Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about stories. Partly because I am writing my first book. Partly because every day I hear stories about people who are very courageously standing up for what is right. Stories of people like Heather Heyer, the young woman brutally murdered for standing up against white supremacy in the United States. Stories of people like Rev. Robert Lee, the descendant of Robert E. Lee who spoke out against the hero worship of his problematic ancestor and lost his pulpit as a result. Stories of people like Munroe Bergdorf, the first transgender model to serve as the face of a major cosmetic brand, who was fired after calling out racism on a live television program.
Stories of everyday people living their lives in pursuit of equality and resistance to evil.
For these people, and the hundreds of thousands like them, standing up to resist hatred isn’t a planned act designed to bolster their reputation. Rather, their actions reflect a deep moral conviction that people should be allowed to live their lives without fear of oppression. And as a result, they lost something. For Rob and Munroe, it was a job they worked hard for while Heather paid the ultimate price.
My story, while not as heroic, is not that dissimilar.
I was born an ordinary person to an ordinary Southern family. For eighteen years, I denied my identity. An identity that was clouded by prejudice, ignorance, and fear. Then, everything changed. I started the difficult process of living an open and affirming life. By the age of 21, I was living my true self. As a result, I lost everything. I lost my job. I lost my home. I lost many of my friends. I lost my family, for a time.
What I didn’t lose was my dignity, my sense of justice, and the courage which pushed me forward.
At the time, I didn’t know that the pain and intense loss I was experiencing would serve as the fertile ground for something beautiful and far-reaching. For twenty years of my life, I didn’t have a word to describe who I was or how I felt. When I finally had a word, transgender, I still didn’t have a good understanding of what that meant. Finding information was hard and sources were often unreliable. From this need, I started work on what would become MyTransitionPartner.com, as I started recording all of the things I learned and all of the resources I had found. Later, difficulties in raising the money necessary to change my name, start hormone therapy, and the still far-off dream of surgery motivated me to do something to end funding difficulties for other transgender people.
Some people would describe me as extraordinary, but I still see myself as an ordinary lady from Alabama living her life and helping others in the best way she can.
The amazing thing about stories is that they have the power to transform not only ourselves but other people. If it weren’t for a transgender person sharing their story with me, I might not be where I am today. If it weren’t for me telling my story, MyTransitionPartner.com might not be helping an average of 500 people a day, and the DJC Fund might not be poised to assist ten people in North Dakota change their name by July 2018.
The other amazing thing about stories is the power they have to compound and create something even bigger than the storyteller could ever imagine.
Since 2013, I have had the distinct privilege of listening to other transgender, queer, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary individuals tell me their stories. Many of those stories have made me very sad, very angry about what it means to be a transgender person living in the United States in 2017. Some of them have been frankly heartbreaking. All of them have been life-changing for me and for every single person I’ve helped. That is because from these stories I have found strength and purpose and new directions for my work to take.
Over the next month and a half, I hope that we can start hearing your story.
My request is simple: Would you share your story with us? We have set up a portal where you can tell us who you are, how you got to where you are, what you want the world to look like for transgender people, and how the Foundation can help make that vision a reality. We want to hear from our TQ+ friends, we want to hear from our cisgender LGB and straight allies, and we want to hear from the people who love transgender, queer, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary individuals (family, best friends, partners).
In telling your story, you will change the world.
Darcy Corbitt-Hall She/Her/Hers
President and CEO
Board Meeting Delayed: Due to Hurricane Irma, our Executive Office was unable to prepare for the Board meeting scheduled for September 16. We are in the process of rescheduling our meeting for later in the month.
ND Dignity Grant Applications Delayed: We are still working on getting procedures in place to receive and process grant applications. Applications will be open October 1.
Seeking Volunteers: We are seeking volunteers in the Western United States, New England, and the Southwestern United States to develop state guides in these regions. Visit DarcyCorbitt.org/volunteer to apply as a content editor.
Call for Submissions: Pathways is seeking submissions for the fall issue. The theme is Reclaiming Identity, and essays, poems, short-stories, or artwork should speak to that theme. Visit PathwaysMag.blog/submit-content for more information.
FY 2018 Financial Pledging: Information will be sent out by October 1, regarding making a financial pledge toward our 2018 budget.
In the last seven years, I have found that the key to a healthy, affirming life is rejecting the plan and opt instead to being open to catch what life throws at you and run with it until you find a new aspect of your identity. Making a major life transition is never easy. My first big transition occurred in 2011, when I was outed as a gay man on the campus of a very conservative Christian university in Alabama. Later, in 2013, I began the process of living an open and affirming life as a transgender woman while still living in Alabama. Two years later, I transitioned to my new life in North Dakota. And now, two years after that transition, I am making the move back to Auburn, Alabama to continue the work I started there and finish my PhD in Human Development and Family Studies. This process of refining my personal narrative and selecting the best pathway to support my journey has been both incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding.
In fact, in the last seven years I have redefined my sexuality, gender identity, career goals, life aspirations, and even personal philosophy.
Some may see this as me being wishy-washy. The reality is, that this cycle of change is a normal part of development in emerging adulthood. To explore who we are and what we want is a normal and healthy component of being a young person. And in my experience, both personally and as an advocate, developmental scientist, and as a trained therapist, any person who feels that they have a good handle on who they are and what they want is on the cusp of finding out they have no idea who they are or what they want. Because it is in our nature as complex human beings to be in a constant state of flux, and that is perfectly fine. Without the ability to change, we would not evolve as a species or as a society.
The best part of this cycle of change is that even in our plasticity there is still constancy.
With all of the life changes I have undergone in the last decade, I am fundamentally the same person. I may identify as a woman, understand my sexuality as much broader and more nonbinary than I first surmised, work for social justice, and be making the conscious and willing decision to move back to the South, but my core being has not changed. I am still a compassionate, driven person who cares deeply about the psychosocial wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our society. I am a devout Christian and humanist who seeks to improve humanity through unconditional goodwill and an honest and supportive openness to the diversity of the divine. I am a merciful and longsuffering daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend who patiently bears with her family and long-time friends’ often bumbling attempts at understanding who she is. I am a hopeful woman waiting to find the right person to love and be loved by and start a family with. In spite of changing terms, attractions, life goals, and location, who I am at my core has not, and will most likely never, change.
This week I am making the 1,500 mile trek from Fargo, ND, to Auburn, AL, alone.
This arduous adventure is a perfect metaphor for the last seven years of my life. I am setting out on a difficult journey alone. While I want to reach the destination, getting there is something I’ve dreaded for most of 2017. It is difficult driving this far by yourself, and it is terrifying as well. Similarly, when I began the journey toward an open and affirming life, I had very little real partnership in the endeavor. Don’t get me wrong, I had many supportive and helpful friends, just as I have many helpful and supportive friends emotionally supporting me on this trip from a distance. But the real work, managing the exhaustion, stress, uncertainty, and risk of transition was something I had to do largely by myself. And I am definitely stronger for it. Even so, had I not been as strong as I was and as courageous as I was I probably would not have made it this far.
I started MyTransitionPartner.com to address the lack of support many transgender folk in rural states like Alabama and North Dakota experience which hampers their identity development.
Many people have asked me why I am doing this project. “There are established charities that could be doing this,” they say. And they are right: other people could be doing this. But they weren’t. I will be honest, there are days this endeavor is discouraging, and I feel like I am wasting my time. A large part of my job as the leader of this organization is public relations and fundraising. In the last nine months, I have spoken to a lot of people who are really supportive of what we are trying to accomplish. I have also met a lot of supportive people who are unwilling to provide us with the financial support we need to make this endeavor viable. And when you, like the eleven people on our team and myself, work your paying job, go to school, and come home and spend your post homework free time working to develop resources for MyTransitionPartner.com, it is really distressing and discouraging to see that we could only raise $55 during our July challenge for our hormone replacement therapy grants.
If my journey over the last seven years has taught me anything, it is that discouragement and setbacks are the motivation we need to continue the struggle forward.
In the aftermath of the President’s transgender ban announcement, my team and I were reminded of the importance of the work we do. In 24-hours, our web traffic increased 400%. Our Facebook following increased from 150 to 350. We provided direct support to people on social media and email. Our ally badges on Facebook were applied to over 15,000 profile pictures. In a very small and seemingly insignificant way we are making a difference in people’s lives. We are helping over 1,000 people daily to make that difficult journey of figuring out who they are or supporting their transgender loved one. We are working to ensure people in flux are not alone. And that is with a bare-bones budget in our spare time. Just think of what we could accomplish with more.
Remember in your state of flux, as you become a better version of you, my team and I are here for you.
Darcy Corbitt-Hall She/Her/Hers
President and CEO
Regional Offices Established. The Executive Board has established regional offices in Chicago, IL (Midwestern states), Auburn, AL (Southeastern states), and Lubbock, TX (Southwestern states as US Caribbean Territories), to manage community projects, development, and volunteer recruitment. Key operational divisions will also be housed in regional offices. We are seeking volunteers to head regional operations in the Western United States and Northeastern United States.
Executive Office Relocation. Our Executive Office is relocating to Auburn, Alabama. Operations, volunteer management, and finances will be managed from this location. It will also serve as the regional office for the Southeastern Region. Our Home Office will remain in Fargo, ND, with development, grantmaking, and communications being managed from this office.
Program and Community Division Relocation. The Programs and Community Division is now housed with our Midwestern Regional office in Chicago.
State Resource Guides. Our Summer Internship Program completed state resource guides for the Midwestern Region. Our program and community committee is working to review this content, and it will be available soon. We are seeking volunteers in the Western United States, New England, and the Southwestern United States to develop these guides in these regions.
ND Dignity Grant Applications will be available mid-August. Due to the move of our executive offices, the application period was delayed.
Next Board Meeting: September, 16, 2-2:30pm.
I have to admit that when it comes to technology I am pretty basic. The irony is that I run a cloud-based nonprofit organization which relies completely on technology to do its work. Tonight, though, I had a wonderful experience on Twitter. Now, full disclosure, I am not very good at using Twitter. In fact, our Twitter account (@transhelper) only has 23 followers. We follow a young trans man, and he tweets enough that when I do our daily tweet I see his updates. This morning, he disclosed that he was about to come out. I sent him a quick word of encouragement and a link to our website. I noticed later in the afternoon that he was quickly spiraling, and things were not going well.
This typically is the point in a trans person's transition which either makes or breaks them. I watch this unfold over an hour with things getting worse and worse. I sent a second tweet telling him to reach out if he needed us and sent more links pertinent to his situation. Then, I waited with baited breath, terrified that he would never tweet again.
He just tweeted us saying that we literally saved the day with our links.
This story is exactly what I want MyTransitionPartner to be. A resource which literally saves lives by reducing the negative reactions of loved ones and the community when people come out as transgender, queer, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming. A resource that gives people hope in the early days of transition. A resource that helps people find the courage to reclaim their narrative and dignity. And in the eight months since we've been operating we've seen our website grow into just such a resource.
In forty days or so we will disburse five name-change grants. These $150 grants will change the lives of five transgender people in North Dakota by giving them the ability to reclaim their dignity. These grants are only possible because of your generosity. Because of the success of our week-long fundraiser in June (thanks for putting up with the incessant emails, by the way) we have funded four of the five grants we will disburse in January. Already in July we have met all of the goals set by the Board of Trustees at our Annual Meeting in January of this year.
Even though we've met our grantmaking goals, we are not resting on our laurels. We plan to raise enough funds in August and September to fund two hormone therapy grants ($500 each) and one gender affirming surgery grant ($1000). We will disburse these grants in January. If you haven't made a donation during this fiscal year, I encourage you to consider earmarking some of your funds to help us provide these grants. As we received Federal recognition this summer, your donation may be tax deductible!
I would be remiss if I didn't let you know about the exciting opportunity we are offering in July. For a $30 minimum donation (or $10 for trans/queer/nonbinary/nonconforming folk) you can receive 5 issues of our quarterly magazine, Pathways! Subscribe to Pathways and get both a pretty awesome magazine and help fund transgender lives.
As always, my team and I are thankful for your support and trust in the services we provide. If you need anything please know that we are here for you!
As we enter the swing of Pride month, I have been reflecting on what Pride means to me as a transgender woman living in a rural state. Living in North Dakota, as in many other rural states, can be incredibly isolating for LGBTQ+ individuals. In the hostile political climate in which transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming current find themselves, this feeling of isolation carries the additional burden of fear for personal safety, economic stability, and the freedom to live an open and affirming life.
When I came out as transgender, I remember all-to-well the intense feeling of isolation and disconnection in my home state of Alabama. I remember the desperation of trying to navigate my transition while having little to no mentorship or support. For a long time I felt I was in a free-fall of emotional anguish, psychological stress, and identity crisis. This spiral resulted in an inevitable crash, and from this crash MyTransitionPartner was born.
My biggest challenge was knowing where to start, trying to understand who I was, and discerning what information on the internet was true and which was false. Navigating this path of transition was perilous indeed. I found strength in writing about my frustration and about the solutions and lessons I learned from my journey. In 2015, I decided to publish much of what I had written and compiled on my personal website in the form of resource pages. By the middle of 2016, my resource pages were getting an average of 300 views per day. Our entry into this new era of alt-facts and fear-based public policy pushed me to transform a pet project into a legitimate charity.
Pride, for me, is the bold confrontation of that unknown hideous strength which seeks to choke out the very flame of our beautiful and unique existence. Pride is the realization that in boldly accepting ourselves and our identity and reclaiming our narrative we become an even greater strength to rival even the vilest attacks on our dignity and worth as human beings. It is this pride which prompted me in December 2016, to take a major leap of faith and incorporate my website as a nonprofit community foundation.
Since officially launching to the public on Tuesday, I have received messages from transgender folk and their allies thanking me for this resource. A common theme has been "I wish I had this when I came out" and "thank you for giving me a place to send people when they come out to me." Wednesday, I attended a community meeting where many transgender people discussed how the expense of legal name changes makes being an authentic version of who they are very difficult. I was greatly moved by this especially in light of the fact that we will be rolling out five name change grants in July that will help transgender people in North Dakota move one step closer to the person they've always been.
All of this has been made possible by the generosity of our donors and and generosity of our volunteers. I want to especially praise the (now 8) people who give of their time and talents to the community a better place for transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming people. Because of their gift, we can give 85% of our donations back to the community.
And now, I am going to ask you to give back. In May, we surpassed last year's fundraising total of $2,500. In order to double our ability to help transgender people through our name change grants, we need to raise an additional $2,500 by the end of the summer. If everyone on our mailing list gave $50 today, we would more than amply surpass that goal.
Anyone can share a meme or video. Anyone can dance and celebrate at Pride. True pride, true allyship comes in recognizing where we have been, where we are, where we want to go, and what it will take for us to make it there. Living your pride or allyship is courageously joining in to help make it happen.
Will you live your pride and allyship with us this June?
Darcy J. Corbitt-Hall
President and CEO
•The first issue of Pathways has gone out. The next issue will be a full magazine publication, and should be released in August. Read Pathways at PathwaysMag.blog
•Justice Taylor has joined the Foundation as the Director of Publications and will serve as the Editor-in-Chief of our quarterly Magazine, Pathways
•Five name change grants have been funded. An additional $1,000 is needed to fund the remaining ten we wish to offer in 2017.[Donate]
•Summer Internship Program will begin on June 1.
•Becoming An Ally Full Training is being offered in June in partnership with St. Stephen’s Church in Fargo. [Learn more]
•Q2 Board Meeting is June 24, from 2-2:30. To join the call, contact us.
Darcy Jeda Corbitt Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity promoting the health and global wellbeing of transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming individuals. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by US Federal Tax Code.
© 2017 Darcy Jeda Corbitt Foundation
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved