Workshop Teaches Life Skills, Empowers Trans Youth

Kate Opalewski
By | 2016-10-06T09:00:00-04:00 October 6th, 2016|Michigan, News|

Azriel Apap, Hunter Keith, Jayson Olson, and Nolan Pokier attended the first annual Stand with Trans Youth Empowerment Workshop in 2015 at Affirmations in Ferndale.

Ferndale – What does it mean to be heroic? Founder of Stand with Trans Roz Gould Keith said, “It’s about taking care of oneself, advocating for what you need, standing up to adversity, and living authentically.”
It’s with that in mind the theme “Be Your Own Hero” was selected for the second annual Stand with Trans Youth Empowerment Workshop on Oct. 16 for trans youth ages 12-24.
Building upon the success of last year’s inaugural event, the one-day workshop at Affirmations in Ferndale offers multiple sessions facilitated by trans advocates and LGBTQ-allied community leaders.
“This is really special and I’m so happy to be able to do this,” Keith said about the numerous topics trans youth will have the opportunity to discuss with some “amazing people who are role models for the kids.”
This includes Brayden Asher Misiolek, a trans man and co-founder of Transcend the Binary in Ferndale. He will help trans youth learn coping skills and techniques to work through anxiety, tough situations and moments of panic. Kelly Darke, the mother of a trans son and a certified art therapist at the Mindful Art Center in Livonia, will teach art therapy which can be relaxing and calming.
Diane Schultz – a trans woman, retired police officer and private investigator – will join Hannah Hartley – a trans woman and president of the Gender Identity Network Alliance in Ferndale – to teach vocal feminization tips to better align trans youth with their identity and build self-confidence.
“Youth think differently than most adults,” said Dani Woods, LGBT liaison officer for the Detroit Police Department, who will help trans youth learn how to interact with law enforcement, if and when needed.
Regardless of the circumstance, she said, “The police are starting to understand and learn LGBT culture and that’s primarily because our chief is supportive and allows me to train the department in how to interact with the LGBT community. It’s going to take time because of the negative stigma and everybody has their guard up, but law enforcement is trying.”
A majority of Woods’ training revolves around respect, which she said “goes both ways. It is important for us and for trans youth to address situations with open minds. We can’t expect someone to respect us if we don’t respect them.”
For trans youth that are interested in learning how to interview like a professional, Lilianna Reyes, a trans woman and program services director at Affirmations, will explain what to wear, how to fill out a job application, and discuss common LGBTQ issues in the workplace. Additional sessions include spoken word poetry, music and mad libs, verbal self-defense, pet therapy, and improv and method acting.
Stand with Trans, a nonprofit organization, was designed to provide these kinds of resources and tools needed by trans youth so they will be empowered, supported and validated as they transition to their authentic life. Keith, of Farmington, is also the creator of Ally Moms and the blog Call Him Hunter, about her life as the mom of a transgender teen.
“It’s a pretty amazing event,” Keith said. “I watched them come in last year to Affirmations scared and worried, and in a very short time, they were talking, looking at the program and classes, and deciding what to do.”
While the trans youth are able to choose from one of three sessions in each of the four time slots offered, the “Legal Rights for Trans Individuals” session is scheduled for all of them to attend as 80 percent of trans youth feel unsafe in school and 58 percent report verbal harassment.
“I’m hoping that my presentation will be more of a dialogue with the students, where they can discuss challenges and problems that they have encountered at school and then I can talk about the different laws and remedies that might be implicated,” said ACLU LGBT Staff Attorney Jay Kaplan.
When asked if he connects with trans youth differently than adults to help them understand their legal rights, Kaplan said, “I don’t think I necessarily address young people differently than adults in presentations. When I try to explain the law, I try to take out the legalese and put it in terms that we can understand in our every day lives. I think when you give a presentation, no matter your audience, if you show respect and are able to understand where they are coming from, you will be able to convey your message.”
Not just trans youth are encouraged to join their peers for an incredible day of community, friendship and learning. Their parents or guardians are also invited to attend an afternoon session titled “I Hope I’m Doing This Right: Parenting Trans Youth,” presented by Sara Wiener, LMSW, Director of Mental Health Services, Child & Adolescent Gender Services, Mott Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
“In this session, we’ll talk about the challenges and joys of raising a transgender or gender non-conforming child. Every parent I have ever met wants one thing: for their child to be happy and healthy. But when a child says their gender is different from the sex they were assigned at birth, parents experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings. All of these thoughts and feelings are normal, but parents struggle with them nonetheless. In my session, it’s my hope we will co-create a setting where parents can be real with themselves and each other, as we all share a common goal – healthy, happy kids.”
This validates research which shows that trans youth with supportive parents report they feel more satisfied in life, have a higher self-esteem, and are less likely to attempt suicide.
“I haven’t had anyone say, ‘I wouldn’t support this.’ Everyone has been incredibly positive,” Keith said about the impressive list of participating sponsors including GM PLUS (People Like Us), Be Well Medical Center, KnowResolve, Ruth Ellis Center, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, Temple Israel, Focal Point, Pepper Hamilton Attorneys at Law, the Anti-Defamation League, Domino’s Pizza, Nakisher Orthodontics, Bernard Wealth Management, Joe Kort and Associates, Between The Lines, Mind Seed Creative, Focus Media, Wentworth Associates, Inclusive Justice and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“These businesses and organizations that are sponsoring us have already known how important this is or they’re providing a service that is relevant to the community or they are open and affirming, and this is their way to publicly show support,” Keith said, adding that Stand with Trans applied for a product grant with the Arbonne Charitable Foundation and received giveaway bags valued around $200. Keith said the workshop has room for 70-75 trans youth (50 percent more than last year) and there are about 20 spaces left to fill.
For more information or to register for the event, visit the Stand with Trans website.

Parents of Transgender Individuals Support Groups

West Bloomfield
Second and fourth Thursday of each month
7-8:30 p.m.
Co-facilitated by Dr. Melissa Farrell, licensed clinical psychologist, and Roz Keith, advocate for trans youth and founder of Stand with Trans.
Second Thursday of each month (September-May)
Facilitated by Kari Provider, LMSW, ACSW, director, Robert Sonic Family Life Center
Both groups, which are free and open to the community, are held at Temple Israel at 5725 Walnut Lake Road. For more information, call Roz Keith at 248-739-9254 or email roz@standwithtrans.org.
Lake Orion
First Tuesday of each month
7-8:30 p.m.
Facilitated by Lisa Goyette, B.A., Social Work, a member of the Stand with Trans board and the proud parent of a transgender teenage son. This group is held at St. Mary’s In-The-Hills Episcopal Church at 2512 Joslyn Ct. For more information, call Lisa at 248-330-8493.
Macomb
Second Monday of each month
6:30-8 p.m.
Facilitated by Penny Hader, LMSW. This ongoing group will give families a safe place to learn, share and better understand what it means to raise a transgender child.
At the same time, a teen/youth group is facilitated by Stephanie Hader Lange, LMSW. This is an ongoing group for transgender and gender expansive youth ages 13-18. Trans youth will meet and offer each other support around school life and issues, social and peer situations, and more.
Both groups are held at Dakota High School at 21051 21 Mile Road. For more information, call Hader Lange at 586-723-2872 or email slange@cvs.k12.mi.us.

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.