Five and a half years. I can’t believe it’s been over five and a half years since I started at the Mass Trans Political Coalition. This organization has been a huge part of my life and my world for the duration of my time here, and now, in my last week, there are so many things I want to say.
The time I’ve spent with MTPC has been a gift that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It has been an honor to do this work – even when the work was difficult, it was a gift. I’ve learned so much about this community, the work, and myself, that I never could have imagined going into this experience. I’ve been a student more than a teacher in my time here, learning from so many amazing leaders and community members. The lessons I’ve learned, and will continue to learn, are lessons I hope to share long after I’ve left MTPC.
My primary emotion at this moment is gratitude. From volunteers and interns, to Steering Committee members and chairs, every person I’ve come into contact with over my time at MTPC has had a profound impact on me. Many of you are like family to me now, and I can’t imagine my life without your influence and presence.
This departure, and subsequently this new chapter for MTPC, is so amazingly organic and natural. It’s the right time for me and more importantly for the trans rights movement in Massachusetts. We’ve had some fantastic wins, but our work for trans rights and equity remains unfinished. The next chapter for MTPC needs a new voice, and therefore, a new leader. I leave knowing I did exactly what I was hired to do, and knowing that the next Executive Director will have a wholly different job from the one I’m leaving.
I’m eternally grateful to Ev Evnen, MTPC’s incoming interim director, who is a brilliant and capable leader. Together with Kelsey, they will keep the ship on course while the Steering Committee, led by Michelle and Kaden, begins the exciting work of searching for the next Executive Director. And who will be the next leader here at MTPC? Well it might be you. It might be someone new to this work or Massachusetts. It might be a well known local advocate or activist in our community. Whoever it is, I hope we will all welcome them with open hearts and open arms. This work isn’t easy, but it’s possible because of the support we have from our communities.
I’m excited to embark on my own new adventure, as Director of Advocacy at Keshet. This will be an opportunity for me to bring together several critical aspects of my identity, as a Trans Queer Jew, into my work as an advocate. Together with the amazing folks at Keshet, I’ll be working to organize Jewish communities around the important work for LGBTQ+ rights. This also means I’ll be staying in the Boston area, though my work will be at the national level. I hope you’ll stay in touch! I’ll certainly be around, geographically speaking, to attend local community events.
At the end of the day, no organization, however small, is defined by one person. MTPC is, and continues to be, a community focused organization. That means that this groundbreaking institution continues to survive and thrive because of people like you, who volunteer, donate, show up, and speak out for trans rights.
Thank you for an amazing experience, and more importantly, thank you for all you do for the Mass Trans Political Coalition. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to play a role in the history of this amazing organization.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition Steering Committee is excited to announce that Ev Evnen (pronouns: they/them/theirs) has been hired as interim director. Ev brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in trans advocacy, and has been working in collaboration with MTPC for many years on a variety of initiatives.
Ev comes from MaeBright Group, an LGBTQ+ policy and training consulting firm. In that capacity, they have worked with numerous state agencies and service providers to increase their cultural competence when working with queer and trans populations. Ev holds a MPP and MBA from the Heller School. They identify as white, genderqueer, non-binary, transgender, queer, Jewish, and as a person with a mental illness.
“I’m incredibly excited and honored for the opportunity to take the helm of MTPC for a short while.” Ev said. “I hope to continue advocating for all of the trans community in the Bay State.”
“I am thrilled to have Ev involved as MTPC enters a new chapter of leadership and direction” said Mason Dunn, outgoing Executive Director. “Their familiarity with the work and the organization makes them a perfect match to carry us forward.”
The Steering Committee is grateful to Ev for taking on the Interim role as the organization seeks a new Executive Director. MTPC’s leadership will be establishing a search committee to help guide the process of searching and hiring a new director. Moving forward, this search committee will seek the input of staff, Steering Committee members, trans and nonbinary community members, and stakeholders, as they move forward in this leadership transition.
Founded in 2001, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition is dedicated to ending discrimination and oppression on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.
Today’s news that the Supreme Court will lift an existing injunction and allow the military to actively pursue discriminatory policies against thousands of trans and nonbinary people serving, or seeking to serve, is a cruel slap in the face to our communities. Trans and nonbinary service members simply want to do the jobs they have been trained and tasked to do, and this decision from the Supreme Court will likely hold them back from doing just that. Those seeking to enlist and serve want only to be afforded the same opportunities, and held to the same standards as their cisgender peers. Trans and nonbinary veterans deserve the same honor and respect as others who have served.
This administration’s ban on trans people serving in the military is groundless: there is no evidence that trans people disrupt military effectiveness or threaten unit cohesion. Removing trans and nonbinary service members, however, will mean losing thousands of qualified and trained service members, and have a long term negative effect – for those serving, and for the armed forces as a whole. Regardless of our skepticism or opinions about the military, or critiques of the military-industrial complex, no one should be denied a job, or public service, based on their gender identity or expression. No one should be held back in their career or goals because of discriminatory, biased, and baseless policies.
Every year, around this time, I look back on the year that’s passed, and contemplate the challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.
2018 marked so many exciting milestones for MTPC: it was the 17th year since our founding, we helped successfully protect our nondiscrimination protections from repeal, we removed medical requirements for gender marker changes on state IDs and began working hand in hand with the Massachusetts RMV to start issuing nonbinary gender markers (which will roll out in 2019), and so much more. For me, personally, this past August marked my fifth years as executive director here at MTPC. It has been a profound honor to serve my community in this capacity.
During my time with MTPC, I have had wonderful opportunities to work with community members, allies, and organizations across the state. I’ve met so many of you out there, and forged new friendships that have enriched my life beyond what I ever anticipated.
But now it’s time for someone new to have the same opportunities I have had as executive director, and carry this organization down new paths, with new vision. There are so many amazing trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming leaders out there – and part of my role in this organization has been lifting up your voices across the state. Now, it’s time for me to step aside and open the opportunity up to our community.
So, in the next few months, I will be leaving my position here. The dedicated people who serve on MTPC’s Steering Committee have begun the process of strategically planning the next priority areas for the organization, and later will open up a search for the new Executive Director to lead us into a new era of trans rights advocacy in Massachusetts.
I am excited to see where MTPC will go in this new phase, and honored to have had a small part in the history of this amazing organization. My life has been forever changed, because of MTPC and the community members, leaders, and supporters I’ve met along the way. And I know that wherever I go next, a part of me will always be here with you.
As for me – I am exploring my next career move, although I don’t have solidified plans at the moment. I’m excited to see where life will take me, and open to all the many new possibilities that may come my way.
Thank you for over five amazing years of growth, opportunity, and friendship. And onward to exciting new adventures for trans rights.
Hi everyone, my name is Kelsey Grunstra, I use she/her pronouns, and I’m MTPC’s new Operations Coordinator! Before I get into too much detail about me, let me tell you what I’ll be doing with MTPC. My mission is the same as Mason’s and MTPC’s as a whole, to end oppression and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, but my day-to-day work will mostly look like answering your emails and phone calls, running our newsletter and social media accounts, working on events and trainings, and generally helping out Mason so he can keep doing the great work he’s up to! I’m so excited to join MTPC and get to work for and with all of you, our beautiful community.
As for how I got here, It’s been an interesting few years for myself (and, well, all of us I suppose) and things have been changing pretty constantly in my life. Ever since I first came out and began transitioning, I’ve consistently become more and more driven to be directly engaged in work that uplifts and supports the trans community. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve had a lot of privilege in my life, and this commitment has really come from my desire to utilize that privilege to build up and advocate for our community. Almost exactly one year ago at the 2017 Harvard LGBTQ Conference, I was just standing around waiting for Mara Keisling’s (the Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality) keynote to start when none other than Mara herself came over and introduced herself to my friends and I. She just wanted to meet us and have some casual conversation to avoid thinking about the fact that she’d be speaking in just a few minutes. I’ve been inspired by her work, her dedication, and her resilience for many years now but that was really the moment I knew I could go into advocacy work. Seeing one of my role models struggling with the normal things I encounter all the time, ultimately I realized, you don’t have to be anything special or unique to be a dedicated and empowered leader, you just need to be driven, full of passion and empathy, listen to those around you, and lift up the voices and people who can do what you can’t (after of course accepting that you cannot!).
So now fast forward about a year and I’m chatting with one of the MTPC Steering Committee members who knew I was looking for work and they suggested that I take a look at this role. It just so happened to fit in perfectly with my schedule and what I was looking for! So then I met with Mason and some more Steering Committee members and that’s the short and sweet version of what brought me to MTPC and how I became engaged in advocacy work for the trans community.
Outside of this space, I work and live in Somerville with four amazing roommates and my many, many guitars. I’m a musician who often struggles to answer the question “What do you play?” because of the many instruments and styles of music I’m often bouncing between. I hope to someday soon record some music and maybe even get a band together with some of my friends. When I’m not playing music, I can reliably be found tinkering with my instruments or building new ones (to highly varying levels of completion and quality!), reading fiction or comic books, hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, or nerding out over the latest sci-fi TV series. I do however also love spending time outdoors, whether just on a long walk, going on a strenuous hike, or spending a day at the beach.
With all that said, I’m very, very excited to get started and do what I can to help MTPC be effective and grow. I also can’t wait to get to know you, our community, better, and be I hope to see you at some of our future events. Please feel free to get in touch with me and introduce yourself by emailing me at email@example.com!
This is a guest blog from Pearl, a community member and local film buff. Thanks Pearl!
Chile’s contender [now winner!] for best foreign language film Oscar is cognizant of the difficulty in the death of a lover, dealing with the previous family, and the added difficulties of a transgender life.
“A Fantastic Woman” is a fantastic film by director and co-writer Sebastian Lelio (Gloria, 2013). Better than Hollywood, foreign films treat transgender identities in more sensitive, understanding way and “A Fantastic Woman” does just that.
Set in modern day Santiago, the film is a confident love letter to transgender isolation and empowerment. Moments of dry witty comedic relief eases the constant tension onset by police and a family bound by their own essential dogma, inflamed by the fact that the “other woman” is transgender.
Daniela Vega’s lead portrays singer/waitress Marina’s stoicism as stronger than her resolve. Her control of the material and restraint as an actress are remarkable for her big screen debut. Finally, a transgender actor is in a lead transgender role. The dignity of the role shines for who she is, not who she is pretending to be. But so much of Vega’s power on the screen is not in what she says or does. The real power is in her expressive on-camera looks. We witness the look of perseverance in the face of one transgender prejudice after another. The prejudices are disturbingly accurate and will cause any trans viewer to identify with and cringe at times.
Iguazu Falls, in all its power opens the film as the credits rolls. The fall’s force is palpable as cuts of different views takes us down into the plume where a soft foggy mist rises from the tremendous force. Metaphorically, this is where we spend the movie. Floating in a light mist, front and center of tumultuous emotions. The majority of the film’s close camera work style keeps us focused on the story line that goes no further than to advance the difficulties of a transgender life. We are witness to a vast contempt kept within close-cropped scenes.
Once Marina’s 57 year-old lover and partner Orlando (Francisco Reyes) dies during the night of her twenty-something birthday celebration, the safe world the two carved out for themselves is under attack. She now must cope with her grief while asserting her rights and forging a new way forward without him. Threats and insults come from the police investigating his death, and Orlando’s family: Sonia (Aline Küppenheim), the jilted ex-wife, the overly male bravado infused son Bruno (Nicolas Saavedra), and other members. The only family member to show any sympathy for Marina is Orlando’s brother Gabo (Luis Gnecco). He stands up for Marina numerous times in the film. Does Gabo possess a better understanding of the love in his brother’s choice? The world needs more people like Gabo. But there isn’t. So when one is transgender, everything you have to deal with is a little harder.
Let’s start with a simple question: What is your name? To a cisgender person this is a no-brainer. But our heroine is asked this basic question by an officer upon her police-escorted return to the hospital. This is the start of the dissent of the trans dilemma for Marina.
A split second delay in answering the name question, Marina giving her adopted name brings the questioning gaze of the officer on her who now demands to see ID. On the defensive while surrendering her ID, she explains her female status is not completed. (Those with no clue to the transgender world, this might be lost on them.) Now addressing Marina by her birth name, the officer gives a child-like reprimand for her to use her birth name when being questioned. Gabo’s arrival avoids further confrontation and Marina retreats with Orlando’s car back to the apartment they shared. Once in the safety of her home, solace is found with Diabla, Orlandos’s long-time canine companion now gifted to her. This part of Orlando she holds dear is just another opportunity for the family to take something away from her out of their bitterness.
No place is safe from persecution.
Marina’s world becomes invaded by confrontations: Bruno’s unannounced arrival with his father’s keys in hand demanding she leave the apartment, an investigating sexual assault officer arrives at her work demanding she come to the station for more humiliating questioning, and on the phone with a demanding ex-wife Sonia. The only people, other than her singer teacher and restaurant boss who share tender words for Marina is her sister and husband. They go so far as to provide her shelter.
Tender words are not used in confrontations. Trans, and ignorance of what trans is by the characters allows for cheap shots such as “faggot” and “monster” to be used. Or a further discredit to Marina: “Orlando must have been crazy.”
Throughout the film a disconcerting threat of possible violence accompanies the name-calling. Marina at one point as abducted amidst a verbal assault. This is a breath holding moment as some of the family men force her into the back of a truck after her appearance at the wake. There is no explaining away that grief has fueled their actions. When this happens to a trans person, it is a hate crime. In this film the perps get way with it and Marina is released physically in tact after a stressful, humiliating ride in the city. This is a dark reminder of the threat of violence to trans people that goes on.
We all end up in the cemetery.
Since Marina forewarned shows up at the wake, one can expect an appearance at Orlando’s funeral. And with it comes the final tête-à-tête. Marina and the family car come to a stand off on the cemetery road. Marina, standing mid-road as the family from inside the car launches another verbal salvo. We are about to discover Marina’s breaking point. She has had it with these Philistines. Hiking up her skirt, she climbs aboard the car’s hood to the roof. With pain and angst, jumping up and down on the roof, she lets it all out. She now becomes the threat to her abusers trapped inside Orlando’s car, as if it is a coffin itself. Marina lets loose her tirade. In the end, Diabla is all she wants from the family. For the dog’s return she willingly surrenders her keys to the apartment and the life she had with Orlando. As the car drives off, one would believe the family is victor since they had the funeral sans Marina.
Alone in the cemetery, Marina deals with the angst of missing her last chance to say goodbye to Orlando. Previously at times, her deceased lover revealed himself to Marina as a speechless vision. He now directs her to the crematory moments before his incineration. Orlando’s apparition as the tender lover he was stops and kisses Marina as gently and lovingly as we have witnessed before. Then disappears through locked doors. Pounding for entry the crematory workers allow her access and a moment alone. To see Orlando’s body to say good -bye is all she desired. Fuck you to the family, they will never know.
A personal requiem.
The returned dog is fed. The stage is set. Marina primps herself. Standing proud and tall she joins her singing teacher and a small ensemble on a stage. Previously we learned of Marina’s vocal talents when she visited her teacher. Now is time for a grand performance to rise above all the chaos. (Daniela Vega is an opera singer.) She doesn’t disappoint. Closing the film, as a personal requiem comes Handel’s “Ombra mai fu,” “Never was a shade.” As Marina’s performance ends, tears for her lover finally run down her cheeks. We can share her pain and triumph.
Ombra mai fu
Tender and beautiful fronds of my beloved plane tree,
Let Fate smile upon you .
May thunder, lightning, and storms never bother your dear peace,
Nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.
Never was made
A vegetable (a plant) more dear and loving or gentle.