Black LGBTIQQ History in the Community

2016 Generations poster

Feel free to download and share this image.

In case my dear readers do not know, I will state here that I am a man of trans experience, of recent African descent and I was born in the USA.

There are not many events or organizations in the US that are made for and by people like me (or even acknowledge that people like me exist). I take me everywhere I go, but I understand that ALL of me is not invited or expected in most places in the world.

Yet.

I now have a couple of holiday events that I did not have as a young person. I have the pleasure and honor of being on the planning committee for an inspiring, rejuvenating event called Generations: Black LGBTIQQ History Experiences. Generations was born in San Francisco, Ca. It is a child of the Black LGBTIQQ community.

For five years, I have been assisting with Generations because history has been my guiding light. Knowing Black history strengthens how I see myself and other people. Knowing the multitude of Black LGBTIQQ shoulders I stand on is a Stone Cold Gas, man.

So, World, prepare yourself for Generations 2016, February 26, 6-9pm at the SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco.

In the meantime, enjoy this video from Generations 2014!

See you ALL there!

 

-Leo

 

 

 

Thai Trans Women and Muay Thai

Somros “Rose” Polchareon is a 19 year-old Muay Thai (Thai boxing) champion. Rose is a trans woman and a fierce competitor in a sport that is a sacred part of Thai culture. Traditionally, women are not allowed in the fight ring. But as a male-bodied person the rules of competitive Muay Thai allow Rose to become successful and earn money for the surgeries that will give Rose the body she needs to live a complete life.

Rose is not the first Thai trans woman boxer to use her winnings to finance sex realignment surgeries. In 1999 (when Rose was about 3 years old), Parinya “Nong Toom” Charoenphol was a nationally famous boxer who used her prize money for surgery.  Nong Toom’s life is dramatized in the film Beautiful Boxer (2005).

Thai boxing transforms the body into weapons to fight an opponent, but it is more than a sport: Muay Thai is part of Thai national identity. Rose and Nong Toom used Muay Thai to achieve their identities and transform their lives within Thai culture.

 

-Leo

 

 

Brace (2015)

I first heard of Brace from my roommate, Ahav. “It’s great”, he said, “y’gotta see it!” Sometimes our film tastes overlap and I tried to remember the title so I could check it out.

Time passed and I forgot the title and I asked Ahav again. “Okay, Brace, got it.” Again the title did not stick in my mind.  Fortunately, the creator of Brace, Jake Graf, tweeted; asking me to re-tweet the link to his film.

I enjoyed Brace, you gotta see it!  Brace is an emotional, LGBT ride with surprises for the lucky viewer.  As a writer, Jake Graf understands that our lives often refuse to take a clean, predictable path to our goals: we get bumped to the side, spun around and dirty. That’s where storytellers find drama.  We must remember where we are going and get back on track (creating even more drama in the process).

Graf knows very well that gender transition all by itself creates drama.  Graf did not make a simple transition/coming-out story. His characters take more risks, trying to figure out where they fit in life.

Thanks, Jake, for making Brace available to watch online.

–Leo

 

Caitlyn Jenner Takes Her Place

Caitlyn Jenner Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

In the summer of 1976, I was 14 years old.  The US was swept with the fever of celebrating its 200th year as a nation with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July 1776.  The government issued Bicentennial quarters and I joyfully collected them.  I filled a bank coin book or two with quarters.  (I later lost the quarters to a bout of sibling rivalry.)

Another big event that year was the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.  I was a sports minded kid and I was glued to the televised coverage of the Olympics.  I, along with the rest of the US and the world, watched as Bruce Jenner became the US Bicentennial poster boy.   Handsome, strong, photogenic, Olympian, Bruce Jenner won event after event in the decathlon. It was the Bicentennial and the US was bearing fruit just across the border in the form of Bruce Jenner, All-American Male.

I am trying to paint a picture in your mind’s eye of the US when the athlete, Bruce Jenner, sprang upon the scene.  He was a human representation of the USA who won record-setting Gold wearing a suit that was reminiscent of the flag of the US of A. The media could not get enough of Bruce Jenner: it was an awesome love. He was the new Spirit of ’76.

If my memory serves, Bruce Jenner was on the Wheaties’ cereal box. Wheaties touted itself for years as the breakfast of champions. (I tried to eat that breakfast once and I can’t agree with their claim.) Only the most accomplished, well-known US athletes graced a Wheaties’ box when I was a kid.

When I was 14 watching Bruce Jenner, and for decades later, not a day passed when I did not think, “No one knows who I am. And if they knew they would not approve.”

It’s now 2015 and I am known as a trans man, a son, a brother, an uncle.  And everyone with a newspaper, television or internet connection knows that Caitlyn Jenner is a trans woman, a daughter, a mother, an Olympian.

I was struck by the similarities of our feelings in the summer of ’76.  Well, of course, one might say, you are both trans people and will experience similar feelings. (Often I forget I am trans unless something happens to remind me.) Caitlyn Jenner spoke of how, in the midst of the Olympics hoopla, she knew no one could see her. No one knew who she was.

While I was watching a “man” named Bruce winning the Olympics, I was dreaming of having a strong male body like his. Caitlyn’s journey reminds me of the summer of ’76 when we were both feeling incomplete and invisible. Now, in the spring/summer of ’15 we both have a happiness, freedom and visibility that we imagined unreachable.

The future for kids and adults who know they are trans* looks brighter everyday because health care is catching up with trans* health needs.  I look forward to the day when trans* people need only “come out” to their doctor.  For now, trans* people are taking their places and becoming visible, as the world adjusts to our humanity.

–Leo

 

Sgt. Shane Ortega: What is the Army’s next move?

Clearly, good things can come from tangled bureaucracy.  One of those things, in my opinion, is the military career of Sgt. Shane Ortega.

The US Military has been very good to Sgt. Ortega (and, in my view, Ortega is good for the military).  The military quietly permitted Sgt. Ortega to transition to male while serving his country.   However, Ortega is still listed as ‘female’ in the military database.  Sgt. Ortega’s commanding officers have formally requested the US Army decide if Ortega can officially serve as a male soldier.

Will the US Military go backwards or forwards into the future?

–Leo