then tells me a raven, because they are sleek, smart, and can fly. Mine is a bee. We giggle. More
shyly, I ask her what memories would fuel her patronus? What does she think of when she is
discouraged or drained from her work?
She said she needed to think about it. We moved on to another topic then, but she later
emailed me five things that she thinks would be the source of her patronus. The memory of the
day she married Bonnie. The feeling on the day she started taking proper hormones to begin her
transition. The feeling of waking up the day after her gender confirmation surgery. The pressure
in her hands of a printout email from March
27th
1997 subject line, “Your site saved a life,” the
body simply, “There are enough people being killed without me taking my own life.” Finally, the
warmth of a handmade certificate of appreciation a friend gave her that says, “Goddess of
Counsel and Friendship.”
What struck me was that none of these things were the accolades she received from the
public or any of her accomplishments that she is well known for. In 2012, she received a
proclamation from the province of Nova Scotia honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance. In
2013, 2014, and 2015 she received letters from President Obama honoring Remembering Our
Dead. President Obama hosted a Transgender Day of Remembrance while he was in office. This
past year, in 2016, there was a TDOR vigil held in Russia.
Gwen doesn’t travel very often, but when she does it’s for work. We took a rare Sunday
off while she attended the
8th
annual National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association
Conference (NLGJA) in Orlando, Florida (Yousefi). She was pleased that trans content was a
priority at the conference and language about the non-binary was being explained to journalists
in the field. This topic is right up her alley, as she is the managing editor of Gender Fork, a
website devoted to “beauty in ambiguity,” and “is a supportive community for the expression of
identities across the gender spectrum” (Dopp). Yet another online community that Gwen has her
toe in. Gender Fork was founded by Sarah Dopp, an online community builder and consultant. I
am constantly amazed at how many hats Gwen wears. She is excited about the expansion of the
gender spectrum. When she was investigating her own identity, there was a binary within the
trans community between cross dressing and transsexuals. She wants younger trans people to be
free of all binaries to have the freedom to find what is authentic. She loves seeing the “infinite
shades” of gender in trans community coming up.
She doesn’t see her work as transformational. She constantly tells me that she was just
doing things that needed to get done. Her life, she maintains, is pretty mudane. She and Bonnie
go grocery shopping. Her mom complains she needs to do more with her hair because, “you’re a
woman, you make time.” She shops at Torrid.
One last question, “How can I be a good ally?” I asked her.
“Listen,” she said. And I waited for the next part of her sentence, as if she was going to
say, “Listen here kid.” The pause I realized was a full stop.
“Listen.” Was what she said.
The first step to being a good ally is to listen.
She gave me four more steps.
1-Listen
2-Understand the power of the voices you are listening to
3-Show your support, but pass the mic—don’t step over the people you are supporting.
Amplify their voices, don’t speak for them.
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