A New Path, a New Class, a New Country

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The evening sunset on Island Bay NZ; by Samantha Logan Feb 16, 2017

Starting this blog over again is a bitter-sweet feeling for me.  This blog started originally as a way for me to get my thoughts out surrounding the Non-profit I originally began in 2013, Trans* Youth Channel, but those days are long since past and much like this blog, TYC has been driven into the depths of the internet – ignored and long since outdated.

And yet here I am,  posting my first post on here in two years.  My intent with this blog in general is going to be about my moving on and moving up.  To do that however, it is first necessary to contextualize where I have been, why a new path is coming about, and what spurred me to revive this site.  I will seek now, in this post to do so.

What happened?
Trans Youth Channel has since become RESCQU NET and has as of a month of my writing this (2 years after my last post), received it’s second Executive Director in March of 2017.  It’s hard to imagine that I have been running this organization for 6 years, but I am also aware that in the grand scheme of things that is a very short (albeit successful) interim.  I realized in 2016 that it was time to move on.  My time in the LGBT+ community as a transgender advocate was never something I would imagine giving up, but my heart feels that now it is time to emigrate into a larger more grand world where I can feel I am making an impact that resounds into multiple communities and across multiple interests.  I am embarking on a new journey in all ways; socially, financially, and geographically.

Where Am I Going?
I am in New Zealand now.  I recently embarked on a trip here for a study abroad semester under Erika Pearson – a wonderfully insightful and talented researcher of online communities at Massey University here in Wellington.  My interest in her work and the field of online community management (I prefer the term facilitation) began because of RESCQU NET (Trans* Youth Channel).  I wanted to learn how to do my job of fostering an online community better.  After two years of schooling and research I discovered it was much easier said then done.

I have since been involved in multiple areas of study and made it my life’s goal to be as much of a polymath as I could be; to learn as much as I could about how humans aggregate and think, how they feel and speak.  I did this with the goal of improving conversations happening in networks of communities around me.  I got involved in public policy deliberation with the Center for Public Deliberation to understand how flaws in communication affect communities of people. I started doing Ethnographic journals of New Zealand and Online Worlds like Guild Wars 2 to understand physical and digital communities.  I started investing my time more in art communities to have an empathetic connection to them.  I began easing myself into social life through video gaming and e-sports communities like Super Smash Brothers.  And then I started seeking out those classes that would show me – not teach me but show me – how to communities worked.

And the Big Why?

And so, I am very excited to be a part of a new class here at Massey Wellington requiring me to create a blog and bolster a community of like-minded people around a more visual platform!  Perhaps this will light the fire under my wings to revive my great admiration for art, to get re-involved in a community of people here to create and contribute to each others’ work.

This class is called Communication in Creative Cultures, and throughout the semester (and hopefully beyond) this blog will see an analysis of the community, culture, people, and theoretical applications I see in my adventures. I will supplement these analysis with various communication and anthropological theories to properly inform the discourse surrounding active community involvement, and I will do this with the ultimate goal, of becoming a strong community member.

For a more general ethnography of my New Zealand travels check out my travel blog! Updated every Wednesday and Saturday with one new day’s entry! EthnographicTravels.Weebly.com

 

 

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The Manifesto Blogs – Part 4: How we involve brick-and-mortar LGBT+ Organizations

In the past 3 [ 1, 2, 3 ] manifesto blogs we’ve published, a lot of heat has been placed on the brick-and-mortar LGBT+ organizations and the grant foundations that fund them. We criticize them in saying they are not proactively seeking to expand their reach to the ‘invisible’ individuals in need of it, but in this blog we at TYC want to make it absolutely clear that the LGBT+ organizations are not at all the problem. Rather, expanding their audiences is the solution to getting resources and support to the invisible community we feel needs them.

Partner organizations have thus far been unable to permeate the “closet barrier” – or access the invisible community of closeted, stealth, questioning, and under sourced – for a variety of reasons revolving around lack of resources of their own, lack of funding from organizations, the “overhead” myth, and traditional marketing, business, and media tactics that are not capable of reaching the invisible audience.

Trans* Youth Channel’s mission has been to get the invisible community these resources brick-and-mortar organizations have earlier in their journeys, but because partner organizations are just as limited as the invisible community and have their own communities in need, it is difficult for them to cater these sources directly; in reality they are simply too strapped doing their own thing. It is therefore better for us at TYC to provide services for the organizations to more easily provide their content while also benefiting the invisible LGBT+ community in our programs:

In our Weekly Digest Program we will provide partner organizations’ content and resources, while also opening up an anonymous channel for invisible community members to email organizations their questions and request more resources. In our Support Group program we are heavily integrating partner organizations into facilitator trainings and providing our trainings for free to those organizations who participate. And in our content creation program we are especially spotlighting the great work that LGBT+ organizations have done in a manner that invisible community members can take advantage of safely and securely at no detriment to them.

Are you an LGBT+ organization?  partner with us!

Our Weekly Digest Programnichole koester quote

Our weekly digest program seeks to keep the invisible community from having to dangerously search for scattered and difficult to find information online. We do the research for the invisible community, compile it, and send it directly to each invisible member’s private email address to save, download, and use however they wish.

How Partners Benefit

Partner organizations will directly benefit from this program in that we will offer each organization the opportunity to include their own expert content related to the weekly topic in the newsletter along with a link for members to contact them anonymously and inquire further about partner resources. Likewise if partners have any events or other things going on they can contact all 500 members of our list privately through our weekly digest to let them know quietly and discretely as opposed to often invasive social media and SEO tactics. The weekly digest is bound to be a boon for LGBT+ organizations and at the same time it provides the invisible community more opportunity to gain a trustworthy expert contact to help the invisible get over their hurdles.

 

Our Support Group Program

Our support group program – still in development – is intended for community members to have a safe space to talk, interact with one another, and get peer support without having to go to an LGBT+ organization or if you are unable to access physical resources or it is too much anxiety.

How Partners Benefit

Partner organization will be mostly involved in a fully comprehensive training that all support group facilitators will be required to go through. Partners can add input to the trainings themselves so that facilitators are learning about suicide from the Trevor project and Trans* Lifeline, or about domestic abuse from RAINN and SAVA. About race from #BlackLivesMatter and NAACP. Additionally, any participating organizations in the training will be free to send any volunteer they like through the training at no cost to them and allow them to jumpstart their own support groups quickly and at very little cost.

This partner organization opportunity benefits the invisible community by providing a huge community of professionally trained and certified support group facilitators to go out into local communities or to run groups online that closely emulate a real physical support group. They will have the confidence in a facilitator that understands and has the means to support them.

 

Our Content Creation Program

The content creation programs is a content development platform for V-logs and Blogs that will allow us to inform and educate the general public in addition to the invisible community about various identity related hurdles and how to face them. It is intended to be widely encompassing from “how to transition” to coming out and it is very “expert” driven with well researched, shot, edited, and developed works.

How Partners Benefit

This last program is a very wide and encompassing opportunity that will allow partner organizations far more agency in how they speak to and assist the invisible community. In Trans* Youth Channel curated and developed content we will carry ‘sponsors’ for our content, and exhibit organization’s content in our own. If a partner has an event going on for instance we’ll make a video on the topic for it and include its relevancy the invisible community. It works much like the old TYC, but it will be up to partners to contact us about any developments.

These great bonuses for our partner organizations are joined with a myriad of smaller bonuses including a Facebook group with every organization’s leaders able to communicate and talk with each other, direct social media advice and campaign development from us as an online social media driven organization, and more!

Our partner organizations are a significant part of our mission statement and our success hinges on the willingness and desire for brick-and-mortar LGBT+ organizations to care about the invisible community. We truly value our partner’s honest attempts to extend their reach to the invisible community and hope to continue facilitating this in the future.

Thank you so much to all of our partners.

 

Next week: Manifesto Blog #5: Funding our programs

The Manifesto blogs – Part 3: How we reach an invisible audience

Reaching out to an Invisible LGBT+ community – those who are closeted, stealth, questioning, or in under-resourced areas – is inherently problematic. If the audience is invisible how exactly does one create services that understand, reach out, and make an effort to support them? In traditional business the “market profile” solves the problem of not understanding the audience a product is made for by doing often costly research. By earnestly listening to people one hopes to reach, one can create a profile of their likes, dislikes or commonalities, and then cater the product or service to them. It is a wonderfully powerful tool that still enriches our businesses today and is responsible for the ridiculous amounts of Ragu spaghetti sauce or pepsi flavors on your supermarket shelves today.

On the other hand however, this “market profile” has come to be expected in the world of non-profits which has made things rather difficult for the community LGBT+ nonprofits seek to support. Grant foundations expect that when they give a nonprofit money to do a project that organization has already done the research necessary to accurately predict how well the service or product will be received by what audiences and to what end.

The invisible community on the other hand, is identified by way of not having a public voice due to hurdles and anxieties so the invisible community legitimately cannot inform foundations of their presence, who they are, and what they need to the extent foundations require. This of course comes to the detriment of this same community. Trans* Youth Channel happens to be the only organization catering to such a community almost precisely because all other organizations find it a risky venture to spend precious donation funds on. Although many programs are at the invisible community’s fingertips and a world of online sites have inadvertently provided parts of what invisible people need, no one makes or provides services directly for them so information is scattered, difficult to get to, and often comes with a mountain of hurdles and anxieties.

This narrative defines for us a dilemma: While Trans* Youth Channel’s mission is to assist the invisible community, and we understand what pressures have created the community, we cannot help them unless we consider three questions:

  1. How can we safely learn more about the invisible community,
  2. How can we reach that community to provide our services in a way that best suits them,
  3. And can we do it in a way that convinces public organizations to invest in them?

The 3rd question is large so it will be the topic of our 4th manifesto blog, but in this blog we will focus on the first two questions. In order to achieve our mission of getting resources into the hands of invisible community members, while helping those members overcome their hurdles we first have to think creatively about how to safely contact them, then how best to accommodate them, and ultimately we must rely heavily on the grapevine of community members we already have to make up any short sights and learn about them.

Getting in contact:

If you are a 15 year old questioning invisible member of the community still living with your parents and without a job it is remarkably difficult to attain resources. Despite this however the invisible community has flocked to YouTube,

matthewsplace.com, and many other sites to attain the information they need to learn about their identities, come to terms with them, and then determine whether to come out. Getting involved in communities online is a dangerous proposition with the advent of the “real names” policy put forward by Facebook, and the ridiculous amount of hoops you have to jump through to protect your private information. Googling “how to come out to my parents” could elicit weeks of ad marketing that if on a family computer, could spell a bad “outing” experience for many youth.

Fortunately, Trans* Youth Channel is cleverly taking advantage of this system by using those ad spaces to warn those who “trip up” on Google, Facebook, and other platforms that they could be outed and in 5 easy steps teaching them how to avoid it. In doing so we are also establishing a 2 way mode of communication that is anonymous secure and safe for them to use, which provides them access to our weekly digest and support group programs.

Accommodating Invisible Community Members

As valuable as using google and other ads is for keeping the invisible community from being outed unexpectedly on Facebook, Trans* Youth Channel’s services would be equally useless if the invisible community felt insecure, or scared using our services or if we imparted a very real danger of outing them by way of leaking information. Many find making an account dangerous, lurking on one page for much too long to be risky, and posting on pages worrisome due to the chance that a friend could come across it. So if we are to keep the community safe Trans* Youth Channel must ensure that all of our programs and online interfaces are made to suit this audience and that means refraining from a few key analysis methods.

Trans* Youth Channel's values to invisible members online
our promised values to community members

We at TYC are making a promise, right here and now:

We will not require any data on anyone – even for our own purposes – save for one email address (we recommend separate from your daily life) and an optional first name, unless it is provided directly to us for 1 time permissions, by survey, in the course of providing services, or if proactively offered to us by the legal owner of this information. We will rely as little as possible on any data or information provided to us by default from social media sites or other third parties, and we will not provide to other organizations any specific data on community members. Any data shared will be generic and with full confidentiality of those who provided it intact in accordance with university collection methods.

In this data driven world, businesses rely heavily on big data so such a promise is a big change, but for the invisible community, we feel it is a positive move in privacy that assists our community and the very intersectional net neutrality movement in maintaining a freedom of resources, community, and support that does not endanger them.

Relying heavily on the grapevine

Because we will be taking minimal information and all of that information can be entirely fictional in order to protect the security, safety and anonymity of the community, we are not going to be getting very much information on the invisible LGBT+ community unless we ask directly. It comes at a tremendous disadvantage and perhaps this is another reason organizations are so reluctant to help invisible members. Hopefully with the spreading of our word as a safe space, we can make up for that disadvantage through the grapevine; through people and word of mouth.

It is our take that the largest amount of contact anyone will have with the Invisible LGBT+ community will be interpersonal. It will be those individuals who are struggling to come out finding the courage and the opportunity to come out to one safe “out” LGBT+ individual in person or online. We’ve experienced this happen almost every day since TYC began and bloggers saw comments on our YouTube channels. There has always been a level of private mentorship that helped connect invisible members with ‘out’ LGBT+ individuals and we intend to better facilitate this very personal mode of assistance. By equipping those who are already connected to us and our partners with our programs and having them inform us on community needs, we can develop a stronger community of people who can speak with us anonymously through anonymous surveys and make up for what “big data” could immorally give us.

Even though there will be little grant funds and little assistance from big name organizations largely catering to an out community; even though little will be afforded to help us accomplish our mission of bridging the gap between the ‘out’ LGBT+ Brick-and-mortar nonprofits, we plan on having genuine safe, secure, anonymous and quality communication with the invisible community so that we can better understand them, meld our programs to their needs, and provide resources, community, and support sooner for them.

Next week we will discuss the third question put forward here and the other half of our mission statement: How do we convince public organizations to invest in the invisible community and in us?

The Manifesto Blogs – Part 2: who Where is the invisible community?

In our last blog post about the new mission of Trans* Youth Channel we spoke a lot about the need to assist the “invisible” community that we define as largely the closeted, stealth, questioning, and under-resourced, but in using this term many individuals we surveyed refused to accept it.  It was vague and they felt they weren’t “invisible”. They were Trans*, or black, or young adults who were “disadvantaged”.

Despite this however, in the equal right movements “invisible” is an important term. It can define entire populations, cultures, and sections of our world. It’s been equated to every identity in the LGBT+ community, (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, questioning and others), it has been widely studied in the prospects of feminism, has broad striking research in healthcare, it has been attributed to a swath of racial justice communities including black young adults, Native Americans, illegal immigrants, Hispanic communities, and even disabled individuals. It has been particularly used among age lines with youth and elders.

“Invisible” has become an emotive adjective equating to un-diagnosed oppressed minorities. It has become a knee-jerk call to action and an emotive appeal in marketing, advocacy, and more, but we at TYC feel, it’s become a place. We continue to use the term to describe our community because it has become an environment where if a precious few conditions are met they will make anyone invisible regardless of their identity.

The conditions can build up at any time, they can develop in any way, across any minority or identity, but almost invariably, what makes someone “invisible” is when they are placed in a circumstance where one loses control over their own identity due to a buildup of hurdles, resulting in perceived or real anxieties, fears, and mental displacement forcing them to hide who they are.

 

One is invisible when they are not in control of how they identify
Consider an LGBT+ youth under the age of 16. They cannot work, they cannot live independently, they have to go to school in most cases, and their parents have legal control over their healthcare, most finances, and the roof over their heads. Now consider their family being un-accepting of their identity; devout and harsh Catholics who go to mass every single Sunday with a priest who has a subscription to focus on the family.

If that teen were to come out how much control do you think they would have over their situation? Consider 17 year old internet user: RavenRiver’s story in an article from About: relationships on coming out experiences:

“When I came out my parents made me go talk to their church bishop. I was told I’m broken, that they were taking me to counseling to help fix me, and that if things got worse they would have to take more drastic actions. They told me it’s just a phase and that I could be “fixed.” They also forbid me from telling anyone. To this day they cannot accept that I’m gay. When I told my friends, everything seemed fine and dandy at first, then I found out a bunch of them were talking about me behind my back and they asked me to keep my sexuality to myself because it would be easier for them. It was horrible.”

They say the truth will set you free. Well when I told my family I was gay, I would up in the hospital.
Image from: http://www.queerty.com/16-of-the-best-and-worst-coming-out-stories-from-anonymous-sharing-app-whisper-20140820

Invisible community members in the LGBT+ community don’t normally express their identities “because they are not ready”, but because of some perceived or very real hurdle preventing them from coming out.  Because resources to overcome those hurdles are not in their control, such as finances, independent healthcare, or legal sovereignty from parents, their ability to express their identity is not in their control so challenging the status-quot is extremely dangerous.

This is called an “external locus of control” and it means you perceive or literally do not have control over your life. It is harder to get out from under an oppressive situation, and that means “covering” your identity at work, at home, with family, online, and in various other living circumstances. 

One is invisible when control of one’s situation is impeded by hurdles
By and large, the environments ability to control how you identify and when you “cover” your identity is composed of what we define as Hurdles; perceived or real elements of one’s life that impede the open expression of their identity. Hurdles are not always physical and are often subtle, but because of these hurdles one can be left powerless. RavenRiver’s family had full control over her religious beliefs and freedoms as well as her mental health. They had that control because she was under the age of 18 and bound to her parent’s household. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in most cases (we’re not condoning the removal of parental rights as a whole), but because she challenged the status-quot and came out, she wound up mentally and emotionally battered. Likewise her environment – her friends and family – controlled a social perception of her acceptance and held sway over her feelings.

If you are a youth hurdles can be fairly obvious such as your financial, healthcare, legal, and school concerns, but hurdles can also impact you at any time in life.  A prior volunteer of mine with Trans* Youth Channel for instance was a huge advocate for LGBT+ rights with her own YouTube channel, and she was our operations manager.   After she had made the decision to go into college, because of where she lived, she had to return to the closet and stop expressing her identity outwardly and publicly. She went to college in Waco, Texas where it was (rightly) perceived as dangerous for her to be out as a transgender woman.

It should also be recognized that hurdles are not always applicable at all times. They can be present in some areas of life, but not in others. I personally spent much of my time in the first year of my transition from male to female, in a “part-time” transition stage where I was female in most of my life, save for times when I went to work. I worked at a high end luxury hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming run by a Mormon family and it was legal to fire me for being transgender. I was constantly worried about informing my manager or coming out while working there because I had utmost understanding that I would be fired.  At the same time however they were not too fond of the eyeliner that wouldn’t come off, or the long hair, or that sometimes I would come to work with nail polish on since I didn’t have time to remove it. It was suffocating for me, but the job maintained financial hurdles and job security over me. It had to do with whether I would find another job, or how people at work would treat me if I did or did not come out.   These were not pressures I found outside of work and I was more than out around the town.

reality of coming out
Image from: https://rpseawright.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/reality.png

Anxiety, fear, and mental distress results from hurdles.

This same pain of being out – the discrimination, prejudice, and constant berating of your identity – can cause just as much pain and damage as not being visible. Hurdles cause very real fears of being stripped of basic life necessities before the age of 18, or losing control of your life without the resources you need all of which take precedence after coming out. Often, until you have a plan to overcome every hurdle it is better for others not to know. For your own safety, it’s better that some not know. For my volunteer it was better that she not come out in college. For Leelah, not coming out could have maintained friends, technological access to an online “invisible” community, and ultimately keeping her life.

Perhaps the best depiction of the feelings, anxieties, depression, and worries that come from hurdles built out of the external locus of control, are shown in the video “Spectrum” by Boy In A Band. The pain of your family keeping you in the closet, not being able to love the person you love or are, but only having one thought at your disposal, “hang on, it will get better, wait until your independent.”

These three elements that create the prevalence of “invisible” communities in all minority groups are well understood in psychological, sociological, and anthropological communities, but the non-profit industry has not been able to permeate the barrier that the “closet door” has developed. Because the invisible community is by definition incalculable, LGBT+ nonprofits have no idea how many closeted, stealth, questioning, or under-resourced individuals there are, and cannot afford to spend precious resources for the invisible community. Despite this one thing is very clear:

A large swath of LGBT+ individuals who are committing suicide, forced into conversion therapy, or are the victims of hate crime, are coming from the “invisible” communities and without reaching out to assist the community in breaking down barriers, helping them over hurdles, providing support to handle anxieties, and fostering an internal locus of control, the horrendous rates of suicide, hate crimes, and bad coming out stories will not decrease.

The invisible community is held back by issues outside of their control and it is hurting everyone. They are being held back in many areas of their life and many of them will remain there for a very long time unless something is done. These people are largely those who remain closeted, those who have to return to the closet as stealth individuals, those who are still questioning their identities, but have no resources to understand themselves, and above all, those in dangerous and remote environments where an LGBT+ facility is too far away.

Trans* Youth Channels Mission is to support this, and in next week’s blog, We’ll start talking about how.

The Manifesto Blogs – Part 1: Trans Youth Channel’s new mission

Trans* Youth Channel’s new mission:

As the CEO of Trans* Youth Channel (TYC) this is a vital part of my life and the values I uphold.  We’ve Started a six part article series leading up to our #IAmInvisible campaign and it starts with an introduction to the new organization.  This is part 1 written by myself.


All out LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, other) individuals at some point in their lives were closeted.  This threshold is often depicted as a courageous rite of passage, but for most it’s more the end to an arduous journey where hurdles are many, large, and out of their control.  Many people fail to come out and although LGBT+ organizations are a boon for the ‘out’ community and in general, they do little for the invisible community of closeted, stealth, questioning, or under-resourced individuals.  Our failure to do so has led to readily apparent atrocities depicting a major gap in the LGBT+ movement’s support methods that Trans* Youth Channel has dedicated itself to alleviate.

It’s a common story on online closet-friendly Trans* forums for someone not to “come out” because they feel it’s impossible due to familial, financial, religious, social, legal, healthcare, and/or personal hurdles bogging them down (we’ll talk about this in part 2).   In fact, TYC recently got the okay to share Alex’s post (closeted) from the secret group, the Facebook Transgender Alliance with you;

“Sometimes I feel like starting a transition I may never financially be able to finish, may be harder than staying as [I am] and dealing with it.  My dysphoria and hatred for my body is worse more than ever.  I wish I could just get this shit done and be happy.” 

Coming out as gay can still lead to homelessness and the loss of your entire support network (Walmsely).  As a result depression, anxiety, and mental illness have skyrocketed and loss of life has become horribly present.  A study of 350 LGB youth in Canada, found that 4 in 10 youth had considered suicide, and 1 in 3 had attempted. Among the latter, 65% of male and 45% of female youth considered their attempt related to sexuality (D’Augelli). The National Transgender Survey reports a staggering 41% of Transgender respondents attempted suicide which increased when broken down by hurdle: job loss due to bias – 55%, those harassed or bullied – 51%, and in low income houses, or victims of assault – 64% (Grant).  Many of these cases from invisible people have gone viral such as Leelah Alcorne who committed suicide due to her family’s active prevention of her transition and she joined one of hundreds of youth who took their lives in the same way.

These terrible atrocities are not going ignored however.  Organizations in the out community have widely reported these statistics as a strong need for activism in all areas of life and changed a lot of the public policies surrounding these issues with great success, but we – Trans* Youth Channel –  feel these efforts are helping only in the long term, and far too late for those already struggling.  It’s akin to the coast guard merely setting up a lighthouse to catch people drowning near shore, but not sending out a life-boat to find those drowning in the dark waters.  Bodies wash up and the general we consider it an atrocity, but we can do more to help those struggling on their own in the dark open sea, and so, I am proud to announce that Trans* Youth Channel has done just that.

In 2014 we officially changed our mission to specifically support the invisible community and be that lifeboat via 3 programs integral to our mission:  our weekly digest, our support group program, and content creation.

The weekly digest first accomplishes a vital task for the community in that it establishes a safe, secure, anonymous, and low-anxiety communication pathway via email, and then allows us to provide invisible community members with the resources, community, and support they need.  They simply sign up, and they receive resources directly to their inbox so they don’t have to agonize and risk themselves on the internet.

After attaining stable contact with members of the invisible community with the weekly digest, the support group program is designed to host several safe, secure, and low-anxiety peer-to-peer support groups that closely mimic ‘out’ LGBT+ community’s physical support groups.  Our chief goals in this program are to have:

  • A comprehensive training made from partner organization’s resources complete with a certification process for all support group facilitators.
  • A vetted partner resource database for any situation a group might support, and that is used by others outside TYC.
  • Implement further training of additional volunteers & encourage physical support groups in under resourced areas to change the resource map all over the nation.

In addition to these programs directly catered to the invisible community we are seeking to change the conversation about the LGBT+ community using blog and v-logging content in much the same way we did when we were still just a YouTube channel.

The invisible community is a truly incapable demographic in our LGBT+ movement and with all of the people we are unable to reach,  Trans* Youth Channel will be the first organization to become a lifeboat, and provide resources far sooner, then the LGBT+ community has been able to do before.

Next week’s blog:  Who is the invisible community exactly?

Watch the video version of this article:

*Trans* youth channel’s astrick is an LGBT+ symbol for inclusiveness by recognizing an umbrella of identities.  

Full Sources:

Continue reading “The Manifesto Blogs – Part 1: Trans Youth Channel’s new mission”

Art Appreciation

Please note: I dislike writing blogs that are public online for a class assignment that seems largely unrelated to content here, but I must so please know this article is written for class. In future publications, I will place the same warning as if it is paid content.


Art appreciation will be a mainstay topic on this blog for at least the next several months and should things go relatively well it is my hope that it will stay long past the semester’s end.  That said however, this post will act as the orienting compass in respect to my opinions and understanding of art.  Here I will depict three pieces that for me were profound, enjoyable, and that inspired me, but more importantly, they embody my approach to the process of making art, and how I communicate with the art I see:

 1.  My Repainting of a painting from an artist in Manitou Springs; Artist Unknown (internet help me!)

IMG_0594.JPG
Re-painting by Samantha Logan, 2011:  Original piece’s title and artist currently unknown.

I really didn’t have any luck finding the original name of the artist whose painting this is.  Unfortunately as an international student in Wellington right now my bookshelf of sketchbooks is a resource I am unable to tap so I can’t look it up in any way.  It pains me that  I don’t remember, but I think it was Terry Brooks or something and I’m sure that isn’t right because that’s also the name of an author I like.

Regardless this painting by a man in Manitou Springs impacted  my life as an artist quite a lot.  I remember this was the first time I had spoken to the original artist of a piece that was not in my class. Someone hugely successful selling classical work in a gallery in a tourist town.  The piece was fairly large and it was so free of its expression, unhindered by any of the logistical concerns I had in my own art at the time.  The layers of red and blue were enough to swallow me whole.  I first laid eyes on the piece around the age of 14 and decided that being a fine artist would make my world broad, unique, and worthwhile.  This was the first time I realized that art could be used to make powerful emotional appeals across contexts and for a kid who had been taught that skill at rendering an image was all there was to being a successful artist, it was like someone had removed my blinders.

I am not and have never been a patriot or a fan of war or armies, but this painting showed me what it was like for him – a veteran and an artist in a way no conversation and no amount of shared coffees over weeks at a cafe could have.  I really hope that I can track down his name some day.  If you know it please post it in the comments!!!

2. Lipstick, by Wayne Thiebaud

wayne-thiebaud-eight-lipsticks
Eight Lipsticks, Wayne Thiebaud.  1988

While a lot of my work in the past was done with little degree of physical accuracy and with little attention to detail in practice, the second I saw this piece by Wayne Thiebaud it became my prerogative that my being “good” at art was based on how interested I was in taking my time, paying attention to what I was doing, and how much I learned to apply theoretical and practical methods of visual design to my pieces (Thiebaud).  My being good stopped being a matter of “getting better” and became a matter of “learning to do better”.

Thiebaud’s demand and control over color theory was obvious and profound.  Even though his landscapes were terribly out of sync for me his command of color and medium showed to me that he paid attention and that his art was born out of a careful understanding of what he was doing.

3.  The Molting Series by Terrance Zdunich

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The Molting series of comic books by Terrance Zdunich and three other artists hit me in the worst of times in my life.  During high school I was a young, impressionable, depressed aspiring artist from a small town with little self-esteem and a lot of gender dysphoria.  I was into narrative art, but not sure I would be able to make it in a world of narrative artists.  I was scared and worried for my future because I was not progressing as an artist as fast or as well as those peers around me (turns out in hindsight this was stupid and I never should have stopped drawing, but that is another story).

Around the time I began reading the Molting I had a border-line unhealthy interest in Repo! the Genetic Opera and an admiration of Terrance Zdunich that was almost cultish.  And when I opened the first comic, Guilty Susie what I saw was someone who couldn’t care less about whether the art was perfect.  Terrance was no Jhonen Vasquez.  Instead there was a raw untapped story that Terrance put his soul into.  His art told a horror story in the same way one might expect the victim of a horror story to tell it – from the gut wrenching, reality punching, seat of his pants.  His artwork’s unsteady ink, thick lines, frame-breaking visuals, and full format pages reflected that, but still with a complete full bodied and stylistic professionalism I loved.

Course there is more to this story that should be saved for another blog, but before moving on I still want to publicly thank Terrance for basically saving my life, and spurring me to decide life and transition was worth it.  For bringing Repo! to me and for seeing The Molting through, and for showing me what it means to get by in the world with the Devil’s Carnival and it’s long track to a sequel he is and always will be an inspiration in my heart.

Regardless all three of the artistic works I have detailed have had a lasting impression on me and getting back to those impressions has spurred me back into this community.  I hope they will continue to be a driving compass for me and I will likely refer to them often when discussing art in the future.  Narrative art and storytelling, be it in one image, with the use of theoretical prowess, or raw desire to tell a story, is beautiful.

~ Samantha

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5 Features Windows 10 has made Unsafe For the LGBT+ Invisible Community

In a momentous several times per lifetime chance people are getting a free upgrade to the brand new Windows 10 platform just released on the 29th of July.  As soon as it launched this weekend however widespread criticism on privacy rights has been a major concern with the platform.

Trans* Youth Channel however, an organization that seeks to bridge the gap between out LGBT+ organizations and the largely invisible online community, sees these privacy issues as a much larger problem than most seem to think it is.

Web privacy is integral to the success of closeted and stealth LGBT+ individuals as well as those who don’t have resources locally because without resources, community, and proper research, they’re in the dark; something that as Leelah Alcorn exemplified, can be fatal.  Suicide rates are astronomically high in the community because of familial and social hurdles barring invisible members to these resources and the stigma that comes with being a member of the LGBT+ community. A safe, anonymous and secure internet is such a small window to resources that could save thousands of lives, but Windows 10 could potentially snuff out the only access many people may have to these online LGBT+ resources…right from installation.

Here are 5 examples of how Windows 10 is detrimental to the safety, security, and ultimate well-being of the LGBT+ communities’ closeted, stealth, questioning, and under-resourced population:

1.  At start up
Before windows 10 has even finished installing on your computer a closeted LGBT+ person is at risk.  Take a moment to actually read the 2 “express settings” screen versions for windows 10.

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Why is this a problem?
I hope you already see the general lack of okay-ness here and if not view this general article on how this is not okay, but for the LGBT+ community specifically we’ll use a running example.

Let’s call the person in our example John for sake of not being completely hypocritical and ‘outing’ a real life closeted LGBT+ individual.  John is a closeted Trans* masculine individual seeking hormones, but he’s 14 and lives in a very religious Philippine household only 2 generations in the U.S.  In John’s case this means his family has rather rigid traditional values and is highly religious; something that is worrying for his circumstances.  It also just so happens that his mother is single, taking care of him and 2 other siblings with a job only paying about $10 dollars an hour in Philadelphia.

Because she can’t afford personal devices for three kids the only computer in his house sits in the living room.  It was just running windows 7 for 5 years and this free upgrade was well received by his mother because after all it’s free and it’s new.

Now consider what would happen if John were to google in the brief tiny bit of privacy he has, “how to come out to my parents” on that family computer.  Per his mother’s very fast “use express settings” choice, this windows setup screen would allow his search to get sent off to windows for processing, and to be taken advantage of, then sent back upon his family computer for all of the features windows offers to cater all future search results, products, and services to his recent declaration of wanting to come out… Problem no?

2.  Setting up the Microsoft account.
Now let’s say that John’s mother read the form and decided that this infringed too much on her privacy.  She then said no, and proceeded through advanced setup to find a lot of disturbingly vague questions about location settings, using calendar, contacts, and literally every keyboard input to “make the system better” that would have been on had she said yes.  Even if she navigated through this entire vague legal hubbub and came out with some privacy control, the next thing she would run into causing problems for her blossoming yet closeted Trans* kid is on the very next page of setup!  The option to create a windows account for her kids and then limit, view, and manage what internet access John might have.

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Why is this a problem? 
The problem is, even if having an account is “optional” according to our friendly geek guide on installing windows ten, “We’d recommend using a Microsoft account because otherwise you won’t be able to use half of the new features…”  If John’s mother signs up for this Microsoft account,  simply rinse and repeat the problems described in part 1.

But wait!  Having a Microsoft account doesn’t mean the end of john’s world right?! I mean, once you set up an account john’s mother would create accounts for all of her children to independently use.  Wrong.

John’s mother is a master on the account allowing her to set privacy rights for all of the sub accounts she makes for her children.  That means that in addition to straight up restricting him from finding resources on the system, she can also view his histories, and even completely remove his access to the actual computer console…pretty much indefinitely. One false move and he’s as alienated as Leelah Alcorn was.

3.  Using Cortana
Once setup has finished forcing you to allow Microsoft into your house like a vampire in the dead of medieval night, and your parents have created a full-proof filter for you not to get the resources you need, the next part of Setup is what all of this has all been for:  Cortana.
image of cortana on the desktop
Cortana is basically the windows equivalent of Siri or Iris on your mobile device and unfortunately with Microsoft’s Famous privacy exploitation tricks, it spells bad news for LGBT+ people who are closeted or otherwise.   They even wrapped Cortana’s privacy issues into a nice handy little FAQ for us too.

First off, in order for Cortana to work after you leave setup, if you turned off any of the settings in the advanced setup instead of choosing express (problem 1), Cortana will ask you to turn them back on again and she requires a windows account.  Seeming as Cortana is one of the biggest features in windows 10 and we are so very used to the wonderful features and assistance of Siri, and Iris (who have their own privacy and security risks) most people will indeed opt to do so.

So what is the problem?
Harkening back to the first example, john searches in Cortana’s bar “how to come out to my parents”, Cortana will then remember this search and attempt to “personalize searches” in the future and offering that data to the Microsoft account to display when his mother looks at it.  Additionally there is no way to “go stealth” in Cortana’s bar like with private browsers, so wiping the history from her is quite difficult and out of the way (you have to go to Bing to do this and it’s a convoluted process).

In combination with the Microsoft account recording his every actions John has officially been outed because his mother was all too curious as to what he was doing talking all night with his friends at school, or because a sibling logged on to his account, or he forgot to log out, or he forgot to use a private browser, or because he used Cortana at all in the first place.

4.  Windows Edge

If this is getting a little repetitive I totally understand because it is.  Every little windows 10 “feature” compounds on itself to make life absurdly difficult for John, but go with me on this.

Internet browsers, no matter what browser you use (possible exception in Firefox), make it difficult to keep your privacy safe, but with Microsoft’s replacement to internet explorer (in name only it seems) it gets worse.

To begin, by default, your privacy settings on Microsoft’s new Edge browser are as open as possible.  If john were to use the default browser it would save all of his form entries, retain all of his browser histories, cookies, and other data, page prediction would be on (using prior page visits to determine where you’ll go in the future), and sending ‘do not track requests” would be off meaning sites outside of Microsoft could track his movements and advertise their own relevant materials rather in-depth. If Cortana was already enabled in the system it is now fully integrated into edge as well giving that same repetitive compounding of problems for him.

Why is this a problem?
Do we need to go through this again?  The problem is basically that the browser is allowing every service ever to say, “Oh your coming out? Looks like you’re gay!!! Here have pride advertisements from all over the country for the next week!”

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5.  Multi-Device Interfaces – OneDrive, Xbox,

your phone, and tablets
Even if using the OS on your computer isn’t bad enough, consider those moments when you are using a second device.  For closeted LGBT+ teens, phones are really the most secure things they have at their fingertips and now with the compounding effects of privacy violations that can easily be done by your siblings, parents, or Microsoft and other corporations, by the proliferation of the Microsoft account, and Microsoft’s OneDrive program, Windows 10 makes that phone just at risk of hurting you as your computer does.

The whole point of a Microsoft account is to make it easy for you to access everything you need over a variety of devices to have it at any time.  This isn’t old hat because Dropbox, Google, Facebook, and many other organizations are trying to make the multi-device realm work as seamlessly as possible. After all that means you’re buying more devices and tying in more services.

The problem:
They simply aren’t as secure.  Xbox’s OneDrive and Microsoft account can be accessed by your siblings with a few touches of a button to sign in to a specific account.  Windows 10 and the Microsoft account have now migrated all they know over to that system so if john, were to begin researching how to come out to his parents again, it would be game over on a game console.    At least google has the decency to keep it PC for the most part.   (Sorry for the puns, but I hoped to lighten the oppressive mood.)


Conclusion…
Throughout this article there was a lot of pressure on windows 10 and it’s the new device on the field so it needs to be said that the service is dangerous for those who are just questioning their identities, are stealth, or closeted due to a wide variety of circumstances.  Most people will say in defense though, “well google does that too” and “well that’s the way the world is right now”.  Well, to them I say this is a terrible defense.

Yes google is doing it too, and net neutrality is an important factor in the safety of the LGBT+ community as a result.  If we want a secure, anonymous, and un-pressured LGBT+ community who can come in to their own without fear, we need social media platforms, OS software, private accounts, and communities built to reduce their anxieties and hurdles; not increase their restrictions.

I saw a recent web comic from everyday feminism talking about how the traditional idea of a person taking 1 of 2 roads to decide who they were going to be was false and our life changes decisions are more like an ocean of currents.  Our decisions are effected by the services, platforms, conversation, society, and traditions around us.  We can’t close off an invisible LGBT+ member’s secure, private, and anonymous exploration simply because we want our computers to remind us everything, or because our parents are worried about the internet they quite frankly can’t control in the first place, or because Microsoft wants us to.

Want to do something about it? 
5 things you can do to maintain your privacy right now:

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  1.  Opt for a more secure OS system like Linux Mint
  2. Use Firefox, a non-profit run browser with net
    neutrality, privacy and security in mind
  3. Learn how to set up windows 10 in a more
    secure fashion.
  4. Learn how to browse the
    web safely with this-info graphic  –>
  5. Sign up for our 100% anonymous weekly digest so
    you don’t have to risk outing yourself to find resources

***This post has been cross-posted from the Trans* Youth Channel blog and is Samantha’s original work.

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Samantha with a volunteer for lunch at this year's Creating Change!

About Samantha

About Samantha:
President and CEO 

Samantha Logan is a 23 year old transgender woman and the CEO of Trans* Youth Channel. She is an activist for the LGBT+ community and runs her own personal Youtube channel, ‘Nameissammi  where she speaks about her transition coming full circle, from just starting out, to post op with Dr. Suporn in just 3 years.

Samantha is also a college student majoring in Communications and minoring in Anthrpology with the intent of building a stronger, more secure, low anxiety, platform for the invisible LGBT+ community.  She has extensive prior experience working with Constant Contact, a large email, social media, and event marketing platform that she has learned a great deal from.

Samantha’s greatest passion is the pursuit of knowledge and resources to teach and grow with others in her community making her a perfect leader and mentor for many of the LGBT youth that she works with.  Trans Youth Channel is a product of that desire to support and provide resources for people to better their lives and succeed in their endeavors.

In her free time Samantha’s hobbies include, fine art and graphic design,  steampunk fashion or decor, and table-top gaming.   You’ll often find her in coffee shops or bars socializing with family and friends about the latest science, art, or communications theories to come about in the world, as she is a big science and Sci-Fi nerd.

Samantha works hard to bring about change in her community but recently has focused most primarily on the invisible LGBT+ community;  people who struggle in the darkness, away from the movements resources, community, and activism.  These are the closeted, people still questioning their identities, those who have been forced back into hiding,  and those just starting out their journeys or in under-served communities with no access.

With this blog, and Trans* Youth Channel Samantha hopes that she and her volunteers will bring about a movement that can contact disadvantaged LGBT+ people earlier in their struggle and directly stunt the large incidents of suicide, hate crime, and harm to the LGBT+ community while allowing people to express who they are sooner and more authentically.

If you’d like to help or just talk about the issues surrounding these people please
email her here!