Happy 10th Anniversary NOH8 Campaign!

NOH8 Photo June 2018

Ten years ago I found the NOH8 Campaign online and shortly after, I joined Twitter and found out even more plus found more people who were part of the community. I was new to social media but I quickly saw that what Adam Bouska, Jeff Parshley, and the whole team were doing was more than just taking photos. It was a bold statement at a time when marriage equality was non-existent in most places and had been overturned in others.

NOH8 organized a march on Washington and I wasn’t even used to traveling much back then but I knew I HAD to be there. I booked a flight, made sure to connect with a few people on Twitter so I wouldn’t be all alone when I got there, and proudly headed off to our capital to be sure my voice (and our voices) were heard. That was a huge turning point for me and an enormous push for me to use my voice for causes I believed in. When I got there, met all of these people, and spent the weekend hearing stories, sharing stories, marching, being harassed by protesters, and making friends I am so proud to know; I realized just how important this cause was.

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At the time of the march, I don’t even think I had taken my first NOH8 photo but since then, I think I’ve taken about ten in total. I’ve made sure that if I’m in the same city they are doing a shoot in, I’m there. Over time, the photos have meant more and more to me. It’s about marriage equality but it’s also about all equality for our brothers and sisters who need more of a voice. The entire LGBTQIA community needs to be heard, to be seen, to make themselves known and that’s what I’m doing every time a take a photo, post a photo, bring friends with me to have their photos taken.

We have seen recently that there are people who want to erase certain groups, to reverse the progress we’ve made and that is why the NOH8 Campaign is just as important today as it was ten years ago. In my own personal life, I experienced slurs and prejudice in my work place which wasn’t handled properly by superiors and really not handled at all. I live in NYC but I realized even I could have my voice silenced by the powers that be and that did not sit well with me.

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As I think about the past ten years, the photo shoots, the events, the progress, I think the most important thing has been the people I’ve met online from all over the world. They have shared their stories with me, their concerns, their issues. I hope I have been able to offer some advice or at least an empathetic ear that made them feel a little better or helped them to find solutions, a little courage, and some comfort.

I want to thank Adam, Jeff, and everyone at NOH8 for all they have done, do, and will do. I don’t think there are words to express how incredibly grateful I am to have been given the boost of courage I received from simply being associated in any way with this cause and I promise to continue to lend my voice, to proudly display my photos, and to continue to bring my friends along for the experience.

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To the friends (Straight, gay, queer, etc) who have joined me: I am forever grateful for your love and support. This campaign has allowed so many to stand next to people they love in support and show just how united we can be no matter what else is going on in the world.

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I look forward to another amazing ten years and more!!!

Please feel free to share your own NOH8 stories here!

 

Jordyn Pollack is a man who is all about the love with no time for hate

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I enjoyed my interview with Ryan Santanna so much (I hope you all did as well and that you learned a little something from it) that I decided to reach out to a friend of mine I have known through Instagram. Jordyn Pollack has shared his journey as a Trans man on the social media platform and on YouTube, much like Ryan has. Their stories are similar but I feel (and I’m sure you agree) that we need to hear all the stories because each of us, no matter how similar we are, are so unique. There is always more to learn from each other, more to experience through each other’s eyes, and more bridges to build.

I really love how brave Jordyn has been by sharing his top surgery photos, progress, his experience with testosterone, and most importantly his feelings throughout. I know he is helping so many others, he is inspiring me, and he is allowing people in similar circumstances to know they will be OK!

The power of social media has always been in the sharing, in being a voice for individuals who don’t feel they have one, and in showing them there are others who are experiencing the same things we are even if we feel alone.

Jordyn is someone you need to follow, someone you need to know, and I believe someone who is making the world a better place. Let me introduce you to Jordyn Pollack:

Q: When did you first realize you didn’t identify with the gender you were when you were born?

Jordyn Pollack: This is a difficult question because I truly believe since I was a young child I knew deep down I wasn’t comfortable with being categorized as a “female”. I truly have realized now that all of my actions back then relate 100% to me taking the step and transitioning. When I was a child I would dress all my “female” dolls as “males”, I would cut their hair, dress them in more masculine clothes. I also remember lying in my bed some nights and just wishing I could be a “boy” for one day, which is crazy to think now that my wish came true about 17 years later. Growing up I always played sports and tried to hang out with all the “boys”, even going into middle school I was very into skateboarding. I dressed in “boy” clothes, when I wasn’t at school, at the skatepark, or even hanging out with some of my friends. One year for Halloween, I believe I was 12, I dressed as a “boy” and went into the guys restroom at Disney Halloween, that is one of my favorite childhood memories, not going into the restroom of course, but having that feeling of passing as a “male”.

Q: What age did you start to become vocal about it? What was the reaction from your family and friends?

JP: I came out to my parents and partner about two years ago, I was 24. Then I came out to some of my close family members, and then I made a Facebook post. Everybody reacted as I expected, luckily I am blessed with a huge immediate and extended family that excepted my transition with open arms. From my Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents they all use the correct pronouns and still love me just as much or even more now. The person I am now is much more confident, outgoing and just loving to be around. My family is my everything. My fiancé told me she would always love me as long as the person I am inside never changes, which how could it, because that is who she fell in love with and wants to marry. Ziggy has never cared about gender, she just wants me to be happy and true to myself. I will always be Jordyn, that is my birth name and I chose to keep it my name. That is who I will always be and was, It just took me this long to get here.

Q: Did anyone surprise you in a positive or negative way as you became more open about it all? 

JP: The people or should I say children who surprise me most are my cousins. I have a very big family as I said above, I would say about 10 cousins on my Moms side and even more on my Dads. From the ages of newborn to my age, they have all been amazing. Validating me every chance they get, reaching out after my surgery. I truly couldn’t feel more love and support.

Q: I’ve seen you posting about your journey on Instagram and it has inspired me so. Does that help you during this process?

JP: Instagram has been an amazing outlet for me during my transition and even before. Social media really helped me come out and realize that transitioning was what I truly wanted to do. Being able to see other people’s journeys, helped me a lot. That is why I post so frequently and try to connect with all of my followers. I truly think being a part of a community and knowing we can have each-others back when nobody else understands means so much.

Q: What are some misconceptions you would like to clear up about trans people?

JP: Honestly, the only thing I would like to clear up is that we are no different from any other human being. We are all equal, but different in so many ways and that is what makes the world truly a beautiful, magical place.

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Q: Other than Instagram, where can we find you online? Have you documented your journey elsewhere? 

JP: I have a YouTube account, it is just under my name Jordyn Pollack. I will say, I have not made any update videos recently, but I will make one soon on my Top Surgery experience.

Q: Do others reach out to you and what advice do you/would you give them if they were struggling with their own identities?

JP: Yes, others reach out to me daily through social media. Whether it be to tell me I inspired them, to ask for advice, or just to say hi. I like to connect with my followers as much as possible, as I said before to me having a safe community is so important. I would tell someone struggling with their identity, to for one second try not to worry about anything else in the world besides themselves and in that moment how do they want to look when they see themselves. How do they want to feel? How do they want to be treated? If you are struggling just give yourself time to find who you truly are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, YOU are the only person that knows how YOU feel inside and out.

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

JP: The one thing I could not live without is Ziggy. She is truly my everything. I have never met a human being who is so kind-hearted. Ziggy makes me feel special every day. Yes, we have had our struggles, but who doesn’t. The best part about her is that we can communicate and at the end of the day we have each other no matter what. She is the first thing I see when I open my eyes and the last thing I see before I close them. I am more than excited to spend the rest of my life with her and marry her, that way I will never have to live without her.

The one thing I wish we could all live without is HATE. It is as simple as that. If all humans had more love, compassion and understanding in their hearts we would have a better world.

Sometimes you can be someone’s hero simply by being yourself

IMG_0042_Facetune_23-07-2018-18-05-44I’ve been waiting to do this for a while now, I want to introduce you to someone I watched grow up AND grow into themselves with such strength and conviction it makes me SO proud. I’ve wanted to talk to Ryan Santana about his journey so we could help/inspire/motivate any of you who are struggling with how to give yourself permission to be who you are or having difficulty talking to the people in your life.

Ryan is a trans man who has shared so much of his experience on social media by making videos of his progress with testosterone, posting pics of his daily shots and facial hair growth, voice change, etc. He has definitely inspired me to live more authentically and has reinforced my belief that I need to keep speaking up for myself and others. Back in 2009 when I marched with the NOH8 Campaign in Washington DC for marriage equality, I felt and spoke about knowing it was so much more than that. It was about all rights for all people. I just didn’t know then how BIG our community would become.

One of the most difficult things about coming out is the anticipation of the reaction from your friends and family. There is always a fear of losing some, of being hurt by some, and of being abandoned by others. I don’t think you can fully understand it unless you have been through it.

Let me let you learn more about Ryan and I encourage you to follow him on social media, check out his YouTube channel, and reach out to him or to me if you find yourself needing a little encouragement.

Q: How old were you when you first came out and did you always know?

Ryan Santana: I came out when I was 18 publicly on social media but I was slowly coming out to people close to me before hand. I feel like I just always knew ever since I was little I would always want to play the boy parts if we were playing a game. When I started going through puberty that was like the moment when I definitely knew something was “wrong” because the way I felt on the inside didn’t match what was happening on the outside.

Q: What was the reaction from your family and friends? Were you surprised about the reaction from anyone?

Ryan Santana: I was surprised how easily people accepted it and how quickly some people adjusted to the pronouns and new name. I remember my girlfriend and I were talking before I came out and I finally asked her how she would feel calling me Ryan and using male pronouns and literally the next day it was like my dead name never existed to her.When I came out to my mom her reaction was just like “ok” and just left it at that. I remember seeing her start sharing things about trans kids on Facebook. I’ve been very lucky throughout my transition that I have such supporting family and friends.

Q: You’ve been very open about your journey and have documented it on social media. Did that help you and have you gotten feedback from other people you are helping?

RS: At first I was skeptical about broadcasting my transition on social media because of trolls and backlash. I remember getting a DM from a trans guy in the U.K. and he was telling me how he’s pre T and hasn’t come out to anyone and he was nervous and we kind of just chatted for a bit and then a couple of weeks later he posted on his Instagram that he got his letter for T , that made me very happy. Also , I just really like having random people message me telling me that either I helped them out or that I’m just simply an inspiration to people because I’m really just living life as my true self just like everyone else should.

Q: What are some misconceptions you would like to clear up about trans people?

RS: A lot of people assume that because you a Cis gender people that they’re bisexual or something. I remember one time I was having a conversation with someone about a girl I was seeing and they replied “oh I didn’t know she swung that way” and that made me really upset.

IMG_0072Q: I know you are doing some fundraising to help you with your medical costs. Where can people go to contribute if they’d like?

RS: I set up a Go fund me account about two long years ago haha. The link is Www.gofundme.com/ryansantana

Q: Where can we find you online?

RS: I’m all over social media ! My Facebook is Ryan Santana. My Twitter is @santanaswag . Instagram is @officialsantana and Snapchat is – thesantanaa

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

RS: As cliché as it sounds my cell phone is something I cannot live without. I feel connected to everything and everyone. In my own personal opinion I think the world would be better without Donald Trump.

As you can see, Ryan’s family (especially his amazing mom Jessica) were supportive and even unfazed by his coming out. For many of us, the fear of the reactions is so great that we put it off for a long time but when we do find ourselves at that moment where we know it’s time, so many of the people who really know us aren’t surprised at all.  Another thing to note is that each of us know when we are ready, there is no set time or age that is right, no one should force anyone to come out, and no one should ever “out” another person. It’s a journey only you can go through and only you can know when the right moment is for you.

As great as it is to come out and have positive reactions or have people not be surprised at all, there are so many cases where that is not what happens. There is such a large population of homeless LGBTQ youth because their families do not accept them and refuse to support them. Even worse, many cases cause addiction and many end in tragedy. I think when someone shows such courage, they should be applauded. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no one had to spend any part of their lives in fear, hiding, or made to feel ashamed? Wouldn’t it be awesome to celebrate people for who they are, being their authentic selves, and showing support for them in any way we can?

One thing I do encourage anyone who comes to me to do is to find out if there is a community center or organization in their area that is available for LGBTQ  individuals who need assistance or someone to talk to. Or get on social media and search for people and groups who have things in common with you and are supportive. The down side to social media is the troll and the bullying that occurs but if you find your tribe in life and on social, you have to block out the others as much as you can.

Here are some resources you can use:

Trans Lifeline is a national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of our community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Our vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of trans people by facilitating justice-oriented, collective community aid. US: 877-565-8860 Canada: 877-330-6366

The Trevor Project: Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. 1-866-488-7386

Mary Boylan wants to encourage you to Be(ing) Kind(red) to others

TeamThe more light we shed on a subject, the more people we can get to understand the circumstances of others. Many of the misunderstandings we are suffering from today come from ignorance. One of the biggest areas we seem to need more understanding in is human sexuality and gender identification. Mary Boylan is working on a new documentary, BEing KINDred, about the struggle of the transgender and transitioning community which may just help bridge some gaps.

Many of us have witnessed the journey through friends’ eyes but there are still so many misconceptions in our society and there is much progress to be made. Thanks to the strength of public figures like Laverne Cox, there has been more positive attention but when Caitlyn Jenner’s story broke, how many of us were asked if this made us want to make the transition as well? That is proof that there is still a great deal we need to learn as a society. See, it doesn’t really work like that. There is a difference between being gay and being transgendered. Everyone should have the right to be exactly who they are in their hearts and all of us deserve to be understood, accepted, and LOVED. Hopefully, projects like BEing KINDred (Notice the capitalized letters BE KIND) will help to guide us in the right direction.

It is an honor to be able to interview Mary about his project and if you’d like to read more on  filmmakers who are working on a similarly themed film called Brother X. You can here: http://www.teeco71.com/2016/07/time-experienced-brother/

TGPowerHopefully, you will be moved to help support Being KINDred and Brother X and these projects open communication as well as our hearts and minds.

Q: Tell us a little about BEing KINDred. What made you want to make this film?

Mary Boylan: One of my best friends transitioned from Male to Female. During that process, she was slowly and deliberately rejected by her family, including her 3 children. Not only was it heartbreaking to witness, but also the polar opposite of what should have been happening. She was trying to be true and honest with herself, in order to be her best self, largely for them. Sadly hers is not an uncommon story. I wanted to do something to educate and inspire families to support their loved ones in transition.

Q: Can you share some of the statistics that also appear on your page?

Mary Boylan: The suicide rates are the most astounding of all the statistics of the Transgender population. 41% attempt suicide in their lifetime, and over half of those people state their reasons for doing so were due to being rejected by their families.

Q: What are the main messages you hope to get across to all people through this film?

MB: Tolerance. Love. Understanding. These are basic human values. The human race is one family. As our culture becomes progressively more globalized, I feel like we are trying on some level to move toward an understanding of this, which starts at home. We need to teach love, acceptance and kindness above all else.

Q: Where can we find out more about BEing KINDred and how can we all get involved to make sure this film is made?

MB: We are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Indiegogo!

https://www.facebook.com/BEingKINDredFilm/?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/BEing_KINDred https://www.instagram.com/beingkindredfilm/

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/being-kindred-a-transgender-families- documentary/x/62696#/

Our Indiegogo campaign is accepting donations of any amount, all of it going to the production of the film.

Q: What is the most rewarding part about making films such as this?

MB: I don’t know if it feels rewarding yet as so much as it’s just something I want to do. I know I can do it, and I know it has to be done. So here we are. But most certainly it will feel rewarding if I can save lives in making this film.

One thing that has been fantastic about this film is the new friends I’ve made along the way, especially that of my cousin, Jennifer Finney Boylan. We didn’t know we were distant cousins until we were connected by another Boylan family member during my initial shooting last October. I’m so honored to get to know to someone who not only has her own incredible story, but is such an activist for her community.

Q: You are also an amazing actress. How does it feel to wear the director and producer hats?

MB: Awe thank you sweetheart!I don’t know if I can even answer that, considering how new I am to this side of the camera. Getting Lemons was my first time writing and producing, and now BEing KINDred is my first time directing. I can say though that I’m honored to be working with everyone thus far on this project, and couldn’t do it without them! I can’t wait to see where we are headed!

Q: Do you prefer one of the three more than the others?

MB: I enjoy being creative and have to all the time. Performing is definitely my first love, but I had no idea I would ever come to appreciate the rest has much as I do.

Q: You always pick interesting and important projects like Getting Lemons and BEing KINDred. Do you feel filmmakers have a responsibility to tell these stories?

MB: I can’t really speak for anyone else, and again, I’m so new to all of this, but I can say that I definitely felt a responsibility and a desire to do something to help.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Who was it from?

MB: I’ve had a lot of great teachers and people who helped me along the way. One of my Grandmas once told me “how you do anything is how you’ll do everything.” I try to remember that and give 100% consistently in my work and in caring for my loved ones. And I’m a clean freak so apparently I do that for my house too!

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever given? Are you good at taking your own advice?

MB: Yikes, I don’t know but I definitely know that I’m horrible at taking my own advice! Trying to work on that for sure!

DF9A5449Q: What’s one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

MB: I’d say my work is everything to me, and guns can go away forever.

Q: What else are you currently working on and what’s up next for Mary Elizabeth Boylan?

MB: I’m also Co-writing a TV pilot with the extremely talented writer/actor David Tillman (who Co-wrote the amazing award-winning film I have been lucky enough to be in, Love Is All You Need?). But right now, I’m concentrating as much as possible on fundraising for BEing KINDred. I’ve got so many stories to tell already, and more we need to shoot! This project means the world to me, to the lovely souls we have interviewed, and to the folks whose stories we still need to tell!