Interview : SALGA’s Transgender Outreach Coordinator, Deen

In this multi-part interview, we take the opportunity to thank Shawn from SALGA for reaching us and helping us interview SALGA’s transgender outreach coordinator, Deen. Deen and SALGA have come together to create a fabulous new trans/ally page. [Link]. The resource is filled with FAQs, FYIs, “Can I ask that?” kind of articles related to trans folks. And, we at Gaysi are amazed by how Deen and other SALGA members  have created such a wonderful  space on the web.

My favorites were the Trans Etiquette101 [Link] and the safe2pee [Link] articles. The first one being the way I am struck all the time in telling people what is rude and personal and what one can ask in getting to know me and other trans folks. The second one is the greatest scare for any trans folk and the process is quite intimidating.

Deen: I’m glad. I really tried to think about the variety of resources that are out there, the fun ones and the serious ones.

What would you like to achieve with this new Transgender/Ally resource? Could you tell us more about this party, the new resource and your objectives- – long and short term and what it means for SALGA ?

The “Transgender/Ally” web page is a resource for folks who are struggling with their gender, for friends and family who want to be supportive but aren’t sure what’s going on, and for community members who want to be allies but don’t know how yet. That’s the primary purpose of the web page.

I’m also hoping that desis who live on the transgender spectrum will see that SALGA is serious about being an inclusive community, serious about doing the work it takes to truly be a home to the entire LGBTQ community. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we recognize that this is important work and we are committed to doing it. And we need help. We need volunteers with ideas and energy and enthusiasm to help us do this work.

Half the work of being a welcoming and inclusive queer community is reaching out to folks who are transgender and seeing what they need from us to feel that SALGA is their home, too. The other half is educating the current community, which is mostly gay and lesbian desis, about what it means to be a transgender ally. People are full of good intentions, but it shouldn’t be up to any one transgender person to answer all the questions that people have. I’m hoping this web page will be a place that community members can go to get some answers to their questions, a safe place to explore unfamiliar territory.

I’m hoping in the long term, the number and diversity of links will continue to grow and that we can link to more desi-specific resources. And we were thrilled to have a wonderful launch party on Friday to celebrate this new addition to our website — it was well-attended by the community. And it’s not just the website — in the last three months SALGA has created a new Transgender Outreach position on the board, we are sending out a survey to transgender spectrum desis in the NYC area, we’ve created a flyer with tips on how to be a good transgender ally, and we’ve launched the web page.

Are you planning to team up with other organizations who can lend you a helping hand and you can in return provide the same? Do you intend this to grow into a support group, something like TrueSelves?

We are hoping to team up with other organizations, and some of our immediate allies are Q-Wave and GAPIMNY, both queer API (Asian Pacific Islander) groups in NYC. The leadership of each group is committed to this work, but we still have to figure out what that collaboration will look like going forward.

I’m not sure whether this will grow into a support group or not — I think it’s too early to tell. SALGA already has a month support group and the NYC LGBT Center currently has a Gender Identity Project that runs a few transgender spectrum support groups. I don’t want to duplicate resources unnecessarily, but if there’s a need that’s still not being met then, absolutely, we’ll try and figure out how to meet it. I’m hoping the surveys that went out will help us to get a better idea of what the transgender desi community needs.

When you talk of allies, are you talking about other members of the Q community or all cis-gendered folks?

I’m talking about everyone, but my focus is first on the queer community. As queer people, having a home is incredibly important. I can still remember the first time I walked into a gay bar and how I felt for the first time, I could finally be myself! (This was before I had transitioned.) But for many transgender desis, I worry that they’re not finding that home with SALGA right now, and it’s because when they enter the space, they’re surrounded by well-meaning community members who don’t yet know how to be an ally — well-intended-but-inappropriate questions or laughter when asked to say your preferred gender pronoun can make a vulnerable trans person feel unsafe and unwelcome. We’re want to make the entire SALGA community a community of allies.

I also want to work on cis-gendered straight communities. I think the transphobia and homophobia we experience in our families is some of the most damaging of all. I want to start conversations with schools, with places of worship, with all the places we come from.

To be continued …

Photo Credit: Joseph Moran

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Rashmi grew up in India and now she enjoys her time living in one of the queerest places in the world. She started transitioning a while back and is gradually coming out to people she thinks are cool enough for her. She enjoys discussing any topic under the sun and has an opinion about anything and everything. She thinks of herself as someone who can only hold intelligent conversations with people, when in reality she is totally insane and crazy, not to mention she has been highly hormonal recently. *GRIN*

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