For as far back as I can remember, I have been afraid. I felt different from my classmates, I had these thoughts of myself as a girl. This of course scared me a lot as I had no clue why I felt the way I did, and growing up in a small conservative town did not avail me to any resources that might have helped me to better understand myself. While I never felt like I fit in with most of the people around me, I did learn to connect with others. You see, I was raised to be a preacher, a minister going door to door in order to persuade people. This required a skill that to this day I value greatly.
Every person I meet has something in common with me, I look for the common ground, that equalizing factor. When I find it I build upon it to establish a relationship that allows both of us to work for a common goal despite our differences. This skill became paramount when in 2008, I stopped being afraid of how I felt and began to learn what that nagging feeling of being different was. I was transgender. Coming out was a painful process that led to my losing my home, job, wife, and my family.
I could not believe that a human being could have been treated so poorly (boy was I sheltered from the real world.) I knew then what my path was going to be, I was going to change the world! I was excited to see that there was an LGBT community here in Fresno, and I was also shocked to find out how little the community actually knew about transgender issues. I took some time to find my place, and I found myself working with Trans-E-Motion and EQCA.
For me it was all about trans rights, then later LGBT rights, and then women’s rights. One day it hit me that I was not working on LGBT or women’s rights, but I was working for HUMAN RIGHTS. I began to become frustrated with small groups and individuals who were unwilling to work together. These divisions were frustrating, “why can’t they see the big picture!” I often thought. In 2011 I flexed my connection making skills and organized the LGBT Community Picnic, A coalition effort involving PFLAG, Gay Central Valley, Trans-E-Motion, and United Student Pride. It was a success, and I knew this was just the beginning.
After three years serving on Trans-E-Motion’s board, I left to put my efforts into a group that both had the same vision of inclusion and teamwork that I had and the resources to make that vision a reality. I found that in Gay Central Valley, I have worked with GCV for years now on many various projects, and they were always eager to find out how they could better advocate for and better include the transgender community.
Earlier this year, I expressed my interest in filling one of GCV’s open board positions, and a review process and few months later I was offered the opportunity to join the board of directors. At the beginning of this article I spoke of feeling different, I still feel different today, but now I embrace my differences and encourage others to do the same. GCV is one of many organizations that are working to make a difference in the world right here in Fresno, California.
I encourage each and every one of you to do what I am working to do, to build connections and collisions. Come in and volunteer with GCV, encourage your groups to connect with GCV and make use of the resources that we work so hard to provide for the entire community at the LGBT Community Center.