Transgender Day of Remembrance

When it comes to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) community, the one least understood, and therefore the most marginalized, are definitely trans folk. Today (Nov. 20th) is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to honor all these we’ve lost to anti-trans violence. Though I’ve known about this day for years, it is now growing with increased popularity due to the large amounts of trans activism that is getting attention from the media.

Here is a story I’d like to share about my very first Transgender Day of Remembrance:

I remember being a young activist, the very first one to really do any LGBTQ+ activism work at my high school. I was nervous and anxious, and a tad scared at any backlash I would get (thankfully, there really wasn’t any). But I was in uncharted territory. I did everything by the holy GSA manual, as it had helped me so much before. But I came across a day I wasn’t too familiar with. A day I didn’t quite have any connections too.

I remember kinda just stumbling upon Transgender Day of Remembrance. It was a day that wasn’t celebrated widely, at least where I was from. Coming Out Day was a huge success, as was The Day of Silence earlier in the year. I didn’t know anyone who was trans, and I didn’t know how to go about a remembrance in a respectful way. Mostly, I felt disconnected and confused, but I did what the manual suggested, and eventually settled on a poster that would include important information and resources for trans people, and that would also list the names of trans people we had lost that year.

As I wrote the names, they seemed foreign to me. People I had never met, people I didn’t really know, but nonetheless taken from my community, lost for who they were. I knew it was still important, but I had doubts. Would anybody benefit from this? Would it even have an impact?

It was the day before TDOR. I stayed after school to hang up one of the posters in the glass display case (because I didn’t want it torn down) on the second floor of the main classroom building. The halls were mostly empty, and I didn’t notice anyone standing behind me as I pinned the poster.

As I turned around, I was taken back, as a teacher stood there reading the names I had written so neatly on this black poster. He seemed older, late forties, and was a teacher I never had nor had seen around school before. He was silent for a moment, and I could see him slowly mouthing each name. Other than his moving lips, his face remained emotionless and inexpressive; it was completely unreadable. I had no idea what to say, and I stood there in silence.

“What’s this for?” he asked breaking the silence. The question was asked in a straightforward manner, not rude or particularly inquisitive (as all the information was on the poster and I knew he was asking this more as way to engage me in conversation, rather than seek answers).

“It’s for Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual day to honor all the people we lost to trans violence.” I replied.

“And these names?” he asked, more curiously this time, pointing to the dozen or so names that were listed on the side.

“They’re every transgender person we lost this year.” I stated. The hall returned back to silence. The teacher again appeared emotionless. Was he confused? Was he angry now? I started to stare at the names myself, feeling ashamed and confused, for a reason I couldn’t quite figure out or understand.

I started to stutter. “I know it’s not many names, I know more people die from so many other things every year and that it’s really not that important…”

He cut me off quickly “It doesn’t matter how many names. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one name. This matters. This is important.” he said, as he pointed at the poster.

I felt even more ashamed now. I realized I had doubted myself, and even more so the LGBTQ+ community, to try to simplify and justify the deaths of the minority to win over some person I never met. I wanted this to be impactful and important and in the end I learned it impacted me more than I ever thought it would.

And just like that, the teacher left.

I stood there, filled with mixed emotion. I was the trailblazer, the activist, I screamed in support with my gay brothers and sisters, but doubted the relevance of trans folk at the same time. I felt ashamed, yet grateful to be reminded that ALL lives matter, ALL lives are important. One name on that poster, and even the names that will never be listed, is one too many. One death is too much. Every since that day, and on every TDOR I look back on that encounter with the teacher who taught me more than an approved curriculum, but a life lesson that I still hold dear to my heart. You’ve encouraged and inspired me. Thank you.

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If you are personally not familiar with a trans lifestyle, or have any questions, you can always reach out online and find the answers you need. Or If you need specific places to find resource or information, whether online or more locally, feel free to contact me as well.

Suicide Awareness & Prevention Event

Last Wednesday (Nov. 12th), I attended a Suicide Awareness & Prevention event hosted by Peer Project (if you’re unfamiliar with who they are or what they exactly do, definitely check them out as they provide so many invaluable resources).

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I attended in conjunction with Love Evolution, the leading LGBTQ+ organization at CSU Stanislaus. I was asked a few weeks ago if Love Evolution would like to table at the event and have information about how suicide effects the LGBTQ+ community, and of course I couldn’t pass up this amazing opportunity to shed some light on such a grim issue that is often swept under the rug and not discussed in the open. Acknowledging that suicide rates, whether in the LGBTQ+ population or in general, are way too high is one of the first step to combating such a misunderstood and stigmatized act.

The event wasn’t clearly tailored to the LGBTQ+ community though, and included a plethora of information that was relevant for all people, especially those effected by mental illnesses, and how to combat the stigma surrounded by such an often silent affliction.

To make the event even more impactful, they had a guest speaker, Ken Baldwin (as indicated on the flyer), who attempted to commit suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge back in 1985. To hear such a personal account from someone who was in such a dark place, yet managed to live and share his story was very touching and eye-opening. For me personally, it helped break down the stigma of mental illness, and especially suicide, and helped me better understand who it effects. Mental illness is just like any other illness, and can be managed, treated, or even prevented. Knowing the signs and how to get help can make all the difference.

Below are some photos I took of the event, mainly the tri-fold we were asked to make.

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After the event was QPR training, hosted by Jennifer Johnson, a professor in the Masters of Social Work program. Even though this was the shortest part of the night, I feel that it was the most beneficial and informative, and definitely gave me some new direction on how to handle at risk scenarios. it also made me consider the MSW program here at CSU Stanislaus! But more on that later…

Even though many people do not like to talk about suicide, or death in general, I think talking about it takes away some of the stigma. It’s events like these that make me proud to major in a social science, and remind me that helping others is definitely a passion of mine.

Warriors Up at Night!

Every year, Code Red Entertainment (in affiliation with ASI/USU) puts on an awesome event called Warriors Up at Night. And while not technically “all” night, it does go from 7pm to midnight, and there is always plenty of fun and activities to fill up those five hours. Here is the flyer for the event!

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I’m going to try to make it tonight (who can pass up free food and drinks?). Plus, it’s a free event with games, music, and friends! Definitely looking forward to this one!

October!

October is my favorite month by far!

Between the colors (orange is my favorite color, naturally), the weather (cool days and cooler nights), and the spookiness that comes with Halloween, I feel right at home in these 31 days.

Halloween, more than any of the other reasons I listed, is why October ranks so high for me. It’s such a fun holiday that accompanies the best life has to offer: costumes & makeup, candy, friends, and horror, just to name a few. For the last few years (more like 8 years really…) I’ve donned tattered, bloodstained clothes and caked my face with makeup and blood to wander the world as a zombie, but I think I’m going to mix it up a bit this year (but keep the creepiness factor of course!). You’ll have to check back in to see what I’ve conjured up this year. I’ll be sure to include some photos!

The next few days leading up to Halloween are going to be jam-packed with festive activities, including carving some pumpkins I picked up last week, binge watching a few horror movies, making cookies, and visiting a few haunted houses in the area.

I’m excited to kick off my Halloween week by revisiting a classic Halloween movie, and one I’ve watched every year in October. I’ll just include one of my favorite clips from the movie below! It’s also a great song!

What are some of your favorite Halloween traditions? What are your favorite Halloween movies, stories, costumes, etc.? If you know of any good local events, let me know as well!

Be sure to keep up with me as I go on this week-long Halloween adventure! A lot of pictures will be coming soon! Time to make the most of it!

Time Management

Consider this post ironic

Consider this post…past due. I’ve skipped on posting a few blogs (sorry!). It’s just that there hasn’t been too much going on that’s super exciting. That isn’t an excuse not to blog, so I thought to myself why not just write about what has been going on in my life: classes, homework, tests. The usual things every college student must face.

You’d think by now I’d have this time management thing all worked out, but as always one class or another likes to test me (and I don’t just mean exams). This semester in particular has been a trial of my time management skills, something that has definitely not been a particularly strong trait of mine. With two online classes this semester, I’ve definitely had to adjust to being more personally responsible, and it’s taught me a thing or two on what to do, and what not to do.

What to do (that’s worked for me anyway):

- Have an agenda, schedule, or calendar handy, and use it!
- Make lists. Like this one. Stick to it!
- You don’t have to do all the work in one sitting (even if it is due the very next day). Small, manageable chunks work just as well.
- Take breaks. Do something you enjoy (like watch an episode of OITNB). When you take a break, work twice as long as the break you took.
- Plan ahead. This has been the biggest one for me so far. I’ve been trying to do assignments and work a few days BEFORE they’re due, and it really takes the pressure off.
- Don’t slack. Just do it.

I think the last one sums it up nicely. When it comes down to it, simply do it. I think as long as the work gets done, it’s better than not doing any work at all. With that being said, put effort, time, and energy into everything that you do, and you’ll see improved results.

Other than that, I’m waiting for the fall weather to roll on in. Even though my calendar says it’s been fall for over a week already, I’m not buying it! Though I did see a pumpkin patch and I couldn’t help but get a little giddy over all the orange!

Pumpkin patch at Casa de Fruta!

Pumpkin patch at Casa de Fruta!

Now that it’s almost my favorite month and holiday, the weather better catch up!

The Signal

Sometimes all you need is a signal.

Er, or rather The Signal (which is our school newspaper, for those unfamiliar with the campus).

While I (admittedly) don’t read every issue, I do like to keep up-to-date on campus events and happenings, and the school newspaper is the perfect way to do so.

With the huge move towards online media, The Signal has done an excellent job at engaging students and keeping up with the trends, as well as continuing editions in print. I tend to be very much on the go, so I personally like to grab a print copy between classes or work, and read what I can when I can.

The Signal is easily organized into relevant categories, such as News, Opinion pieces, or even Sports. There is always something that will grab your attention, and a few articles always surprise me with the depth and thoughtfulness that went into them (especially the opinion pieces, my favorite section!).

Next time you pass one of those gray newspaper displays located next to or in pretty much every major building on campus, don’t forget to grab a copy! Or if online media is more of your thing, you can always read here.

Grab a copy and let me know what you think!

The Beginning of the End

Yes, the rumors are true.

I’m (finally) graduating in Spring!

Even though it’s been a tad longer than the “four year average”, it’s still caught me by surprise. Knowing that grad school applications are due in just a few short months, and even the application for graduation due in a few short weeks have sort of put everything into perspective. How this could (and should!) be my last fall in the central valley, and even California is kind of mind-boggling.

It’s definitely exciting, and sometimes sad. I’ve been in California my whole life, and part of me really wants to leave. I want cooler weather, I want a different atmosphere and different life. And even though some of that is contributed to where you live, a lot comes from within, regardless of borders and states. A happier and more fulfilling life is not defined by your town or district. You define it.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to explore the world a little more. I currently have a list of a bajillion 12-15 grad schools, ranging from the upper-west coast (Oregon and Washington) and some New England area, but I really need to trim that down to just a couple. The more direct focus I put on a few exceptional applications, the better chance I’ll have to get into a school I really want. I’m really leaning towards one or two, but I have to put a lot more thought into it…

Between 17 units this semester, grad apps, and maybe the GRE, I have a pretty packed and eventful semester ahead! Let me know what you’re most excited and nervous or anxious for in this upcoming semester!

Summer Recap!

So….I’ve been slacking. Obviously. Oy. Sorry. Here’s my summer recap before we all jump into the fun that is Fall Semester!

There wasn’t much to update all of you on as far as my Sac internship goes. It went by incredibly quick. With not too many exciting things. Just working 9 to 5 everyday, Monday through Friday. Then it kinda just…ended. Just like that. Now I’m back in Turlock. Back at home with my dog and my friends and my regular civilian non-political life. But I will say I truly did enjoy the experience in Sacramento and the State Capital. I met some really amazing people that I know I will keep in touch with for future references (letters of rec., anyone?). And it was nice to spend the summer doing something out of the ordinary, even if it was just an hour and a half away.

But I did meet some cool people, like GEORGE TAKEI.

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So yeah. That was cool. It was a huge highlight of my internship because he’s such a champion of LGBT rights and also a big advocate for geekiness, science, and just all around cool things. Reminds me of well, me. It’s always great to meet role models. And he was so nice in person. Loved it!

Also Sacramento was a fun, busy city. With it being bigger than Turlock, it naturally provided more night life, though at times I found myself missing the slower pace of the town I’ve called home for so many years. I went to an Ingrid Michaelson concert (who happens to be a favorite artist of mine) and I really enjoyed it. Though going to a concert alone is probably not something I’d do again. I like to share amazing experiences with others, and going to a concert alone felt kinda….well, lonely. But it was enjoyable nonetheless.

But beyond the celebrity encounters, I learned a lot about how the California political system works from the inside. It’s fun and always interesting work. Slow at times, and crazy busy at others. You never really know how it’s going to be. I’ve definitely gained a lot more respect for the political system. And while it’s not exactly my cup of tea, it is something I’ll consider in the future as a career.

As of now, the summer is winding down. Classes start tomorrow, and I could not be more excited. I am looking forward to pretty much all my classes, as I’m getting so close to graduating and my schedule is jam-packed full of everything I want to take, not necessarily need to take (though this time they are one in the same).

I am already looking into graduate schools. I’m pretty sure I want to continue on to get my Masters or Doctorate, though some part of me just wants to jump right into a full time job. It really doesn’t hurt to look into both, though a lot of grad school applications are due in December, so I have to put some serious thought into this. The research continues…

As for now, thanks for reading (as always!) and ready or not, the Fall Semester is here! I’m looking forward to cool weather and fun holidays, but like everything else in life, it is what you make it. So lets all make it count!

- Jon

First week in Sac!

Wow, it’s already Friday! It’s been a busy and eventful week for me, and I know that it will only get busier as time goes on!

Officially, I’m interning in Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s office, who represents Agoura Hills, Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and much of West Los Angeles, Hancock Park and Hollywood. I’m mostly taking calls and answering emails, though I have worked on a few bills and sat in a few committee meetings. It’s been really interesting seeing how the California Legislative process works, and I’m beginning to fully grasp how bills are researched, studied, and brought forth to be considered law.

Seeing as how I’m not a Political Science major (and the other two fellows who are working with Equality California are) this experience is not exactly in my comfort zone or area of expertise, but it’s given me insight into lobbying, legislation, and office experience that I believe will prove invaluable in the future. I’m really excited for the meetings I have planned through Equality California.

Already, I’ve had lunch with the incoming Executive Director of Equality California, and it was great to hear what the organization plans on doing for the future in terms of LGBT lobbying and rights. Also, I attended an LGBT Caucus lunch, where I had a chance to meet Senator Mark Leno who sits on the caucus and advocates for LGBT rights. Needless to say, this opportunity is already proving to be invaluable, and I greatly look forward to the upcoming week!

I promise to post some pictures in my upcoming blogs, so make sure you check those out! Thanks so much for keeping up with me on this journey!

End of the semester and summer plans!

I know technically it’s been the end of the Spring semester for awhile now, but it’s never too late to post an update!

This semester has been my best as far as grades are concerned, as I got straight A’s (well, one A-) so I got as close as I could to a 4.0! I am so proud of all the hard work I put into my courses and it just goes to show that studying, motivation and determination really do pay off in the end!  But more than anything, it bumps my GPA up a little to help make me more competitive for grad school a little later down the road.

This blog post is more of an update on what I will be doing this summer. A few weeks ago I was honored to be selected as an intern in Sacramento from June 16th – July 11th, so about one month. I will be interning through Equality California and will be working with state legislators and policy makers in the state capitol! This is an exciting opportunity for exactly what I want to do in the future, and will give me just the experience I need for my future career. I am currently looking for a temporary place to stay for the month, so I’m busy with that and getting last minute details together. I will definitely keep everyone updated over the summer with pictures and everything else of the state capitol and my internship, so make sure to stay tuned for all my upcoming blogs!