A TRANSformational Perspective

Hey all!

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

Acceptance vs. Tolerance

I don’t like the word tolerance.  In my opinion there is something about it that makes me think that I will be putting up with or dealing with something.   For example here in Alaska, saying I’m tolerant of Moose is like saying, I’ll put up with them. I know that this is probably not what most people mean when they say they’re tolerant of something, but that’s what it sounds like to me.  I don’t really have much of a choice here in Anchorage.  Moose are a fact of life and they are going to go about their business however they please, which they should.

Sometimes I don’t agree with the decisions that Moose make, but I accept them as a part of my life here in Anchorage. I realize they have a valid right to be here, eating here, and playing here in town. I don’t completely accept them when they jump out in front of my truck or force their way into my garden and eat my vegetables, but I understand why they want to live their own lives the way they do and I do not go out of my way to exclude them or drive them out of town.  We have learned to co-exist.

I accept the Moose and invariably the Moose accepts me. (Most of the time, but I think you get my gist)

To break it down one step further, tolerance is an action or more specifically, it is a restraint from action. In the case of diversity, tolerance is treating all people decently whether one likes them or not, whether one accepts them or not. Acceptance, on the other hand, is a mental state. In the case of diversity, acceptance is embracing someone’s differences, not just simply tolerating them. Unfortunately many people aren’t seeking tolerance, what they’re wanting is full acceptance of their behaviors under the guise of tolerance.

2015 has been a time of strife and transition in America. Matters involving marriage equality, race issues, environmental impacts, quirky political candidates, and LGBT issues have come to the forefront of everyone’s minds.  Sometimes we are shielded from the issues in the Lower 48 and we can only sit back and watch the events unfold that are shaping the nation.  But other times the issues are very prevalent in our communities and they are presented in such a fashion that we must make a decision and support the members of our community.

This is one of the reasons why the Anti-Discrimination Laws that were just passed in Anchorage were so important to a lot of individuals and groups.  Here in Anchorage, we pride ourselves on making decisions before the rest of the state does and we took a giant leap forward into accepting our brothers and sisters of the LGBT community who just want the same basic rights as the rest of us.  I am glad that our elected officials took a stand and did not allow the citizens of Anchorage to continue to put up with LGBT discrimination.  Anchorage proudly allows our neighbors, relatives, business owners, and students to be afforded the same basic rights we take for granted.

Moose matters. People do to. Learn to coexist with one another, accept each other for who they are and watch out for each other.  Anchorage will continue to be a destination for both Moose the humans alike.

Tim Flynn

Prevention and Education Manager

STAR

LBGT History Month

Hello again, Community Educator Julie here! Summer has come to a close and the winter season is quickly settling in. October brings all kinds of exciting things to mind, PFD’s are given out (new snow tires for me), Halloween is almost here (just about my favorite holiday), pumpkin spice EVERYTHING is in stores (I have very mixed feelings on the pumpkin spice phenomenon.) Most importantly though and the reason I am writing this month is its lesbian, gay, bi, trans* (LGBT) history month.

So why is STAR taking this opportunity to write about LGBT issues? Sexual assault is surrounded by stigma and myths in a very similar way that LGBT issues are viewed and because of this combination of misconceptions sexual assault in the LGBT community is even less talked about and often outright dismissed, despite CDC statistics that show the sexual assault rate for LGBT individuals is comparable and often times higher than the sexual assault rate for heterosexual individuals.

There are many dynamics that make disclosing and reporting sexual assault very difficult and that is increased tenfold when some other particularly disturbing dynamics are involved such as the hypersexualization of populations by society including people of color and the LGBT community leading to being victimized by a rape culture that tells those assaulted that they are responsible for their sexual assaults. Often members of LGBT communities also face hate violence in the form of sexual assault.  With that being said LGBT communities are often small and fairly tight knit which makes disclosing assault and seeking medical services even more difficult especially if the assault was perpetrated by other LGBT community members. Not knowing where to turn, either because they fear they will not be supported or believed or because they don’t want to reinforce negative stereotypes. Additionally reporting or seeking services may require someone to come out when they are not ready. Cultural competency in our medical and social service fields may also be lacking.

These are just some of the challenges that arise when an organization such as STAR has a mission to provide the best advocacy and education services to our clients and their supporters.

I encourage you to stay tuned to our blog this month as we are going to be addressing some of these barriers a little more in depth.

Until next time

Julie Dale McNeese

Education & Prevention

Standing Together Against Rape

Peace and biking

bicycle

So often when people think about a peaceful body, they think about meditation. I want to challenge that idea; I think we can find peace in the body in ways other than stillness.

My peace comes from being on a bicycle, hearing the click and whir of my gears, the gentle hum of tires on pavement, feeling the dips and bumps in the road as I ride over them (sometimes more acutely than others depending on how long my butt has been in the saddle). I can remember moments touring on my bike so precisely

watching a black bear run across the road through the gently falling snow near Denali (thinking to myself, “great, I’m not going to die of hypothermia in August, this bear is going to eat me!”)

weaving through rush hour traffic in downtown Bangkok, covered in sweat from both the 105 degree heat and abject terror due to the extremely close proximity of those cars, motorbikes and trucks

….

climbing in to the clouds as we reached the peak of Thompson pass outside Valdez and descending so fast my ears popped

riding along Turnigan Arm to Seward for the weekend with my sister, both later admitting that we had been ready to turn back after 10 miles, but neither wanted to be the first one to suggest it, so we pushed on in to the screaming headwind that turned in to a downpour that didn’t stop for hours

biking along the main highway in northern Cambodia along a stretch of highway so flat you could practically see the curvature of the earth, it was so hot and humid the air was shimmering over the asphalt, not a tree in sight and endless fields ahead


How does this bring about peace? 


Bike touring requires a certain amount of acceptance of a situation. Crying about a flat tire is not going to make it any less flat. Whining about the steepness of a hill is not going to make it any easier. Weather will happen and you’ll always be wishing for that one piece of clothing that you left at home. Your only choice is acceptance and to continue to move forward.

This summer my sister and I spent 6 weeks riding our bicycles around Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. When we told another tourist what we were doing he said to us in his basic English “but you do not look very strong…” We both laughed and admitted that we are tougher than we look. I got from point A to point B using just my legs and the feat of engineering that is the bicycle. And it was fun.

Traveling by bike requires you to take that moment, to look around, to experience what you are doing in that moment. You have to be present enough to adjust your speed when you realize you can no longer breathe comfortably; to recognize that even though your legs are telling you they can’t go any further, you have to keep going because your tent or the next guest house is several miles down the road; to enjoy flying down that hill to the fullest, because you aren’t sure when you’re going to get another break.


So you just keep pedaling, keep breathing, because that is the thing you can control in that moment. 

Find acceptance in that and find peace in your body.

Chelsie Morrison-Heath

Community Educator

Education & Prevention

STAR (Standing Together Against Rape)

Know your Resources on Campus

Are you a new college student? Is your daughter or son headed to a new school or university? Like any major life transition, entering college is thrilling, stressful, rewarding, and more than a little terrifying. Besides the fears of adjusting to dorm life, meeting a new roommate, learning calculus, and navigating campus; some students and their loved ones may worry about safety on campus. This fear is not unfounded. Research tells us that women in college, especially in their freshman year, are at high risk for sexual harassment and assault. While a first year of college should be a year of fun, adventures, and growth; sadly many young women will face trauma in their new environment.

The best defense against fear is knowledge. By being informed, young women can increase their chances of staying safe. Educating ourselves on available resources is a powerful way to fight the high statistics on sexual assault on campuses.

At UAA there are many resources to promote the safety and wellbeing of students. UAA is fortunate to have a wonderful university police department (UPD) who are kind, knowledgeable, and experienced officers. They are a constant presence on campus and provide speedy responses to emergencies. The Student Health Counseling Center, located in Rasmuson Hall, offers a variety of services including medical checkups, birth control, and mental health services, all for free or greatly reduced prices. The Psychological Services Center is another on-campus service that provides free or low cost therapy to the community.

For students living on campus, resident advisors are trained on sexual assault prevention, crisis intervention, and basic safety. They can be a wonderful peer-to-peer resource for new students.

Some students may feel anxiety about walking around a dark campus in the middle of winter. Not only does UAA provide a free shuttle service, but also offers safety escorts for students who do not wish to walk alone in the night.
If you are concerned about the safety of another student you can make a report to the Care Team, a multi-disciplinary team that provides evaluations and resources to students who are experiencing any type of crisis.

UAA also has a team of Title IX investigators, trained in sexual assault response and reporting. Finally STAR is always available for UAA students who wish to report a sexual assault, discuss options, or make a plan for safety. STAR’s 24-7 crisis line is a powerful resource for students and families, experiencing sexual violence.

Starting college can be frightening and overwhelming, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. At UAA you are a member of a community that is working hard to fight violence and promote respect.
If you have questions or concerns about your off campus community resources please call STAR’s 24 hour crisis line at 1-800-478-8999 or 907-276-7273. Next month we will be discussing serenity.

Until then,
Elizabeth Williams
STAR Volunteer and UAA student

Have No Fear! STAR Staffers are Here!!

Packing for college can be a real challenge! Do I need this? How about this? What if it’s cold and I don’t have a sweater- I better pack 50 of them just in case! Or maybe first time college students think their high school organizational and study habits will work for them in college; sometimes that’s not the case. Have no fear! STAR staffers have put together a list of their top three college necessities; items that they needed to make college easier, more organized, and let’s not forget more fun!

Now let’s make a fun game out of this, readers! If you’re familiar with the STAR staff, feel free to guess what items you believe go with what staffer. Feel free to post in the comments below. If you need help, check out our STAR Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/star.alaska for helpful hints!
Here we go!!

If you’re heading off to Kansas some things that may be helpful there are a mini fridge, a backpack, and a cellphone.
In Arizona you might need noise canceling headphones, a bicycle, and a hammock.

If you’ll be in Oregon for school you might need a raincoat, walking shoes, or a Nalgene bottle. Also from a school in Oregon a student ID to get food and game tickets, Orange clothing (hint hint), and another Nalgene bottle!
If you’ll be staying in Alaska for school snacks for class, a backpack, and a Redbull are essentials. A planner, food, shelter, and transportation were also important to staffers who went to college here in Alaska.
How about Utah? You may need supportive family and friends, a computer, and understanding what your study habits are to reach your optimal learning level.

Heading to Illinois for college? A comfortable love seat for your dorm room, a Care Bear comforter set (although that one may be a personal preference!), and a Lake Forest hoodie may be necessities.
What about the humid air of Florida? You’ll definitely need rest and relaxation after walking across campus in 100+ degree weather, note pads and planners, and you need to remember to reward yourself after a job well done or a particularly hard week.

And finally, if you’re heading to Montana make sure to take flip flops with you for the dorm showers, a small fridge, and a college sweatshirt.
Think you know who is who? Good luck guessing and have a wonderful, amazing, and safe new school year!

Until next time,
Danielle Mohr
Community Educator
Standing Together Against Rape

Title IX

Many college students and their families are uninformed on Title IX, a federal law that mandates college students an education free from sexual violence, harassment and discrimination. Most people associate Title IX with gender equity in college sports only. But did you know that Title IX affects all college students and their right to a safe campus?

Title IX requires that all colleges and universities receiving federal funding must protect their students from sexual violence in a variety of ways. If a sexual assault occurs, education institution must provide these accommodations to the victim.

• academic accommodations (e.g., receiving an extension on a paper after an assault, or expunging poor grades due to the lingering effects of violence)
• housing accommodations (e.g., moving the rapist out of your dormitory)
• employment accommodations (e.g., modifying work schedules to prevent interaction with the attacker)
• campus restraining orders (“no-contact directives”)
• counseling and other support services

In addition, according to the Clery Act, colleges and universities must report sexual assaults and make that information publicly available, so students can make informed decisions on which universities to attend.

While sexual assault is a criminal matter handled by the court system, it is also a civil rights issue because it has the potential to destroy a student’s right to an education. Unfortunately many students who have been victimized will drop out of college because of fear or feelings of shame and stigma. By educating students on Title IX we can teach survivors that they have a right to a safe campus. No one deserves to live in fear while attending college. We must empower young students to understand their rights and to seek appropriate help in the case of an assault.
For more information about Title IX, check out this website: http://knowyourix.org/basics/

If you have questions or concerns about Title IX or the Clery Act please call STAR’s 24 hour crisis line at 1-800-478-8999 or 907-276-7273.
Next week, we will be mixing things up a bit and taking a poll of what STAR staffers brought to college with them. Join us then!

Until then,
Elizabeth Williams
STAR Volunteer and UAA student