I hope your October is treating you rather well and welcome to this week’s blog post!
My name is Henri. Currently, I am a student in the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Social Work Program and an intern here at STAR in the Prevention and Education department. I have lived here in Alaska for the last 13 years and I also identify as a transgender individual, specifically female to male.
As you know, October is LGBTQ History month and my peers here at STAR thought it would be great to have my perspective and insight from the lens of a Trans person in the community. I jumped at the chance as I have really enjoyed the past few weeks here at STAR and want to be able to contribute to the discussion. So today, I wanted to share a little bit about myself and how my experiences and philosophy has shaped me to be the amazing and unique individual before you. Before I begin I would like to remind all who are reading this that the following is my own life experience and opinion. It is not meant to speak for a whole community or to change your own frame of thought.
Around the age of 23 years old or so, I came out as a Trans-man. There was no grand entrance or spotlights, in fact, it was very quiet; in the car with my partner. My partner’s love and support encouraged me to slowly become more open with other people about who I was. Sure there have been bumps along the way, with people being not as supportive as I had hoped, but things have always seemed to work out alright for me in the end. While I count my blessings that things eventually work for me, my heart goes out to those who cannot find that same uplifting turn in life. Again, this is my own experience and is not meant to speak for everyone.
It’s not always easy walking a different path than everyone else. Some days I can look in a mirror and think “yeah! I’m doing something right and I’m great!” Other days, I can’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror and see just how much further I have to go, to look how I want to someday. But eventually the all of the positives in my life started to overshadow the negatives by miles.
There are individuals that may say that there is no success in life for members of the LGBTQ community, that we are bad to have in businesses because we are off-putting, or just “too different” to get used to. However, this is not the case. If there is no success for us, then I would not be sitting here, typing out this blog in an internship that I love. I wouldn’t have a workspace where people accept and support me for who I am. Success is also not just in regards to employment and business. Now with the passing of the new anti-discrimination bill here in Anchorage, I feel free to succeed in other places of life. I am able to move into a new place without fear of rejection, and I can go to businesses without fear of being denied. And if that’s not a success, then I don’t know what is!
|After the signing of the LGBT anti-discrimination laws, it was now illegal to reject services towards the community.
Housing: The LGBT community can now freely rent housing without fear of eviction due to who they are.
Employment: Gender identity and sexual orientation are no longer grounds for denial of employment or termination.
Public Accommodations: Regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, individuals are now free to use what bathroom, locker room, or other public accommodation that they wish without denial. Businesses are no longer allowed to deny services based on these traits as well.
Discrimination against a person based on gender identity and sexual orientation is now illegal, allowing the LGBT community to begin to live as equals.
|Before September 29, 2015, an LGBT individual experienced discrimination in many ways
Housing: There could be denial of renting housing or possible eviction of individuals who are LGBT.
Employment: It was possible for an LGBT individual to be denied employment or even terminated from a current job based on orientation or identity.
Public Accommodations: LGBT individuals could be denied the use of locker rooms, bathrooms, or various other public accommodations based on their identity and/or orientations. Businesses could deny services to this community based on their own personal beliefs.
None of these situations were deemed illegal and were seen as freedom of expression and belief in favor of the businesses.
For those who do not know, just recently Anchorage passed an anti-discrimination law that prevents the discrimination of the LGBTQ community. Above is a table, comparing a ‘then and now’ view of what life was and is now like for the LGBTQ community
Acceptance and success come mostly from within you. It took me a while to figure that out, always worrying about what other people thought about me and who I was. As a personal example, I had a few uncomfortable run ins in my personal life. There were those who questioned me and my lifestyle choices. Others even confronted me to my face about my behaviors and how they combat their idea of what constitutes masculinity. At first it dragged me down and it felt a little hopeless to try and change their minds. However, once I looked inside and told myself that I am who I am and I shouldn’t let anyone change that, I moved forward with my head high. That confidence eventually rubbed off and those individuals who originally had an issue with me have changed their opinion. Apologies were made and I even made a few friends. As soon as I accepted myself, I grew more confident. With that confidence I felt sure that I could succeed at whatever I put my mind to. If you can tap into that personal power, it will show to everyone else. Soon that acceptance and success will come from outside as well.
I plan to keep helping out with STAR wherever I can. After all, they are stuck with me until April next year! As for after that, stay tuned!
Also, stay tuned for next week’s blog post!
Henri – STAR Prevention and Education Intern