Dec. 4, 2016
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Alex De Vore

3 Questions

with Jess Clark

August 31, 2016, 12:00 am

On one hand, it’s a much better time to be a transgender or gender non-conforming person than in previous eras of human history, but there is still much violence, a serious ways to go and a lot to learn when it comes to being an ally or even a decent person. Just ask Jess Clark, a trans activist and education and prevention manager for Solace Crisis Treatment Center, who facilitates the upcoming workshop, Trangender 101: Beyond Blue and Pink (5:30 pm, Tuesday Sept. 6. Free. Dragonstone Studios, 313 Camino Alire, 992-8833). Clark provides an open and safe space for businesses, nonprofits and/or private citizens to educate themselves on the matter and helps to cultivate understanding and acceptance. What’s cooler than that? (Alex De Vore)

Give us an idea of what the class covers.
Right now we’re coming against a huge onslaught of people who are actively working against trans rights. Working against rigid gender norms is a really hard thing. And I think people who want to hang on to those norms really tightly [do so] because they get some kind of meaning in their lives from those norms, and trans people are the easiest targets. We started doing these presentations as a larger part of our violence prevention strategy; it covers basic terminology, how to be act most respectfully as a human being, that gender expression and gender identity are not the same thing.

We always hear about how Santa Fe is a safe and accepting place. Is this true in your experience?
We are really lucky in Santa Fe. I feel lucky to have come out and started transitioning here. For the most part I’ve had really positive relations and lovely people around me. Like any marginalized group, we’ll explain our existence in whatever way brings access to care, and this tends to either make us heroic or pitiable, and when you’re heroic or pitiable, there’s almost no room for the everyday brilliance in between.

How does one be a good ally?
Think of the term “ally” as a verb and constantly engage, because it’s never over. Some people use the label as a way to not be accountable to whatever marginalized community. Acting as an ally is to understand that you can have really good intentions, but your actions are more important. What works for me may not be the kind of access another person needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. My best takeaway is that if you’re in the bathroom with someone and you think they’re in the wrong bathroom, unless they’re verbally or physically assaulting someone, don’t worry about it. They know where they are.


 

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