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By Jim Larkin
FLINT – A trans man who went to Genesee County PFLAG for help is now helping others learn about the transgender community.
Ray – he wishes to remain anonymous out of concern that his activism could cost him his job – is the chapter’s transgender coordinator and will be presenting “Trans 101 & How to Be a Good Ally” at its next meeting.
The 2-4:30 p.m. Nov. 8 session at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint, 2474 S. Ballenger Highway, will give a basic outline of transgender people and how others should treat them. Ray, who has a degree in family studies, hopes it draws a large crowd.
“I’ll be going over the different categories of transgender people and how to respect a person’s gender identity,” he said. “It’s going to be really basic.
“I hope to create a greater awareness of transgender issues and why they affect everyone. We are people who are your neighbors, family, friends … we may not be large in number but we are everywhere.”
When Ray came to grips with his gender identity about a year ago, he contacted Genesee County PFLAG to find out what kind of support system was available for both him and his parents. That inquiry and Ray’s studies into transgender issues eventually led county PFLAG Vice President Terri Dinsmore into asking him to be the chapter’s transgender coordinator.
“Genesee County PFLAG is very glad he agreed to be our transgender coordinator,” Dinsmore said. “This allows us to specifically reach out to the transgender community as we are able to offer a separate transgender support group. He is doing an excellent job facilitating this group.”
Ray knows well the various problems that confront transgender people. He noted that his appearance is unambiguously male but that when he explained his gender at a Hate Crime Task Force meeting, those in his group kept referring to him in feminine pronouns. Using proper pronouns is one way to show the transgendered your respect, he said.
His own parents, he said, were great about his coming out.
“My mother was just glad to find out what was going on and my dad was like, ‘you’re the still the same person,'” Ray said. “I think most parents, if they pay attention to their kids, know there’s something wrong.”
Still, he knows the road is not so smooth for many in the transgender community.
“Trans people still get killed more often than gay and lesbian people,” he noted. “I’m not trying to discount gay and lesbian people getting killed; it’s just that it doesn’t happen nearly as often as trans people. It’s just a lack of understanding,”
Thus, the need for the Nov. 8 session.
“I just ask people to have an open mind,” Ray said. “And I’m open to any questions a person might have.”