Being Seen

Transgender Rights activist and founder of T.R.E.E.S. Inc. Meghan Buell

We spend all, or most, of our waking hours looking around at all of the wonderful sights in our view. We look at our phones, at the TV, at the level of our beverage to determine if we need a refill. We look at a lot of things each and every day. But, how much do we really see?

As an out and proud transgender person I go about my business each day because that is what is needed to complete the to-do list. I go to the grocery store, the post office, the doctor, to wherever my list tells me to go. Most times I don’t think twice about it but every now and again I am reminded that my going places is really an opportunity to be seen. A chance to be seen by others. A moment to be seen as, well, just another person trying to figure out which avocado is sufficiently ripened. My reminder that it sometimes different is when I catch someone staring at me. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking if this happens to cisgender people or not. Doing that comparison doesn’t weigh on my goals of the day. What I do wonder, though, is what aspect of my being is so intriguing. I ponder.

I am secure in my understanding of who I am. If people take a second glance at me it doesn’t register on my “am I me enough today” radar. I usually default to “is my hair messed up?” or “is there food in my teeth?”. But never, “Am I Meghan enough for the world today?” I smile when I am the subject of extended glances. You know, just to let the gawker know that I see them. This usually ends the stare. Well, in most cases. I had a 4th grade student get caught staring at me and it ended up in a staring contest in which the rest of the 4th grade class was cheering the student on to “beat Miss Meghan”. It was fun and took a potentially embarrassing moment and made it into something altogether unrelated. The student won, by the way. They were applauded by their classmates. The moral of the story for me? Don’t be offended by the stares of others. Look them right back in the eyes and say I am visible and I SEE YOU.

Thank you.

Meghan (visible since 2009)

HIV Testing & Reflections on LGBT Pride Month

As I say good-bye to June 2017 I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what the month has meant to me. For many reasons June is my favorite month of the year and as just about everyone knows June is LGBT Pride Month with celebrations across the US in every major city. I also celebrate my birth on June 25th, that’s another reason the month is extra special to me. The Supreme Court ruled that gay Americans had the right to marry in every state June 26th which issued a great shift in our society and in LGBT culture. There are also two HIV Awareness Days: HIV Long-Term Survivors Day and National HIV Testing Day.

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

June 5th is HIV Long-Term Survivors Day. An awareness day to celebrate and honor the Long-Term Survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to raise awareness about the needs, issues and journeys of HIV Long-Term Survivors (HLTS).

Why June 5th?

A year after scientists identified AIDS they discovered the cause: HIV. On June 5, 1981, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about a rare form of pneumonia among a small group of young gay men in Los Angeles, which was later determined to be AIDS-related.

Why June 27th?

HIV testing is important for both treatment and prevention efforts. Yet, 13% of those infected with HIV are unaware they are infected. June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) and it was first observed on June 27, 1995 and that day is meant to encourage everyone to learn their HIV status. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 15 to 65 have a screening test for HIV. People with risky behaviors should be tested regularly. A question I was asked by several college students at the Vincennes Aids Walk in April was “what is an HIV test, do they have to take blood?” There are different type of HIV testing.

There are three main types of HIV tests:
ANTIBODY TESTS

Most HIV tests are antibody tests. Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or fluids from your mouth. This is usually done by swabbing the inside of a persons cheek. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. It can take 3 to 12 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies for an antibody test to detect HIV infection and the results are ready in 30 minutes or less.

COMBINATION TESTS (ANTIBODY/ANTIGEN TESTS)
Combination tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens, a part of the virus, in your blood. A combination test can detect HIV infection earlier than a HIV antibody test can. It can take 2 to 6 weeks for your body to make enough antigens and antibodies for a combination test to detect HIV infection. This HIV testing is done a lab.

NUCLEIC ACID TESTS (NATS)
Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs) look for HIV in the blood and can detect HIV infection about 7 to 28 days after you have been infected with HIV. This test is very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening.

The window period is the time between when a person gets HIV and when a test can accurately detect the HIV infection. This is based on the level of virus in your body and antibodies to the virus that become detectable over time. In most people, HIV can be detected as early as 2-3 weeks after transmission. In others it can take up to 3 months after somebody acquired HIV for tests to show a positive result. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not.

Please don’t wait until next Just to get tested, if you are sexually active you should get tested every 90 days, you owe it to yourself and to your sexual partners.

 

Got Your Back

Ever wonder if at that certain moment someone might actually be there to help? I always tell people when I put on my activist hat that I get bail money pre-arranged, three-fold. I just want to be prepared, just in case. I don’t want to wonder if, when I make the call, someone will answer.

The transgender community faces a lot of challenges just to exist. Each of us move along our own journeys without knowing what is up ahead of us on the road. For many of us, being able to live an authentic life is the goal. Certainly, for me, that is the goal. This doesn’t always present itself in a nicely wrapped package. We sometimes have to learn some hard lessons. Well, I guess, that is just life. Unfortunately, sometimes when a transperson puts themselves in harm’s way, they ended up injured, or worse, dead. As of mid-July, there have been 15 confirmed transgender murders in the United States this year. This puts us on pace to exceed last year’s total. This doesn’t begin to represent the number of transgender people who “just” get hurt. Well, when they do get hurt, sometimes this leads them down a path to possibly becoming another disheartening statistic connected to the transgender community.

Suicide for the transgender community is a big concern. They happen all too often. I dealt with this myself during my self-discovery time. I never really felt then that I had anyone to call. I struggled along the way just trying to avoid getting to that point of hopelessness. I will confide that it may have only taken one event to put me there. I was reminded of this recently as I, along with a friend, sat anxiously on our phones, they with a young trans person and me with their mother, as we tried to get them to drop the knife they held against their own body with the intent of doing self-harm. I sat wrenching inside with flashbacks but not being in a position to allow my emotions to flow freely. I wanted to cry, scream, lash out in pain, anger and frustration. I held it together until we were successful in saving this young life. By that time I was numb. I couldn’t cry, scream or lash out. Well, not until about 3 hours latter when it all came gushing out. I felt better and had thought I had let it all out. But, I hadn’t. I am still feeling the affects of this event. Although the results were favorable, I can’t help but wonder if a life event like this person experienced is right around the corner for me. Am I strong enough to meet it head on? Who do I call? Will I even make the call? These are the questions I am carrying around with me. Well, I guess this is just life. Right?

ps. I am crying as I end this blog post.

Suicide is never the answer, if you are thinking about or going to attempt suicide please call With Help Comes Hope 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. You are not alone.

Don’t be Afraid of Who You Are

Kane Fletcher, photo courtesy of Facebook

My name is Kane, and this is my blog.

I’m 27 years old trans man and I have been transitioning for almost three years now. Transitioning is a process. It’s a process to get your body to become who you know you are and how you envision yourself in your mind, mentally I transitioned years ago.

I have been on testosterone for three years. The anniversary of the day I started hormones I call my “maniversary.” For me testosterone is the second part of the process. Three years prior to starting hormone therapy I had been binding and living my life as close to male as I could. On April 19th 2017 I will have top surgery. Taking these steps in becoming the man I know I am is the right choice for me, but it might not be the right choice for everyone.

Just because you don’t take the hormone therapy doesn’t mean that you aren’t transgender. You still are. Some people can’t take it and others don’t need it. Sometimes it’s not safe for transgendered people to take hormones or even live as the gender that they identify with. It’s not safe because they are living in a place that if they embraced who they really a they could be in very real physical danger kicked out of their home or even killed.

Just like there are no two people alike, there are no two transgender people alike and some choices might work for some people and others not so much. Some transgender people are happy with their voices and the way that they look. Some people opt not to get surgeries. Yet, these people are still transgender and “We See You.”

In the next few weeks I start the next stage of my journey. I have so many mixed emotions, from excitement or nervousness yet the one constant emotion is that I’m overjoyed. It’s a new chapter in my life and I can’t wait to take the next step. My family and friends will be taking this journey with me and I hope you will too. I will be blogging about my experiences of being a trans man in the Midwest and things that have happened to me in my life.

If you or someone you love is trans and you have questions need support or just want to say hi you can reach me at kane@outinmichigancity.com

Kane Fletcher can be seen performing with his group “Welcome to the Other Side,” Saturday, April 15, 2017, at Shenanigans Pub & Eatery located at 6121 US 20, Portage, IN 46368.

Does HIV Make Me Undateable, Part II

Gay men living with HIV is what are we talking about.

Over the years since coming out as HIV positive, friends have asked me if my status makes me ‘undateable.’ The answer is “no,” I’m just as datable and I have just as much to offer in a relationship as anyone else. However, it there are several points that need to be addressed when dating someone who is HIV positive. 

While it’s been said, “There are plenty of fish in the sea,” and while I do believe there is someone for everyone, it seems that most men not all but most who are themselves HIV negative will not date a guy who is HIV positive. This can be difficult if you’re POZ because everyone wants to be loved and valued. There are a wide range of men in the world and there are men who do put the stigma of HIV aside and look past the word positive. The key is keeping informed and keeping communication open. Isn’t that the key for all successful relationships anyway?

The terms Neg and Poz have become the new normal in the vocabulary of our community. Sometimes that’s the first thing one asks when meeting. It’s now standard on every profile in every hook up app from Grindr to Adam4adam to BBRT.  You can find it somewhere towards the middle of a guys profile just after ‘position’ but before relationship status. Yet there is another label which we should start using as much as “top,” “Bottom,” or “Poz,” and “Neg.” That label is Undetectable or U=U (Undetectable=Un-transmittable). Undetectable and un-transmittable is when a person living with HIV has an undetectable viral load. An undetectable viral load is typically under 40 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood depending on the diagnostic tests.

The Prevention Access Campaign https://www.preventionaccess.org started U=U or #UequalsU to fight the stigma of being HIV Positive.
 
According to the Prevention Access Campaign’s web-site: “Collaborated with leading researchers to help people living with HIV who are on treatment and who have undetectable viral loads answer a fundamental question: ‘Am I at risk to my partner?’ The answer is NO. You can feel confident that if you have an undetectable viral load* and you take your medications properly, you cannot pass on HIV to your sexual partners.” 

Let’s start using U=U in our online profiles, lets start making HIV positive men feel welcome back in the ‘dating scene.’ Let’s end the stigma. 

As always it’s about choices. Some still choose to practice “Safer Sex.” You will always want to take care of yourself and your sex partner or partners. Safer sex could be the universal protection of wearing a condom or being on PrEP-Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Having sex with someone who is undetectable can mean a zero to little negligible risk, as long as they are under the care of a doctor and as long as you and your partner are honest with each other. 

There is a lot more to the story than just Negative or Positive. Inform others, start the conversation and share your story. Be part of the HIV Positive Proud community that live with a chronic health condition everyday. Get support from the people you love, whether is your biological family or your chosen family and remember the only way that you are undatable is if you let yourself become undatable and last but not least always keep a positive perspective. 

*An undetectable viral load is typically under 40 copies/ml depending on the diagnostic tests. However, studies show a person living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) with a viral load under 200 copies/ml also cannot sexually transmit HIV. This is called being “virally suppressed.”

Cooking in the Crock Pot of Life & Love Letters from Tampa

Hello everyone, in this weeks column we have some lighthearted  questions, some kind of serious questions, and one question that was so  disturbing I had to take a shower after I read it and swear to myself never to attend another dinner party. Honeys, I’ve been around the block a time or two and have seen some shit, but its like the old saying goes, “You think you’ve seen everything then someone comes along and starts cooking with sperm.” But, more on that question later on in my column. Today we start with a heart felt letter about relationships from of all places Tampa, Florida. Enjoy!

America’s Sweetheart Wilma Fingerdo

And remember I’m here for everyone, it doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, lesbian, trans or a soccer mom, if you have a question and you think I can help e-mail me at wilma@outinmichigancity.com.

Dear Wilma,

Several years ago I left my home in Michigan City and moved to Florida. In that time I managed to make a friend, ‘Eric’ probably the best friend that I have in Tampa. We have everything in common from the kinds of music and movies that we like to the nights we go out to ‘cut loose,’ you might say that I’ve met my ‘partner in crime.’ We’ve been asked by several people who know us why we haven’t hooked up or taken our relationship to that next level. The truth is we couldn’t be less sexually attracted to each other. We are fine just being friends. A few weeks ago I met ‘Josh,’ and we went out a few times and I of course slept with him. After a conversation with Eric he realized that he had been on two dates with Josh and liked him very much, but the relationship did not go anywhere. Eric made his feelings quite clear to me how he felt about Josh and told me if I continue to date him that we can no longer be friends.

The reality is my track record for relationships since I’ve moved here has been sketchy at best. I fall for a guy, but then a few weeks later I always figure out that there is something that I do not like about him. It can either be that he is too clingy, that I think his nose is to big, that he doesn’t like or know who Morrissey is, or he has a kid from when he thought he was straight. Somehow my relationships always seem to have a shelf life, yet I’ve been dating Josh is secret for the last two weeks. My questions is this, should I take a chance on love knowing that I might find something superficial about Josh that would tempt me to no longer date him, or should I continue to date him and jeopardize my friendship with Eric, keeping in mind that I still might break up with Josh?

Sincerely,

Tempted in Tampa

Dear Tempted,

I’m a firm believer in “Bros before Hoes”, but not in this instance…

I think that Eric is being a tremendous twat for trying to make you choose between your potential relationship and his friendship. Eric doesn’t even know if Josh likes him.

You should enjoy your time with Josh, and set Eric at the curb with the rest of the trash.

XOXO

Dear Wilma,
I was wondering, is there any truth to the old gay adage, ‘two bottoms don’t make a top?’
Regards,
Is the truth out there?

Dear Bottom,

Do two cats make a dog? Do two Fords make an Oldsmobile?

Unless one of you is willing to be more versatile, you better save your money, because those double headed dildos are expensive!

XOXO

Dear Wilma,

All my life I have had one secret desire: to combine my amazing fashion sense with killer dance moves on stage. You are such a star! Any advice for a ‘girl’ wanting to break into the business?

Sincerely,

Diva to be

Dear Diva,

Your words are right on point! I am a star and lovely to boot!

You need to get out there and get yourself a Drag Mama! A Drag Mama (or mother) is an entertainer who will take you under their wing and show you the ropes. They can also help get you started in obtaining a booking once you’re ready to take the stage.

if you’re truly interested, attend some local shows, make friends with the entertainers, and ask for their advice. I think that you’ll find that most entertainers in our area are friendly, fun and willing to help.

Best of luck!

XOXO

Dear Wilma,

One of the things that your fans know about you is your love for cooking. I consider myself an amateur chef who loves to experiment with new and exciting recipes.

Quite by accident I came across a cook book and bartenders handbook by Paul  ‘Fotie’ Photenhauer. The cookbook is called ‘Natural Harvest: A Collection of Seaman Based Recipes.’ The bartenders book is called, ‘Semenolgy-The Semen Bartender’s Handbook.’ The recipes in the book sound exciting and titillating. Recipes like roasted lamb with good gravy, tiramisu surprise, and an almost White Russian.

My question is this, with all the amazing restaurants opening in Michigan City, do you think we are ready for a seamen based restaurant or at the very least a pop up (no pun intended). To show you the the books that I am referring to are indeed real, I’ve attached pictures and you can also find them on Amazon.com.

Sincerely,
Cooking with Cum

Dear Cooking,

Please get to the nearest psychiatrist and have your head examined.

I don’t know a single person who would want to ingest a recipe made from jizz.
Might I add that “production” could be an issue. With the exception of our Editor, who has time to beat off all day?

For the love of God, please get professional help.

XOXO

Wilma Fingerdo and her group Welcome to the Other Side can be seen entertaining the masses through comedy and song at Mug Shots in Michigan City on March 25th, 2017 starting at 10:00 p.m.

Cocktails Lipstick and Love, Advice from Wilma Fingerdo

America’s Sweetheart Wilma Fingerdo

Welcome everyone to my first love and advice column. Our fans have been so good to us over the years that I just wanted to give a little something back to the community and this is as little as it gets. As I’m writing this I am poolside in sunny Florida sipping a mojito and dictating my new column to our pool boy Alejandro. I’m doing everything in my power to give this sweet boy an odd job or two to help him work his way through pet grooming school and you know what, it’s harder than you think to shape a poodle tail in to a little ball. Poor Alejandro’s always seems come out phallic shaped, I know he will keep working on it until he gets it right. If you need advice on love, life or how to mix that perfect drink don’t hesitate to write me, wilma_fingerdo@comcast.net.

Dear Wilma, I’m a young gay man in Northwest Indiana area and I’m wondering where I can go to meet other single men that doesn’t involve apps or online dating? Signed, Lonely Homo

Dear Homo, Northwest Indiana has a very open and friendly group of gay men that host events, and there’s no need to go alone! Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t go stag, drag the hag?” Get one of your lady friends and head out to Dark Star on Thursdays for Karaoke, Or you can follow the OUT in NWIN’s Facebook page for our local drag shows that are hosted in Michigan City, Portage and Winfield. Good Luck! XOXO

Hi Wilma! Have you ever had a doctor cup your balls and fondle them? Is this normal? What are they checking for? Thanks, Touched and Confused

Dear Touched, Heavens NO! I’m a lady for fucks sake. I’m no Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, but I believe that this will help to determine if you have a hernia. It’s either that or your doctor thinks you’re cute. XOXO

Dear Wilma, My boyfriends penis is really thick, do you have any tips for me? Sincerely, Ouchy

Dear Ouchy, Have you heard of booze and lube? That’s how I do it. XOXO

Dear Wilma, Valentine’s Day is coming and I was wanting some input, what would you do for a first date on Valentine’s Day? Where would you take your date and how much is appropriate to spend? Thank you, Anonymous Hopeless Romantic

Dear Anonymous, My legs rise according to the dollars spent, and “the sky’s the limit!” Seriously though, I think this is going to depend on the person you’re dating. I’ve spent many Valentine’s Days at home, but we’ve also indulged in $700 dinners in the City. Why don’t you cut to the chase and ask them what they want to do? You could spend as little as $50 for some pizza, a thoughtful card and Netflix, or thousands on a night on the town. I would let your date lead the way. Regardless, I think a nice card and some flowers always do the trick! Good Luck! XOXO

Wilma Fingerdo and Welcome to the Other Side can be seen performing at Shenanigan’s in Portage on February 25th 2017.