by Jessica Carreras
Cj Tune served as chairperson of Transgender Michigan for several years. The 31-year-old University Heights, Ohio resident is a transgender activist who runs a Web site documenting his transition from female to male and still maintains close connections with the Michigan trans community.
1) What exactly did you do for Transgender Michigan?
TransGender Michigan has been my life for eight years. I have been the director, technology coordinator, volunteer coordinator, speakers bureau coordinator, FTM coordinator, treasurer, secretary and, for the last few years, the chairperson. It is my deepest regret that I resigned from being a part of Transgender Michigan, as I have moved out of state. I am still in contact with the board members and Transgender Michigan will forever be my home.
2) How did you get involved with that organization?
Rachel has been my good friend for quite some time. When the organization was ready to form the first board, Rachel asked me if I would like to be a part of that process. Of course I was honored. Over the years I have taken on many responsibilities and will miss them. Leaving was one of the hardest things I had to do, but my life has taken a different road.
3) What do you like most about Michigan’s transgender community?
Michigan’s transgender community is like family. I knew that whenever I needed something they were always there. A volunteer, a friend, or a shoulder – I always had multiple people willing to help.
4) You run a Web site that documents your transition. What made you decide to do that?
When I first came out, I was alone and turned to the Internet for support. There, I was shunned and felt more alone than I had ever felt. My only two options were to commit suicide or to fight. While I tried both options, thank goodness fighting took hold.
I vowed to myself that no one was going to stand in my way of my happiness and transition. I found ways to legally get hormones, get my name changed without going through the court and to change all of my documentation including my birth certificate – all without surgery. It was a lot easier to do eight years ago, but I didn’t settle for a “no” answer. I wanted to inspire others to not take no for an answer either. My pictures and resources are just ways people can get the information they need and want without feeling alone, shunned, or defeated.
5) Do you think it’s important for transgender people to tell their stories? Why or why not?
Yes, I do think transgender people need to tell their stories. Without faces we don’t exist; without stories of the struggles and triumphs we’re easily forgotten.
There are more transpeople in Michigan than anyone outside of our community would believe. I mean on Transgender Michigan’s yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TransGender_Michigan/ we have close to 1,800 members. I don’t think anyone would suspect that there are that many trans folks in Michigan, but they’re there and without those stories, those faces, without those numbers, it’s as if we don’t exist, and that’s just not true.
In fact, in Kalamazoo, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is there right now doing a power summit to preserve the city’s LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and they are making sure transgender identity is included. It’s important for non-trans folks to remember us in every step of the way. Trying to fit us in the end, forgetting us entirely, or thinking we’re not here hurts our entire community and it’s counterproductive in the end. The more stories you hear the more reason to fight to the end.
To learn more about Transgender Michigan, visit http://www.transgendermichigan.org.