On Wednesday June 10th, Indy Pride presented “Living History: Living Proof. Living Truth. (Being Transgender in Indiana)” for the first-ever Circle City IN Pride History Night.
Focusing on the transgender community, History Night at Indy Reads Books featured conversations and readings from C. Michael Woodward, prominent lecturer and author; Marissa Miller, the Program Director for Brothers United; and Executive Director of the Indiana Transgender Wellness Alliance, Jacqueline Patterson.
Jacqueline PattersonJacqueline Patterson is the Executive Director of the Indiana Transgender Wellness Alliance, active in Corporate Diversity at Cummins, and a member of the National Transgender Advisory Board for the Out and Equal Organization.
Since her transition in 2011, Jacqui has provided education to universities, corporate diversity leaders, support groups, and public health providers. The rate of transgender suicide, HIV incidence, homelessness, lack of medical providers, discrimination, and hate crimes, makes it all the more important to ensure the T in LGBT receives proper awareness everywhere!
Michael WoodwardMichael Woodward has published books, articles, and blogs on a variety of non-fiction topics, most notably contributing the title essay to the much acclaimed anthology, “Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves“, a 2014 Lambda Literary Award nominee.
Prior to transitioning, Michael was involved for nearly two decades with Women in the Arts, Inc/National Women’s Music Festival as a volunteer and Board member. He has performed solo or with groups such as the Indianapolis Women’s and Men’s Choruses, and the Hamilton County Theater Guild.
As a speaker, lecturer, corporate trainer, peer counselor and coach, Michael has enlightened thousands of people across the country on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE). Copies of “Manning Up” were available at Indy Reads Books the night of the event.
Marissa MillerSpeaker Marissa Miller lives in Indianapolis, where she is currently the Program Director for Brothers United, and founder of Indiana TRANS-Empowerment. Marissa Miller is an advocate for enhancing HIV health care and advancing needle exchanges as it relates to the trans community. Miller discussed her life experiences, with a focus on the difference between living positive and being positive. “So many people look at being positive as a death sentence, but in reality it has been the sentence that has saved my life and given it purpose.” Her favorite saying is “Grow up, or Grow Down”… Life’s too short not to live it to the fullest!
The event drew hundreds of attendees at it’s main location and was broadcast via the web at three satellite locations – about 80 people at Theater on the Square, 30 or so at the Metro and IYG, and 71 online. The discussion was broad and so much conversation generated that the question and answer session spilled over into an online discussion after the event.
The event drew significant attention outside the LGBT community, including coverage in the New York Times.
Special Events: 2015 History Night: Being Transgender in Indiana
Post Event Question & Answer
The first question is directed towards Jacqueline Patterson, and it comes from Nate: What was it like transitioning in a larger company?
Jacqui: Transitioning at Cummins was like riding a roller coaster for five long months. There was a lot of training for the colleagues I worked with in addition to meetings with a transition team that Cummins formed on my behalf. I will share a great deal more about this at Indy Pride Fest this year. I speak at the Transgender Tent at 1PM
Speaking of, the Transgender Event Tent will have many activities throughout the day:
12:00 – 12:45PM Find the right Counselor for YOU, or someone you love, with Rebecca Bickel LCSW
1:00 – 1:45PM Resource Groups – ITWA (Indiana Transgender Wellness Alliance), with Jacqueline Patterson, and PFLAG, with Parents like you.
2:00 – 2:45PM How to find the perfect job, with Susan Lawhead, Cummins Recruiting.
3:00 – 3:45PM IYG – Youth support for Trans and Gender Variant Phenomenal People
4:00 – 4:45PM Support Groups. Local Indianapolis Trans Support Groups. Find the confidential home to explore who you are.
Our next question that was left unanswered on Wednesday evening, is geared toward Marissa (who spoke briefly about how she dresses as a boy whenever she returns home for Thanksgiving or Christmas): Do you have any siblings or family members that you can be yourself around? (anonymous at Theater on the Square)
Marissa: Yes, my brother fully supports me. He in fact loves who Marissa is, and all she represents. As we’ve gotten older, he remembers how different our father treated us. We have become very, very close in my transition. I visit him once a year besides the holidays with our parents. (He’s a dentist in New Orleans)
Our next question is geared towards the women of our group: Do the two trans women on the panel identify with the label “lesbian” if attracted to other women? (IYG)
Jacqueline: My wife and I decided when I transitioned that we would not label ourselves as lesbian. In public, we call each other “our partner”, etc… My wife considers herself a heterosexual woman (Jacqui transitioned a year or so after the two of them were married), so we respect each other’s wishes and boundaries.
Marissa: I currently only date men, but if I were to date a woman.. Identity for me isn’t based on attraction or sex. Identity for me limits my ability to express myself freely. I am a human sexual being!
Today’s question is a doozy, with answers from all three of our speakers: Did anyone change the gender on their birth certificate? How? (Hunter)
Jacqueline: I have not changed my birth certificate yet. Since I am married, this could have several ramifications legally for my spouse and my estate should anything happen to me. Once the Supreme Court rules on gay marriage, I then will petition the same court where I changed my name legally and request a gender change. You have to ask the same judge who ruled on your name change to grant you the legal gender change. Once the court rules yes, then there is an affidavit to sign and complete so you can take it to the State Board of Health to get your birth certificate changed. Legally, you have to have been living for at least one year in the gender you want to be reflected on your birth certificate.
Marissa: My gender is changed on my birth certificate and license. Being under the correct doctor’s care is a must, and being on hormonal therapy for many years has transitioned my body from male to female. I have been living successfully as a woman (for over a year), and my doctor submitted a signed affidavit stating I am now a female.
Michael: I was born in Indiana in 1963. Until the 9/11/01 attack, Indiana and a few other states did not include gender on birth certificates — instead it was on the hospital birth record. So technically, I did not have to change the gender marker on my birth certificate, just my name. However, I still needed to change it on my Social Security records, drivers license, etc… I wasn’t sure what to do, and none of the trans folks I knew had been born here, or had changed theirs. So I hired local attorney Barbara Baird. She recommended a “conforming documents” court order. This basically said that a doc had declared that I was male, so whatever entity that was presented with the order was required to change their records to match that. She took it to a judge in Tippecanoe County because she knew that judge would be more likely to grant the request rather than any of the ones in Marion County where I was born. That plan worked just fine. The only place that refused to accept it was Noblesville Schools. They refused to change my name or gender marker on my high school transcript. But I’ve never needed them anyway, so I didn’t spend any energy fighting that. This was in 1999. I’m not sure, but I may have been the first person in the state to do that.
Jacqueline and Michael take a crack at our next question: Which is easier, living as a trans man, or a trans woman? (Metro)
Jacqueline: I’d say living as a trans man… Michael, any thoughts? LOL
Michael: It totally depends on the individual: what transition options they go with, how well they “pass” (I hate that word), voice pitch, etc… I think most folks agree that it’s typically easier for trans men to be accepted as men more quickly due to the profound effects of testosterone therapy, but that surgical options are better for trans women. But again, that’s a generalization.
I know some trans men who don’t “pass” very well, and some women who are completely undetectable.
And, also in general, it is easier and “better” (arg!!!) to be a man (cis OR trans) due to our society’s terrible problem with misogyny.
Today’s question is another tough one: What’s your opinion on removing the T from LGBT, since it’s a fight for gender orientation instead of sexual orientation? (Lori)
Jacqueline: This is a hard question to answer. Most transgender persons transition for the purpose of living assimilated in their true gender. However, because of the stigma associated with the trans community, we find great comfort in being considered part of the LGBT community. I think down deep we are all working for the day when there will never have to be an LGBT community. WE can be just a natural part of society with no distinctions. My vote is to stay with the LGBT community who understands, and understands what it is like to be discriminated against.
Michael: Actually, all LGBT discrimination is based on sex stereotypes — both trans people and LGB people fall outside of society’s expectations around gender. For trans people, it is how we identify and/or present ourselves; for LGB people, it is who we partner with. Instead of separating, we need to be working together more closely and working harder to understand each other. It’s all the same hate. We need to be more inclusive of each other and help each other out, rather than splitting hairs.
For those of you looking to get into psychology, this one’s for you: Is there specific training for therapists in the trans community? (Carolyn)
Jacqueline: Carolyn, unfortunately there is a short segment of therapist schooling studies that teach them anything about transgender issues. Training in specifics for the transgender community comes in the form of guidelines of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and therapists working with other therapists who are well versed in transgender therapy. Of late, there have been a lot of universities that are beginning to offer transgender studies as a major in curriculums. Several of us who are transgender also attend quite a number of panel discussions at the Indiana universities to help educate social work students, and those who seek degrees in psychology.
When you decided to transition, what were some of the unexpected changes you experienced? (Kim M.)
Jacqueline: I had hot flashes like crazy! Also, I really did a lot of work on my inner self by working with my therapist. This caused me to view and accept things concerning my past much differently. I found I was capable of so much more than I had ever given myself credit for. I also found that there was a significant amount of peace within me. Physically, I finally lost my huge neck and beefy upper arms. I was always uncomfortable with those two areas. Before my transition I never liked to shop… now I do it way too much!
Michael: I learned a great deal about the differences between the way men and women are treated by others. The Good Ol’ Boy network is a very real thing. I have been appalled by some of the things men have said to me about women. I got a lot better service at the hardware store. Waiters ALWAYS bring me the check if I’m dining with a woman, and they never ask about separate checks. Also, service people (like the washer repair guy) always look at and talk directly to me when answering our questions, even if I’m not the one asking them.
Also, I got a 50% raise when I returned to the company I had previously worked for before my transition. Slightly different position, but not different enough to warrant that kind of raise (at least I don’t think so).
I also experienced a fairly profound shift in my sexual attractions. I am much more in the middle of the spectrum than I had been prior to transitioning. I think this is somewhat related to just the overall increase in libido due to T, but also just being more comfortable with myself and my body. But acting on my sexual attraction to men often messed with my dysphoria — having sex with a man as a female-bodied person was a real disconnect since it went against the grain of everything else I was moving toward.
Last, but not least: I forgot how to stop and ask for directions when I’m lost!
Our final question comes from the Metro: How can I educate my very young child on trans life, both to prepare him for diversity in others, as well as defining his own experience?
Michael: Always have conversations with you child about diversity, including gender diversity. Provide them with opportunities to get to know us. In the books and stories and music and art you expose them to, be sure trans identities are included. Be a positive role model. Make sure they know you will always love them unconditionally regardless of where life leads them, and that it is always absolutely ok for them to talk to you about anything they are struggling with. Answer any questions they may have honestly and openly. Do everything you can to normalize gender diversity in their eyes.