By Sheifalika Bhatnagar and Piotrus Klis
In the last year, the LGBT community in Jacksonville suffered tragic losses, due to the murders of several transgender women. These devastating crimes have only made the LGBT community stronger.
Despite the violence against transgender people, the city of Jacksonville has a thriving community that is working towards educating the public on trans issues.
Dylan Myers works at the UNF LGBT Resource Center as a graduate assistant of assessment. He moved from Pennsylvania to Florida a few years ago and has found a greater sense of community here. He has also completed his own transition.
“A lot of people who I’ve met, who have lived in Jacksonville their whole life say that Jacksonville, or feel that Jacksonville is very anti-LGBT,” Myers said. “I feel differently about that, because I have not had any negative things said about me since I moved down here. And that could be because I now pass, but I am also very vocal about being trans.”
Deciding to undergo a gender transition is a life-changing process. Many people may not fully comprehend the intensive journey that many trans people go through in order to transition.
Myers explains what is at stake for many trans people and what the public needs to know about people pursuing transition.
“I want people to know, it’s not a choice. That is, I think, the biggest thing that I get is a why did you choose to be trans. I never chose to be trans. I didn’t choose to hate myself and hate my body for so long. I didn’t choose to get addicted to self-harm, because I didn’t know how to cope with hating my body,” Myers said. “I didn’t choose those things. And I especially didn’t choose to have a seven thousand dollar top surgery. And all the hoops you have to go through to get the testosterone. And to get your name legally changed.”
The significance of being true to one’s gender identity is vital for many transgender people. In addition, finding resources, acceptance and support is necessary to transition for many people.
Myers explains, “No one would choose that path for themselves. It’s just gets to a point for a lot of trans people of – I either need to transition, or I’m going to commit suicide.”
Crystal Christopher is a young college student at UNF, and identifies as being non-binary. Within the spectrum of gender, there are several identities other than male or female. Christopher identifies as belonging outside the dichotomy of male or female and prefers they/them pronouns.
“If a person comes out to you as trans or non-binary. They’re the same person that they’ve always been,” Christopher said. “They just want to share this part of themselves with you, and no one is gonna get down your throat about being bad about pronouns.”
For many people who have an awareness about transgender issues, the importance of using correct pronouns is an opportunity to learn how to show support for all members of the trans community.
“It does help when you put in the effort because it shows that you’re willing to respect that person and try,” Christopher said. “I feel like I have a huge community here… And I’ve found a whole bunch of new friends that I can just talk to whenever I need to.”
Jacksonville’s LGBT community is thriving and here to stay. It’s important to become informed about everyone in our diverse River City. There are many ways to raise awareness and support the local transgender community.
For more information go to Jasmyn.org, a non-profit organization that is a safe space for the local LGBT community.