Library hosts transgender ,issues meeting
Behind a conference table in a room at the Woodford County Library Sunday, six people shared their thoughts on transgender issues in a 90-minute program sponsored by the Woodford County Fairness Coalition.
Moderator Melissa Bane Sevier, the former pastor of Versailles Presbyterian Church, began by noting the previous Tuesday’s triumph of Danica Roehm. Sevier described Roehm as “the first openly transgender person in America to be elected to state office. And the person she defeated was someone who had sponsored and helped write a bathroom bill. So that bill, for now, is effectively, shall we say, flushed.”
Most of the two dozen or so in attendance laughed at the play on words, and Sevier confessed that she’d been working on the joke.
Sevier also reiterated the Fairness Coalition’s desire that all three local governmental bodies (Woodford Fiscal Court and the two city councils) pass a Fairness Ordinance, which only the Midway City Council has thus far.
The panelists shared their stories and took questions from the audience, some of which were prepared beforehand. They were:
Mark T. Davis and Beth Scherfee, the married parents of a transgender teen. Davis is a pastor and theologian with the Presbyterian Church and provides support for families with transgender children for a group called “Transparent Lex.”
Keisa Fallin-Bennett, a family physician at the University of Kentucky and the director of “Transform Health,” which she described as an LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer) clinic and initiative. She said she identified as a lesbian or gay woman.
Isaac Batts, a 2015 graduate of Woodford County High School (WCHS) who attends Transylvania University, said he first realized he was transgender around the middle of high school. Batts said he preferred to be referred to, via pronouns, by the words “they, them and theirs.”
Kathleen Pezzi, the mother of a transgender son named David, said, “I like to say that when I had this beautiful baby 17 years ago and they … said, ‘It’s a girl,’ they didn’t say, ‘And in 14 years, it might be a boy.’” Later, Pezzi explained why she’d become an activist of sorts. “The external forces in these children’s lives scare me to death. The suicide statistics are horrific. Just the amount of discrimination that happens to (transgender) youth – it’s just unfair. This is nothing that they did. It’s just who they are, you know?”
Tuesday Meadows is a transgender woman who said she didn’t transition until she retired from Kroger in 2009. Her career included five years as the store manager at the Versailles Kroger in the late 1980s. Meadows earned the first of many laughs when she said that she went by, “Her Highness,” and later described her activism by referring to herself as a “warrior princess – and most days, I’m a bad-ass.” The first question involved the use of bathrooms, a political hot potato in several states.
“I believe it’s an issue of purposely trying to target transgender individuals and have them remain on the outskirts of what is normal. And they do it under the guise of safety, but most certainly, more politicians have been caught doing things in bathrooms than transgender people,” Fallin-Bennett said.
Several of the panelists described situations where they or a transgender loved one delayed going to the bathroom because there wasn’t a gender-neutral one available. Batts said there were two bathrooms at Transy he was comfortable using, one of which was in his dorm room.
“I spend a lot of my time just … planning out where the closest gender-neutral bathroom is, which isn’t very close,” Batts said.
Another question involved the use of pronouns -- how to refer to a transgender person when not using his or her name.
Sevier and Davis referred to themselves as “cisgender,” a term that means the person identifies as the sex he or she was born with.
Batts said when people referred to him as “they” or “them,” it shows that the speaker respects him and listens to what he has to say. “Usually when people say ‘he,’ I’m not horribly offended … because I definitely understand that ‘they-them’ pronouns aren’t something that a lot of people, especially in small towns like this, come into contact with …” Batts said that he identified as “agender” – neither male nor female.
Meadows said unlike in America, many societies recognize there are more than two genders. Meadows agreed that using the correct pronoun is a sign of respect, and said some have shown disrespect to her by not doing so on purpose.
Scherfee said using the correct pronoun was a “pretty simple way to affirm that individual …” and makes a “huge, huge difference to people.”
Later, Meadows reminded the audience that parents shouldn’t assume that a child’s interest in a certain type of toy indicates the direction his or her life will take.
“Remember, a little boy playing with Barbies or a little girl playing with trucks does not make them transgender. People get all wound up about little crap that really doesn’t mean anything,” Meadows said.
Other topics included the various ages at which transgenders transition, hormone therapy, and the need for a person dealing with these issues to seek a good therapist. Panelists discussed a variety of books and support groups, and spoke of how hard it can be for a transgendered person to tell parents that he or she is different.
Some told how familial relationships had suffered during the process, and Meadows spoke of how her sister had told her she’d never be able to refer to her as her sister.
“Now she calls me her sister. She sends me birthday cards to her ‘favorite sister.’ Sometimes, people don’t know what they can do. They just don’t realize what they can do. Sometimes, you have to take a journey with them, too,” Meadows said.