Op-Ed

Home Op-Ed

Never Forget: A September 11th Appeal

9/11 United States America Never Forget terrorist attack

September 11th, 2001 – the day of the terrorist attack that changed the United States of America forever.

Where were you on 9/11? That’s the question everyone asks. Every person alive that day remembers where they were 8:26 AM Eastern Time when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north-facing side of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

We will never forget.

At this time on September 11th, I was in California. My then-husband was in tech school in Port Hueneme just outside of LA, and my mother had called me to tell me to turn on the television. When I did so, my heart sank; I flipped it on just in time to discover a plane had hit the North Tower, and then watched as United Flight 175 hit the South Tower. Everything changed at that point. Instantly, the situation went from a tragic accident to the realization that the United States of America was under attack.

I jumped in the car and drove immediately to the naval base, where it took 2 ½ hours to get through security and onto the base that day. They searched every car that came through with mirrors and bomb-sniffing dogs. I learned that every military base was on high alert once I’d arrived, while also hearing a lot of terrifying talk about sending out troops before they’d even finished tech school. Already, we were at war. The air on base was thick and adherent with anger, fear, and excitement.

But my point in writing this isn’t about where we were when the planes hit those towers. My point in writing this is not one that explicitly relates to the number of lives that were lost (although this cannot and should not ever be forgotten or undermined), nor which politics landed us in that position in the first place, nor all of the conspiracy theories. It’s about who we were as a country on that fateful day.

My point in writing this is that September 11, 2001 is the last time I remember our country being united. Today, that makes me twice as sad.

I’d like to impress upon you, readers, a disclaimer here: I am well cognizant of the fact that a part of that unity from that day forward, came from a large, unnecessary, and xenophobic place toward the many Americans who identify as Islamic and Middle Eastern, as well as those from other areas of South Asia, such as India. Even just seventeen years ago, this was a time in which many caucasian Americans were not being held accountable for their white privilege. And although we are slowly but surely getting better about making sure that white privilege is being more carefully monitored and examined, we still have a very long way to go before it meets a necessary extinction. In no way do I condone that behavior, nor will I ever insinuate that it was right or just. But that isn’t the unity I’m placing my specifics on. The unity of which I speak is that in which neighbors checked on one another, picked up each other’s children from school, made phone calls to their friends and loved ones, held strangers as they cried in the deafeningly silent streets of Manhattan. The unity of which I speak is the compassion we showed one another — not the response from bigots and a presidential administration that targeted innocent people in countries overseas while using xenophobia to try to further unite the country. That part will always remain to be wrong.

The very thing that makes me proud to be an American is the legendary American spirit, the audacity that we have always had as a people to stand together or alone against the greatest odds. Nothing showed that American spirit more than on September 11th or in the weeks that followed. The unity, support, and compassion that we displayed toward our fellow American citizens in need that day was nothing short of inspiring.

Somehow, in the throes of the current political climate — one that daily rips further apart the left from the right, the upper from the lower class, the young and the old, the cis and the trans, the gay and the straight — we as Americans have forgotten that part. We, the People of the United States of America, have forgotten that we all play on the same team. And in that loss of cognizance, we have forgotten our neighbors, forgotten how to listen, and forgotten our common goals.

Yet we remember the tragedy. We remember the lives that were lost (as we should always). We remember the brave first responders and volunteers who died or are still dying slowly from complications that came following their insurmountably brave heroism. We remember our politicians that spoke and acted eloquently and strongly during that time, as well as the ones who could have done better in this aspect.

But we, the People, have forgotten ourselves.

Now is the time to remember. It’s time to remember who we are as Americans; to put aside our egos and our pride and remember that, as with any team, success is hollow if not all those working toward it can attain it. It is time for we as Americans to get back to our common goals — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness equally and for all.

When you remember September 11th, mourn our losses, love those who have sacrificed, and celebrate our nation’s resilience to being torn apart by a few bad people. Though it is important to bear in mind that the religion a terrorist claims to align with and the color of a terrorist’s skin does not make every person of that skin pigment or faith a terrorist. In fact, the vast majority are nothing like those terrorists. But I implore of you now, on the anniversary of one of our nation’s most tragic days, to not forget our compassion, to not forget who we are.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

A note from the editor-in-chief.

Today is 18th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). It is a day not only to be acknowledged by the world’s trans community, but by the world as a whole. This is because trans people should not be pigeonholed to just their community, or even just to the LGBTQIA community. Just like cisgender people, transgender people are just … people.

Trans Day of Remembrance has been annually recognized since 1999, when it was established by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith. Smith started the memorialization in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was murdered the year before. In the years since its inception, TDoR has become a vigil not only for Hester, but for all the trans people who have lost their lives to violence in the years since.

Today, we can see that violence against the trans community has not changed much. In 2017, 25 trans people have been victim to a fatal crime, including Texas’s own Stephanie Montez, a 47-year-old trans woman from Robstown. The majority of those people were trans women of color; and those numbers are up by 2 from 2016, with still a month and a half of the year left to go before the beginning of 2018.

The names of the people lost in 2017 are as follows: Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow (28), Mesha Caldwell (41), Sean Hake (age unknown), Jojo Striker (23), Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond (24), Jaquarrius Holland (18), Chyna Doll Dupree (31), Ciara McElveen (21), Alphonza Watson (38), Chayviss Reed (age unknown), Kenneth Bostick (59), Sherrell Faulkner (46), Kenne McFadden (26), Josie Berrios (28), Ava Le Ray Barrin (17), Ebony Morgan (28), Troy “Tee Tee” Dangerfield (32), Gwenyvere River Song (26), Kiwi Herring (30), Kashmire Redd (28), Derricka Banner (26), Ally Steinfeld (17), Stephanie Montez (47), and Candace Towns (30).

Sadly, the attitude toward the trans community around the country is not generally improving – especially so with a president in the Oval Office who perpetuates antiquated and ridiculous stereotypes about the trans community by trying to ban trans servicemen and women from the military. From there, it trickles down. It trickles down to his supporters, those who are unsure of him, but who still listen, and then to the children of all of those people. Children who, if I might add, we should be educating about equality, about not seeing gender identity or sexual orientation or color or religion or nationality.

That’s why here at About Magazine, I’m making it a personal mission to make About Magazine + About News just as inclusive of our trans community as it is of the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and pansexual community. We will also be more inclusive of the intersex and asexual communities, so that no one is left behind.

To do so, we will be launching in 2018 our first page on the website for trans-only content, aptly titled About Trans. Currently, we are looking for trans writers and editors to be a part of this initiative. Until then, I will oversee it. However, I am a cis person, and in order for this operation to be genuine and authentic, it is my earnest belief that this portion of our site should be trans-run. If you or anyone you know would like to be a part of About Trans, feel free to email me at anthony@about-online.com.

Going forward, let’s remember what today stands for, and remind ourselves and our trans friends, neighbors, and loved ones that they are just as important as anyone else, and that we’re there to aid them if they should ever need it in any way. Give them your love, and give them your support, because they are just as much a part of the LGBTQIA community as anyone else that falls into any of those other categories. And if you don’t believe this to be true, read a little bit of our content today so that you can understand why trans people are so important to the queer cause. Because as genderqueer activist and musician C.N. Lester said, “Even when we are confused about someone’s gender, and don’t have a greater awareness of what it means to be trans, we have a choice to respond with kindness rather than cruelty.”

Choose kindness.

Choose community.

Choose love.

 

Anthony Ramirez

Editor-in-Chief

 

For more information on Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit the GLADD website here. 

Tricks and Treats, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

At a certain point, I was undoubtedly drunk. Between Stephen’s specialty Nerds-flavored shots and the shots of Fireball in conjunction with all the vodka, I was just moments away from trying to play Someone Like You on the piano in the living room over whatever Bebe Rexha was shouting about. I refrained.

The party was fun and very much alive, but I was tiring quickly and wanted to see what was going on in Montrose before I retired for the evening. Courtney and Jennifer had already made their way to Pearl for the costume contest. Carter was flitting around the party, coming back every now and then to get a little handsy as the night progressed. The drunker I became, the less I fought it off. After all, I may not have been interested in Carter, but I was alone at a party and somewhat sadder than I had been before I was this drunk. The attention wasn’t killing me.

After goodbyes with Stephen and Leo and a few other people I’d met at the party, Carter and I dashed down the stairs to our cars to meet a couple of other friends at JR’s. Montrose, however, proved to be impossible to navigate thanks to street closures for Halloween and the perennial road work always taking place throughout the neighborhood. I must have parked six blocks from JR’s (and probably illegally, at that) before I was able to make my way to the bar.

The temperature had dropped significantly in a very short time, but it hadn’t prevented anyone from wandering the streets. Even the patio of JR’s was packed with people, as was every room of the bar. Finding Carter, as well as my friends Casey and Nick, proved to be much more difficult as I squeezed my way through the unnecessarily sweaty patrons.

When I did finally find them, I had trouble keeping my attention zeroed in on the conversation. This could partly be chalked up to drunkenness, but my distraction was due to everyone else in the bar. From Casey and Nick to every other pair, it became depressingly obvious that nearly everyone in the bar was coupled off.

Where had gay Christmas gone? Where had the twinks in wings and colorful underwear tottered off to? Even the bears in leather were partnered-up. Long gone seemed the days of going out on Halloween with the intention of hooking up or meeting someone interesting who may only seem attractive at the time due to their costume. Looking around, I obsessed over the fact that out of 5 million people in the city of Houston—granted only a minority of them gay—everyone out for Halloween was already spoken for. Where were all the single people? Was there some sort of single, gay, Halloween party I hadn’t been invited to where everyone drank wine and watched Practical Magic until they’d become so drunk and suicidal that they decided to join hands and jump off the roof like Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman at the end of the movie?

Why hadn’t I been invited?

The clock struck 2 AM sooner than I’d have guessed, and Carter and I made our way through busy Montrose hand-in-hand toward our cars.

Unfortunately, like on so many occasions before, I couldn’t find my car anywhere.

Fuck,” I swore, irritated with myself for not thinking to pay more attention when I’d parked.

“It’s fine,” Carter told me as he led me to his car. “I’ll drive you around until we find it.”

If ever there came a day when I didn’t have to rely on a man to help me find my car, I might actually wake up a different person. Sadly, that was becoming more and more a trademark of who I’d become.

Finding the car didn’t take long. Once we’d passed by JR’s, I began to remember how I’d walked to the bar from my car. Carter pulled up right behind it to let me out on the corner like a hooker who’d lost her way. He leaned in to hug me, lingering a bit before he kissed me on the cheek. Once he had, I kissed his back.

What happened next I could blame on the alcohol, but I’d be lying. Being drunk had never made me do anything. I knew better than that. Still, as I moved just a little bit to the right and kissed Carter on his lips, I couldn’t compose a justifiable reason why I’d done it. He kissed me back, and we did so a little more before my senses returned to me and I pulled away.

This was not the magic of Halloween. This was a drunk, lonely gay who’d been thinking of another gay all night while taking advantage of his friend. And though Carter didn’t object and reciprocated the kiss, I was taking advantage of his kindness, and for that I felt like shit.

I bid him goodnight, then sped off in my own car. I was embarrassed. Not because Carter wasn’t cute, he certainly was. But because I’d escalated to a new level of sluttiness—the kind that involves and can harm your friendships.

I guess I really had put the ‘trick’ in trick-or-treat, even if only by way of innocently kissing a friend in whom I had no romantic interest. Worst of all, though, I felt unfulfilled. This kiss hadn’t meant anything, though maybe part of me was hoping that it would have coming from a boy who at least paid attention to me and made me feel attractive. But the magic—Halloween or otherwise—simply hadn’t been there.

Even on a night when witches were supposed to fly their broomsticks across the night sky, and spirits were said to creep from one side of the veil to the other, and twinks paraded around in their underwear and angel wings, maybe the magic of gay Halloween wasn’t resting in how much we had to drink or how slutty we became thereafter. It laid in our friendships—the unexpected ones that started off as silly crushes, and the ones that we kissed by accident that we’d never crushed on before and probably never would. Those were the people who made Halloween—a night of needless celebration—fun. They were the ones we could count on no matter what.

Return to Part I here.

My Name Is Ian

Ian Syder

Ian Syder opens up about being coming to terms with being trans, his transition, and how he’s helping the transgender community.

(HOUSTON) — My name is Ian Syder. I’m a 34-year-old married man who plans to have kids one day. There isn’t much special about me.

Except that I was born female.

When I was a child, my sister and I used to play house, just like all kids do. Even then there were clues as to who I really was. I always introduced myself by male names and took on more masculine gender roles. My sister, who is now my brother (and they say it’s not genetic…) often did the same. Back then we had no idea what transgender even meant or that it was possible to do something so radical, so life-altering. As an adult, I look back with amusement. Knowing what I do now, I wish it could have happened differently. I have, however, no regrets.

We won’t go into the turmoil of my teenage years. It’s the typical unfortunate story. Self-medicating, drug abuse, promiscuity. Anything to drown out what my mind was screaming at me. I presented as a very butch female, so people assumed I was a lesbian. It was so much easier to go along with that. I let people sort me into this category and never allowed myself to think about what it really meant. But that’s a story for another day, so let’s skip ahead to the point when I really found myself.

When I was thirty, I was invited to an amateur drag show here in Houston. I had been to shows a few times in the past, but never really thought much of them. This one was different. It felt like I was watching real people onstage. My then-girlfriend told me I should try drag. I had the personality. So why not? The friend that had invited me said the same, which led me to make the decision to give it a whirl. A few weeks later, there I was with street clothes and a horrible makeup beard (I’ve gotten much better since). I introduced myself as Ian and the people there called me sir. The entire night I was in a daze. It just felt . . . right. I was hooked. I suppose I did all right that night, though I really don’t remember, to be honest. Still, I feel like that’s the moment that my life began to change.

It took a few months for me to start coming out to the people I had met in the drag community. I was met with joy and acceptance from all sides. I’m still amazed as to how accepting these people were. Once I started telling the people around me, I dove into research with a fervor I never knew I had. I watched every video, read every blog. I looked for information about how to do this venture down this path I’d been pondering. I found every tidbit you can imagine, positive and negative, but not quite what I was looking for.

I found myself lost again, even contemplating how to end my life. I felt alone and desperate, and had no idea where to turn. In my weakest moment, I went to Legacy Community Health. I knew nothing about what they did and continue to do, but I had a friend that worked there who I thought might be able to help me. I had done a benefit for them once and the person who helped me set up all of the details was one of the most amazing people I’d ever met. He was so open and kind. He explained that if I ever needed anything that I could look him up. So I found myself in his office, crying in his arms begging while for help I was sure he couldn’t give me.

But I was wrong.

He took me downstairs to talk to the people who would help him save my life. Some long months and an arduous process later, I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I feel like that was the first real day of the rest of my life. Legacy has since done a lot of work to improve the services they offer the trans community, and have been one of the greatest advocates for us of which I know. They have literally saved the lives of thousands of men and women, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for every single one of the people there.

Since then I have changed more than you can imagine. I am a completely different person. The parts of me that make me who I am are the same, but transitioning has allowed me to become confident in ways that I never thought possible. I learned to be happy, not just content with my life. The happiness applies to all aspects. From my clothing to my sexual preference, I am who I was always meant to be. I will, however, always be grateful to the woman I used to be.

21761742_701881709999513_5876437263104153287_n-2-300x300 My Name Is Ian
Ian Syder performing in Dessie’s Drag Race.

Valerie. Without her, I would not be the man I am today. Her experiences molded me, and I promise I will never forget that.

Transitioning allowed me the confidence to help others find what I couldn’t all those years ago. I still perform regularly, and use it as often as I’m asked for anything it can do. I’ve organized “top surgery” benefits for several trans men, all of which have been able to get the medical surgery they needed to live their lives happy and healthy. I use my drag performances as a platform to promote understanding and acceptance with people who may not have ever met another transgender person. I don’t shy away from any question, and make no secret of who I am. People sometimes find it easier to approach a personality than someone they meet on the street. I’m just glad I can be that guy.

Currently, I facilitate two different support groups here in Houston. One meets on Monday nights at Grace Lutheran Church. I’ll open the doors at 7:15, so maybe one day I’ll get to meet you. This group allows people of all types to come, so don’t hesitate if you aren’t like me. As long as you come with an open mind and a kind heart, you’ll be welcome. The second group meets the first and third Tuesday of every month at the Montrose Center. We start at 7:30, and it’s only for transgender men. We also need a space to be ourselves, so please don’t feel left out! I know I couldn’t do what I do if it weren’t for the ability to live my truth. I’m lucky, and that allows me to give other people hope. I don’t feel that I deserve the breaks I’ve been given, so I do what I can to give back to those that aren’t as lucky as me.

In January I was able to get my name and gender marker changed legally, with the court system in Travis County. It took months, and was not the easiest process at the time. No one I spoke to could tell me how to get this done, because in Texas there wasn’t a way to change your gender marker. There just isn’t a law specifically saying you can. It’s left up to the judge’s discretion. Usually that means that it was denied for almost everyone. I wouldn’t take no for an answer though, and made sure to do everything I could to get this done right the first time. My husband had his name changed years ago, but that was all the courts in Harris County allowed. So I did what I do best, and started researching.

What I found first was that Travis County was the most likely place to get the approval for the gender marker change. I also found a document that was written by a law student as part of a class. It had never been tested. I took the leap and started editing the petition to match my information. A few friends found out what I was doing and asked if they could tag along. I couldn’t say no, which led to the petition for me and my husband turning into one for a group of eight. I was terrified that this wouldn’t work and that the trip would have been made for nothing.

22729215_713322442188773_1097789466823242844_n-1-300x300 My Name Is Ian
Ian Syder married husband Shane Townsley on Oct. 22nd, 2017.

That day in court, one of those friends was asked by the judge who was responsible for the petitions and the editing. I was pointed out of course. The judge thanked me, told me that everything looked good, and asked that we call ahead next time we were bringing such a large group. That day, eight people walked in with a name they never chose and left knowing that they would never have to hear it again. They would never again be questioned when showing their ID. They could live exactly as they always knew they should. We all cried that day, and they were finally tears of joy.

To date I have given this information to 147 transgender people. Felons, minors, foreign nationals, even a few lawyers who wanted to help but didn’t know how. Not one has been denied. The clerks in Austin took my calls and emails in the beginning, and we have worked out a system that makes the process much easier – especially for the judges! I’m still getting the requests, but so far it has been word of mouth, and word is slow to spread. I’ve held several “clinics” for various groups and look forward to hosting as many as I can. This information just isn’t available in a Google search. If you know someone who might need this, please find me. I would welcome the ability to get every one of us taken care of. Without proper identification, we face discrimination in housing, employment, insurance, and many other ways. There is no situation that can’t be worked around, so please don’t think that you can’t get this done too.

When I realized that I was transgender, I felt like there was no hope for me, that something was broken inside and could never be fixed. I know now how wrong I was. We have a long way to go, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Every day that we go out into the world is a triumph. Every conversation that we have is a victory. I was able to find out who I am, and I know for a fact that there is nothing wrong with me. There are so many others out there who do what I do, but they stay in the shadows. There are more of us than you might think. So the next time you see someone who looks a little different, don’t turn your head and whisper behind our backs, just say hello. We are more like you than you can imagine.


If you would like to reach out to Ian for assistance with changing your name or gender marker in the state of Texas, you can email him at ianmichaellarive@yahoo.com.