Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Jessica Carreras
Knoll Larkin is a trans and community activist. The Detroit resident works in the University of Michigan’s Bioethics Program as a research technician associate – but hasn’t given up on his passion for the LGBT community.
1) You used to work for Affirmations, but now are at the University of Michigan. How do you stay in touch with the LGBT community now?
I stay connected to folks in the metro Detroit area mostly by attending events and stopping by Affirmations for a visit when I can. Of course, Facebook always helps!
I’ve also begun working on an independent project with assistance from UM’s school of public health and bioethics faculty to improve LGBT community center’s understanding of community-academic research partnerships and ethical considerations when LGBTQ communities are the subject of research. I’m hoping to stay connected to LGBT community centers locally and nationally through this work.
2) What was it like transitioning from a smaller LGBT non-profit to a large university with diverse employees – many of whom are not gay or may not be as educated on LGBT issues?
Wait, there are people who aren’t queer at U of M? Just kidding. It is a very different environment. In my previous work my identity, as a trans man, was much more closely tied to my work. For me this was both incredibly powerful and incredibly draining at the same time. While I miss my Affirmations family, I’ve found new ways to connect with LGBT and non-LGBT folks around my professional interests. Actually, during the mandatory orientation all new UM Health System employees go through we discussed gender identity, gender expression and transgender identity. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t even the one who brought it up.
3) How are you involved with LGBT issues now?
I’m really looking forward to all the volunteer possibilities! After I switched jobs, I took some time to center myself, to make sure I was attending to my personal health and happiness. I think a lot of us who give a lot or are involved with social justice work don’t do this enough. When I do get more involved again I would like to direct my focus back to health care accesses and LGBT health disparity issues. And, like I mentioned above, I’m also very interested in examining ways in which we can share responsibility as community members and community leaders to monitor, contribute to and actively participate in research involving LGBT communities.
4) What do you think is the importance of being out in the workplace?
Being out at work is a very personal decision that, for trans folks, can bring some additional considerations. I’m proud of my identity and my work in the LGBT community so my resume pretty much outs me as queer/trans or at least an ally. To be out is, in part, an exercise in integrity, of being true to one’s self and values. To hide that aspect is in fact an effort and distracts from the other things we are doing. I think most of us are healthier, happier and thus better at our work when our outer and inner lives are aligned, not in conflict.
5) You maintain a blog and enjoy writing. How does your identity factor in to what you write about?
I’ve been writing a lot more these days. I think blogging/writing is one way for me to think about and have dialogue with others about the ways my identity impacts how I experience the world.
Check out Knoll’s blog at http://f-t-somethingelse.blogspot.com.