The Courage to Be Who You Are: West Valley’s Personal Stories of Trans* Identity
By Avi Vieira
Trans*, Gender Neutral, Transgender, Genderqueer, Transsexual, Agender, Transvestite, Two-Spirit, and Genderfluid: we hear these terms in describing one’s gender identity. The question has come up, as to what the difference is between the terms, and what is appropriate or may be offensive. This week at West Valley one•n•ten, the group held a discussion about Trans* identity, appropriate terminology, and shared some personal stories by volunteers and youth who have broken free of the gender binary to be who they truly are.
Led by our own Chief Engineer and Assistant Ranger Nick Fletcher, the group was asked to think about the different terms that fall under the Trans* umbrella – with clarifications made for some of the more unfamiliar ones. The group then explored the differences between gender identity, gender expression, attraction, and biological sex with the help of the Genderbread Person which takes on binary gender and helps to introduce the concept of gender as a spectrum, where individuals identify and express themselves along it, rather than one or another.
The evening turned to a Q&A session with Nick and some of the youth at group who identify as Trans*. Topics discussed included problems faced in coming out as Transgender or Gender Neutral such as problems with parents or loss of friends. Others asked about concerns over transitioning with hormone and surgery. The youth discussed their views on the differences between sexuality and gender identity, and closed the discussion by talking about the support they have in their lives since coming out and living as Trans* individuals, with one•n•ten noted as a strong positive support in their lives. It was an evening that demonstrated both insight and courage – of knowing who you are, and in feeling empowered to live life authentically as the real you.