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Monday, April 11, 2011

An Educational Campaign for Trans Equality

Here's a nifty little educational campaign started by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. Trans people speak.jpg It's called I AM: Trans People Speak. This is a multi-media campaign aimed at raising awareness about the diverse communities
of trans individuals, families, and allies.

It's a project of the Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition, that intrepid bunch that is fighting to pass a statewide trans equality bill. After its initial victory in Boston, it encountered stiff opposition from fundamentalists around the state, who used the opportunity to demonize trans people as pedophiles and weirdos.

If any place needs to fund an educational project about trans peoples' ordinary lives for the general public, as many suggested in our discussion last week on passing the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it's Massacusetts. It's completely ridiculous that one of the most liberal states in the nation, where marriage equality first stuck, can't get its act together to have a state-wide equality bill.

I particularly like this line from the project website: "There is no one trans narrative. Each of these individuals has their own unique story to tell, and they can no longer be silenced."

Video website and more after the jump.

You can find the videos of the I AM project here:I AM: Trans People Speak

According to its mission statement, I AM is a collection of recorded stories that aims to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions of trans individuals by highlighting the realities of their lived experience. Awesome idea. The website specifically notes that they're including voices that span across a diversity of communities and intersecting identities.

The website also notes:

Trans people face an overwhelming amount of discrimination and violence due to their gender identity and/or gender expression. Trans peoples' experiences are often disregarded and their humanity is too often questioned by society at large. Transphobia, like other systems of oppression, operates to spread fear and discomfort about difference. This project is centered on the full individual, for trans people are more than their gender. By providing a forum where these unique stories can be shared and given significance, I AM fosters support and raises awareness for trans communities.

Right on. They've already attracted some funding, as the website notes that GLAD gave them generous support, and the project was made possible through a grant from State Equality Fund, and through corporate sponsorship from State Street Corporation. Now all we need is broader funding, 1000 more videos and to push it out everywhere.

As the I AM project website says, and I think it's true: "Personal stories change lives, laws and policies and the ultimate goal of this project is to make society a fair and equal place for all people, including transgender youth, adults, and their families."

So what's going to happen with all the calls for an educational campaign to educate people about transgender lives? Are they simply lip service from a community too focused on marriage equality to look up and notice that it's an LGB(fake)t out there?

Or will someone please give these people some money? Donate here.

UPDATE: I received answers to some questions I posed to Gunner Scott, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

How many videos do you plan to put up and by when?

We hope to have 40 videos up by July 2011, at least 10 written pieces and 2 audio pieces and we are hoping for 1 photo essay

How much more money do you need, if any, to move forward on the project?

We are hoping to move the project to phase 2, which is creating transit ads for buses and subways around Massachusetts advertising the campaign, if were able to do this it would be the first in the country to have positive ads about transgender people NOT focused on HIV. (The only other transit ad campaigns have been about HIV that have had trans people in them).

The cost for this is approximately $20,000 - this would be for design and placement on 5 bus lines outside of Boston in Berkshires, Pioneer Valley, Worcester, Fall River/New Bedford, Fitchburg area and then subway ads in the Boston area.

To continue the multi-media production of the campaign in Massachusetts through the end of the calendar year 2011 and get to 100 videos, 25 written pieces, 5 audio, and 3 photo essays, we would need $35,000.

To export this campaign beyond Massachusetts:
To create a "how to guide" and template materials and technical assistance - so this can be used in other states, we would need another $40,000

How can people volunteer to make videos?

Currently we are only taking submissions from people that live, work, or go to school in Massachusetts. This includes written, photo, audio pieces. We shoot, edit, and produce the videos ourselves. If people are from Massachusetts they should fill out a "Participation form" on our website.

For videos, folks are sent a questionnaire to fill out ahead of scheduling their video session. Once we receive their questionnaire, we send them next up coming dates of video shooting and we schedule from there.

Can people make videos of their own for submission to the project?

Currently, we are not accepting videos that are made by other people. We don't have the capacity and there is a specific format we are looking for. The reason is we have based the format, questions asked, etc... of project on researched ways of story telling.

We encourage not only transgender people, but also friends, family members, allies, non-transgender partners.

We also require folks to be over 18, unless they are submitting a pseudonym written piece or photo essay that does not include an identifying photo of themselves.

We will accept submissions of written pieces and photo essays (from Massachusetts folks). We will assist with editing.

We do ask that all pieces include I AM statements to start, such as Sari's piece that starts with I AM: a scientist; I AM: a public health practitioner; I AM: a caring family member; And I AM also: a transman.

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