Dear Friend of Free2Be and the LGBTQ South,
For the past 5 years GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc., now doing business as Free2Be, has been positioned as a leading organization representing the LGBTQ people of Alabama and the South. With your support we have advocated successfully for under-represented minority groups while providing direct social services designed to meet the needs of LGBTQ people.This year Free2Be was positioned to be the only organization in Alabama to receive Federal funding to create culturally specific programming to support to LGBTQ people and our family members who are victims of violent crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. With this funding we are supporting the health and safety of LGBTQ people across Alabama through the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project.With these amazing opportunities comes the need to increase our financial support from you, our friends. Our current Federal funding is based on reimbursements. This means we must raise several thousand dollars in order to begin the process of spending money on programming so that we may then receive the grant funding in the form of monthly reimbursements. Increasing our current fundraising is essential to our ability to re-apply and to receive future grant awards for this extremely important work.All of us here at Free2Be are thankful that you have joined us in our mission to build a compassionate and inclusive society. I have included links and summaries of the wonderful things that the agency is doing with the support we receive as well as the link to where you may give your gifts online. You may also mail them to us at the address at the end of the newsletter.I wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and invite you to continue with us on our amazing journey in 2015!
The Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project provides help and support to LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of Alabama when they need it most. Every year LGBTQ people are beaten, harassed, and killed just for being themselves. Many cannot find safety at home or in their intimate relationships. Free2Be Safe AVP provides crucial services for people who need help and support:
- Therapeutic support groups for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and children experiencing trauma after witnessing acts of violence.
- Peer support groups for LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ young adults, and adults who are Transgender.
- Nationwide referrals for services.
- Public education and prevention services.
- All Free2Be Safe AVP services are provided free because of the support of generous donors and grant funding through the Victims of Crime Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act.
Save the date! June 21st 2015 – Huntsville’s Historic Depot & Roundhouse
North Alabama’s Celebration of Diversity and Equality. Building a compassionate & inclusive South by bringing diverse individuals, groups, and communities together!
* Rocket City Pride benefits the Free2Be LGBTQ Resource Center & the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project.
Bringing you conversations, spoken word poetry, & music from our friends around the World! Hosted by activist and advocate for the LGBTQ community and founder of Free2Be James Robinson
Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children. Edited by Rachel Pepper (2012) Cleis Press, Inc.
What a wonderful collection of honesty from these mothers. You can feel the love and genuineness as you turn the pages of each child and mother’s story. They are so compelling it is difficult to put the book down. As a Social Worker and ally of the LGBTQ community who works at the Free2Be Safe Anti-Violence Project, I learned so much about the hardships that we as a society, place on these children and families. You’ll discover that Transgender and gender variant children are, in reality, the wrapping paper that fascinates us with the beauty outside of the box.
Book Review By: Lynn M. Hazard, LCSW (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Growing up gay in Alabama was not easy. I never used the word gay to describe myself, not even in my own mind. I was taught by my parents and my church that being gay was wrong. Of all the sins that were out there (and there were plenty!) being gay seemed to be among the very worst. I lived with feelings of guilt and shame and spent long hours hiding and trying to pretend I was not who I really was. This led to extensive one on one sessions with my parents, painful sessions with a counselor, and eventual my willing admission into an Ex Gay facility in Kentucky.
My time in the ‘pray the gay away’ facility has had long reaching negative affects on my life. The promised ‘cure’ of being free from the ‘demon’ of homosexuality was a tempting offer. The hope of a ‘cure’ led to my willingness to open my mind to the most abominable accusations against me as a person I have ever experienced. The rules (curfews, mandatory bible study/prayer sessions, hard labor, lack of sleep to name a few) were difficult, but the systematic psychological degradation of my personal identity had the greatest negative impact on my well-being.
For six months I allowed my spirit to be progressively beaten down. I was told I was rotten and worthless. When I cried because of the pain I was told I needed to ‘press in’ or to ‘go lower’ and always that I was ‘in the right place’. When my right to speak was taken away I sat in silent contemplation of how they were leading me to believe that the person I am was inappropriate. After graduating I went through a long period of depression and despair because I was realizing that I was still gay. I felt hopeless.
Later, when I got a chance to move away from home and begin a new life in Indianapolis things changed forever. Away from the influences of home, I was able to start thinking about my life and who I was. If things were not changing, maybe it was because they were not supposed to change. I began to fill my life with people who were unconditionally supportive of me. After a few short months of living free from oppression, being exposed to positive influences and finding accepting friends I decided to Come Out.
Coming Out was difficult after so much effort to ‘remove the gay’ part of me but being true to myself felt more right every day. It was incredible when I no longer had to fear that people would find out my deepest secret. I was able to act, think, and simply exist as the person I have always been… the gay man God created me to be. The freedom to be open and honest about my sexual orientation was exhilarating.
I gained strength from many others who had made the Coming Out journey before me. When I connected with old friends I was often surprised with how accepting they were of my ‘new’ identity. I survived this dark journey and my new life is progressively getting brighter. I am ready to receive the amazing future that is ahead of me. Whatever damage had been done to me in PLM is now undone and I couldn’t be more ready to embrace my true self.
Living an authentic life since that time has been challenging… at times difficult… but overall completely wonderful. Learning to be me… truly me, is the best feeling in the world.
– Joseph Henley
My name is Joan Bohlman. I am a Transgender woman.
When I was 16 years old I attempted to end my life. I was in a coma for 3 days. After this I bounced around treatment facilities. I eventually found myself in a residential treatment facility in Utah where I stayed for 13 months. At that time I had no understanding of what it means to be Transgender or the concepts of Gender. I was confused. I knew things were not ‘right’. I thought perhaps I was Gay but thinking of myself as Gay did not bring me any peace of mind or body.
When I was in college I had my epiphany. My epiphany was the result of someone else coming out to me. This led me to a profound realization regarding the discontentment that filled my life. If this person had not come out to me I do not know how long it would have taken me to begin the process of truly understanding myself. Another person’s courage moved my life in a new direction where my life became valuable to me. This experience saved my life.
On this day of Transgender Remembrance we gather to remember those who have left us but it is also a day for us to remember that I have nothing to hide. We have nothing to hide. We must stand up together and be proud of who we are. We must be a beacon for those in the darkness by standing strong to let those that are lost know that they are not alone. We must be an anchor standing with them in the storm to prevent them from drowning. If we are strong for others they will be strong for us.
It is easy to ‘blend in’ for many Transgender men and women. Blending in is a source of inexpressible solace. However, at the end of the day we must be willing to step up and be visible. Every Transgender person is a survivor and it is our responsibility to help those who are still struggling. We are here today to honor the memories of our family, friends, and colleagues.
The isolation of feeling broken and the embarrassment that comes with not being socially ‘normal’ are two of the hardest things a Transgender person has to deal with. It is true that we will always be a minority; however, we need to be visible in order for others to understand us. The taboo toward Transgender people which damages us is deeply rooted in our culture but it is not something that is impossible to overcome. We have witnessed this with LGB people. It is my hope that some day blending in will no longer mean hiding.
Tonight and every day we must look at the tragedy of those we have lost to suicide and violence. We must refuse to let it continue. It may be hard for some of us but by taking action we can ensure a better experience for those who will join us and follow us as Transgender people.
Thank you very much. I love all of you.
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014 at the Free2Be LGBTQ Resource Center in Huntsville Alabama.