News » Local

New MTPC Media Campaign Seeks to Empower Transgender Community

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday February 25, 2012

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition has launched a new campaign and website designed to raise awareness of the trans community in the commonwealth.

Advocates explained that the purpose of the multimedia "I AM: Trans People Speak COMMUNITY" campaign was to create an empowering space on the web for trans people and their allies from around the country that will allow them share their own stories and educate the public. They stressed these testimonials will give hope to trans youth and adults who are just starting to come out.

MTPC launched the "I AM: Trans People Speak" campaign, which is a collection of recorded stories that challenge stereotypes and misconceptions of trans people by highlighting the realities of their lived experiencea, in 2010. This project gave trans people in Massachusetts the chance to tell their own stories and show the diversity of the community.

Jesse Begenyi filmed and edited all of these stories for the project website.

"Building off that success and the demand for videos from people from around the country, I AM: Trans People Speak COMMUNITY was developed to fill that need," explained Begenyi, who serves as MTPC's Community and Public Education Organizer. "As with this first phase of the project, I AM: Trans People Speak COMMUNITY will contain video and written stories discussing the joys and challenges of being transgender or being an ally to the transgender community. Folks highlight their contributions to their communities, workplaces, families, and their hobbies and interests. Each story is prefaced with a series of declarative "I AM" statements from participants that reveal diverse, yet common, aspects of their lives in addition to being transgender."

One of the stories featured on the I AM website is that of Valerie Samone, who discusses the experience of growing up trans.

"I have felt like a woman trapped in a boy's body from the early age of six," she said. "My mother understood my feelings and tried to help me by giving support, but my father and brothers did not accept me. It was very hard growing up with no friends and no support from the outside world."

Samone further discussed how she had no friends as a child because she "felt different and other kids thought I was weird."

"I spent a lot of time trying not to get beat up by other kids, so I played by myself and I would go to therapy and say I felt like a girl inside," she said. "I didn't say anything about what went on in my home for fear that my father would hurt my mother too. I lived in a world of fear and hatred."

The project also features Sari Reisner, a research analyst at the Fenway Institute in Boston.

"I am committed to understanding and addressing disparities in health and healthcare access for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, particularly for youth and young adults," he said. "I am someone who wants the people around me to thrive, grow, learn, feel good about themselves, love others, and contribute to the world in whatever small way we all can together."

"I am also a transman," continued Reisner. "An FTM. A genderqueer man. I was born female. I hold that close to my person. I live as a man. I live that fully. I embrace the complexity of this dichotomous gendered world we all inhabit. I am proud of all I have experienced and lived through."

Begenyi said the purpose of the new I AM: Trans People Speak COMMUNITY project was "to create a place for transgender individuals, as well as their families, friends, and allies to come together to create our own media and continue to make a positive change in the representation of transgender people." He noted this phase of the project shows that trans people come from a range of experiences and backgrounds; including age, race, ethnicity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

"This part of the project is focusing its goals around empowerment, both for people making videos as well as for people who find and watch the videos," said Begenyi. "It will provide a forum to learn about, connect with, and find support through the stories of other community members while also educating the public about the lives of transgender people and the unique challenges they face due to pervasive bias, stereotypes, and misunderstanding."

Log onto www.community.transpeoplespeak.org for more information.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.