4 Texans make Trans 100

Phyllis Frye

Phyllis Frye

At least four Texans made the Trans 100 list created by Jen Richards of We Happy Trans and Antonia D’Orsay of This is How.

The four Texans are Phyllis Frye of Houston, Carter Brown of Dallas, Katy Stewart of Austin and Monica Roberts of Houston.

Others names on the Trans 100 are writer Kate Bornstein, Outserve-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, GLSEN public relations manager Andy Marra and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling.

Surprisingly, Amanda Simpson, the highest ranking trans presidential appointee, is not on the list. Neither is Texan Meghan Stabler.

Here are the four Texans on the Trans 100 along with their bios:

Katy Stewart: Katy Stewart is executive director for Transgender Education Network of Texas. She has 11 years of experience in public advocacy and education in Texas communities on GLBT topics with an emphasis on gender diversity. Katy Stewart’s ethic is one of inclusion and empowerment to elevate voices that are often unheard. She also serves as steering committee chair for Trans Advocacy Network.

Monica Roberts: As TransGriot’s founder, Monica Roberts knows that a knowledge of trans history and a presence of visible role models helps build trans pride. She believes it helps eliminate the shame, guilt, and fear issues trans people grapple with, and she believes it helps facilitate community building. She’s proud to be a trailblazing role model for our next generation of trans people.

Phyllis Frye: is a winner of Lavender Law’s highest honor, the Dan Bradley Award of 2001. She was honored by Texas A&M University, beginning in 2009, with an annual Diversity Award given in her name. In 2010 Phyllis was sworn in as the first out transgender judge in the nation, as a City of Houston Associate Municipal Judge. She retains her senior partnership of Frye, Steidley, Oaks and Benavidez, PLLC, which is an out LGBT-and-straight-allies law firm.

Carter Brown: Black Transmen, Inc. addresses disparities that saturate the transgender community. Black Transmen offers a radical, holistic approach to empowering communities through outreach that provides resources, support and social advocacy, nationally. Through Social media advocacy and outreach, Black Transmen, Inc, improves the lives of Trans men throughout the country.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope

A rose was placed in a basket for each transgender person remembered at Transgender Day of Remembrance. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

More than 100 gathered Sunday evening at the Cathedral of Hope to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso presented a city declaration marking the day as Transgender Day of Remembrance in Dallas, and Black Trans Men Inc. founder Carter Davis was the featured speaker. Euless eighth-grader Hannah Walter spoke about why she is an ally.

Mosaic Song, a small chorus from Resounding Harmony, performed several times during the service.

The reading of names included 39 transgender people brutally murdered during the previous 12 months including Janette Tovar of Dallas. Tovar’s was the only death marked as having an arrest made in the murder.

A rose was placed in a basket at the front of the church for each name read.

More photos below.

—  David Taffet

COVER STORY: Black, trans, man

Carter Brown

Carter Brown knew from personal experience that African-American transmen are among the most invisible and most under-served people in the LGBT community. So he founded a new organization in hopes of filling in the gaps

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Transitioning is never an easy process for anyone, but African-American female-to-male trans people face some special challenges, according to transman Carter Brown.

“Our lives, the path we feel we have to take is a challenge. We are voluntarily accepting the role of Public Enemy No. 1: The black man is the most feared man in America,” Brown said. “When we transition from female to male, we are accepting all the challenges that black men in this country face, from society, from our families and from ourselves. It’s a lot to bear.”

And Brown noticed early on in his own transition process that black transmen, in many instances, had to face those challenges alone. That’s why he decided to launch an organization focusing primarily on helping others like himself.

That’s when Black Transmen was born.

Brown said that, having been born biologically female, he knew from a young age that he was different. As a teenager, he came out as a lesbian and “found a place in the community as a butch lesbian.”

But still, something was missing: “I still didn’t feel complete,” he said.

Then one day, when he was 24, Brown was watching TV and saw a talk show that included a transman as a guest.

“It just turned a light on for me,” he said. “Finally the pieces started to fall into place.”

So he started going to the library, using the computers there to look for information and resources that could help in his quest to transition. He found some resources and made connections with other transmen in Yahoo groups. But few of those resources addressed the special challenges of black transmen, and few of those new friends were transmen of color. They couldn’t relate, Brown said, to the special challenges black transmen face.

“I couldn’t find people who were like me. That’s why I decided to start this organization, to reach people like me and move us forward.”

Brown said he started out by creating a page on Facebook, and he was amazed at how many people were drawn to it. The more comprehensive organization grew out of that Facebook page, and today, Brown said, Black Transmen has about 300 members nationwide and is led by a three-member board consisting of Brown and two other transmen that he chose not to name out of respect for their privacy.

Brown said he and the organization’s other leaders have worked to create a structure with programs and outreach designed to address the needs of transmen in general as well as the specific challenges that transmen of color face.

One of the greatest challenges for black transmen, Brown said, is financial, adding that “a majority of black transmen fall into the lower financial class,” and finding money for a therapist and for medications is difficult. So one of the organization’s first goals was to find a way to address that need.

So Brown and the other group leaders began compiling a list of therapists to whom they could refer newcomers, and they established the FTM Fund. Through this program, he said, transmen can earn financial assistance to help pay for medications and other costs by putting in volunteer hours.

Careers

Black Transmen also works to help transmen pull themselves out of that lower end of the financial spectrum with a program offering advice on developing their careers.

“A lot of guys feel that they are male, but they haven’t actually walked in the world as a man,” Brown said. “We have to be socialized as men, to learn how to speak as men, wear professional clothing, even how to shake hands.”

Looking again to his own experience, Brown said that when he was first beginning his transition, he communicated online with a group of other transmen, all of whom were caucasion. He said those men, as they transitioned, often found themselves with new opportunities for advancement in their careers.

“But for me, it was the opposite. As a black man, I saw my opportunities decrease,” he said.

The group also offers advice on if, when and how to come out as a transman on the job, something that Brown knows from personal experience can be problematic.

He said when he began his transition, he was fired from his job. And at another job, when he came out as a transman, he was “harassed until I finally had to quit.”

Now, he said, he stays quiet about his trans status at work.

“What I found was that I was back in the closet,” Brown said. “The people at work see me as the man I am. But I can only get so close to someone without them knowing that I am trans. And being in the closet is a hard way to live. You have to find a balance.”

Health

Providing resources to help transmen stay healthy is another primary goal for Black Transmen as an organization, Brown said. The organization works to provide resources to help transmen find the doctors, therapists and surgeons they need, and is looking now for outside funding that will allow the group to help individuals with the costs of those services.

But Black Transmen is also actively involved in HIV/AIDS and STD education and awareness, he continued, and in August will participate in the Hip Hop Summit for HIV.

“A lot of transmen are not being tested for HIV and AIDS,” Brown said. “A lot of them are not educated on how the disease is contracted and how to avoid being infected.

“A lot of guys still sleep with cis-gendered men and have unprotected sex. But they are ashamed of that, and because they are ashamed they don’t protect themselves,” he continued. “One of the things we try to do is get guys to understand there is no reason to be ashamed of who you sleep with. We try to give them a place to go where they can be comfortable talking about these things.”

And there are other health concerns that black transmen face that their white counterparts don’t, Brown added.

“For instance, African-Americans in general are more prone to have high blood pressure. We want to address those issues as well,” he said.

Black Transmen also works to help transmen balance their mental health needs as well, offering peer menoring, either online or through a 24-hour telephone hotline.

“Our goal is to provide an overall support system that will help transmen have a healthy transition and a healthy life,” Brown said.

Culture

Perhaps the most difficult challenges for black transmen, Brown said, is dealing with some of the “culturally specific issues we face not as transmen but as black men in general.

“In the African-American community, because I am a man, they expect certain things of me. They expect me to be very aggressive, to not care about getting an education, to not care about the arts,” Brown said. “Too often, we feed into those negative stereotypes people have of black men, things like sagging your pants, being a womanizer. If you don’t do these things, then you’re seen as weak.”

And then there is the opposite end of the spectrum, where black men are expected to be heavily involved in the churches that play such a big role in the African-American community — something that can be problematic for transmen who are often shunned by religious communities.

“And the African-American community depends on men to care not just for themselves and their immediate family, but for their extended families, too,” Brown said. “That can be a very heavy burden, and some of the [transmen] just are not prepared to carry that burden. We are here to help them with that.”

Although his journey has not always been an easy one, and there are still challenges he has to overcome, Brown said it has been worth the trip.

“I feel free,” he said. “I feel like now that I am no longer consumed with my transition, now I can focus on being who I am, on being a comfortable and confident man. And I want to help others like me reach that same place.

“That’s what this organization is about, helping black transmen be free within themselves, letting them see other guys who have been where they are and who can say, ‘I understand. I’m here to help,’” Brown continued. “This is a safe space, where guys can come and find encouragement, where they can find family that understands and has no judgment.”

Around the edges of the circular logo for Black Transman are the words, “One is not born a man, he becomes one.”

And that, Brown said, is the organization’s goal: to help transmen become the best men they can be.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We are men. We are unique, exceptional men. And we are there for each other.”

—  John Wright

Looking back on 20 years of LifeWalk

By Dan Gueths Special contributor

Dan Gueths and Del Shores
2008 MEMORY | Dan Gueths, left, with 2008 LifeWalk Honorary Co-Chair Del Shores.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice, leading up to the 20th anniversary event on Oct. 10.

What is now the start of my 16th  year of involvement with LifeWalk started with just a simple question from two friends and co-workers. In 1994, James Youngblood was LifeWalk co-chair and Leigh Ann Stockard, who went on to also serve as co-chair, approached me and asked if I would like to help with LifeWalk.

For us, as for many, the reason to get involved was very personal. The three of us had two incredibly funny, personable and dear co-workers, Todd LeBlanc and Marty Rizzo, that we lost too soon to HIV/AIDS. Leigh Ann and I went and sat many an afternoon with Marty when he was homebound. But we lost many more friends and acquaintances, too, and there were more to come, including, over the years, many of my good friends that used to play for the Hunky’s softball team.

The first year I was involved, I set out cones along the LifeWalk route. I enjoyed the experience, so I agreed to help out again the next year, and then the next, etc. For the next several years, I served on the steering committee in logistics and recruitment, eventually being the committee chair for Operations.

I am honored to have served as LifeWalk event co-chair in 2008 and 2009. I had to think long and hard about being agreeing to fill the position — the duties are not easy. But the rewards I reaped in personal satisfaction far outweighed the workload and responsibility.

Another huge reward along the journey has been working with some very dedicated people who volunteer their time and talents, people like Mary Marshall, Jay Nolen, Keith Hickman, Terry Walker, Sandra Howell, Carter Brown, the TGRA (which always responds to the call for help), just to name a very few. But the list has no end.

As LifeWalk marks its 20th year, it is for me both monumental and bittersweet. It is a great achievement that LifeWalk has grown and raised millions of dollars that has provided for so many. But it is bittersweet that it continues to be a necessary that LifeWalk has more anniversaries.

This 20th anniversary year is also a time to reflect and remember: To remember the need for the event, to remember those that we have lost, to reflect on how we can move forward and encourage and educate a new generation and populations that are still unaware of the facts about HIV. Now is the time to remember those that took the initiative and accepted the challenge and the responsibility of creating and forming a community event to answer the needs of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

When it first started, LifeWalk was organized under the auspices of Oak Lawn Community Services. Many people in the community received invaluable services from OLCS and many individuals that served and volunteered for that agency, among them the incredible, inspirational Martha Dealey, have established themselves as great assets to the LGBT community and continued to provide service and mentorship to countless numbers.

AIDS Arms partnered with, and eventually assumed full sponsorship of LifeWalk. AIDS Arms has guided and nurtured the event so that the awareness and monies raised have continued to assist those that are in need.

There is a treasure trove of memories I have from this time, and some that truly stand out: Lisa Loeb performing for three years; walking through Neiman Marcus as part of the route; port-a-potties being blown over into the street the years the event was held in downtown; the return to Lee Park; the year the radios were delivered with no antennas and the Dallas Amateur Radio Club pulled us through; Jason Huff singing the national anthem; the Turtle Creek Chorale and Women’s Chorus of Dallas performing; Margaret Byrne and Scott Duncan meeting in Lee Park and getting married this year; and so many more. These are memories that will last me a lifetime.

But the thing that stands out and means the most — and this happens every year — is someone coming up and saying, “Thank you for all you are doing; it means the world to me.”

I could write volumes about the commitment and dedication of those individuals that co-chaired the first LifeWalk and those that followed. One of the focuses for the 20th anniversary is the opportunity to honor these individuals, and I cannot say enough to thank them for their service, and I hope that everyone who reads this article will take the time and effort to pass along a thank you, as well.

The co-chairs that have served over the last 20 year are Fred York, Barbara O’Brien, Carolyn Roney, Bruce Russell, Roger Bolen, Sara Reidy, James Youngblood, Kathy Hewitt, Steve Habgood, Leigh Ann Stockard, Gregory Pynes, Deiadra Burns, John Woodyard, Wendi Rothschild, Jerry MacDonald, Elizabeth Brown, Bill Carter, Ray Warner, Scott Kersh and Fred Harris — and me.

This 20th anniversary LifeWalk is both call to action and a time to celebrate. There is still much work to be done.

We have a saying that we hope some year we won’t need LifeWalk  — because the work and dedication of researchers, doctors, caregivers, advocates, case workers, service agencies and volunteers will have come to fruition and we will have eliminated HIV/AIDS. What a celebration that would bring!

But for now we celebrate our small successes both past and present. I can’t say enough about the importance of everyone getting involved. The community is what its peoples contribute, and the community is you!

The 20th anniversary LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 10, at Lee Park. For more information or to register to participate, go online to AIDSLifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens