Since this is my very first post for The Bilerico Project, I thought I'd try to not only introduce myself, but to do it in a way that hopefully offers a little bit more than just stuff about me.
Since I came out as a transwoman in 1997, my life has been entwined with Queer media. Back then, it was tough to find a place to talk about being transgender in any kind of public forum. There really wasn't much out there at all about or inclusive of Queerfolks in general, and most of what little was available certainly didn't spend a lot of time or effort on talking about trannies. Aside from the Boston-based radio show Gendertalk, a few websites mainly intended for crossdressers, and the odd email list or two, there was virtually nothing for us on the Internet. There was no "Boys Don't Cry" yet, no "Transamerica", none of the inclusive popular media we have today. One thing we did have though, was GAYBC Radio.
GAYBC was an Internet radio network intended mainly for gay and lesbian listeners, the first of its kind. I discovered it as a still-closeted transwoman, having just survived a suicide attempt and desperately looking anywhere and everywhere for answers. I'd just found Gendertalk and was in the process of listening to its entire archive show by show, but GAYBC offered live programming intended specifically for Queer listeners. They really didn't include us or our issues very much at first, but at that point, it really didn't matter, almost no gay and lesbian media did. I was making regular trips to the local Barnes and Noble and to the Village bookstores in NYC, looking for anything, anything at all, that could help me understand who and what I was, and what it all meant.
At the beginning, I was, unsurprisingly, scared shitless. I'd just been fired from a low-paying retail job I'd still been working as a male when my boss had discovered a little website I'd put together with a few pictures of me as a woman and fired me. I'd tried to fight it, but I couldn't afford a lawyer. The New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights took about a year to tell me that they didn't feel it was in the state's interest to pursue my case. I couldn't get a job flipping burgers, much less doing anything I was actually trained and qualified for, so I spent most of my days in front of my computer over the next few years, listening to GAYBC and, after a while, writing, a lot.
Slowly but surely, I began coming out of my shell and speaking out. I started venturing into the GAYBC chatroom and eventually joining the conversation. After a while, and with some significant prodding by one of the network's hosts, I even began calling into their shows. Over time, I started asking why I so rarely heard anything directly relevant to my own life on this network and in other Queer media, and fortunately, I wasn't the only transperson asking the question.
Marti Abernathey and I met in the GAYBC chatroom and became friends rather quickly. We were, as far as I know, really the only transpeople who actively participated there. We both wanted to hear more that was relevant to our lives, especially about the politics. Both of us were frustrated and annoyed in 1999, when GenderPAC announced it was changing its mission to reflect a gender rights focus, rather than the transgender rights agenda it had originally been created to advocate. At first, almost no one in the media, not even Gendertalk, had been willing to take the topic on and explore it publicly. None of our community media really seemed to care all that much, so Marti and I decided to do something about it ourselves.
Over the course of the next year or so, Marti and I, with the help of a friend who was already webcasting his own Queer-relevant Internet radio talk show, created our own Internet radio talk show which we dubbed "Trans-Sister Radio", as far as I know the very first Internet-based talk show by, for, and about transpeople and the topics and issues that are important in our lives. Our sound was terrible, neither of us knew what the hell we were doing in terms of content creation or production, but we got it on the air and kept it going for about four months. By professional radio standards, our show was, in all honesty, pretty damn terrible. Even so, it was well-loved by our community, and something I take more than a little pride in even today, with a little more than five years of creating this kind of media under my belt.
Hard to believe it's been the better part of a decade since then. During that time, I've been pleased and proud to have been able to create transgender-relevant community radio not only with Marti, but also with Ethan St. Pierre, as well as doing my own LGBT-inclusive show, "The Rebecca Juro Show", produced by a bear-identified gay man, Mike Scott. I've made appearances on Sirius OutQ's morning show, and I've been writing my own trans-relevant blog for about four years now. My writing has been published in both commercial and non-commercial media all over the web and elsewhere. While it would be nice to be able to completely credit this to my own improving media creation skills, the reality is fortunately far more broad-based than that.
Today, things are so wonderfully different than they used to be a decade ago. Instead of having to search hard to find transgender-inclusive media, you'd now have to search almost as hard to find Queer community media which isn't. Not only do we appear in mainstream Queer media like OutQ, LOGO, and Here!, we even have the TransFM Internet Radio Network, the online radio stream featuring the work of transgender-identified mediamakers run by Ethan St. Pierre. Hell, not only have we had award-winning movies telling our stories, we're even on Ugly Betty!
As you probably know if you're a regular here at The Bilerico Project, not only I, but also Ethan, Marti (who's now the webmistress of Transadvocate.com, a transgender-relevant blog which I'm also proud to be a part of), and other transgender-identified bloggers I'm proud to number myself among contribute here and on other Queer-relevant blogs, and it seems there's more and more all the time. To borrow the title of my fellow newbie Project contributor Sarah Whitman's first post, we're here, we're Queer, and we're an integral part of the chorus of Queer voices speaking out for and about ourselves and our lives. Given that, it's not so surprising that it's pretty much impossible to have an intelligent conversation about ENDA, the hate crimes bill, or any sort of realistic discussion about Queer politics in general these days without transgender-identified people being an important part of the conversation.
I'm thrilled and immensely proud to have been able to play some small part in helping that process along, and equally proud to have been able to do it in concert with such a large, diverse, and creative collection of inclusively-minded mediamakers. It's a very exciting time to be a Queer community media creator, and becoming moreso all the time. I look forward to the future with great anticipation as I add my own voice to those speaking out here at Bilerico, as I look back with pride at how far we've all come together.
We've still got many battles ahead of us, not only against cowardly and hateful politicians and straight people who seek to promote their own agendas by marginalizing and even demonizing us, but even against those within our community who declare themselves our advocates but essentially do the same when it really matters. Despite that, there is no going back, no matter how much the naysayers try to make it so. We're out, we're proud, we're speaking out, and most importantly, we're being heard. It's just a damn great time to be trans and to be Queer.
Thanks for listening.