by Joshua Cole
Ever since I graduated college and came to Roanoke, I have felt separated from a LGBTQA social and activist communities. I have been able to stay connected on the internet, but I have not had much opportunity to continue educating people the way I did when I was in college. I feel like I could be a great resource to young LGBTQA individuals dealing with issues that are unique to our community. The experience and the knowledge I have are things I like to share because I think they are useful and worthy. I want to help LGBTQ people to become comfortable with themselves. Building a strong Ally community is also something I feel is extremely important for the success of our goals as a community.
On the back: What will you bring to the group in terms of experience, ideas, etc.______>
I have a pretty comprehensive list of experience. Before joining the social LGBTQA group at my college, Harmony, (http://orgs.jmu.edu/harmony/) in 2000, I first joined a support group called Pride (http://www.jmu.edu/counselingctr/groups-spring98.html) in 1999. I started in the group as someone who was lesbian-identified and I had only just come out to myself. I did join the group again in 2002 as a trans-identified person. It was in the support group in 1999, that I became more confident in myself as a queer person. I soon joined Harmony and I became a panel speaker for Harmony for two and a half years. Through Harmony, I became involved with doing training sessions for the Safe Zones program (http://www.jmu.edu/safezones/).
I also did my own speaking engagements in classes ranging from survey courses of Womens' Studies, Human Sexuality, and Communications to very specific higher level courses such as Psychology of Women, Family Relations, and Social Deviance. Some of those I did by myself, and for others I was a member of a panel. I have continued to do these speaking engagements since leaving school. I have been invited back to JMU several times, as well as to Hollins University three times. The Roanoke Unitarian Universalist Church (http://www.uuroanoke.org/) invited me to be a panel member on a program for their youth group in 2002. I was invited by Mary Boenke to speak at the first ever Lynchburg Pride in 2002. In 2003, I spoke with Mary Boenke again on an authors' panel at the True Spirit Conference in Washington, DC Also in 2003, Mary Baldwin College invited me to speak at a program solely on Transgender issues.
In addition to speaking, I have also been published and written about several times. I wrote an article on transgender body image for YouthResource (http://www.youthresource.com/) in 2001. I became involved with YR through two different YR yahoo groups: YR Transguys and YR ROTC Information, which is a forum for queer ROTC cadets.
In 2001, I was in an article called "Altered Image," in a magazine called Frontiers.
I was published in the Instructor's Resource Manual for Human Sexuality: Meeting Your Basic Needs by Stephanie M. Chisolm, Ph.D. in 2002. It was a letter to faculty on how to handle a Transgender student.
An essay of mine is published in the second edition of Trans Forming Families, edited by Mary Boenke in 2002.
I have been the subject of several newspaper articles and other writings including Harrisonburg's Daily News-Record. I have been quoted in Hollins Colums and JMU's The Breeze. I am also the featured personal story on the E-Zine Accept This!!!! right now. (http://axco.worldbreak.com/whats_new.html)
A play script was written in 2003 by Jeffrey Solomon based on several interviews with FTM students (including me) and our experieces with on-campus residence. (http://www.housesonthemoon.org/shows.htm)
I have contributed to several research studies including one with my brother on sibling relations of trans people. Most recently, on April 17th, 2004 I was part of a panel of trans and intersex people for a study by VCU on Virginia health care for trans people.
Beyond speaking engagements and print, I have also created and been a part of a few film and photography projects. I made my own film called A Weekend for the Tranny Boys that I showed at my college in 2001 at Grafton-Stovall Theatre. I also showed it in Psychology of Women at JMU, and at the Roanoke Trans group. I was in a documentary on public bathrooms that was made at True Spirit in 2003, and currently I am an interviewee for a Masters Thesis film project called Gay Motherf*ckers by a student at the School of Visual Arts.
Obviously, it is important to me to get the word out. I feel there is no other way than through education to build understanding and eventual acceptance of our world. It is, after all, a big and diverse, yet singular world.
On the back: Explain your strengths and weaknesses._______>
I think one of my biggest strengths is my pride in being trans. I love it and I love to talk about it. I want people to understand, because when I came out it was almost impossible to find anyone who even knew what it was. That should not be the way things are.
However, this is also the cause of my weakness. I feel alone a lot of the time. The best thing about the LGBTQA community is that it is a community. It is what I have been missing, and I hope to find some community through OutRight even if they are not my peers, I will still feel connected and important to my place in the world. I found that community was not so friendly to me in college. I did not fit in with the straight people and the LGB people also did not understand, nor were they supportive. This, again, should not be the case. We need trans mentors for young trans people. I know I did not have one, but I know that through my website and writings, I have been the source of inspiration for many ftms. I know that my experience is not exclusive to transgender because I did live as a lesbian for two years, and I am now perceived to be a gay man. I know the social experience of the L, G, B and T. I know the A, too, because I had gay friends before I came out myself. I have lived it all. But that is not a weakness.
My weakness is the need for support, understanding, and respect. I think OutRight is about all of those things.
All images and content copyright © Joshua Bastian Cole 2007. All Rights Reserved.