I starting writing a welcome 2015 newsletter just before learning of the tragic suicide of Leelah, a trans teenager from Ohio, and couldn’t bring myself to finishing it for a while because I was more than just sad, I felt defeated. I know that might sound arrogant, given I’d never met her or spent any time in Ohio, but I took the news very personally, not just as the new president of MaineTranNet, but because I know, like many of you know, what it’s like to feel alone, rejected, and unloved.
Thirty years ago, I was like Leelah. Seventeen, embarrassed, ashamed and confused about my identity, and I tried to end my own life. Twenty-five years later, after half a lifetime living in turmoil, self hate, and reoccurring dances with death, I made the decision to embrace my trans identity and find help. Thanks to the encouragement of my ex partner, I found my way to a MaineTransNet support group. I remember feeling both excited and extremely nervous about meeting other trans folk. I walked into the small office on Brighton Ave a little late and found three guys just hanging out, shooting the shit and eating Doritos. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, and stammered, is this MaineTransNet? They all smiled and reassured me I was indeed in the right place. I was invited to sit down, introduce myself, and join the group. It was at that moment I realized I wasn’t a freak or alone in the world, and I might live to see the second half of my life.
So it is my privilege to be welcomed as the new president of the board of directors of MaineTransNet. I'd first like to thank our outgoing president Branden Parker for his years of thankless service. With a heart of gold, Branden provided consistent and conscientious leadership that kept our engine running and I am forever indebted to his commitment to our community.
With your approval and encouragement, I will work collaboratively to uphold our mission by providing necessary support and resources for the trans community, family members, and significant others, while raising awareness about the varied forms of gender identity and expression by being a visible and active member of society and to continue to providing training and consultation, especially for mental/medical health and social service professionals.
As we welcome 2015, let’s put aside the differences that divide us, and embrace the wondrous things that unite us as a community and not lose sight of what’s really important in our lives. I will be thinking often of Leelah and will be guided by her youthful bravery, but am horribly sad to know she is dead. We are committed to challenge people’s understanding of gender by being ourselves and supporting each other with no excuses. Our lives Matter!
To a peaceful New Year!
President, Board of Directors