Executive Director Andrea Zekis addresses the 5th annual Arkansas Rally for Reproductive Justice.
January 24, 2015, Arkansas State Capitol
My name is Andrea Zekis and I am a transgender woman, and most importantly, I am a woman. I live, work as woman, and proud to be a woman, a human being worthy of dignity and respect. I’m thankful for the opportunity to speak with you today. The Williams institute says 1 out of 10 people knows a transgender person, and therefore our issues are often invisible to others, which is why It’s not often a transgender person has the chance to talk about their experiences on the steps of Arkansas State Capitol and explain why reproductive justice is important to them. The framework of reproductive Justice is right to have children, the right to not have children and to parent those children in safe and healthy environments. Someone’s gender, whether they are transgender or not, is not a factor in determining whether they are a good parent. Research shows the quality of the relationship between parent and child and not their gender and gender expression, has the greatest influence on a child’s development and well-being…and there’s no evidence that the children of transgender parents will end up being transgender themselves.
I would like to someday be a child’s mother, and love them regardless of their gender identity. As a transgender person who underwent a transition, I faced medical decisions about by body which would limit my ability to reproduce, and ultimately lead to sterilization. Worldwide, transgender people may encounter laws requiring sterilization as before getting a gender marker changed, and for intersex people, surgeries performed on their reproductive organs to make them appear more male or female without their consent. Reproductive justice impacts people like me, so before I started hormone therapy, I was able to freeze my own sperm, so that one day I may be able to have a biological child and raise a family. My family supports my decision to preserve my reproductive rights, because we believe in choice, access and education. That’s why medical decisions for transgender people should be between them and their doctor, not outdated laws which require surgery to change birth certificates.
Transgender people can face problems in employment, voting, their safety due to difficulties in getting matching ID and documents, making it much more difficult to provide and support for their families.Transgender people are four times as likely to live in poverty and encounter discrimination and oppression, face greater chances for homelessness, incarceration, and contracting HIV. The risks are higher for persons of color, who are eight times higher to live in poverty. Nationally, transgender women make up more than 70 percent of the LGBT victims of violence, and two thirds of them are transwomen of color. The Human Rights Campaign reports one out of every thousand murders is a hate crime against transgender people. That’s someone’s child, someone’s partner, someone’s mother or father.
Following the values of reproductive justice, loving and supportive parents of transgender, intersex and non-binary children in Arkansas should have the right to raise them in safe environments with the same expectations to succeed as other children.When I was a young child, I felt and acted different from the boys in my neighborhood, and over the years, found out in my heart and in my mind, that I identified with a different gender, a woman, and making the social and physical changes to make my outside reflect what I know as true on the inside. For many years, I didn’t know the word transgender, as I endured bullying in school, trying my hardest to blend in, conform to expectations, out of fear of being rejected and harassed. When I finally learned about the word at 18, I didn’t know where to go for help or how to pay for it. I felt shame, not knowing how to explain myself to friends and family,when faced with negative media stereotypes .I didn’t meet someone like myself until I turned 30, and only then my life made sense. I can say the support and love of my family and community made all the difference in getting me here today. Yet, statistics show more than 50 percent of transgender people have encountered rejection from family members, and 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, and some of them like young Leelah Alcorn of Ohio die from suicide. The answer is education at an early age.
There are certainly challenges in raising a healthy, happy transgender child. In schools, federal law protects transgender students from bullying and harassment, yet trans* and non-binary students report high rates of bullying, and even difficulties accessing an appropriate restroom, leading to greater risk of urinary tract infections. Much like transgender adults, transgender children in Arkansas encounter small numbers of doctors and therapists who can provide necessary, culturally competent care, sometimes having to travel two to three hours to see one, and encounter expensive costs due to insurance policies which exclude transitional health care from coverage. These exclusions often found in Arkansas, no longer exist in Medicare, the VA, or nine other states including DC.
I leave you with these words, the legislature must once again approve funding for the private option. More Arkansans, including transgender Arkansans, have been able to access affordable health care which they would not otherwise receive… access to coverage, providers and education which can help transgender and non-binary Arkansans as well as all Arkansans make the best decisions for their reproductive futures and care. Transgender justice is reproductive justice. Thank you.
We are turning 1 year old !!!
Join us for… an after work social gathering on Groundhog Day for CAKE… and music from singer/songwriter Brian Nahlen at Next Bar in Hillcrest. Learn about some of the things arTEC has in the works for 2015 and let us get to know you better!!! If you want a t-shirt, we’ll have them available for a small donation.
Transgender people have greater likelihood to be incarcerated compared to the general population and those numbers are elevated among People of Color.
*Little Rock March Against Police Violence*
We march to the Capitol, silently to:
1) extend, to those who are charged with policing us, an invitation to sit and chart out a way forward.
2) give notice, that there will be no more unexplained brutalities and/or murders exacted on people of color without accountability.
3) reclaim the responsibility of self-policing. We do all this silently as a symbolic gesture to those who have been murdered by
agents of states that will never be punished.
November 19, 2014 * Let’s come together as a community
in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Throughout the world, people gather every year to pay respect to those needlessly killed
by hate crimes against the transgender community, and to call attention to the threat of violence that they face.
Announcement – 5:00 p.m.
By Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner
Program – 5:30 p.m. – Philander Smith College, Kendall Atrium – Little Rock, AR
Reading of the Names and Lived Experiences of Transgender Persons, Dedication of Memorial Wreath
Fayetteville’s TDOR Event
The Transcending Gender Project – Photo Tour
September 1, 2014 6-9 P.M.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Boswell-Mourot Fine Art, 5815 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock, AR 72207
Come meet the Photographer – Rhys Harper
“I’ve been conceptualizing this project for several years, and am excited to begin a series photographing trans-identified and gender nonconforming humans that celebrate who they are as people. The media and society in general is starting to discuss trans issues more, and there is more awareness, but so often, the focus of discussion is about bodies and what is underneath our clothes, instead of who we are and what we have to offer the world.
This series celebrates our lives. We are doctors, students, parents, bankers, brokers, musicians, photographers, children, and teachers. We are free spirits, creative souls, world travelers, cat rescuers, and performers. We are lovers, fighters, hopers, dreamers, movers, and shakers. These photographs intend to capture us in ways that celebrate who we are. “
After Mara Keisling’s Visit
In all the time I’ve identified with the transgender community, I can, honestly, say I’ve NEVER heard such a message of hope. The echo of legislative policy on the horizon that EVERY trans* person NEEDS to hear. It applies to every aspect of our lives – healthcare, employment, housing, and education.
The younger people just beginning their journey NEED to realize the messages’ impact NOW. Moreover, those of us further along in our transition [myself included] needed to hear it years ago. Personally, I thank my sheer stubbornness to endure. For example, all those times I remember sitting in the tub crying with the shower on, using the sound of the water to soothe my sobs. This happened, frequently, as I try to come to terms with a gender in-congruent to my body, as relationships failed, as depression immobilized me, as medical professionals said ignorant things or declined to assist me, and as my teenage angst persisted. Of all the times, I could have “medicated” myself with drugs or alcohol, I chose music. I am extremely lucky. I know that now and a surprising thing happened along the way – I became resilient. Me?! I self-described introvert who finds happiness in helping others. Specifically, by taking interest in the well-being of other trans people.