romantically attracted primarily to men.
  • Bisexual – Someone who feels romantic and/or sexual attraction to both genders.
  • Transgender –Someone whose internal gender identity is not aligned with the sex they were born into. Transgender is an umbrella term incorporating a wide variety of identitites including transsexual, crossdressers, and genderqueer people.

This makes up the LGBT root of the acronym. The rest of the acronym is much more up for debate. I personally always use “LGBTQIA” as I have found this to be the most accepted and inclusive term, but others add a p, or remove a few letters.  It is important to note that, though we only say one q and one a, the entire acronym I am trying to convey is LGBTQQIAAA, we just condense the like letters for simplicity.

  • Queer – Queer is something of a catch-all phrase, used to describe someone who is anything but a completely cisgendered, straight person. The use of this word is controversial, but many people have taken queer to be a banner the LGBTQIA community can stand under
  • Questioning – An identity that many take when they are uncertain of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This allows people to identify as part of the LGBTQIA community without having to commit to saying they are gay, straight, or bi.
  • Intersexed –  Someone who is born with ambiguous genetalia. Cruely, doctors are often the ones who decide what sex to make an intersexed child, sometimes without consolting the parents (Though I believe this behavior is in decline). An intersexed individual may feel similar to a transgender individual, the sex they are ascribed does not always match their internal gender identity.
  • Asexual – Someone who lacks a sexual orientation. They may still be romantically attracted to people, male or female, but they have little to no interest in sex.
  • Androgynous – A term that I often put under the transgender umbrella, Androgynous is a label someone who feels they are between, or beyond genders, can take.
  • Allies – One of the most important parts I like to stress in my presentations. Allies are a HUGE part of the movement. An ally is someone who identifies as straight and cisgender, but is understanding and compassionate to the LGBTQIA community. Allies -are- part of the movement.

Some individuals leave off certain letters, leaving it the LGBT community, LGBTQ community, or LGBTA community. Sometimes, a p is added to the end of the acronym.

  • Pansexual – Someone who believes they are attracted to people, not sexes or genders. These individuals do not  limit themselves to loving any one group.

This brings us to the entire acronym that is commonly used (There are several other, less popular identities that are not usually included in the acronym). Welcome to the LGBTQIAP community!

 

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