Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Jen Richards
Co-Director, The Trans 100


We Happy Trans, This is H.O.W., Chicago House and GLAAD Announce Inaugural List Focused on Positive Work Being Accomplished by Trans People Nationwide

 April 9, 2013 – Today, Abigail (Abby) Jensen of Tucson, Arizona was announced as an honoree of the Trans 100, an inaugural overview of the breadth and diversity of work being done in, by, and for the transgender community across the United States. The 2013 Trans 100 list, created by We Happy Trans, a website that celebrates the positive experiences of transgender people, and This is H.O.W., a Phoenix based nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of the lives of trans people, was presented at an event sponsored by Chicago House, GLAAD, the Pierce Family Foundation, Orbitz.com, and KOKUMOMEDIA. The first effort of its kind, the list intends to shift the coverage of trans issues by focusing on the positive work being accomplished, and providing visibility to those typically underrepresented.

For a full list of the 2013 Trans 100 visit www.WeHappyTrans.com, or www.facebook.com/Trans100.

Abby is a transgender woman, experienced attorney and activist. Currently, she is closely involved in fighting bills introduced in Arizona this year that would not just override some of the limited protections for trans people available in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, but go beyond that to actively encourage discrimination and harassment of trans and other gender nonconforming people in Arizona. You can often find her posting about current social justice issues on Facebook and on Twitter @Arizona_Abby.

Asked about her selection, Abby said, “I am honored to appear on the Trans 100 list with so many amazing and creative people, all of whom are working to better the lives of our community. I look forward to renewing my friendships and working relationships with those I already know and getting to know those I have yet to meet.”

The list began as an idea by This Is H.O.W. Executive Director Toni D’Orsay, and was then developed in partnership with Jen Richards of We Happy Trans. The project received over 500 nominations in December 2012, with over 360 individuals recommended for inclusion.

A launch event for the Trans 100 list took place at Mayne Stage in Chicago on International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day which aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of transgender people around the world.

“The only sustainable self-interest is that which extends the sense of self to include the whole,” said Jen Richards at the Trans 100 launch event. “Look around: women, men, people of color, genderqueer kids, crossdressers, showgirls, sex workers, academics, activists, artists, and allies. We are all one community.”

“The value of the work that is represented by the 100 people on this list is immeasurable,” said Executive Director of This Is H.O.W., Antonia D’orsay, about the Trans 100. “These people demonstrate the diversity, the determination, and the incredible triumph of spirit that informs all trans people, no matter where they are. This is just a glimpse of what trans people can accomplish.”

“The Trans 100 will bring much-needed visibility to the critical, grassroots work that trans people have been doing in communities across the country for years,” said GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz. “While media coverage so often misses the mark on accurate portrayals of trans people, the Trans 100 is changing the game by sharing the inspiring and diverse stories behind trans advocacy.”

KOKUMO, an artist, activist, and African American transgender woman, hosted the event. Two accomplished transgender musicians – folk-rock songwriter Namoli Brennet, and singer Joe Stevens of the West Coast-based Folk/Roots group Coyote Grace – gave live performances.

Jen Richards partnered with Chicago House and KOKUMOMEDIA to produce Chicago’s Trans 100 launch event. GLAAD served as Inaugural Sponsor, with additional support from the Pierce Family Foundation, Orbitz.com, Progress Printing, and Dr. Graphx. Both Chicago House’s TransLife Project and This is H.O.W. provide direct services to transgender people experiencing homelessness, unemployment, violence, health disparities, and HIV infection. KOKUMOMEDIA uses film, music, and literature to provide to create and generate realistic depictions of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGI) people of color.


About We Happy Trans: WeHappyTrans.com was launched in early in 2012 in response to the lack of positive depictions of trans people in the media, and the absence of an online space that focused on the positive aspects of the trans experience. For more information, please visit www.wehappytrans.com or connect with We Happy Trans on Facebook.

About This is H.O.W.: This Is H.O.W. Inc. is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the betterment of the lives of Trans (transsexual, transgender, and gender variant) persons experiencing crisis situations such as homelessness, substance abuse, familial abuse, and transition related difficulties. For more information, please visit www.thisishow.org or connect with This is H.O.W. on Facebook and Twitter.


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Here’s my report on today’s Arizona State Bar Board of Governor’s meeting:

It’s a long story, but there has been controversy surrounding the ethical rule governing Arizona attorneys that prohibits bias or prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sex, etc. in the practice of law for several years now. (ER 8.4(d) and Comment 3.) As a member of the State Bar’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), we have been pushing to, among other things, expand the rule to add “gender expression” to the already existing categories of  “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as a prohibited basis for discrimination. As anyone familiar with Arizona politics will understand, the more conservative elements of the Bar have opposed this move. In fact, their most recent move was to file a petition to completely gut the rule by, among other things, removing all listed grounds of discrimination.

To counter that proposal and, hopefully, put this controversy to rest once and for all, Ameilia Cramer, the current President of the State Bar (and an out lesbian), appointed a task force representing all sides of the controversy to develop a recommendation to the Board on what should be done with this rule. The Task Force, by consensus, determined that the rule should be strengthened by clarifying what practices are prohibited, expanding the rule so it applies to attorneys’ work outside the courtroom, and by adding “gender expression.” That proposal was unanimously approved by the Bar’s Rules Committee, which reviews all proposals for changes to Arizona court rules, and recommended for adoption by the Board of Governors. (Adoption by the Board would result in the Bar filing a petition to the State Supreme Court to adopt the proposed rule; that court has the final say.)

Today was the Board’s first opportunity to review the proposed rule amendment. I, another trans woman attorney who was a member of the Task Force and a member of SOGI, and the chair of the SOGI committee (a gay man) appeared on behalf of the committee in support of the proposal. My role was to explain the concept of gender expression, since virtually no one on the Board has had any experience with trans people, let alone that unfamiliar phrase. In the short time I had, I provided a couple of examples from my own life of gender expression and how it has affected my perception and treatment by others. In addition, in response to a question from a member of the Board, I explained the differences between gender identity and gender expression and why including both is important.

Unfortunately, given the strong opposition by right-wing groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (fka the Alliance Defense Fund), which is based in Arizona, it appears likely that the Board will adopt the Task Force’s proposal but without “gender expression.” The Board won’t actually vote on the Task Force’s proposal until the next meeting on December 14. Amelia Cramer asked that I return for that meeting, so I will be definitely be there.

Although the inclusion of “gender expression” in the rule would serve an important educational function by informing attorneys that that type of discrimination is prohibited, omitting that phrase should not have any substantive effect on the scope of the rule, since discrimination based on gender expression, or failure to conform to gender stereotypes, is already prohibited as a type of sex discrimination under the line of cases culminating last April in the EEOC’s decision that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination includes discrimination because someone is transgender (Macey v. Holder). In addition, I was assured by State Bar Counsel, who is responsible for filing disciplinary proceedings against attorneys who violate the rules of ethics, that the current rule is already interpreted to prohibit gender expression discrimination. Consequently, I, personally, do not oppose omission of the phrase “gender expression” from the amended rule. At the same time, I will strongly support efforts to insert that phrase into the rule in the next 1 or 2 years, after further education of Arizona attorneys on this issue, as discussed by Board during today’s meeting.

So, stay tuned and I’ll let you know what happens on December 14.

By the way, if the Task Force’s proposal was adopted in its original form, Arizona would become the first state to specifically include that phrase in the ethical rules governing attorneys, a remarkable feat if it comes to pass, given that, in recent years, the “firsts” Arizona has been known for have been on the extreme opposite end of the political spectrum.

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[This post is by my friend Robin Rice and is copied with her permission.]

Spirituality and the New Feminism
By Robin Rice

(Robin Rice is an author, spiritual mentor and contemporary shaman. Visit her at www.BeWhoYouAre.com.)

The first time I heard the word “feminism,” it sounded to me like there were rocks in the speaker’s throat. I don’t remember how old I was or who spoke the word, but I do remember immediately deciding that I would have to be careful should I ever want to have anything to do with such an “ism” myself.

By the time I received my college diploma, I’d sorted out the messages well enough. The die-hard feminists were working like dogs and taking a beating for my rights to do anything a man could do. You had to hand it to them, because you knew you were going to follow in the wake of their success. But calling yourself one was to take on those very beatings. It wasn’t clear–at least in my mind–that joining the good old boys was a privilege worth fighting for.

In the end, I decided feminism was a theoretical ideal best not taken too far. Tap away at the glass ceiling all you want, just be quiet about it. Be strong and passionate, but only where and when appropriate. Step up to the plate as a man’s equal, but don’t wound his pride by actually winning. Be hard at work and soft in bed. At one point, I actually had a post-it note up that said “Think like a man, love like a woman, eat like a bird, work like a dog.” I was a frantic ping-pong ball trying to make it all work.

God did not help. At least not the God I’d been raised on. In that paradigm, there was God the Father, God the Son, and a Holy Spirit that was assigned no gender. Men were appointed heads of the households. Women didn’t have to walk a step behind in public, but the submissive directive was still crystal clear. And while this was justified by the admonition that men were to love their wives as themselves, I had the sense that few of the men sitting along those pews had any idea of how to do either.

As for strong, sensual women with spirit, holy or otherwise? Well, we were “dangerous” and to be strongly discouraged.

That I was.

Until the day a new wind caressed my face. A breeze so fresh it nearly knocked me over with delight. A firm, supple voice began speaking to me of the kind of freedom even fairy tales dared not offer hope for. The freedom to be who I really was, a woman “as is,” wild and wonderful, powerful even while gentle. The freedom to be successful by my own terms without sacrificing my true feminine self in the process.

I was terrified to learn this hope sounded much like the kind offered by what some would call The Goddess. After all, Goddesses were earthy, unpredictable, sensual, moody and not always nice. Lots of them were big, ugly, and old–the three absolute no-no’s in a modern woman’s success story. Besides, that was just “New Age” thinking, right?

I decided I wanted no part of it.

Yet, yet, yet… I had felt the breeze, heard the voice. A new spirituality had opened up in me, a new spin laid into that ping-pong ball. My inner soul just laughed at my dismissive decisions. To my heart, the old ways seemed immediately primitive. The new ways promised an adventure I could not bear to deny myself. Feminism took on a completely new meaning to me. It wasn’t about making it in a man’s world, I realized, but about creating a new world for the woman in me.

New ideas tumbled forth, one after the other. What if women were here for a reason beyond both mending socks or shoving her way into a board room? What if women were here to transform board rooms with grace and at the same time not be insulted when socks needed to be mended? What if women were here to intuitively hear the goddess, and so pass on her messages…”Enough war, now, brave soldiers, put down your weapons. Enough building now, fine crafters, it’s time to give the land, and your selves, a good rest.”

The questions came fast and furious, as if riding in on waves. What if we could accept ourselves, and so not rape and pillage the earth and it’s resources just so we can go into debt for the best beauty cream? What if we could slow down enough to hear our children tell us what they love, what they are afraid of, and what they really need? What if we took everything less seriously, and started to laugh from the belly again? What if that, and not a multi-billion dollar research firm, held the key to curing cancer?

What if we learned to trust our gut and open our mouths about what we know as truth, even when there is no definitive proof to offer? What if we followed the moods of the seasons, as the rest of creation does, and so gave ourselves times of sowing and reaping, dancing and sleeping, instead of go, go, go, go, go? What if our battered souls felt honored enough to speak, and so shared it’s secrets about things like how to be replenished by the spirit of a tree?

The new ideas took hold in me quickly. Like a powder keg they burst through virtually every old relationship I had, costing me. Costing my children. The death before the rebirth. Yet in this new understanding, I had at last found a way to celebrate all that was within me. This was not the dulled feminism of compromise I had known. It was a brilliant feminism, based on inclusion of all that I was, dark and light, the seasons within my very womanhood. Here the ping pong was not bobbing franticly back and forth, but flowing gently to the rhythm of all things.

“I am the beautiful maiden and the hag!” I began to shout to the moon, sometimes kindly, sometimes not. I became passionate beyond propriety, deeply dangerous to old school thinkers. I loved every minute I wasn’t in heartbreak and tears (and even some of those).

It wasn’t long before I learned that this “new” spirituality wasn’t new at all. The Goddesses who spoke to me had been around longer than my own childhood religion. A lot longer. Like single facets of sparkling light on a magnificent chandelier, each Goddess came to teach me an aspect of The One divinity that sourced us all. Baba Yaga taught me to be a wild woman and to laugh in the face of social risk. Isis lovingly showed me how to mother my children, especially at those crucial moments when I knew what I had to offer was not enough. Kali had me vomiting blood in India, dancing me between my karma and compassion in a way I was not sure I would survive. Kuan Yin whispered to me about gentleness and the value of a woman opened by heartbreak. Pachamama offered healing again and again, until at last I loved the earth I had, in the old days, taken little notice of. Oya swirled her lessons of tumultuous change in ways so stunning I could not deny her a place in my writing. She lives in my novels, alive and well, and I like to think that because of this we have come to terms.

I would like to say that it has all worked out; that these Divine Mentors showed me an easy road with clear signposts. I cannot. Neither can any of other goddesses-in-training I’ve met along the way. The road She points us toward is through an uncut field, because it is our own. The signposts come mostly from our desires and our intuition. Only after we know what we know can we apply our logical thinking to the “how” of doing what needs to be done. Even then, we are ridiculed (or worse) for our ways. We are still existing in a man’s world, after all. Brick walls are no more fun to crash into than glass ceilings.

No, it has not been an easy road. But it has been a road with a breeze.

Today, as I put one foot in front of the other, I am deeply grateful for the work of the feminists who went before me–even if I have not understood them fully. They did cut a first path and allowed me to see one view of what was possible. I am also grateful for my childhood religious training. In seeing the masculine aspects of God/Goddess, I was able to find what was missing.

Even so, I hope to show something different to my son and daughter. I hope to show them a feminism and spirituality that honors dark and light, up and down, here and there, her and him. I hope for them to be able to shout to the moon “I am the beautiful maiden and I am the hag!” Most of all, I hope they hear the voice I hear when She shouts back, with mirth in her throat, “So you are, my blessed child. So you are!”

NOTE: This article first appeared in Natural Beauty and Health Magazine.

FREE USE! Robin’s articles are copyrighted, yet are free to use in print or on the web through websites, e-zines, etc… so long as you 1) contact Robin at info@bewhoyouare.com to let her know when and where the article will appear, 2) be sure all articles have both the “previously published by…” credit listed at the end (if there is one), and 3) include a byline that says: “Robin Rice is an author, spiritual mentor and contemporary shaman. Visit her at www.BeWhoYouAre.com.”

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Perhaps, someday, I will have the time to write a proper blog on this topic. For now, however, I simply want to record (for my own future use, and that of my friends) various internet discussions on the the use of the terms “cisgender” and “cissexual” and the issue of cis privilege. I have encountered these discussions over the last few days as I explored these topics in response to the controversy that erupted on Pam’s House Blend, when one cisgender male objected to being informed that’s who/what he is because it hurt his feelings to have his position of privilege as a cis person (i.e., one who doesn’t have to endure the challenges, not to mention the harassment, discrimination and other oppression, that those of us whose gender identity differs from the biological sex to which we were assigned at birth, i.e., trans folks, experience on a regular basis) pointed out to him. I suspect I’ll revise and add to this list as time goes on.

The posts where this controversy arose on PHB:



The resulting discussion on Questioning Transphobia, which contains links to several other relevant discussions: http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/cis-is-hostile-terminology-really/

Julia Serano’s blog post on the origins, of these terms and her use of them in her book, Whipping Girl: http://juliaserano.livejournal.com/14700.html

Some discussions prompted by the above discussion on QT:

An earlier discussion on QT explaining why every cis person should “check [her/his] cis privilege” before getting all huffy after being told s/he *is* cisgender and/or cissexual and, consequently, is speaking from a place of cis privilege: http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/how-to-check-your-cis-privilege/

A simple explanation of the meaning of “cis”: http://smashthecisarchy.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/trans-101-what-is-cis/

An interesting and informative post that explains why I will hereafter ensure that I always say “trans woman” and “trans man,” not “transwoman” and “transman,” which ties into the discussion of cisgender, cissexual and cis privilege: http://takesupspace.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/put-the-goddamn-space-in-transwoman-transfeminism-transmasculine-etc-language-politics-1/

UPDATED with links to some additional discussions that have recently arisen.

UPDATE, 7/13/09
A cis woman’s take on being cis – http://jadedhippy.blogspot.com/2009/07/hey-guess-what-im-still-cisgender.html
Continuing discussion on Questioning Transphobia – http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/a-point-about-cis/

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My friend Michael is one of the organizers of, and the webmaster for, the Central Arizona Gender Alliance.  Recently, he asked me to write a profile of myself to be posted as the feature story on the CAGA website for January 2009.  Rather than start from scratch, I adapted my “Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do” post.  Since I wrote that post, however, my involvement in the issues affecting our community has increased.  That led to the following comments that I added to the story that will appear on the CAGA site, which I wanted to share here.

While I have this chance, I also want to say some things about activism. The trans community in this country is small, and the number of those willing to speak out on the issues that affect us is even smaller. That means that each one of us is vital if we ever want the public’s attitude toward us, and the discrimination, hate and bigotry that we face, to change. It also means that one person can have a significant impact on the direction that our community takes in addressing the issues that we face.

It sounds clichéd, but I have learned through experience the truth of the statement that if I don’t do it, if I don’t step forward and say “this is wrong and must change,” if I don’t propose solutions and work to make them a reality, then who will? The answer is no one. It happens every day. We see or hear about something that we know is wrong – another trans woman shot in Memphis, another trans woman homeless because she can’t get a job – and we stand by in silence and do nothing. Those things will never change if you don’t work to change them, even if all you can do is to say “this is wrong.” Keep in mind too that, although it is important that we in the trans community know about these injustices, it is our families and friends, our lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers, and the general public that need to hear our voices. So many people truly have no idea about the mistreatment that we suffer, how widespread it is and how few protections exist to ensure that most basic of human rights: the right to live lives of peace and dignity. Those are the people we need to speak to, because it is their sense of justice and morality that we need to invoke if we ever want things to change.

Is it scary to step forward and say, “I am trans, this is wrong and it must stop”? Of course, it is. But there are also rich rewards in showing the world that we are proud of who we are, that we refuse to cower in the darkness of ignorance and hate any longer, and in knowing that we are helping to change the world, not just for ourselves, but for people everywhere. Join me! Today do just one thing to make the world a better place to live, whether that’s giving a hug to a friend you know is having a hard time, writing a letter to the editor or simply telling your story. But, most of all, Be Who You Are!!

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I have participated in the Arizona Transgender Alliance (AZTA) since its inception. Like any organization, it has struggled to define itself and its purposes in a way that unites, rather than divides, us. Nonetheless, it continues because people see a need to join together. One of AZTA’s current projects is to produce a calendar with photos and biographies of trans women and men to help educate the public about who we are. I volunteered to participate and wanted to share here the biography I submitted because I think it expresses some of the most important aspects of my transition and who I am today. This is what I said:

I was 52 years old before I first began to accept what I had always known: that I’ve always wanted to live my life as a woman, because that is who I am. That moment was one of revelation, but not one of surprise. It was a moment of calmness and gentle peace. It was a moment when I simply realized, “oh, yes, that is what I want.” A month later, I began taking estrogen and I’ve never looked back. Each step along the way, I tested whether I was on the right path for me by asking, “is this bringing me peace or anxiety, love or fear?” And each time, the answer was always the same: “this is right for me because this is who I am.” There were, of course, many moments when I felt scared. In those moments, I simply waited to see if the fear would pass. When it did, I continued forward. Because of that process, when I finally decided it was time to transition, I was ready. My confidence in my decision was unshakable. It is that confidence that has allowed me to live my life as a woman with a calmness and comfort with who I am that others see and that helps them to accept me as who I know myself to be.

When I transitioned, I feared those moments when people would learn that I am transgender. Much to my surprise, however, after transition, I have found that I am much more comfortable when people know about my history. My transition was part of a lifelong search for wholeness and integrity, so situations where fear leads me to believe that I need to deny or hide who I am tempt me to violate my sense of wholeness, of personal integrity. The pain of that violation is much more powerful than any fear of what people may think or how they might react. Consequently, I stay true to myself and am “out” in virtually all parts of my life.

Together, my comfort in who I am, and the pain I feel when any of us suffer because of the bigotry and hate of those who feel threatened by who we are have led me to be an advocate whenever and wherever I can. That takes many forms, from standing before the Scottsdale City Council arguing for the passage of ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression to proudly becoming, as far as I know, the first attorney to ever appear before the Arizona Supreme Court as both a man and a woman (and in the same year!). But mostly it takes the form of simply being who I am, a woman of integrity and grace who lives in peace with herself, allowing others to see and learn about who I am and, in that process, to see that trans people are no threat to them and thus build tolerance and acceptance of who we are. Today I am proud to be transgender and grateful for each opportunity I get to show the world who I am and, hopefully, change the world one heart, and one mind, at a time.

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Tomorrow, November 20, 2008, is the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I’m not going to attempt to describe all the emotions that this day, and the reason it is needed, raise in me.  Suffice it to say that it brings up the most profound sadness and doubt about the future, about whether it will ever be possible to create a world without hate.  But I will not stop striving to create that world, because, without it, all hope is lost and I know that I cannot live without hope.

Please visit the websites below to find out more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the location of a vigil near you where you can join with others to honor those who have died because of who they are.

Remembering Our Dead, the project that began the Day of Remembrance

International Transgender Day of Remembrance, maintained by Ethan St. Pierre, contains a comprehensive listing of Transgender Day of Remembrance events around the world.

Transgender Day of Remembrance, a website maintained by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance Webcomics Project, a collaboration of various webcomics to help raise awareness about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Although there are many videos memorializing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, one of the most moving I have seen is this one, created just this year as a collaboration of several members of the trans community.  After you watch it, click on the link above and leave a comment thanking all those who participated in this project.

Whatever you do, please take a few moments tomorrow to honor those whose lives have been ended simply because they expressed their gender in ways that made other people uncomfortable, which, at bottom, is the source of all hate and bigotry.  Then, think of one thing that YOU can do to help end the hate and DO IT, and KEEP DOING IT until there are no more names to add to the list of our dead.

UPDATE, 11/19/08, 1:55 p.m. MST: To understand why the Transgender Day of Remembrance is vital to our community and why some of us are so angry about our needs being ignored in favor of priorities that others have set, read little light’s latest post. If her writing doesn’t make you cry and vow to take action, at least to show up at your local Transgender Day of Remembrance event, I don’t know what will.

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On Sunday, September 7, CBS Sunday Morning did a fairly long story on Trinidad, Colorado, the home of Dr. Marci Bowers, one of the leading sexual reassignment surgeons in the U.S. I don’t like the phrase “sex change” but the story is pretty straight forward and not at all sensationalistic. I was in Trinidad in July to support my friend Mari through her surgery. It’s a nice little town, similar to many other mountain towns I’ve visited in the West; the people were friendly; and the care at the hospital was, for the most part, excellent. Marci is friendly and personable but, like most doctors, entirely too busy. From what I’ve seen, the surgical results were excellent, with only a few minor complications. Here’s the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you’d like to learn more about Trinidad and how it has dealt with the attention that having a leading SRS surgeon (actually, for many years, the only SRS surgeon in the U.S.) in its midst, there’s a new documentary out called Trinidad that is now touring the U.S. Look for it at your local LGBT film festival.

Cross-posted from TranscendGender.

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