A trans woman’s voice amidst a Trump world
1. Tell us about you, Amy? What do you value? What do you love?
I value a lot of different things! I will say I value being able to connect through stories and shared experiences. I guess in a lot of ways you can say I value being able to communicate with others, particularly about issues and and topics that had made you the person you are today. Aside from the human connection I seek in my life, I really love to be out by the water, particularly the ocean. There is something soothing and grounding about being able to see such a massive system contain life and be so much more complex than I could ever know. It makes my problems feel like they are going to be ok.
2. How has this election affected you?
Oof. Where to begin…well I would say that this election has definitely made me fearful. As an example, I have recently come out very publicly as a trans woman and I had this idea I had carried for many years that I was stuck to only being able to living out safely in large cities like Seattle. This troubled me because I was saddened by the thought that my own ability to live safely in my country was severely limited to this liberal islands that are few and far between.
During the fall I had started to believe that maybe I was wrong. Maybe the bubble wasn’t as small as I had previously imagined it to be. This election, however, has me thinking I was right to feel like my safety as an out trans woman of color is limited to just tiny pockets in the country. It feels deeply discouraging and even within large cities I feel like it would be unwise of me to travel even to a big city alone, and this really stinks, you know?
3. What was life like before the election?
So I had just come out publicly this year, so for me I was really feeling like my life had been shifting in a lot of ways. The safety of being able to walk down the street at night started disappearing as my body began to shift more and I started dressing more comfortably. I started noticing people staring a bit long at me on the bus in the morning, some looking as if they were insulted. It’s a really rough transition to suddenly get attention that feels like deliberate rejection. I started experiencing and meeting folks that felt similarly and I’ve concluded that even within Seattle it is hard to be trans/queer (or basically just not fitting into a normative binary). This election has only heightened all this and it’s been so much shittier to just get to work for fear that those negative stares would turn into something more. I’ve been lucky enough that this has not been the case for me, but I’ve known people that have been less fortunate since the election.
4. What forms of solidarity and support make you feel safer in general and what forms might now post-election?
I gathered a lot of support and solidarity from many different places. One of these places are groups on places like facebook or instagram. We share encouraging articles to each other that give names to our identities, share particular places where someone may have experienced some form of discrimination. We also have groups to trade/sell/buy furniture, clothing, or services from one another and I love that because it also means that you are helping each other in some way.
Other ways are support groups around Seattle that I have leaned on heavily at times. One group specifically that has been and continues to be a tremendous help for me and many other trans folks is the Ingersoll Gender center. They essentially provide spaces where folks know they wont be discriminated against for their gender or how they dress. It also gives us a space to be able to talk about trans issues together, share difficult experiences we may have had, and lift each other up. They have been blessings and I don’t know if I would be where I am today without them.
Also, books. I love reading books written by trans/POC authors. They can be poetry or their own written experiences and I’m absolutely on them. The first book that I found to be so comforting for me was “Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation” by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. The book basically gives a voice to trans narratives and it really helped me see that I wasn’t alone. The last book I read that I loved was “Whipping Girl” by Julia Serano.
Lastly, I have about 2 friends that I talk to on a daily basis. They mean the world to me and are also trans/queer/non-binary. We support each other on big to small issues and I love them <3
Honestly, I feel that my call to action has been to get the attention of the folks NOT in queer communities to speak up. I would feel safer seeing more cis folks listening to our issues. More white men coming and leaning in to hear what we have to say. More people that are not from queer communities attending protests and supporting their queer neighbors. This would make me feel safer, personally.
5. What forms make you feel less safe or even undermined?
When white or cis folks are unwilling to listen to how this election makes us feel. When they would rather tell us why we shouldn’t be complaining before they’ve even heard our stories. Basically when they use their voices to drown out ours. I feel then that because myself or my community is not heard that we dont matter. This is exactly the same issue, but it feels even more pressing for them to listen because I feel so many policies and attitudes in the United States is determined to change in a really bad way if our voices are not heard.
6. What are you looking forward to in the future?
I would say I’m looking forward to using this particular part of our history and my experiences to speak up. I’m seeing now the power in making my voice loud and my experiences known, because I’m not just speaking for myself anymore. That’s powerful to me because it is a way I can help my community. On a lighter note, I’m super excited for maxi dresses this next summer.
To reach Amy, use the contact form on this page. All messages sent through the contact form with subject line ‘AMY’ will be sent to and read only by her.
LOSING OUR RELIGION – a two part podcast interview
A former devout Christian, Zac Gandara became disillusioned with organized institutional Christianity. He found me through another former pastor in Los Angeles, and invited me on his show. I asked him a few questions today:
1. Who are you?
I am a former Pentecostal Mega-Church Pastor, now commune-living lover of sinners. I currently feel most comfortable being labeled a “Jesus-leaning anarchist.” I often describe my life as having left Christianity to attempt to follow the life and ways of Jesus. I am on a quest for normality. From experience, I am weary, cynical, and often untrusting of corporate structures, especially of those that lead them, of myself particularly.
I spent the first 30 years of my life with those who considered themselves righteous and now desire to spend the rest of my life with those who I once would have called sinners. Those I used to shun: Gays, Queers, Punks, Anarchists, Atheists, Transsexuals, and the rest of us that feel like rejects on this planet of misfit toys. For it’s from the misfits I most aptly see the characteristics of the one they called “The Christ.”
2. Why did you choose to do this podcast?
It seems this podcast chose me. I had multiple friends and acquaintances encourage me to write a book, or somehow tell my story. When a “Christian” friend said he would do the podcast with me, I felt the courage to do it. Shortly after realizing we wanted to take it two different directions, we parted ways, and Losing Our Religion is the bi-product of that separation.
I’m tired of the Christian audience; they’re like talking to a wall that seems to listen but is only interested in navel gazing, and resting inside their comfort zones. Leaving Christianity, I wanted to learn how to listen because I had spent more than three decades talking. The podcast is a reflection of my often let down idealism. My hope of humanity, one day getting along. My way of doing that is sitting down over drinks, listening to one another, and hugging it out.
3. What is one thing people don’t realize about institutional Christianity that they should?
I think many already realize it, but if they don’t…The American, Christian institution is a reflection of America, not of the Jesus they claim. It is a business, not a church. It is a social club, not a community. It’s looking for entertainment, not transformation.
The “church” after the time of Jesus was a persecuted band of idealistic misfits, trying to find solace in the comfort of one another, by living in the peace that their God was not mad at them, and didn’t need them to change to be accepted.
If you’re looking for the real “church”, it’s found outside of a building. It doesn’t need money to operate. It’s entirely inclusive, and you can come as you are, and stay as you are. It’s called the common bond of humanity, where black or white, gay or straight, we all bleed red, and enjoy the common suffering of what it means to be human together.
Recently, over a few ginger beers and a couple of hours Zac and I covered a wide range of subjects including:
• The sexy, sultry embrace of gods.
• The Legacy Project – Traveling to areas around the world which have experienced extreme trauma and exploring the need for dictators to bring order amidst chaos
• Deep talks of the pull and the captivity of institutional religion.
• Knowing yourself and being yourself.
• Punk, Metal, and Hardcore Culture.
• Music, Art and Comedy as communities where people dive into their pain and express it in unfiltered therapeutic ways.
• Humanity is in need of art, but will true artist ever be able to feed their families with the art they create?
• How do we keep the arts growing in our society for those that need and desire it?
• Living in the moment with others, and learning to live in their moments with them.
• The things we do to try and attach meaning to our lives, things which are completely unnecessary
• The pursuit of pleasure and chaos at the same time.
• The privatization of water and the depletion of it.
• Art giving life to culture and individuals.
Part One – Embrace Your Terror
Part Two – Embrace Your Human Experience
Which Side Podcast interview on activism, hardcore, veganism and more
This was a killer interview. Good energy, great questions, fun times all around.
The Which Side Podcast brings you people that are in the trenches trying to make a difference in this world. Created, produced, and hosted for activists of all kinds. Whether you’re a veteran animal rights activist or just exploring issues for the first time, Which Side is for you.
Episode 184: We talk with Greg Bennick; Vocalist of Trial and Between Earth & Sky, Professional speaker, Humanitarian activist, award-winning producer, and writer. We discuss Veganism, Technology, Hardcore, Music, Straight-Edge, Intersectionality and more.
Punk Rock Pariah episode just released
On Episode 32 of PRP, Seattle punk rocker / lawyer / and soccer fan DJ Grendel sits down with musician/activist/professional speaker Greg Bennick (aka me). From how we derive meaning out of every day life to the ways that we have been changed as a society by technology, we get completely existential.
New episode of the Right Action Podcast online now
Right Action Podcast is a consideration of where we, as passionate individuals, radicals, anti-authoritarians, activists, and anyone concerned with the pursuit towards total freedom can best apply ourselves on a daily basis. The creator, Scott Spitz, is a longtime activist and writer, but also known to dabble in long distance running, parenting, graphic design, and gardening. He is a total badass and also a cancer survivor. I took a few moments and interviewed him back, just three questions, about his show and why it exists:
1. WHY A PODCAST? AND WHY THIS ONE?
I’ve found that I consider personal and social issues only so intently as the current media I use allows. When I was writing for my zine, I would think about an issue as far as I could fit it onto a page or two. When I wrote a blog, I could think deeper and longer about an issue. When social media took over, I found I was restricting my thoughts to be concise and fit the parameters of however many characters we are allowed. Being concise can be an effective skill, but I found I was succumbing to the “dumbing down” effect to which our communication is being reduced. A podcast allows for a wide audience, but also a deep consideration of the issues facing us today, which we so desperately need. The more I try to align my actions with my values, the more I struggle against the forces of dominant culture that wants me to be a part of it’s continuation. This podcast is about trying to navigate those difficult areas of action that lead towards the ends I seek (anti-authoritarian, non-hierarchical, etc. in this case), but also not being relegated to the peanut gallery, symbolic gestures, or self-serving but relatively stagnant approaches. It’s about living within the belly of the beast and trying to find our way out.
2. WHAT LIFE EVENTS OR EXPERIENCES LED TO YOU WANTING TO PODCAST POLITICALLY / SOCIALLY?
I’ve always been a politically engaged person, but over the last 8 years (give or take) I found myself drifting away from political action, probably due in part to a discontent with the political communities I was once a part. I think I needed that time to just live outside organized political action. 3 years ago I was diagnosed with cancer, which oddly enough led to my deeper involvement with political expressions by way of the support I was given by my extended community. That aid (financial and physical) had such an effect on me and enabled me to very directly understand what a small group of people can do with minimal resources for those less fortunate. At every opportunity since, I’ve tried to reciprocate towards others, whether holding fundraisers, promoting worthy projects, contributing resources, etc. I’m now continuing to evaluate how to maximize the impact of our privilege and live in accordance with our values to bring about the ends we seek.
3. WHO ARE SOME DREAM INTERVIEWEES OF YOURS?
You know, I don’t feel like I’m disconnected from the people I admire and for whom I have the utmost respect, so it’s really just a matter of asking. I’d love to sit down with Chris from Propaghandi and I’m hoping to get an interview with the author Wendell Berry, but otherwise I can’t think of any “untouchables” I’d like to interview. I find the “common people” (to use a lacking phrase) have the most valuable perspective to offer. I suppose, however, if we are including the dead, Carl Sagan would probably give a stellar interview. And then there is Chief Tecumseh. Oh, Zach De La Rocha. I’d like to interview him. He’s probably relatively untouchable. I’ll see if I can remedy that. And yes, It’s not lost on me that everyone is a male…I’ll remedy that too.
target=”_blank”>LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE: http://www.rightactionpodcast.com
Find THE RIGHT ACTION PODCAST on Facebook here.
Activism and action: Mouth vs Mic podcast, Episode #35
The Mouth vs Mic podcast out of Vancouver BC brings together artists, poets, activists, emcees, singers and anyone else who utilizes words and voice to build community or increase social responsibility. I was honored to be on their latest episode talking about One Hundred For Haiti, straightedge and veganism, Between Earth & Sky and the upcoming TRIAL European tour, and so much more.
• DOWNLOAD DIRECTLY HERE!
• Stream/DL the show on iTunes right now -> http://tinyurl.com/mouth-vs-micGB
• Also available on Stitcher Radio and the podcast website -> www.mouthvsmic.com
New interview posted at Idioteq.com
Thanks to the fine folks at Idioteq.com, you now have yet another way to spend your time on the internet. Conducted over the course of a year, from multiple different countries, this interview was fully comprehensive. I thought it went really well, but lets be honest: if anyone reads the entire thing other than my mom I will be stunned.
THE INTERVIEW IS HERE
From a refugee camp to the streets of Seattle: Owen Karimanzira
Tonight I am in awe, about the ways that life unfolds and how seemingly divergent paths someday can intersect again.
In 2008, while with The Legacy Project in a broken refugee camp in South Africa, I met a 29-year-old man from Zimbabwe named Owen Karimanzira. Owen was one of many refugees we interviewed on camera over two days, all of whom had sought refuge in the camp from xenophobic violence taking place throughout the country. These were people who had survived violence in their own countries only to then be attacked in South Africa as well.
It is essential to understand the scope of the story that you download and read the following PDF before reading on. It is a letter that I wrote home that day from South Africa to all of my closest friends.
A letter home from Youngsfield Refugee camp, Cape Town, South Africa
To say that Owen was a tremendous inspiration would be an understatement. In the camp, there is a strange and unfortunate defense mechanism that develops in one’s mental process. You begin to tell yourself that these are refugees and you classify them as such in your mind, and thus make them “other”, essentially different than yourself. I think the defense works like this: if we fully allow ourselves to see refugees as people like us, exactly like or even better than ourselves based on their character, then the frustration and sadness about their condition would be too overwhelming, the sense of hopelessness too extreme. But in this camp, the stories from individuals never stopped. All defenses failed. We made our way from person to person, and we heard stories from people, people with names and faces and lives and loves (we will be posting all of those interviews within the next few months on thelegacyproject.com).
And then we met Owen, referenced in the letter. He was an intellect, a scientist, a peer…and not at all the person you would expect to find sitting on a wet cot, in the mud, under a leaky roof, in deplorable conditions, in a field in South Africa. All defenses fell away and what was left was the possibility, both for me and for those students and collaborators who had come on the trip, of real connection. We spoke to Owen about his life and dreams, what he had faced, what he dreamed of. And then after an incredible conversation, we left the camp, as observers are able to do. And Owen and I lost touch more or less, trading maybe one letter or email over the course of six years.
This last week out of nowhere, Owen wrote to me. He had made it out of the camp after the violence subsided, and had worked incredibly hard to continue to pursue his dream of being an AIDS scientist. He was going to be in Seattle for an AIDS conference and asked if I might meet him. I brought my camera and set it up in his hotel room to record our reunion after six and a half years.
This video is that conversation. I hope the excitement we each felt resonates clearly over these 25 minutes. And like I said, this is the first interview of many. The Legacy Project team has dozens to edit and post still. We waited too long for the resources to make the website we wanted to house these videos, but now is the hour. Updates on all the videos soon both here and on thelegacyproject.com
Israeli Activists Speak Out Against Israel
The year was 1982. I was walking across the playground of my elementary school in 4th grade. Another student named David and I had been in a special current events class and were discussing Israel and trying to understand the situation there. I remember asking him if he thought that the situation would end anytime soon, and we couldn’t figure out how it possibly could. Insert a thirty-year gap and here we are in 2014 with a new generation of activists having taken up the cause for actively opposing Israel’s ongoing military an economic force in Gaza and the West Bank. Still with no end in sight, the situation deserves as much attention as we can give it. I figured there were two options available to me: go there and talk to people directly, or find activists who could talk via the internet. These two were perfect and they saved me a plane ticket for the moment. This is an interview with two Israeli activists in Tel-Aviv who oppose Israel’s oppression in Gaza and the West Bank and who like other activists have been branded by opponents as traitors for their politics.
The interview with the Israeli activists is 43 minutes long.
LISTEN HERE (43 minutes, 12 seconds)
***Download the file to listen later:
DOWNLOAD. (38.3MB; 128kbps)
FIND OUT MORE:
• An excellent three part video series called “Palestine For Beginners” created by my friend Ed Mast about Israel / Palestine:
– Part One is HERE on the roots of the conflict.
– Part Two is HERE on the occupation, human rights, and US tax dollars.
– Part Three is HERE on issues, obstacles, and the future.
• The website for the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) mentioned in the interview is HERE.
• Reporting from various perspectives on Israel / Palestinian issues is on the media organization +972’s website HERE.
• The video about the village of Khuza’a north of the Gaza Strip, ruined almost completely, which is mentioned in the interview is HERE.
Greg interviewed on Life Mastery Radio
I didn’t know what to think when Life Mastery Radio said they wanted to do an interview. Was I worthy of being called a “life master”? Would I fit their demographic: an interview that started out with centering and deep meditation breathing might not be in line with me?
But as is true of most preconceived notions, they often fall quickly once reality sets in…and I never expected to cover topics in this interview like activism, punk rock and the intersection of it with passion, spoken word touring, creating the world in the image we want to see, and how media and power have made us mentally lazy and disempowered us. This was a great hour and I am thankful I got to be a part of it.
• LISTEN HERE on the show’s home page.
• DOWNLOAD it from the RSS feed.
• iTunes is here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-mastery-radio-todd-alan/id423583728
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