By Crystal Proxmire
More than one hundred MTFs, FTMs, trans identifying, gender variant people and allies came to Geary Park on Saturday, Aug. 27 for the annual Transgender Pride in the Park Picnic.
“This is the first time I’ve experienced a transgender picnic,” said Jennifer Marcus, from Royal Oak. “I wanted to meet some of my transgender brothers and sisters. It’s important for us to bond. It would be nice to meet each other this way more.”
Organized by Transgender Michigan, the event is large but simple. The organization brought the burgers and hot dogs, and the guests brought a side dish to pass. A small auction and a jar for donations raised money to cover the cost.
The large turnout meant that many left having made new friends and feeling enthused to go back to their home communities.
Charlie Ford is a FTM active in promoting transgender visibility and support in Flint. He leads the Team T group of PFLAG-Flint and he is also the founder of Flint Trans Spectrum. The meetings regularly have 10-15 attendees, who together work through problems such as harassment, issues in the jail system and difficulty finding therapists and doctors. “Mainly people should know we exist,” Ford said. “We exist everywhere in the world, and we exist in Flint.”
Steph Turner came from Rochester to take part in the picnic. She is a member of the Michigan Trans Empowerment Task Force and a former member of the Transgender Michigan board. “Rachel (Crandall) and Susan (Crocker) started this in ’97 at a time when people couldn’t be as visible as they are,” Turner said. “It’s empowering to see how many more trans people are out and want to get involved.”
Marcus, who is part of the ACLU Lambda Legal program, also found a message of strength and hope last Saturday. “A lot of people forget how hard they had to fight to get their rights. In the sixties people stood up for themselves and each other. But the eighties came along and we got our cocaine and our big manufacturing jobs, our electronic toys and gadgets and we forgot where we came from,” Marcus said. “This is the kind of thing we need to get back to – having a voice.”
Transgender Michigan board member Vanessa Emma Goldman remembers the frustration of having to hide her gender expression as a child. “Growing up in Wyandotte in the seventies, you didn’t talk about things like this,” Goldman said. “I came out in 2005 and I joined the board in 2008 because I think it’s important. Having an organization like Transgender Michigan makes it possible to come out and be more comfortable in transitioning.” Goldman lives in Gaines Township, a place she says works well for her because “it is out in the country where people keep to themselves,” though she still presents herself as male most of the time in public.
“For a lot of people this is the only day they can be themselves and interact with other transgender people,” said Transgender Michigan co-founder Rachel Crandall. She said 106 people attended, ranging from toddler-age to 80, with the farthest away coming from Texas.