by Jessica Carreras
Erin Moers is a 49-year-old activist from Mount Pleasant. In her community, she works on issues of trans-phobia and HIV/AIDS.
1) You live in a rather rural area of Michigan. Does that make it harder to get involved in advocacy work?
Not so much harder to do the work, but sometimes the drive is a bit difficult after a long day. The largest obstacle to advocacy in a rural area is the area itself. There is a great deal of “trans-phobia” in less-populated places, and the general belief is that the issues I address are problems in big cities only. That simply is not true.
2) Tell me about the work you have done on trans issues.
Educating people is the only way to dispel these irrational claims, and that is where I spend the majority of my effort. Educating people who want to learn is the best method to achieve a goal. Teaching retailers and other businesses how to be more trans-accepting of their customers and employees is another effort.
Seminars at mid-Michigan colleges and universities are my favorite venues, although this is not without disappointments. One of our local educational institutions was attempting to create a class for their faculty on trans sensitivity. Regardless of my efforts, they were more interested in the various labels and definitions than the simple fact that trans people want to be treated with the same respect and worth as everyone else. We are not our labels, we are human beings.
3) What kind of work do you do for HIV/AIDS?
Sitting on several boards and an abundance of public speaking seem to be my most productive endeavors. I have been a member of the planning committee and a volunteer for the Michigan People Living with HIV/AIDS Conference, which is held annually. I am a board member with the Saginaw HIV Task Force, but most important of all, I’m an advocate and friend to people living with HIV.
4) Why is it important for you to stay actively involved in these issues?
These issues are important to me because they are part of my life. I am a transsexual woman who happens to be an 18-year survivor of HIV. They in no way define me; I am Erin, who is infinitely more complex than the sum of any “issues.”
They are also important because of the grossly incorrect assumptions attached to either.
People seem to have a lot of misconceptions about trans folk. For example, I was listening to the radio in my car and they were discussing the issues of the Michigan secretary of state campaign when a woman called in and said, “Those transgender people want to use the women’s bathroom to look at me and my daughters.” I live in a quite feminine body of my own, why would I need to look at theirs? The answer is, I don’t! Conversely, transmen use the men’s room, is there an issue there as well? This is just an example of the unjustified fears of some people.
In respect to HIV, it is not a gay disease. Nor is it a disease that affects only the poor. HIV is not confined to class, social status, minorities, one’s sexual orientation, or gender. Straight, rich people and poor alike have an equal stake in ending this epidemic.
There is no logic, nor truth in bigotry.
5) How do you stay connected to the LGBT community?
I am part of this community, and most of my friends are part of the community. I try to participate with as many groups as I can – Perceptions Saginaw Valley, PFLAG, GSAs, etc. I work with them, through them and for them to educate them and myself, as well as society as a whole and all who are willing to set aside the foolishness that they have been told and hear the truth. In this way I am always connected to the community.
To learn more and get involved in trans issues, visit http://www.transgendermichigan.com.