An interview with Jean Vermette about her experience of recognizing that she was female, and taking the risk to share it with the people she loved. She ultimately chose to undergo sexual reassignment surgery and wrote a book, Je Me Souviens (I will remember) about her experience of MtF genital surgery. Jean spoke movingly about how her need to feel whole was so strong that she was willing to risk the loss of sexual responsiveness. Jean described the process as an example of the universal spiritual story of death and rebirth, and the sense of loss of her male self that was a necessary part of embracing her female identity.
A Live Forum for Courageous Conversations.
Safe Space is a show about subjects that are hard to talk about--a respectful forum for courageous conversations about difficult subjects in order to reduce stigma, provide education, offer hope and access to resources. It is a space for the in depth discussion of matters that touch hearts and yet feel risky to share; subjects that deserve, but rarely get, thoughtful consideration.
The topics on Safe Space often deal with the guests’ courage to accept difference in themselves, especially when they feel afraid or ashamed about that difference. Shame is a painful psychological and emotional experience, but it is also a cultural and political force. All acts of courage inspire others to take risks, to express themselves, to be themselves. Such acts have political force to stand up to silencing, to create change.
Each show attempts to name and acknowledge difficult feelings, and to honor those who have found their own way of putting them into perspective. Listening to Safe Space will introduce you to many who are daring to speak about what is true for them as they find a way to turn their deepest wounds or hidden struggles into a gift for others. Giving voice to the unspeakable is ultimately an act of generosity and courage that makes our world more hospitable and welcoming to the parts of each of us that feel vulnerable.
An interview with doctor of clinical social work, Frank Brooks about gender role non-conformity. Frank described his own experiences of feeling different and facing prejudice as he grew up. He then went on to study the powerful link between gender role non-conformity in boys and the risk of suicide. He works now with families with gender role non-conforming kids to help them protect their kids from bullying, threats, and shunning. Frank uses the term Gender role instead of gender to highlight that these roles are social constructions and are changing. He sees hope for transgender and gender role non-conforming kids as social awareness and acceptance grows.
An interview with sexuality educator and mother, Sandy Lovell about parenting a trans son. Sandy shared the story of learning that her daughter was becoming a man. She described her son’s childhood and the very early ways he was drawn to play with more stereotypically masculine toys, and said he felt “in the middle” between being a boy and a girl. As a feminist mother she celebrated his gender non-conformism, although 23 years ago it had not occurred to her that he might be trans. Sandy named parental concerns for her child’s safety, his ability to find love, her grief over losing the daughter, and her struggle to accept that the transition was really necessary. Sandy also spoke movingly about how her son’s courage to be himself has inspired her to live her most authentic self, and that in many ways his transformation has been a gift to their family.
An interview with social worker Liam Bechen about being a genderfluid trans man. Liam describes his story of realizing that he was not a woman, not a man, but occupying the gray area in between. He describes the daily challenge of coping with people’s responses to his visible inbetween-ness. He describes moments of fear of violence, but also of his determination to live without shame, and to celebrate the many manifestations of gender that he can explore. He experiences gender as a social construct that we take to be reality, and that can be oppressive when we feel compelled to live by the conventions and expectations that accompany gender roles. Liam describes his decision to use male pronouns, and to take testosterone, while keeping a visible chest, not as a rejection of the feminine but as a celebration of living outside of binary gender conventions.
An interview with social worker, writer and queer activist, Jen Hodsdon about the relationship between the lesbian community and the trans community. Jen speaks about how delicate the relationship can be between two oppressed and marginalized groups, and her intention to speak only about her particular experience. She described the forces that bring the two communities together, including gender variance, oppression and risk of violence. She also spoke about how divisive the marriage equality focus can be because it privileges access to marriage, which is not such a priority for the trans-community, for whom basic safety is a larger concern. Jen also spoke about tensions within the communities about the F to M transition and whether it reflects a misogynist rejection of femaleness. She acknowledged the painful loss for many lesbians who fall in love with women partners who then go on to identify as trans men. Jen spoke of her wish to identify as a dyke which she sees as a more inclusive term than lesbian, to include the possibility of variable gender attraction and identification.
An interview with author and gender studies professor, Helen Boyd about being married to a trans woman. Helen describes her early courtship to a man who “occasionally cross-dressed” and how this evolved into loving her partner through transition into becoming a woman. She accepted the experience as an invitation to explore her own relationship to gender from being a young tomboy, to pressures to conform to traditional ideas about femininity as she grew up. Helen explores what it is like to be perceived now as a lesbian because she is married to a woman, and how she and Betty have each worked to honor each other’s sexual and gender needs through the process of transition.
An interview with the founder and president of the first camp for trans youth, Nick Teich. Nick describes many challenges that trans youth face as they grow up, particularly as they enter puberty and begin to develop secondary sex characteristics of the sex that feels wrong to them. The camp is for ages 8 to 15 and is designed to offer a safe place where kids can express the gender that feels right to them, among others doing the same. He tells stories of campers who benefited tremendously from meeting other kids like them for the first time in their lives. Nick also describes some of the medical options available to kids to delay puberty until they are old enough to decide whether to transition.
An interview with the director of the Maine Transgender Network, Alex Roan. Alex defines the terms transgender, transsexual and cross-dresser, clarifying the difference between sex, gender, gender expression and sexual orientation. He describes his own story of experiencing the gap between his sex and his gender , and his experience of transition from female to male. He gives poignant examples of experiencing male privilege from the “other side.” He also describes common issues that trans people struggle with, especially coping with the reactions of family and friends.
An interview with radio program director Lisa Bunker about her experience of becoming aware that she identified as a woman. Lisa describes the process of feeling like a failure at trying to be a man, and the deep relief of embracing her female identity. She describes her experiences of telling her friends, her workplace colleagues and her children, and of transitioning to living full-time as a woman.
An interview with terrorism expert Jessica Stern about her experience following a rape at age 15. Jessica speaks about the way her story was not believed by the police resulting in further rapes of over 40 children. She also addresses the way in which her father did not initially take the rape seriously and the way she felt pressured not to look into her past. Jessica describes the experience of living with PTSD, especially the confusing way in which she did not feel fear in dangerous situations (like interviewing terrorists in pakistan), while also feeling panicked by small triggers that she did not know were connected to the trauma. Ultimately Jessica developed the capacity to be intensely curious and empathic toward violent men as a way to try and make sense of what happened to her.