Trans Day of Remembrance

Not all challenges people in the transgender community face are the same but they can be similar, especially the threat of violence.

Looking back on my journey of 54 years, I can see that I was seeing the world through some very privileged eyes. What I thought were dangerous situations then pale in comparison to things now. But, even now, my situation is not filled with the same challenges as others who may be similar but not the same.

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. Photo C Grost Photography and Facebook

Of what do I speak? I speak of staying alive. As an out and proud white woman, I face challenges, barriers and threats. These come in the form of words, glares and online comments. Rarely, do I face physical violence. I am grateful for this. I am grateful I do not have to literally fight for my existence. Don’t get me wrong. I am fighting. I use education and the platform of my organization, TREES, Inc., to advocate, educate and communicate on behalf of my transgender community. What I don’t have to do is physically fight be be seen. This is not the case for many within the trans community.

Why is my experience different? In short, it is because I am a white, middle class raised, educated person. These characteristics have gotten me to place of relative safety. Those without some or all of these same characteristics face different and, in my view, more harrowing barriers to their authentic existence. Before you pounce, I am not saying that folks with the same characteristics don’t feel the pain of carving out their space in this world. They do. But through my watching, listening and reading I can see there is a difference. There are centuries of cultural difference that make the experience different. There are geographical differences. There are familial differences. This is where a pathway for each of us is unique, yet, not that different. For instance, my “coming out” did not include telling a spouse, my own children, a community of faith, grandparents, or my mother. On a grand scale of things, I had a less daunting road to travel. Could it have been harder? By all means, yes. Was it easy? No. I lost a lot. I lost a job, my house and all of my financial security. But, at no time, even though others were concerned, did I ever think I would lose my life. This is not the case for so many in the trans community. For many, the potential for violence exists. For trans women of color, the threat is real. IT IS HAPPENING AS I WRITE THIS BLOG.

On November 20th of each year, the transgender community, its allies and supporters all of the world remember those for whom the threat became real. This day is known at Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a day to remember those who have lost their lives at the hand of another and those we have lost to suicide. It is a time for introspection. It is a time to reflect. It is a time for thought. It is also a time for action. Please consider attending a vigil near you and, perhaps, you will find a call to action to save a transgender life going forward. There are many in need of your help.

On Wednesday November 20th at 6:30 EST join Meghan Buell at the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Zion United Church Of Christ 211 S. Saint Peter Street South Bend, IN 46617

In Michigan City please join PFLAG Michigan City at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, 101 W. 2nd St. Michigan City, IN 46360 starting at 6pm CST 

Anniversary

Let’s talk about time. More specifically, anniversaries. January 20th is one of my anniversaries. However, prior to this date becoming significant for me, it was just a date on the calendar. But, now this date holds as much, if not more significance as any other date on the calendar. See, on January 20, 2009, I became complete. It was the date of my gender confirming surgery. This past weekend I celebrated my 10 year anniversary of this date.

To think that I am 10 years past my surgery date is a bit surreal for me. I am still processing what this means in the big picture of the overall journey. To be honest, thinking that I could be 10 years beyond an event that I had for a long time given 0% chance of ever happening may be what I am having trouble processing. My journey had a lot of ups and downs but it really wasn’t until the 41st or 42nd year that the idea of having surgery became possible. For the longest time it was just this idea that was fleeting as I considered all that I would have to sacrifice in order to get that. It was always the piece of fruit so high up on the tree that it was unimaginable to think I could reach it. But, I Did!

As I’m writing this I can’t help but think of those in my circumstance who are still seeing the piece of fruit as too high up, too far away to be reachable. I’m here to tell you that it may seem that way now but don’t ever give up on it. Don’t lose focus on it. Wait for that moment when the pathway up those branches becomes clear and then climb. Do so because that piece of fruit for me has been more satisfying as any other piece of fruit I’ve ever tasted. It is worth the wait.

10 years, I welcome you as an anniversary. I look forward to 11 and 12 and all of the others that will follow. January 20th is not just a day on the calendar for me. What will become your date? Peace.

When It Is What It Is

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Hello All. Recently, I was out of town to present at a conference. I had to use a parking garage. When I was leaving it, I had to get my parking pass validated. As I thought about this process, I chuckled. Why, you might ask? It was because of how I thought for a second that my identity was not much different from this parking voucher.

Identifying as transgender has taught me that no matter how confident I am in my identity I spend much of my time validating it for others. Now, mind you, I travel around the country conducting transgender awareness workshops and events so, yes, it kinda is my job. But, you’d be amazed at how often I am “required” to validate my identity outside of the parameters of my work. Just about every time I make a phone call to check on a reservation, appointment, or any other conversation not with family or friends puts me in a position which requires validation. I get the full list of verification questions and when all my answers match I get the “oh, so you’re Meghan?” Um, yes.

Sometimes this validating is more subtle and without words. I was finishing up in a restroom at a public restaurant. As I was washing my hands someone entered, stopped, backed out to look at the gender indicator on the door, then reentered. At this point they looked me over from head to toe then to head again. This was followed by a unrecognizable facial expression, probably somewhere between “you’ve got to be kidding me” and approaching violent illness. I kept it together and just smiled, dried my hands and left. Funny things is, my only real concern was whether or not they would also wash their hands when they were done.

Trans persons are subjected to moments of validation constantly. It gets to be tiring to always have to do this. Hopefully the work I am doing for my organization, TREES, Inc. www.webetrees.org, is having an impact on this problem. No, not the alleged problem of being trans, but the problem of always having to validate my identity, my existence. Sometimes it just Is What It Is.

Peace.

Let “Religious” Freedom Ring

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Happy Pride !!!

Wow, it is June already. It seems like winter just ended and now we are almost half way through Pride Month. A lot has happened since I last wrote. The first half of the year has kept me busy either teaching or traveling for TREES, Inc. (www.webetrees.org). Some thing that happened recently has caused an itch to get under my skin, so, I would like to share some thoughts on it. It is the recent SCOTUS ruling about “the baker”.

For those not in the know, in short, SCOTUS ruled that a baker in Colorado was unjustly “sanctioned” by the local human right commission/ordinance there. However, the ruling has been used as a tool to inspire some folks to think they can openly discriminate with “religious freedom” as the tool for this discrimination. My first, and most significant reaction is “Oy.” In fact, that may be as far as I should go with any reaction, but I won’t.

In my view, if someone wants to discriminate they will. It is only when there is a definitive or blatant record of it can much be done to debate which side is right. We are not at this point yet. See, someone’s “firmly held religious belief” has not been define and in many cases defining it is being avoided. By defining it, those who declare this defense for discrimination would actually be held to some level of accountability. Being held accountable would then mean they would have to show a true conviction to their religious faith. Right now, it is a wide open can of “pick and choose” religious doctrine adherence. Spew a bible verse when it is convenient and works for you. When challenged on other verses, side step them by declaring them obsolete. Wow, what a nice easy tool to be just plain old bigoted. And, as lower courts begin to rule in favor of “religious freedom” there starts to be legal precedent for upholding carte blanche discrimination. This should scare us all.

I mention to folks sometimes that I would love the opportunity to used these rulings to prove a point. I would like to open a restaurant and have the chance to ask people, or just make a blind assumption, about their sexual orientation of gender identity in the hopes that when they answer as straight or cisgender (not really thinking they would know that term but you get it) so I can channel Seinfeld’s The Soup Nazi by saying, “No Soup for You!”. Of course, this would probably land me in the news. In the end, this would be a terrible business model and I’d probably go out of business in short order, unless, I incorporate as an IRS 501c3 Religious Organization. Hmmm? Anyone want to join a board of directors? LOL

In conclusion, talking about religious freedom and discrimination is not going to go far. Actions will speak louder than words on this one. Go out and prove a point in whatever manner you wish, because, until this can is closed, it’s a free(dom) for all. Walk proudly as your authentic self and when someone challenges you to prove your authenticity just say “no proof required due to my religious freedom” and see how they react. Good Day.

Happy Pride !!!

I Just Gotta Pee

Meghan Buell, Photo Courtesy of Facebook

Hello everyone. I write today waiting in line to use the bathroom, or restroom, or loo, depending on where you reside. Yes, trans people need to go every once in awhile. Not a remarkable discovery, right? I know, right? So, why is going to the restroom the first thing many people want to discuss about the trans community?

Ah, the restroom. A place designed for folks to go #1 or #2. A basic facility usually consisting of urinals, toilets, sinks and, hopefully, towels or hand dryers. Simple design, simple function and just plain simple, correct, or, so we thought. Then why all the interest in keeping trans people out of public restrooms.

There are usually two sides to any argument. In this case there are the trans folk who say, just let us use the restroom that we feel safest in. After all, we only need to go. In, out, easy peasy. The other side of the argument keeps saying that trans people in public restrooms is a safety issue. Of course, not a safety issue for the trans person but for cis (cisgender) women and young girls. Also, apparently, for men and young boys. Interesting. First question would be why would there be a safety concern if everyone is taught or reminded of the purpose of a restroom. So, where does the safety concern begin? It doesn’t begin anywhere because it is bogus. Then what is the real concern?

Raise your hand if using a public restroom is the coolest, most awesome thing ever. Yep, not seeing many, if any hands raised. That is because using a public restroom is a necessity, not a planned destination. It’s not a ride at Disney, people. Because of this some businesses have tried to make their public restrooms as pleasant as possible. Pretty colors, cool posters, couches, big mirrors. All in an attempt to make people feel less uncomfortable in them. Then you have a trans person enter and everyone gets uncomfortable regardless of the décor because people really don’t “get” trans people. Some people get appalled at the idea that trans people would come in and disrupt their comfortable feeling. I was told recently by a woman that the public restroom is their sanctuary. Really? Really??? It’s a restroom. Oh, my. And beside, it’s ok to feel uncomfortable. It builds character.

The point I’m trying to make is that trans restroom discussions are really about people being uncomfortable not them being unsafe. So, please do not fall into the toilet on this discussion and remind people that the restroom is not for resting (from being uncomfortable) but for doing #1 or #2, and occasionally for farting, but that is a whole other blog topic.

Pee, I mean, be well.

The Teacher in Me

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

I grew up, quite a many years ago, in an educator’s household. My dad was in public education for 40 years. When I was young I was pretty much indifferent to my dad being an educator. I did try my best to take advantage of visiting “his” school when he was the Principal because it usually meant a visit to the office supply room. That was my super store of pencils, folders and notebooks. Just to clarify, my dad would pay for the items. So, my dad being an educator was kind of cool. I never envisioned that one day I, too, would be an educator.

I teach all the time. My “classroom” differs often. Much of the time it isn’t even in a school building. In reality, I consider the world as my classroom. This is so because every day I step out of my house I have an opportunity to teach someone something about me. Most times, it is transgender related because I live as an out and proud transgender woman. I am, for the most part, okay with this. I mean, I run a nonprofit organization that specializes in transgender education, so I am kind of destined to teach when I am engaging folks. My educator’s DNA comes in handy. But this is far from the only teaching I do.

In my spare time I work as a Substitute Teacher in a public school system. Yes, school systems do hire trans teachers, well, at least my hometown’s school system does. Being a Sub is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of patience, empathy, quick thinking, and perseverance. As a trans person in education I have found that I fare well for having thick skin, selective hearing and a sense of humor. You might ask why these would be necessary. Here are some examples of my experiences where this has been required.

Thick Skin: Kindergarten.
Boy: Are you a girl?
Me: Yes
Boy: I don’t see it.
Me: Well, I am.
Boy: What about your voice?
Me: I have a deep voice.
Boy: I’m not buying it.
Me: Back to work

Selective Hearing: An Indiana “liberty” organization
Them: This “man” (me) should be spending more time teaching math, English and science instead of spreading their sexual identity to second graders.
My employer: We’re good. Thanks
Me from afar: Did someone say something? Lol

Sense of Humor: 2nd Grade
Student: Miss Meghan, can I ask you a question
Me: Sure
Student: Are you a boy or a girl?
Me: A girl
Student: Oh, but why do you have a boy voice?
Me: I don’t have a boy voice. I have a deep voice.
Student: Have you tried a cough drop?
Me: I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks.

Life as an educator. Thanks, dad.

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)

Trump Bans Transgender Military Personnal

Then Candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Denver

(Washington D.C.) President Trump continues to roll back Obama era policies, today as he announced that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military in “any capacity.”

President Trump made his announcement in a series of Tweets Wednesday morning. Transgender activists like Meghan Buell from South Bend, IN. view this as a major blow to the progress transgender individuals have made in the last few years under the Obama administration and deem it as discriminatory.

In an exclusive statement to “The Beacon” Ms. Buell had this to say about The Presidents decision “To blatantly advocate for discrimination against a single demographic is the most un-American thing any person in power can do. As an out and proud transgender American, I stand against the President’s statement and call for all Trans Allies to speak up against this action.”

President Trump claims in his series of Tweets that he consulted generals and “military experts” in making his decision.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you” According to CNN there are over 6000 transgender soldiers serving in the military.

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a statement on his website that regarding The Presidents decision.

“The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.

“The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.

“The Department of Defense is currently conducting a study on the medical obligations it would incur, the impact on military readiness, and related questions associated with the accession of transgender individuals who are not currently serving in uniform and wish to join the military. I do not believe that any new policy decision is appropriate until that study is complete and thoroughly reviewed by the Secretary of Defense, our military leadership, and the Congress.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to follow closely and conduct oversight on the issue of transgender individuals serving in the military.”

In his 2016 campaign then candidate Donald Trump claimed to be a “real friend” to the LGBT community as he was the only republican to speak out agains the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando Florida. Mr. Trump said in his 2016 campaign that “Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay  community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremist into our country and who suppress woman, gays and anyone else who doesn’t share their views or values.” Mr. Trump’s speech that was highly criticized at that time by Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Will President Trump stop with this policy shift towards transgender soldiers or is the reinstating the the Clinton era Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy just around the corner, a question that may be on the mind of LGBT rights activist and gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual soldiers currently serving in the military.

realDonaldTrump
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……
Jul 26, 2017, 7:55 AM
realDonaldTrump
….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..
Jul 26, 2017, 8:04 AM
realDonaldTrump
….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you
Jul 26, 2017, 8:08 AM

This is a developing story.  

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.

Being Proud

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

As we enter another Pride Month in June, I stop to reflect on what pride, or more correctly, being proud means to me.

In younger days, I was always proud of stuff. I would proudly show off my Lego building skills to my mom. I felt the pride of winning a 1st Place ribbon at a track meet in grade school event though I was not a fast runner (I benefit of being on a relay team with other fast kids). I was proud to tell people I was from The Region even though they called us “Region Rats”. I always stood proudly and supported my sports teams, my schools and my friends. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had never felt very proud of me.

As I was limping my way through life, feeling very confused, frustrated and lost, I was very much assured that my life was going to end in a moment of complete surrender to these feelings. I wasn’t living because I was proud to be alive. I was living because I was still breathing. This changed when I encountered a word that seemed at the time to be a gateway to self discovery. Late in 1998, I ran smack dab into the word transgender. A word I had been seeking to enter my life for so long. I do recall standing up and raising my arm and saying “I am transgender”.

Looking back I could in no way have predicted where I would be today. I have been described as “one of the most out and proud trans people” someone knew. I do live a very authentic and proud life now. I did have to overcome a big obstacle to get to this place. From the time that I stood up and raised my arm and for the 7 years that followed I studied and researched everything about being transgender. I became very astute on most things related to the trans community. I thought this was going to be enough to carry me into the future. I began to prepare for an eventual transition. Everything seemed to be falling into place, yet, I felt there was a void. There was something I was forgetting. It was bothering me. What could it be?

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

I used to “dress up” and go out when it was convenient for me to get out. This was a very comfortable part-time existence. I was not under any pressure or constraint to be anything other than what I wanted to be at any point of time. I thought this was just my situation given still being mostly in the closet. I kept using job, family or money as the reason I didn’t take my journey any further. Yet, I was getting frustrated that things were not moving along the planned timeline. And then it hit me. My excuses for not advancing forward were not at all related to job, family or money but because I hadn’t really come out to MYSELF and, thus, was not really proud of being ME. All my life I had been proud of my accomplishments but never of me. Once I called my own bluff and finally stood up and said “I AM TRANSGENDER. HEAR ME ROAR” I was able to stop spinning my wheels, gain traction and move forward toward the goal. It took me being proud of being me to open up the pathway to self-acceptance. I stand here today, celebrating Pride Month, truly proud.