Kris at the LGBT Center of Raleigh's Welcome Desk
Kris (they/ them) is a regular volunteer at the LGBT Center of Raleigh and a leader in the Trans Initiative program. Kris has had quite the journey to get to where they are, and now that they are living their truth, they are sharing the love.
Kris is from Zebulon, NC – a very conservative town in the easternmost part of Wake County. Kris describes it as “a whole different world.” Raised by their homophobic and transphobic parents, Kris dealt with mental health issues because of their identity. An idea they explored primarily online until a potential suicide attempt. This led to Kris being admitted to Holly Hill Hospital for addiction treatment and suicide prevention. While there, Kris’ therapist insisted they come out as transgender to their parents. While Kris’ parents were not accepting or supportive, it was safe for Kris to go home. And the final suggestion made by the therapist before Kris left was to visit the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
Once Kris settled back in at home and secured a job, they took the therapist’s suggestion and visited the LGBT Center. Kris says “nervous was an understatement” for their first visit. The visit was on First Friday in February 2016, and Kris met Kellie Burris, who runs the Women’s Initiative program at the Center. Kellie invited Kris to their upcoming event, and Kris accepted, continuing to participate in every upcoming Women’s Initiative event, despite not identifying as female.
Over time, Kris built the courage to attend a Trans Initiative meeting, and they describe the experience as surreal. Kris spent their life trapped in a small town, raised by a conservative family, and the majority of Kris’ Trans connections and friends were made online. But everything was different at that first meeting. Kris was surrounded by people like them. Kris was surrounded by love and support, and it wasn’t long until Kris started calling them family.
Kris felt that their mental health was improving with each visit to the Center. So Kris continued to visit at least once a week and has met many of their best friends here. On November 8, 2016, Election Day, Kris moved out of their small town prison and into a place in Raleigh. Kris says they never would have been able to do this alone. Kris attended the Election Day viewing party at the Center, and although it was a devastating night for the country and especially our community, Kris was able to seek comfort in their newfound family.
In December 2016, Kris attended a volunteer orientation session at the Center, and they have since logged over 150 volunteer hours. Kris continues to be involved in the Trans Initiative and is now a part of their leadership team. Kris runs the monthly Gender Social at the Center, they occasionally run the Gender Discussion Group, they represented the Trans Initiative at Out! Raleigh, and represented the LGBT Center at Fort Bragg’s first annual Pride Ceremony.
Kris has quickly transitioned from a nervous first time visitor to an amazing volunteer and leader. Kris says they are constantly learning and growing because of the Center and enjoys to see others grow too. They say “there is nothing like meeting a Trans person at the Center who hasn’t come out yet and is at their first support group meeting, and comparing where they are months later. Seeing them present as their true selves and following their journey as they come out to friends and family, and being there for them every step of the way.”
There is something for everyone at the Center, and the experience is what you make of it. Kris has made it home.
We all have a story.
This is hers…
Lisa is a regular Tuesday morning volunteer at the Center. She shares the time with another Tuesday morning regular. The two make a great volunteer duo, and their commitment to the Center is proven. But the two have not always worked together. Lisa was drawn to the Center through a whirlwind of events. Events that unfolded in the shameful aftermath of HB2, North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill.”
Lisa describes herself as a pleaser, one not likely to protest, but for Lisa, there was a breaking point. A point where she would choose to stand up and use her voice. A voice that would get her arrested. Following HB2, Lisa decided she would participate in Moral Monday. And with a clear head and a heavy heart, Lisa decided she was comfortable taking this all the way to the finish line. She decided that she would get arrested.
For someone who is a self-declared pleaser, it is wild to hear of a decision to protest, especially in a thought-out plan that ends in arrest. But fueled with purpose, she marched on. She describes the experience as a sort of coming out. Lisa has always been an ally to the LGBTQ community, but she said she felt as though she had been a closeted ally. She wanted to come out as an ally in a big way. She felt that if someone like her, a pleaser in a position of privilege, was willing to go this far for a cause, she might be able to open some eyes.
Lisa was arrested that day. And she found her way to the LGBT Center of Raleigh by way of sentenced community service time. She wanted to use that time to further serve the LGBTQ community, and she wanted to help in a meaningful way. Lisa is big on human interaction, and enjoys both the foot traffic through the Center and the digital traffic we get over the phone. She decided to continue volunteering, well past her requirement, because this is something she believes in. And at the Center, she can mix purpose with passion.
So, for everyone who thinks their voice does not matter, remember Lisa. Remember how a self-declared pleaser, who never considered protesting, got arrested with purpose. And let that purpose push her to continue on, protesting through volunteering.
This past weekend the LGBT Center of Raleigh in conjunction with many other youth serving organizations across North Carolina came together and held our annual ASPYRE Youth Camp. ASPYRE stands for a ‘A Safer Place for Youth to Reach Excellence”… and reach excellence we did!
Tucked away at a quiet YMCA Camp in Greensboro, our team of youth, youth counselors, and adult administrators engaged in a three day empowerment camp: with the explicit goal of bettering the lives of LGBTQ Youth across North Carolina. Our group from OUTright Youth of Catawba Valley was especially eager to learn how to form and maintain GSA’s in their school systems!
Coming from a Youth Development background, I took more pride in the fact that these brilliant young minds gravitated towards the character building exercises and networking than the bland policy and law conversations (that admittedly, I wrote. You could see the wave of drowsy faces give up the fourth time I used the term “incrementalism”).
But for me, that was the one thing that I took from this camp:
As much as we’ve progressed in the past decade (or four), my kids still do not have the types of social and emotional outlets that other youth utilize.
Now, for me… this was not a huge shock to my system. I know the risk factors, the data… hell, I went through it myself as a kid. But there was something different about being in a room full of future leaders and thinking, “how am I going to make sure each one of my kids has an opportunity to succeed?” Let it be known that this was also my first foray into pseudo-parenthood since we all became so close… and the fact that they labeled Nick and myself the “crazy Uncles”.
So that got me thinking. What IS empowerment? What are we REALLY doing to engage our youth? Luckily, we had many guest speakers… including Equality North Carolina’s Jen Jones, Ben Church, and Chris Speer. They took the conversation from poignant to empowering; reminding each and every one of our kids that policy is only temporary as long as there are young, dedicated voices who will carry the fight on. The youth squealed with delight when they were asked to discuss the presentation in their small groups – they shared their own experiences, not only in their schools and homes, but through the activities they are already doing! Two of our youth were phone bankers for Amendment 1! One powerful young lady is organizing the “Day of Silence” for their entire school and is working with two local Charlotte organizations!
And that’s when it came to me: empowerment, in this context – through this camp, was no more than networking. My kids (yes, I’ve now claimed them) were energizing themselves off of EACH OTHER. Traditional definitions of ‘empowerment’ include “having and using knowledge” and other resources… and of course they were being armed with the most up to date knowledge available.
But do I think for one minute that those resources were the #1 reason for attendance? No.
These amazing youth seized an amazing opportunity to meet and converse with peers from all over the state… and in many cases, shared personal experiences in knowledge through a lens not available to us ‘old’ people. I saw growth. I saw change. I saw the future… and I’m excited to see what they will accomplish!!!
Also, I am genuinely humbled by the love and compassion of all of our Camp donors and volunteers who made this possible – namely: Alan King and Ben Buie, Nick Buchser, Nancy Brady, MaryAnn Dore, Whitney Kelbaugh, Todd Forman, Greg Hunt and Don Laonipon, Jeff and Kathy Marsocci, Ed Smith, Steve Nelson, and David Oh. Without you all, this camp would have not been possible. Thank you.
SO- let’s all get ready for ASPYRE 2014! I know I can’t wait.
The DSM-5 was released this past Saturday and for gender non-conforming individuals everywhere it is an historic moment. In this revision “Gender Identity Disorder” has been reclassified to what most of us have known for years as “Gender Dysphoria,” or a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.
At this point, even if you don’t have a clue, say “wow!”
This classification is several years in the making and has been overlooked in the last two DSM manuals. It may not sound all that spectacular, but this forever changes the societal landscape for transgender individuals. No longer being classified as a “mental disorder” or, in other words a sickness of the mind, opens the floodgates to many things for transgender individuals. For example, opponents of transgender civil and medical rights have often used the previous disorder classification in the fight for equal access to restrooms, adoption, and employment for transgender individuals. No longer can they use this argument. No longer can they use the DSM as a weapon against a trans-person’s right to pee, be a parent, or get a job.
On the other side of the coin, this momentous change waylays what was a major fear over the disorder declassification from within the gender non-conforming community. Many within the transitioning portion of the community have argued to maintain this classification in fear that medical treatment, insurance coverage, and prescriptions would be denied to those seeking transition. However this is not the case as the APA also released new health guidelines for transgender patients as well as a position statement affirming transgender care and civil rights. Both documents align with a new standard for respecting trans people in the medical community.
If you said wow before, say “holy friggin awesome Batman!”
So not only, are we not classified as mentally diseased, but we get to keep our standards of care and coverage for transition related healthcare! Pretty sweet if you ask me.
Put this along side the fact that prisoners are getting state-covered SRS, it is only a matter of time before all insurance companies will be required to have transition-related healthcare covered as a standard.
Mark one up for the underdogs.
Rebecca Chapin serves on the Board of Directors and also facilitates the Transgender Initiative for the LGBT Center of Raleigh. Her partner, Kim, also volunteers regularly at the Center and they reside in Raleigh, NC.