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Community Highlight: The Montrose Center

the montrose center lgbtq houston community highlight community center

Recognizing local nonprofits for LGBTQIA people.

The goal of the following article is to provide information about the availability of programs provided at the Montrose Center. The following has been compiled with the help of the executive and administrative teams at the center. This information is also available on their website, as well is a more comprehensive look at what you will find if you ever needed help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Montrose Center if you ever find yourself in a position that you are unsure of where to turn.

(HOUSTON) – In 1977, the Houston Bar Association invited singer and anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant to perform at their annual conference in the city, and the local LGBTQIA community declared their intention to protest. While law enforcement was told to expect approximately three hundred protesters, somewhere between six and ten thousand community members and allies descended into downtown Houston. It was in this profound statement of unity that Houston’s LGBTQIA community recognized their power. This realization led to a conference of community leaders that met at the Astrodome, known as “Town Meeting One”. This led to the formation of entities that now make up the Montrose Center; this is their story.

MontroseDinerMontrose-Center-300x164 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterA Brief History

The Montrose Center was officially founded in 1978, beginning by offering therapy and behavioral health services. There were many setbacks in the formative years, especially in regard to funding, mostly due to the prohibitive cost of providing health insurance to those employees living with HIV/AIDS. In 1990, the Ryan White CARE Act was passed, and the center became the first behavioral health center in the US to be awarded federal funds under the act. Also in the 1990s, they became one of the first organizations to offer temporary housing and shelter to gay men and transgender people. They have continued breaking boundaries consistently since, and many thousands of people have found their way to the building on Branard Street ever since.

Today

The Montrose Center is currently the 5th largest LGBTQIA center in the nation, and continues to be a place where people can gather and respond to the pressing needs of those that cannot speak for themselves. They specifically target LGBTQIA issues through ever-changing programming and staff competency across its six areas of service- counseling, HIV, community wellness, women’s health, and senior services. It also provides social and sensitivity training for all incoming HPD cadets, while working on providing this same training for officers who have been in the Houston Police Department since before this was available. 

“More than 100,000 Houstonians find hope through our programs and services each year. Advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Houstonians is a calling, and the volunteers, staff, Board of Directors, and executive team are fully invested in the community’s health and well-being.”

– Ann Robinson, PhD, Executive Director

lesbian-health-initiative-houston-800x458-1-e1518564499514-300x111 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterThe first area of service that most clients come across when they arrive at The Montrose Center is known as “Life Counseling and Case Management”. This consists of mental and behavioral health counseling, substance abuse programs (CDR), and family and hate crime prevention and awareness (AVP).  A full 20% of the clients receiving these types of services are on the transgender spectrum, although all people identifying as LGBTQIA (and allies) are welcome with open arms, understanding, and compassion.

Of those served, 3% of total trans clients are seen every year for medical case management. This program is designed to assist those people living with HIV and AIDS while staying in care with a physician, paying for medication, along with a host of other services related to their specific condition. The goal is to create a care team that will stay in touch with the client and assorted medical providers to ensure they are given the most appropriate aid, catered to the needs of the individual.

The Hate Crimes and Anti Violence Prevention Program, or AVP is responsible for helping 26% of the yearly trans client population of the center. The volunteers and therapists in this subdepartment help identify threats, remove clients from harmful and dangerous situations, and teach life and relationship skills to ensure a safer future. The Montrose Center has a series of safe houses for those that feel they are in immediate danger and have been key in removing many people from violent, dangerous situations.

The “Way Out” substance abuse recovery program sees 5% of the trans client population graduate each year. This program is a way for people to seek help with drug and alcohol abuse in a safe, secure environment with people who understand the unique issues facing the transgender community in recovery.

All these services are provided by a team of therapists, counselors, volunteers, and administrative staff who have made it their goal to assist LGBTQIA people in the pursuit of a safe and healthy mental and emotional life.

“In the behavioral health (counseling, recovery, case management) services of the Montrose Center we follow the WPATH Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People (version 7).  We use the correct name and pronouns for the true gender of our clients and provide a safe and affirming environment within all of our services. Our clinical staff is trained on transgender cultural competency and humility. We accept and value you as you are.

According to the WPATH standards, a mental health screening and/or assessment is needed for a referral letter for hormonal and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria but psychotherapy – although highly recommended – is not a requirement. The Montrose Center can provide the screening and referral letter for hormones and surgery.

The standards also describe ways psychotherapy and mental health services can be helpful for people who are transgender. These include:

  • Supporting clients throughout all phases of exploration of gender identity, gender expression, and transition.
  • Clarifying and exploring gender identity and role.
  • Addressing the impact of stigma and minority stress on one’s mental health and human development.
  • Facilitating a coming out process.
  • Aiding in alleviating any co-existing mental health concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression) identified during screening and assessment.
  • Assistance with coming out to family and community (friends, school, workplace).
  • Family counseling or support for family members.
  • Referring  adolescents for additional physical interventions (such as puberty suppressing hormones)

The Montrose Center also has several transgender support groups that meet in our community. Transgender people can also have the ordinary problems everyone else has. The Montrose Center provides an array of mental health services such as general counseling, substance abuse treatment and recovery, trauma, domestic violence, sexual abuse and hate crimes counseling, HIV counseling and case manage, and youth and elder support services all in an LGBTQ accepting and affirming environment.”

-Chris Kerr, Med, LPC, Clinical Director of the Montrose Center

mcpride Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterSpecialty services are provided to the client population living with HIV and AIDS. These services include, but are not limited to: housing assistance, case management, community outreach, HIV education, and no-cost testing. Many people at the center come together to help clients stay in care and off the streets. The transgender population, especially trans women of color, are particularly susceptible to the ravages of this virus, and The Montrose Center assists these people with compassion and understanding. 4% of the client population seen by this area of service are transgender and are always treated with the respect that they deserve.

The Montrose Community Center is a department that centralizes many assorted areas of care.  

In order to help provide a better quality of life for the clients of the Center, they keep a food pantry, wellness classes, outreach and advocacy programs, and rental space in order to host events for leaders and organizations in Houston.  The Transgender Thanksgiving Potluck has been held here as well for the last three years, and it is a place for those trans people who may not have family to gather with during the holidays. This event sees about 70 people per year, and allows those that attend a way to network and socialize. There are several peer-led transgender support groups that meet also, and $13,955 worth of rental space is donated each year to trans and community of color focused groups and initiatives. Last year alone, 1,253 events were held at the center for a total of 64,438 individual visits.

All restrooms in the center are gender-neutral, with several single occupancy options as well. All guests are greeted with gender neutral pronouns until they specify otherwise. Great care has been taken to respect all people regardless of their journey in life. There are two trans organizations in the center’s non-profit incubator, giving them time and space to grow to help others.

“Finding spaces that are truly inclusive has always been a challenge for the transgender community and even more so for those of color. The Montrose Center is not only a hub of resources and services but a safe haven for the transgender population here in Houston.”

– Atlantis Narcisse, Community Projects Specialist Volunteers  

hatch-300x300 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterHatch Youth Services are available to gender non-conforming people of varying ages. From the weekly meetings that have seen 532 visits in the last year, to the programs designed to help homeless LGBTQ youth, many teenagers have seen their lives improve from being a part of the Hatch system. They also host a yearly prom, Vision Quest, and projects to teach individuals to be comfortable with who they are. While Hatch is a public program, these meetings and groups are all confidential, and the attendees are treated as patients with all the rights that go along with that, regardless of age.

“When I first went to HATCH, I was homeless, in high school, and had no support system in place. Now, I’ve just graduated college, I work at the Montrose Center, and I have a place to call home. None of that would have been possible without the strong support system, resources, and assistance that HATCH Youth Services provided. My story is only representative of a fraction of the immeasurable impact that HATCH and the Montrose has had on hundreds of youth all over Houston.”

-Crimson Jordan, Montrose Center VISTA Member

 

The LGBT+ Women’s Services include six educational events attended by 51 LGBT+ women, and programs targeting these women saw 18,193 served in the last year. These are designed to include not only trans women, but trans men as well who may be in need of reproductive health, or mental health services.

 

“Our priorities with LHI is to center our work and advocacy around those who are the most marginalized by structural systems in the US. Therefore, much of our programming is geared towards building community around trans, nonbinary folks, poc folks, religious minorities, bisexual womyn, persons with disabilities, and especially all who especially lie at multiple minority intersections.  Our hope is to provide service for and create community and celebration around those who are most often shamed and “othered” in contemporary society.”

– Naushaba Patel, MPH, Women’s Health Education and Outreach Specialist

spry-300x300 Community Highlight: The Montrose CenterSPRY Senior Services keeps a diner for seniors, hosts trips and outings, and assists those in need with housing. The diner, last year alone, serves 3,233 hot lunches at no charge. This is open to all seniors, but as with most of the programs at the center, cater specifically to LGBTQ+ people.

There are so many more things that you can find through the Montrose Center website. The ability for the transgender community to have a safe haven, a place to feel like they belong, can do so much to save lives. So, if you’re curious about what’s on offer, check them out.

Trans About Town: Roxanne Hutchins

roxanne hutchins houston trans about town transgender drag queen

Roxanne Hutchins is a 50-year-old trans woman from Whistleville, Georgia who has been working with trans women of color for the better part of three years. In addition to being a local drag legend, she has made it her mission to increase visibility for the community as a whole. She is a quiet, private woman offstage, but a force to be reckoned with when she’s out. She has been medically transitioning since 1996, and considers this a lifetime commitment.

Roxanne1-220x300 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsI’m not sure about you, but I would consider you pretty famous in this town! To what would you attribute your familiarity in the Houston transgender community?

Commitment. Once I knew that I was trans and made that commitment to be my genuine self, it made me walk and act with consciousness. This allowed me to identify to people. I was never treated like a “drag queen”, but always like a lady in the gay community. Many people recognized me for who I was before I even admitted it to myself. Once you commit to that life, and you walk the walk and talk the talk, people will see and respect that.

Tell us a bit about the work that you do with trans women of color.

I’ve always been like a big sister to people in the community. I have plans to start a “big brother, big sister” program soon to mentor people just coming to find themselves. I’ve taken a step back temporarily to take care of myself, but when I return that’s definitely a plan I have going forward. We also have plans to start a fundraising campaign to grant scholarships to get surgeries and things done.

In the past I’ve volunteered with an organization called MSociety, and we developed a program for black trans women called SOS, Save our Sisters. We are going on our third year. It’s a place for black trans women to meet and mentor each other. We talk about our lives and help each other with issues that we have. We have also been helping other people get their name and gender marker changes done, with the help of some people here in Houston. We want to do so many more.

I also think it’s important to know that the things I want to start will be open to all trans people. We cannot segregate ourselves, because if we keep seeing ourselves as different, then all we will see is the differences.

Roxanne2-300x300 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsWhat do you feel is the more rewarding part about that work, and why are black trans women particularly in need of visibility in leadership?

After my attorney helped me change my legal information and we set up a clinic, we were able to get several groups of women’s name and gender changes done as well. That was so rewarding, it changed their lives. This was almost a year ago. To know that you had that kind of impact, and in some instances might have even saved some lives, that was big. I really felt very proud of that. I want to do that again, I want to do more.

For the second part of the question, I feel like visibility in leadership is so important because people need to be able to see themselves in their representation. We have such strong leaders, but some may not know that. They don’t see people in those roles that they can look up to. It’s difficult to build people up if they don’t see people that look like them in leadership. But being trans doesn’t have to be all that you are. We shouldn’t marginalize ourselves. The struggle of transgender women is the struggle of all women. When we see women in positions of power we should identify with them, no matter what color their skin is or if they are LGBT or not.

What do you feel are the biggest issues that trans women of color face in society right now?

Safety. When I’m out in the world, people don’t see me as anything other than a black woman. But when I come home, I’m alone. It’s when I’m the most trans. Sometimes I ride the bus, and the walk from the stop to my house is the longest walk for me, because I don’t feel safe. I’ve been followed and catcalled. I found it odd. It could have turned ugly or even fatal real fast. I can’t speak to white trans people, but black trans women are really a fetish. That can be dangerous, and it affects our dignity and self-respect.

Roxanne3-297x300 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsWhat are the biggest differences between your generation and those that are just now coming to light? How have trans women your age paved the way for younger women?

The journey is so different now. The destination has changed. When I was young we simply set out to be women. We set out to live our best lives, whatever that looked like to us individually. Sally didn’t do it like Betty, but they both did it. Now it seems there is a recipe. There are understood ways that you transition. That’s because people are sharing their transition stories more openly now. We didn’t share experiences we just shared resources. This is good hormone doctor, this is where I get x, y, or z. That was, if you were asked. And now it’s okay if you never have bottom surgery or even top surgery for that matter. Trans is so different today, so different. It is exciting I have to admit, to see what happens next for our people.

I don’t feel that we’ve paved the way for anyone in some ways. We paved the road, but the grass has grown over it because people aren’t walking that path anymore. The way that trans people are taking now is nothing that we have made for them. That’s okay. It’s a good thing. It’s just different.

Roxanne4-300x261 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsTell us about how the terminology has changed since you were coming up. What words do you use that some now may find triggering?

When it comes to triggering it really drives me crazy when people tell others what they can be sensitive about. Tranny isn’t so much a trigger as just downright insulting to me personally. In my day, a tranny was a prostitute. I have never been a hooker. The word tranzy was a term of endearment amongst “us girls”. That word seems to have disappeared from the lingo. My sisters from that generation still use it, and that makes me smile.

Do you have any closing thoughts?

Part of me feels some kind of way using trans in general. Why can’t I just be me, not trans this or trans that? I don’t identify as gay or trans or anything, just me. If we took some time to be the same, instead of just different, then we might get a lot farther. But at the end of the day, your journey is your journey and we have to respect that. Whether you’re trans or cis, it’s ok cause we’re just women. Some people drive a Maserati, some drive a Pinto. They’re still cars. And we are all just people.

We are stronger together than we are apart.

We Need a Larger Table

Dylan Wilde Forbis trans texas community

In order to succeed as the trans community, we must find a space where all of us fit in.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” C.G. Jung

 

It was early February of 2017 when I attended a training in Dallas called the Transgender Leadership Institute, or TLI. Those in attendance made the training quite unique. It was an even mix of transgender and gender non-binary adults, with almost even numbers of parents of transgender kids. My partner and I had just attended the 2017 Creating Change Conference and I was excited to keep the flow going with this new training. It was a fast-paced and intense workshop. There were about eight hours of education and tasks spanning over almost two days. In the end, I didn’t get anything from the workshop itself that I didn’t already know, yet I experienced more in those eight hours than I was prepared for. There were things in my life that I had not yet begun to process, which I was going to have to confront all weekend. I’m going to give you a rundown so that you can have a clearer picture of what I was struggling with while this training was taking place.

14115569_10154355978925833_1351346938280663430_o-300x300 We Need a Larger Table
Photo by Eric Edward Schell at Pride Portraits.

The first thing that I had not yet sorted out in my mind was that I was a finalist for a top surgery scholarship granted to trans people by an organization called Point of Pride. At this point in my life, I had been in my physical transition for 5 years. I was very familiar with mourning the idea of my inability to have top surgery, but this was a rejuvenating possibility. I felt hopeful; and with help, I did some research about the previous year in trans excellence (people winning awards, attending the DNC, and other wonder advancements), made my submission video, and waited with bated breath. In the end, although I was a finalist, I did not win. I was devastated, it tore my heart into a million pieces.

Not now Dylan, there’s work to do, I told myself.

As if that wasn’t enough to nearly break me, I had gone to a job interview the week before the training workshop began. It was for a non-profit community outreach role for an organization that had recently begun this campaign of going into middle schools and reigniting students’ dreams in an effort to reduce teen pregnancy, expulsions, and other problematic behaviors.  During the interview, I was asked if I would be able to relate to non-transgender kids, or kids whose skin was darker than mine. My response to them was, “All kids are assumed cisgender and straight, as was I.” My theory of education is rooted in diversity inclusion; they didn’t have to worry about singling out or excluding children. Goals that are focused on values of self acceptance, self awareness, and the tools to communicate with each other also give youths the tools to communicate with themselves. In reference to my race, growing up a biracial Texan who looks white in the winter and Mexican in the summer, I am painfully aware of my skin tone. I grew up in the neighborhoods and schools this campaign was visiting. My earliest memories were of living in an apartment complex on Spice Ln. and going through the hole in the old wood fence with my dad to pick up food for our family. These, along with many other similar experiences from my childhood are the ones that connect to youth, not just the color of your skin.

And yet, I didn’t get the job.

My mind was covered by a wet blanket, but, I told myself, Not now Dylan, there’s work to do.

Dylan-and-Sheila-300x282 We Need a Larger Table
Dylan and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Then of course, there was the fact that the 2017 Texas Legislative Session was in full force. SB4 and SB6 were causing a lot of concern from intersected communities. ICE was doing raids all over the USA and Texas. Trans people were harassed at climbing rates, all while debates with my family over new laws being considered were common, and civil discussions were not. No one had finished processing the 2016 election. Most of us were still having withdrawals from the elation and success of the Women’s March. It felt like HERO (the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) all over again. With HERO, I volunteered for an advertisement in support of the bill that aired every morning for two months. There was also a billboard and ads in local newspapers. So much was at stake and it was the first video of its kind, a trans person education campaign during a city wide election. I was out to the world, no turning back. I received some push-back from our community, and I understood. I looked white—passing privilege. I looked male—passing privilege. Even though I can’t get jobs, I passed. Even though my family doesn’t accept me, I passed. Even though I couldn’t afford to progress my transition, I passed. Why don’t I feel that passing is enough?

Again, my mind spun in circles.

Not now Dylan, there’s work to do.

During one meal break in the middle of our training, we were asked to sit with people we didn’t know to extend our circle. I chose the furthest table away, because it felt right. It was mostly transgender and non-binary adults, with one mother of a trans woman. We were all talking about our experiences, and she was speaking about her daughters’ experiences, as if she’d lived them herself, like many proud mothers tend to do. The topic shifted to something I don’t think either of us was prepared for. While dealing with the impending death of a family member, this woman had asked her daughter to not visit before they passed away. The family member was elderly, and it might upset them to see the daughter and her transition. She listened, as an obedient daughter would. A fire ignited in my chest due to the parallels in my own life. In 2013, my grandmother was in a hospice. I was over one year on hormones and eight months post-name change. My car was repossessed exactly 10 months prior, after I lost my job in the Union for discrimination, and my parents were refusing to give me a ride. Despite this, I took two buses and a light rail to get to the hospice. One of my aunts greeted me at the door and let me see my grandmother, Ernestina Solis Camarillo. The strong, beautiful woman I knew had become frail from her treatments, but she was still there. It was a short visit. I told her I loved her, and she lovingly replied, “Yo también te amo, mi hijo”.

Hijo. Male. I am Dylan.

This was the last interaction I had with my Grandma Tina. She passed away not long after. I explained my experience to this mother, and that I could not imagine listening to my parents. Staying home. Not venturing out to visit my grandmother. Unlike me, her daughter never had the chance to obtain that kind of closure. But who knows if she would have received it at all? I didn’t; but at the moment I didn’t care. The floodgates of my emotion had engulfed my mind.  I was shut down.

Not now, Dylan, there’s work to do.

During the day, many of us that were keeping tabs on SB4 were seeing live streams of ICE raids all over Texas. The ones that hit home were around the Southwest Alief area where I grew up. I was guilty with my privilege of being able to attend this training while so many were living in fear of losing their freedom, actively being harassed by police officers, or spending endless nights in detention centers. This was two weeks after I attended the Creating Change Conference, and the first time I sat through a racial justice institute as a biracial person, in the People of Color Workshop. While at CC, I heard testimonies of people with lives just like mine. trans men, half-white and half-Mexican, and I wanted to learn more about the struggles of equity through my genes. It’s very easy to know how to relate to being trans as myself, but I didn’t know how to relate to being a trans person of color. Meeting these people gave me a new perspective.  

DSC_0006-X3-300x245 We Need a Larger TableI spent the night in my room with my weekend roommate and another activist, both Latinx community members. Back in my hotel room, I hung my Texas Rainbow flag over the painting above my bed and we talked about organizing all night. We began deconstructing fear by discussing the fact that injustice towards trans people anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, because we are everywhere. Our trans siblings are in those camps, in those raids, being harrassed. So, why are we here and not talking about that? We made a space to have the discussion, but I slept uneasy because while I was in a hotel bed, there were people—my people, our people—sleeping on concrete floors and in what can only be described as dog kennels. I felt powerless.

Not now, Dylan, there’s work to do.

The next morning, the final day, I was a different person. Everything that had gone unchecked was taking over. I was resentful. This place was filled with something I was familiar with, and it hurt. I was cold, short-tempered, and fed up. I swear I knew these people and they did not want to change. Over the course of the last workshop, I was working out my problems in real time, in a room full of dozens of people—strangers. When it became apparent that I was visibly upset, one of the mothers of a transgender child came up to give me a hug from behind. The gesture was meant out of love, but I was not in the place for any physical contact. I asked to not be touched and took the “call in” (a private way to discuss issues without hurting feelings) outside. I explained that touch is consensual even when coming from a nurturing place, and we had a beautiful, respectful conversation. That ended with a big hug and lots of tears. I was experiencing healing. When the workshop was over, I asked the woman who had spoken of her daughter over dinner if she had a moment. We unpacked our conversation, and I thanked her for being present. I apologized for my outburst and we found another healing moment together.

It was obvious that I had come to so many realizations with no time to log them. I have had time to process since, and would like to share this with you.

First, I am grateful for exclusive trans, GNC/non-binary, and queer spaces. We fight our whole lives for the right to exist, and there is something powerful, surreal, and earth-shaking about being in a room full of those who have had a similar struggle. I appreciate it as the revolutionary act it is. We need to continue to challenge ourselves to grow not only in these spaces, but out of them, as well. If we are to be truly successful we need to structure a balance. It is sure to fail, so goes life, but we will succeed if we are patient, if we listen, and if we try.

14380051_10154438503055833_4139309703263043320_o-300x300 We Need a Larger Table
Photo by Eric Edward Schell at Pride Portraits

Second, learning how much I can take and what a burnout feels like makes it easier to feel one coming, but doesn’t accomplish anything at the time it’s happening. It’s not easy, and it’s not talked about enough within our activist communities. There are no resources or places to go that offer support because we all need it in different ways, and when you’re experiencing a burnout it tends to come with a burn out of funds, as well. After all, most counseling opportunities cost a shining coin. I needed a place to cry and not perform my life or be “on”. I think self-love/care is the brand that has given us a place to begin the conversation, but we need to acknowledge it is also dismissing of the larger issue. Self-care is something you give yourself. So, I can just say, “Remember self care!” and that fulfills my requirement as a friend. We need more involvement; and we need less judgement. Seeking help, time, space, love, or even blowing up in an activist space is a healthy display of emotion but we need to learn what happens next.

We’re a family and we all need to learn more. Do more.

Third, it is not easy or comfortable to talk about issues that we have no control over. One of the largest parts of organizing is isolating issues before we can acknowledge and accept to begin finding solutions. I personally have been working very hard to have these difficult conversations, but reached a roadblock I didn’t expect. Four days after the conference I was arrested on “day without an immigrant”, for a warrant I had from two years prior for not having insurance on my vehicle. That’s a story for another day, but it changed my entire year. I no longer had the ability to advance myself, these concerns, this conversation, or accomplish anything other than keeping myself afloat, which friends and family kept reminding me I needed to do. I am sorry now that I didn’t take their advice. I feel that in 2017, I let my community down and I stayed lost. After preparing for a year to attend the open session, my own fear and paranoia of being arrested while traveling kept me home. I never felt someone reach out to me, but I think it had to do with being buried by my fear. As surely as I felt lost for months I found laser sight at the Unity Banquet http://www.unitybanquet.com/ . Clarity in the words of Judge Phyllis Frye, “Why aren’t you running?” and Former Mayor Annise Parker, “Allies are great, but we have to make sure we use our own voices, too.”

26116047_10155873156095833_7610033871413737293_o-300x200 We Need a Larger TableLastly, to reiterate the Jung quote from before, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”. I was turned off by everything because I saw what my mind had been experiencing over the past five years. A lack of acceptance, stubbornness, selfishness, all wrapped up in unsupportive parents. I could not see past it, but just as clearly as I saw these things, I was able to let them go and destroy that projection of dysfunction onto strangers. I am so grateful for the experience of such a unique type of workshop. I was unprepared, though; life had a different plan. I came in at the bottom of my life at that moment, and I left at the bottom, too. I left with a new experience of uncharted territory, and it was going to take months to process.

So, here we are today.

Every single parent who accepts their child is a radical revolutionary. When I think about problems that come up in my life, sometimes I imagine one of those mothers as my own. Calling me her son. Telling me she’s proud of meDylan. I am so happy for the children that have parents willing to challenge themselves and grow. It can’t be easy. I only see the pushback they choose to share, but I know it must be scary for them. The Transgender Day of Remembrance https://www.glaad.org/tdor , lawmakers attacking their children, schools not creating a safe space for all students, and the common concerns of a growing child. One of the largest rewards for me is seeing these amazing kids organizing in their schools. Sharing their lives on social media because they are loved for who they are.

I love our community and the challenges we face in making new seats at the table. Although, sometimes it feels like standing room only. Maybe it’s time we got a bigger house.

Are you registered to vote?


Dylan Wilde Forbis is a native Texan who grew up in Houston’s diverse South West side, commonly known as Alief. He has been active in the Houston LGBTQI community for 12 years. In 2012 he began his physical transition from female to male, and today is active in the fight for Transgender equality. After publicly coming out in 2015 during a commercial for the city wide HERO campaign, Dylan began a more open position in the movement. In January of 2017 he moved to Pearland, TX with his partner and is currently running a campaign for candidacy as Texas State House District 29.

Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña

Tatiana Mala-Niña drag trans lgbtqia

Real Interviews with Real Trans People

tatipic4-e1517864170177-209x300 Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña(HOUSTON) Tatiana Mala-Niña is a local drag celebrity who has been performing in Houston and the surrounding area for the past six years. She has been a finalist for both the Gayest and Greatest Awards and our very own FACE Awards for the favorite drag queen. She is currently a hostess for the Roomers Show the second Saturday of every month at The Room Bar in Spring, Shenanigans every Thursday at Hamburger Mary’s, Cabernet at the Cabaret Fridays at Michael’s Outpost, and is featured in the cast of Eye Cons (also at Michael’s Outpost). She is also consistently booked in other shows at various clubs and bars as a guest. She is the self-proclaimed Glamedy Queen of Houston, being a perfect convergence of glamor and original comedy. But aside from her successful career in drag, Tatiana is also a transgender woman.

Ian: What made you decide to pursue medical transition?

Tatiana: I always knew I was different, but it wasn’t until I saw members of my drag family live their own truths that I believed it to be possible for myself. They gave me the strength to come out and really admit, even to myself, who I was.

What do you find are the hardest, and the most rewarding, aspects of transitioning?

In both aspects, passing. When you go out and don’t feel like you pass in today’s society (breast size, waist, masculine appearance), it’s very daunting. You’re constantly worried that people will “clock you.” On the flip side, when people do see you as you are, this can be very affirming.

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What difficulties and advantages do you find you have being a woman in the drag scene?

An advantage is that you feel more feminine when you perform. It’s more than a character, but a more elevated version of myself. Not to mention the cleavage! The biggest disadvantage, I would say, is that many cisgender performers feel that it’s cheating. We are faced with more criticism than a cis male performer. Also, when people touch me without permission, I actually feel it, which is a bigger violation in my opinion.

What would you change if you could?

I would love to be able to perform without padding. That would be so nice! Same thing with wigs. I would love the option of being onstage with nothing more than my own body. These things transfer into my daily life as well.

Let’s talk surgery …

The first surgery I am saving for is the one that takes the longest to recover from, FFS [facial feminization surgery]. After that I would like to get a fat transfer to my hips, to allow my body to be more proportionate. The final surgery, at least for now, would be breasts! I wouldn’t have huge tits, but I want to be able to swing them around in a circle ha ha ha! I haven’t decided on the lower region yet, but when that day comes, I doubt I’ll share.

What is your favorite thing about being a trans woman in drag?

tatipic2-200x300 Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña

Being a drag queen allows me to explore so many aspects of femininity. I can be a beauty queen in a long flowing dress, a chola from the barrio, or an old church lady. I get to experience every aspect of being a female and can be any girl I want to be onstage.

What do you want people to know about trans female performers?

I want people to know that we work just as hard as cisgender performers. Most of us started out believing that we were just men, and that hard work mentality does not leave us when we transition. We put just as much time into makeup, costuming, and performance as anyone. We are not less than just because we take hormones.

Final thoughts?

If you are a lover of drag in any form, I would expect you to be mindful and aware of transgender issues, as well. So many of us are both, male or female. The little things I see from our fans, like using transgender in the past tense [read: transgendered], can be hurtful. Educate yourselves and it will help you become an ever better ally to both drag performers and trans people alike.