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 

Gay & Straight Coalition Jazzes UP Michigan City

Former Associate Directory of Public Engagement for the Obama Administration, Matt Nosanchuk, speaking at a jazz brunch hosted by Northwest Indiana Gay-Straight Coalition.

On Sunday June 2nd, in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District the Northwest Indiana Gay Straight Coalition hosted a Jazz Brunch to help raise money for Michigan City’s 2nd annual Michigan City PRIDE Fest. For those who are not familiar with the NWIGSC it is a fairly new non-profit formed just a few years ago that according to the groups website is “​A community based organization-fostering policies, initiatives and activities that create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community in Northwest Indiana.” The charity brunch was attended by Indiana State Senator Mike Bohacek (R), who co-authored Indiana’s newly passed hate crimes bill and guest speaker Matt Nosanchuk, former Associate Director of Public Engagement of the Obama White House. Jazz music was provided by the Bill Boris Trio.

The Bill Boris Trio as they perform during the Jazz Brunch at the Uptown Center.

In his opening remarks Mr. Nosanchuk commented on the 50th anniversary on The Stonewall Riots, marking the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. “The memory of Stonewall and what it represents led to the emergence of the first Pride Parade in New York on its first anniversary.” Michigan City has become the leader in Northwest Indiana for its inclusion of the LGBTQ community as it sees more and more former members of Chicago’s LGBTQ community leave the city to pursue a life in the “Region.” Michigan City gives new and life long residents the appeal of living on Lake Michigan, but without the inflated cost of living that you find in Chicago, yet living here allows easy access to everything Chicago has to offer.

As its already large LGBTQ community grows, Michigan City is now one of the many smaller cities around the nation that hosts its own PRIDE festival and was the first city in the Region to do so. Historically the LGBTQ population here has been large but under represented and far from organized, but recent years have seen organizations like PFLAG open a chapter here. PFLAG offers support to families and members of the LGBTQ community and is also a sponsor of Michigan City PRIDE Fest. As important as PFLAG is to offer support to the community at large, organizations like NWIGSC are just as important because they will be advocating real change in the laws that concern the LGBTQ community as well as pushing for real policy change locally and in Indianapolis, policy change that will have a lasting effect on this community.

Addressing the audience Michael Jefvert, who is a member of NWIGSC board, commented that when he was originally from Indiana and upon graduation from college promptly left the state. He along with hundreds of other young adults that just happen to identify as LGBTQ leave the state because they do not feel accepted in the city or town that they grew up in. How many talented and creative people who just happen to identify as LGBT or Q has Michigan City and the surrounding communities lost because of laws or policies that promote and foster old prejudices? Prejudices that make people feel excluded in their own hometown. Prejudices that can lead to violence against members of a marginalized community.

Organizations like the Northwest Indiana Gay-Straight Coalition and PFLAG are needed and those organizations are on the front lines of bringing real change and real understanding so that maybe one day we won’t lose talented, smart, and creative young members of our community to cities like Chicago, New York, or Indianapolis.

As 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots our community reflects on the progress that we’ve made and the progress we have yet to make. As more and more conservative states enact so called “religious freedom” laws, which are largely created to give businesses a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community grass roots organizations like the Northwest Indiana Gay-Straight Coalition will have the backs of the LGBTQ community they represent and the ears of the policy makers who make the laws that have a lasting affect on all of us.

Get Over It

So it was mentioned to me on Friday that a local radio station was having a discussion with their listeners on why we need a PRIDE Festival or more specifically why we shouldn’t have one. Just this morning before it was deleted on a local Michigan City community Facebook page someone said they didn’t understand why ‘you people’ needed a PRIDE Fest.                         

Jeanne Manford founder of the support group that would eventually become PFLAG marching in an early gay pride parade.

Here’s the deal, Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community. This community pays taxes here, spends money here, and CHOOSES to live here. NOT Chicago or Indianapolis or other big city with a ‘gay neighborhood’ but here. In fact I got news for you haters the WHOLE city is a gay neighborhood. I can’t swing a stick and not hit a LGBT person in my community. The LGBT community in Michigan City is no longer sitting on sidelines. Also we are no longer going to someone else’s city to celebrate PRIDE and why should we have to?

A more unified LGBT community is what I envisioned three years ago when I started OUT in Michigan City. Our Facebook page and eventually our website was started after my husband and I attended a RFRA protest march in Indianapolis and we witnessed first hand what a united LGBT community could accomplish. I wanted the same thing  here and now it seems we are heading in that direction. As of this writing OUT in Michigan City had 1095 ‘likes’ and followers so we must be reaching a few people in Michigan City and the surrounding communities.  

Honestly when I started our page and website I thought I was alone, but thankfully I’m not. Other like minded people have started their own projects like the La Porte county LGBTQ Alliance or the LGBT support group at the high school. The local PFLAG chapter here offers support to parents of gay, trans, bi, and questioning people and to any queer person in need of support. Real support for real people in need.

One of the things that attracted me and my husband to this city was it’s diverseness and inclusiveness, Michigan City for at least in the time I’ve been here, has been a haven for people from all different walks of life and for that I am thankful. I’m also thankful for the unwavering support that the PRIDE Fest  Committee has received from The City of Michigan City.

Since we started the process of planning the PRIDE Fest I’ve been expecting a little blow back, but at less then a month before the event all I have to say is what took so long? For those of you though who ultimately just don’t get it. For those of you who have never had the word ‘fag’ screamed at you from a coward in a moving car as you are trying to carry groceries into your apartment. To those straight guys out there who have never been fired from a job simply because you are gay or had to suffer from any sort of disrespect or discrimination, yet you have the  audacity to ask “Why can’t we have a straight Pride parade?” To those of you who just don’t like us, I’ll put it in a way you will understand in a terms used since the first gay PRIDE parades dating back to the 1970’s….

WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER! GET OVER IT!

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th 2018 at 121 W. Michigan Blvd (Next to City Hall) in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District