Thursday, November 16, 2017

My thoughts during Trans Awareness Week

It's Trans Awareness Week. Most of what I post and share on social media is about trans themes and experiences. This is often what I write about and have made movies about. Why is this? I feel inspired and compelled to post and share about current articles, news, art, and culture that is about and impacts the Trans community. If I don't advocate and show support for my own basic rights as well as the rights of all Trans people and the Trans community, then who will? Yes, there are amazing allies who speak up, support, and are open to continually learning. Yet, as I continue to live my life and meet all kinds of new people as well as sustain friend and community connections with folks who are allies or LGBTQ themselves, I continually encounter individuals who expect me to educate them about trans themes and experiences. This is an expectation. A request. Yet, I'm not offered payment for my time educating people. There are so many articles on the internet, more books about trans people, trans history, and rights now than ever before! There is more media representation. Yet, there is still an issue with casting trans/gender non-conforming talent for trans/gender non-conforming roles. As well as a big issue that I will continue to voice and bring up until it is rectified; most of the filmmakers, writers, and powers that be with funding and money to make media are white, cisgender, straight, or even LGBQ! Trans and gender non-conforming people need to be the ones telling their own stories and creating their own media. They deserve to be fairly compensated and paid to do so.

I recently applied for a grant to make a short trans themed film. I wrote the draft for the proposal, chose a friend who is a trans man of color to be the protagonist, and created a compelling story to tell. Then updated the story arc to the producer's specification within a super short turn around time. I only dealt with one cis, white, female, queer identified producer. I then found out that the two producers, i.e. powers that be were both white, cis, female, queer identified filmmakers who were the gatekeepers to choosing which trans proposals would be picked to receive funding. This is an issue. Why weren't there trans people and trans people of color hired to decide/produce which trans films and trans filmmakers would receive funding to create new and compelling work? Being queer identified does not give one free reign and access to tell trans stories and profit from the films one makes about them. Nonetheless, my proposal didn't make it to the final round to be picked to receive funding.

I personally would love to see more films by queer identified directors and filmmakers that focus on their experiences and stories. i.e their perspective/relationship with their trans best friend, trans cousin, trans partner, etc. I do find it an issue when filmmakers create media with a lead trans protagonist and they aren't trans themselves. Hire a co-director who is Trans to work with you if you truly feel that called to create media that is about trans lives and is not from your lived perspective. Overall, tell your story. Tell the stories that you have lived and experienced. Give space and funding opportunities to trans artists and trans artists of color. We need to be the ones telling and creating our own media.

I'm currently living in my hometown; which is a conservative area. The area is changing and growing. Yet, it is still conservative overall. There are pockets of progressive people and I'm grateful that there is an active trans and LGBQ community here. I've been meeting new people and involved in the community since I recently moved back here. I've heard comments and received questions from well intentioned members of the LGBQ community here whom I've just met. Some examples of inappropriate comments and questions asked were, "Have you had THE surgery?" Or, "I was confused; fooled when people told me you were trans." Lastly, a white, cis, gay man from Boston made several transphobic remarks in front of me and several other cis, gay, male identified people, assuming that I was cisgender and gay. That shows how much transphobia and misinformation there is in the LGBQ communities.

#1. It is never okay upon first meeting someone to ask, "Have you had THE surgery?" That would be the equivalent of me asking an individual whom I've just met to disclose their medical history. That is a personal question. Unless the person asking is a medical professional and one is receiving healthcare, do not ask that question. Yet, when my transgender identity is disclosed or made visible to new people and community members, it seems that people are fixated on the body. Trans people are more than their bodies. Society's and individual's fixation on trans bodies deflects the focus from trans lives and realities. It is a fact that 40+% of Trans people have attempted suicide. Half of all homeless youth are LGBTQ identified. Trans individuals have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the U.S. It's even higher for Trans people of color. The same goes with homelessness. Trans people face housing discrimination, employment discrimination, discrimination trying to simply use the bathroom. In all facets of society and everyday life, trans people face discrimination. Under the current T**** administration, trans rights are continually on the chopping block. The current administration has made it clear that trans lives and rights do not matter. Telling service members, that they are a burden and not wanted to serve in the U.S. military. There is a cycle of not "enough-ness" that trans and gender non-conforming people are continually hearing from the T**** administration.

Why do I post so much about trans and gender non-conforming lives? One reason is because people's lives and basic rights are at stake!

#2. Intent and impact are two different things. One can have trans friends, work with trans people, and still make comments such as, "I was confused and fooled when I found out you were trans." How I look and present myself in the world is who I authentically am. I'm not wearing a disguise or hiding who I am. Who I am is who you see. I'm being and living my truth. Automatically assuming everyone is cisgender is an issue. I feel that most people have met trans people and haven't known it. It's an example of cisnormativity*--to assume that everyone you meet is cisgender. This is an issue for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer as well. Just because someone is in the LGBQ communities, doesn't mean that one is automatically an ally or aware of their internalized cisnormativity and working against that. It's up to the individual to educate themselves. Also, there are plenty of articles to read online about how to be a better ally to trans and gender non-conforming people. I recently heard from a person whom I met, "I don't know which articles to read online. There are negative ones against trans people. I don't even know where to start." Start with the publication, Everyday Feminism. Start with articles that are positive and inclusive of trans folks. It's not that hard to google this information online.

#3. It's shocking and sad when people in the LGBQ communities are unsupportive and blatantly transphobic! Including this happening in front of a trans person, myself. While people assume everyone around them is cisgender. Gender diversity trainings can be beneficial to all people. It's painful when people who one is in community with are blatantly judgemental, hateful, and not inclusive of trans people. Who is left to stand and speak up for trans people? It can't only be trans people speaking up for trans people. Allies are needed to educate people. As well as to support the trans people in their lives. It's important that allies are the ones to speak up and defend trans people and trans rights!

These are some thoughts, musings, feelings and experiences that I wanted to share during trans awareness weeks for any and all interested readers.

Thanks for reading!

If you feel moved to write and comment or repost, please do.

In light and continual learning,

Ewan Duarte
@ewanduarte


* Cisnormativity is the assumption that all, or almost all, individuals are cisgender. Although transgender-identified people comprise a fairly small percentage of the human population, many trans* people and allies consider it to be offensive to presume that everyone is cisgender unless otherwise specified. --The Queer Dictionary

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Transmuting Disfluency Into Gold

I recently attended the 25th annual Models Of Pride conference in Los Angeles. http://www.modelsofpride.org I hadn't heard of this conference until a community member, Professor Diane Klein posted about it online and invited me to submit a proposal to lead one of the workshops. I was hesitant since I've primarily only done Q & A's after my films have screened. Queering Yoga- my documentary in the works is still in the works! I envisioned presenting and doing Q & A's when it was a polished and finished piece. Yet, I was encouraged to show work in progress clips of Queering Yoga as well as screen my prior films; Spiral Transition and Change Over Time. The Models of Pride conference is the largest LGBTQ youth conference in the U.S. with over two thousand people who attended! There was a concurrent mini professionals and parents conference that was a part of the Models of Pride event. My Dad, who is an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) attended the conference with me and he took workshops in the professional track.

I've presented my films to college classes before and spoke about my creative processes as well as trans themes and experiences that are aligned to the content/theme of my films. I've also done many Q & A's after my films have screened at film festivals. Yet, I wasn't the only person facilitating and holding down the space of a workshop or class for an hour. During the Models of Pride workshop, I was the only facilitator presenting for an hour. Regarding preparation this brought up a lot for me. I have a history of disfluent speech which not everyone who knows me is aware of. I've struggled most of my life with speaking fluently--especially when presenting or speaking in large groups of people. Most people cannot tell that I've ever been speech disfluent. Perhaps a word or sentence here or there. Disfluency often arises for me when I'm emotional, ungrounded, or presenting in front of groups of people. I have done presentations over the years during my undergraduate and graduate school years. Some presentations have gone well, others have left me questioning my self-worth/esteem, etc. feeling bad about myself or being incredibly hard on myself when I've done my best.

I've done healing work around having a history of speech disfluency. I've also gone to speech therapy in the past when I was younger. Although, I'm fluent most of the time when I speak and most people do not know about my history, at moments my speech is disfluent. Being speech disfluent has shaped me greatly as a person. It's been a journey of being silenced and full of self-loathing when I was younger to practicing being more gentle with myself, compassionate, and self-loving. I have so much to say. I've always had so much to say and share with people and the world. Having been silenced or quiet as a child, teenager, and adult due to my speech disfluency has shaped me as much as a river shapes rocks in its path.

In my life, it's been a difficult path to reclaim my voice and even to write about this and share it publicly, which I feel called to do now. Now is the time. In sharing this, I'm reclaiming my history, voice, and story. Transmuting my hardship and what some see as a deficit into a story of empowerment and triumph. Last month I worked with a healer who said that stuttering/speech disfluency is a gift. It allows me to slow down enough to savor every word and to express what I need to say in a way that is digestible and expressed with intention. It is a gift. I also worked with her on healing and being more empowered speaking in front of large groups of people.

I have improved over the years through practice. I feel that I improve with every Q & A that I do as a filmmaker/artist. I just wish that more people would be compassionate and not judge me for being nervous or speech disfluent at moments when I publicly speak in front of large groups of people. People whom I used to call "friends" years ago gossiped about this challenge of mine. A former friend and community member told me once to my face that she heard I had a difficult time speaking in groups. I asked her how she heard that. Oh, gossip she said. That wasn't a pleasant interaction or one of compassion or really "seeing" me.

As human beings we all have a core need to be seen and heard. It's important for me to be compassionate, kind, and loving to myself. I am. It's a continual practice. There are always more layers and levels of self-love. Yet, it's important to surround one's self with friends and kind community members who are supportive rather than people who try to tear you down, due to jealously, competitiveness, insecurity, etc. I've seen speaking and facilitation opportunities go to other filmmakers/artists in my community who I know, since they are fluent speakers and it's more easeful for them to publicly speak.

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We all have our challenges and blessings everyday. I'm splendidly imperfect. We are all splendidly imperfect.


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During the Models Of Pride conference at USC in Los Angeles, I was moved to tears from seeing the thousands of LGBTQ and QTPOC youth in attendance! It was so touching to see so many youth who were in supported community and affirmed in their identities at such young ages. There is strength in community! I wish for all LGBTQ and QTPOC youth to have this opportunity. To see and be around empowered examples of adults in the workshops they attended, who identify the way that they do. Seeing examples of LGBTQ and QTPOC adults who are thriving and empowered is vital for youth. This is why empowered representation of LGBTQ and QTPOC identities in media is so important. The thousands of LGBTQ and QTPOC youth at the conference, had access to over 100 workshops to choose from. I would have loved to be at a conference like this when I was younger. It would have been life-changing. I felt some personal sadness for not having an opportunity like this when I was younger. Yet, I was so moved and happy for the thousands of youth that were there. I was glad/honored to be of service now as a Trans adult.

I was nervous, excited, and grateful for the opportunity to present my workshop titled, Becoming A Filmmaker.
I did a meditation outside near some trees on the USC campus, to ground and center myself before my workshop began. I was scheduled to present during the third and final workshop session of the day. I arrived at the classroom, 25 minutes before my workshop began. Two volunteers showed up to assist with lights, handing out evaluation forms at the end of the workshop, etc. They were both kind yet didn't know the technical set up of the classroom. It eventually took four Models Of Pride volunteers and one USC tech person to make it possible for my laptop with an HDMI cable attached, to play my movies on the two screens in front of the classroom. The visuals of my computer were showing up on the two small TV's in the classroom, yet not on the two large screens. Due to this technical issue, my workshop began 10-15 minutes late. There were 30-40+ LGBTQ youth in attendance. I told them all that there were technical difficulties and I would start the workshop as soon as I could. After the USC student tech worker finally solved the technical issue, I offered to give him a hug. I was very grateful to be able to screen my films in the classroom!

I began the workshop by introducing myself, sharing how I identify; Queer and Trans. How long ago I came out, 9 years ago as Trans and in undergraduate college as Queer. I shared a little bit about my films and told them that I would answer questions after the first two films had screened. Then, I would screen some clips of my documentary in the works, Queering Yoga. I was clear and fluent the entire time that I spoke. I was confident and made eye contact with many youth. The youth were moved and inspired by seeing my personal documentaries; Spiral Transition and Change Over Time. I talked about my creative process and the importance of telling one's own story. I also shared about how important it is for trans people to have access to telling their stories and to be in front of and behind the camera. I talked about the Trans Tipping Point that happened several years ago and how there are more trans characters, shows, articles, and mainstream news media about trans themes and experiences than ever before. I answered questions about my films and the youth were attentive and not one of the LGBTQ/QTPOC youth left my workshop once it began. They were all very attentive and engaged with what I shared and the films I screened. I only had time left to share two clips from two Queering Yoga participants. Overall, I feel everything was covered that was meant to be shared and imparted to the youth. I handed out some of my cards to the youth at the end of the workshop. More than 10 youth spoke with me after the workshop telling me that I'm amazing and that they were inspired.

I felt so proud to be of service to the LGBTQ and QTPOC youth who attended my workshop. I'm so glad that they got a lot out of what I expressed and shared. I'm so proud of myself for articulating and expressing myself so fluently, clearly, and confidently from my lived experience; in front of a large group of people. That was a true triumph. I felt victorious, happy, and so grateful. I did it. I held down the workshop space with ease and grace, inspired the LGBTQ/QTPOC youth, and was fluent the entire time!

Thanks for reading,

Ewan Duarte

Below is a photo of me, my Dad at the conference, and my Dad and I at the Models Of Pride conference at USC in Los Angeles this past weekend. Oct. 29th, 2017.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cultivating Hope and Beingness

A question that I live with and express often is, "How can one cultivate hope?" Also, "How can one co-create hope?"
What does that mean to you?
To me it means to continue to be awake, aware, mindful, and to choose to stay informed. Yet, also choosing to cultivate peace, beingness, and focusing on self-care which involves not listening to the news or reading articles about the current political state of affairs that are beyond the beyond. It means choosing balance and setting intentions to live a balanced life. There is a time to ingest information intentionally and a time to have clear boundaries about what articles and media I'm ingesting. This can be insidious at times. This is the age of information. One is continually bombarded with news on social media and all forms of media. What I post on Facebook and social media, I aim to post with intention and awareness.

I was recently asked the question, "How can one change the world? What impact can one person have and/or make?" We can only change the world by changing ourselves. If you want more peace in the world, you can choose to be that peace. Work towards that with meditation, yoga, affirmations, healing work, slowing down and being. Doing the inner work. What is inactive is active. What is active is inactive. While sitting quietly and simply being--there is so much going on internally and in one's inner world. It is quite active. There are the external and internalized pressures to always be productive in our capitalistic society/culture in America. In the West, we've all internalized and learned this. Capitalism taught us that we are only worthy and enough by how productive we are. That we ought to only do. We have lost the value of being-ness.

Yet, one can be awake, aware, and unlearn these internalized beliefs that keep one on an unhealthy cycle of always being busy, always feeling pressured to be productive, constantly running on the societal treadmill of shoulds and oughts that is oppressive, unhealthy, and un-human. Human beings need rest, beingness, balance, vacations, time to look at expansive natural landscapes, time in nature, time to connect, space, and time/energies to live and enjoy life. This is not only reserved for affluent people or the 1 percent of human beings. One does not need to continue to live one's life in a state of overwhelm and constant busy-ness. That is a choice. One can choose to unlearn societal/cultural capitalistic teachings and re-learn to live in a more balanced way. It all begins with awareness. It all beings with curiosity. It all begins with a question. How can I live a more balanced life? What affirmation(s) can I create for myself so that I know that I'm enough? Simply by being and existing, I am enough. I do not need to do anything to be worthy, to be valuable, to be loved.

***

I am enough.

You are enough.

We are all enough, just as we are. By simply being and existing.

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I feel that the current malaise in contemporary western society/culture is busy-ness. Everyone seems and is very busy. We are all so busy. There isn't time for this or that. I often hear statements like, "I don't have time or money for this," etc. There are so many limitations that we create as individuals and as a society/culture. I've observed housemates, friends, and loved ones run around like chickens with their heads cut off from simply being super overwhelmed, overbooked, and very busy! Yes, one needs to earn a living, deal with all of the practicalities of life, focus on self-care, maintain relationships, do laundry, chores, errands, pay the bills, etc. Yet, if one is feeling overwhelmed and very busy over a long period of time, I would suggest looking at your written schedule. Are you over-booked? Did you overbook yourself? Are you doing too much and is that a personal choice? What can you let go of and compost from your schedule so that you can carve out 30 minutes a day to simply be. Whether that is a nap, meditation, going for a mindful walk, sitting quietly in a garden, etc. Try this out and truly see what arises during those 30 minutes a day of stillness and being-ness. During this time, turn off your phone, iPad, laptop, etc. It's a time to BE not a time to surf the web or be on social media. If one carves out 30 minutes a day for intentional being-ness when before you didn't, this can be life-changing. Maybe you will realize that volunteering for 3 organizations while holding down a full-time job is too much. Perhaps it's in your highest interest to only volunteer for one and have some time to be. Cook healthy meals for yourself instead or go on daily walks or journal more, or simply be in a garden. The choice is up to you. One doesn't have to choose to be extremely busy. There is a difference between having an active and full life and a busy one.

The choice is up to you. You can begin with a small step to be for 30 min. a day with intention. From there you can re-evaluate your schedule. Where is your time and energy going? If one is overwhelmed and incredibly busy for a long-term period of time, that is an issue. Sure, one may have a work project or film project, etc. that one is working on 24/7 for a stint of time. I've done that with my own creative work. Yet, it's not long-term. Working like that over a long-term period of time is unsustainable and you will have to stop at some point. That stopping point will be illness and/or disease.

The choice is yours. May you feel empowered, happy, and live a joyous life. An active life full of the balance of doing and being.

In light and in the joy of being,

Ewan













Yosemite National Park. Photos © Ewan Duarte

Blog post © Ewan Duarte

Monday, December 5, 2016

The tragedy of Ghost Ship, the Bay Area arts scene, and the housing crisis

With the recent news of the horrific fire in Oakland at the Ghost Ship artists' collective, I find myself reading article after article about the tragedy. Reading posts from Bay Area friends and community on Facebook. An acquaintance in Oakland who is a wonderful, sweet, and kind person lost her partner in the fire. Friends of friends perished in the fire. The impact of this tragedy is far reaching. It affects every queer, trans, qtpoc, poc, artist, musician, immigrant, ally, etc. that lives on the fringes of society, feels treated as an "other", or is simply gathering to connect in a community where one feels safe, seen, and validated for being their authentic selves, as well as enjoying music in a welcoming community space. Trying to find an affordable and sustainable way to make one's art, one's music, and earn a living in an expensive, gentrified urban area, where there is a major housing crisis, such as the Bay Area is incredibly difficult.

I'm sending love, light, and healing energies to everyone effected by this tragedy.

It's so sad that Bay Area creatives and lovely queer, trans, and qtpoc individuals died.

Life is sacred.

Life is precious.

There needs to be more spaces and buildings that are affordable and safe for artists to live, work, and gather in community.

At its root, this tragedy happened due to the Bay Area's major housing crisis.

I moved to San Francisco in 2009 to go to San Francisco State University to pursue my MFA in Cinema.

I recently relocated back to Portland, Or in late August 2016.

Living, studying, creating, and working in the Bay Area from 2009 to 2016, I'm intimately connected and aware of the Bay Area and the rapid changes that have occurred in the last 4-5 years. In particularly, regarding the major housing crisis.

I find it heartbreaking, that the Bay Area is no longer a welcoming or affordable place for artists, musicians, activists, intellectuals, healers, and anyone that experiences oppression and is looking for a supportive community in a progressive area. i.e. LGBTQ, Queer, Trans, QTPOC individuals.

In my opinion, the Bay Area is affordable for affluent people or people that work in tech.

What is a community if teachers, healers, artists, musicians, etc. cannot afford to live in an area?

What is a city without its vibrant art and culture?

The very fabric of a community ought to encompass everyone. The Bay Area has become a tech mono-culture.

Some artists and musicians that are hanging on by threads to live in the stressful, tense, and exorbitantly expensive Bay Area, live and congregate in places like Ghostship.

An MFA Cinema colleague of mine lived and worked in an artists warehouse in the Fruitvale area of Oakland. It wasn't Ghost Ship. He hosted a few events in his warehouse studio for our MFA cohort. I went there twice for events and gatherings. The building was only one story, yet the first floor was like a maze. There were many studios and doors. Finding the doors to enter and exit the building wasn't easy, unless you lived in the building.

These are the spaces where some artists live and work.

I lived in Berkeley and in Oakland for several years. The last three years I lived in the Bay Area, I was continually displaced from my housing. It was incredibly challenging to find new affordable housing for myself and I'm connected to my Bay Area communities. I would go to housing appointments to look at a potential new home and there would be several people there at the same time to go on a housing tour with. I would essentially be competing with these people for the room. Rather than touring an apartment or house with the current housemate(s), multiple people being shown the room and home at once created tension, competition, and trying to one-up each other. I remember leaving a housing interview and said, have a good afternoon to one of the interviewees who was ahead of me as he walked out the door of the apartment. He definitely heard me and ignored me completely.

If you rent in the Bay Area and are trying to find housing, it's incredibly difficult. Landlords, for the most part do not keep up their properties and renters put up with all kinds of decay and issues with their housing just to keep living there. People live with mold. People live in living rooms. People live in filth. People live on commuter couches and pay hundreds of dollars per month to do so. People live with incompatible housemates. People live with rodents that landlords do not feel it's a priority to get rid of. People live with doors falling off of their hinges from wood decay. Some people live with 3 people in one small studio in San Francisco. People put up with all kinds of unhealthy conditions just to continue to exist in the Bay Area.

The tension in the air in the Bay Area can be cut with a knife. So can the air of competition, materialism, and fear of displacement and housing evictions.

The last place I lived in Oakland, near Lake Merritt was affordable for me as an artist. While living there, I worked as a Waldorf teacher, worked on my film in the works; Queering Yoga, and did other odd jobs like Lyft, freelance photography and film work.

I was displaced from my Oakland home this past August. A couple of weeks before that occurred, I had clarity to move back to Portland, Or. It was challenging for me to let Oakland and the Bay Area go. I was attached. I love the Bay Area. I love the land. The water. Hiking in the Oakland hills. I love the food. Queer/Trans/QTPOC art and cultural events. I loved the Queer community yoga class that I attended regularly. I appreciate EBMC, The East Bay Meditation Center. The Bay Area was like a beacon of light for me as a child and teenager. It was a dream come true to move there in 2009 and have a purpose to be there (Graduate school). I lived in the Bay Area for 7 years. When it was time for me to move and leave the area this past August, it become evidently clear.

I will always love the Bay Area. I tell people that it's a great place to travel and visit. Yet, for me my quality of life is better in Portland, Or. It's calmer and more peaceful. The air and water is healthy. There are more trees. People are kinder. The pace of life is slower and thus healthier. There are a lot of art, cultural, and culinary delights in Portland. It's an exciting place yet more sustainable. For me as an artist, the Bay Area is unsustainable. I had my time there and I truly lived and worked really hard on my creative work. I was tired of continually being displaced from my housing the past several years. Having to move again and again and not having that be my empowered choice to make whether I move or not.

In a sense, I do feel exiled from the Bay Area and my community there. Yet, Portland is a wonderful place to be. There is no utopia or perfect area to live in the world. Each city, town, and area has it's pros and cons. I feel it's important to honor and trust one's inner guidance, knowing, and truth. That is infallible. If one is called to live in Oakland, then opportunities do unfold. It doesn't mean it will be easy, yet it will be more easeful. There are challenges and blessings everyday. Housing opportunities for me have unfolded since I've been in Portland.

The question is, how can we as a culture and society value creative professionals and musicians enough to create affordable spaces for artists and musicians to live, work, and thrive?

Portland is also having a housing crisis of its own, yet it's not to the degree of intensity as the Bay Area. Since, Portland is a smaller city than the Bay Area. I'll save talking about the Portland housing crisis for another time and blog.

Thanks for reading.

In light and hope,

Ewan















Monday, November 21, 2016

One Step At A Time During These Extreme Times

Since the recent news of the election in the U.S., I've pondered how I can be of service during these extreme/intense times we are living in. I feel that simply being and existing in this world as my most authentic self is a courageous and radical act. As a Queer/Trans identified Transman, I felt waves of disbelief, shock, fear, sadness, anger, and the beginning of the grief process on Tuesday night, Nov. 8th. I was in my Co-Counseling class in Portland, OR. The class began at 7PM and ended at 9:30PM. All day on Tuesday, I was envisioning Hillary Clinton as our next President. Hillary smiling victoriously as she was named the first woman president of the United States of America. I had been sending prayers up and out for her to win throughout the election cycle. Including intentions for her to be the next President on my New Moon intentions and candle lighting. Having watched and/or listened to all three presidential debates, I found it unfathomable that T**** could possibly win. He didn't have a plan. He didn't have experience to be the leader of our country. With his hate fueled racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic rhetoric, I equated him to Hitler. T**** is abhorrent yet what concerns me is the millions of people who resonated with his hate fueled agenda/platform. That is truly scary. As well as what would happen to Muslims, Immigrants, the LGBTQ communities, People of Color, Women, and anyone who isn't a white, cisgender, straight male who is able bodied in our society.

During the first 10 minutes of the Co-Counseling class I'm taking on Tuesdays, we paired up with a person in the class and each person had 5 minutes to discuss their feelings/thoughts about the election. I held space and heard one classmate who happened to be a cisgender white man. He told me that he didn't feel it would be any different if Hillary or T**** won. I did my best to hear him and I did hold space. Yet, I was shocked by that comment. That it didn't matter who won the presidency. When, yes it truly does. That comment to me was the epitome of white, cisgender, male privilege. Being blind to all of the ways that one is privileged. The privileged belief that if something doesn't affect one directly, then it's easy to ignore. 8 years of LGBTQ rights that have been advanced during the Obama administration could be abolished/overturned during a T**** administration. Roe vs. Wade could be overturned. Obamacare would be repealed. Millions of immigrants and children could be deported and separated from their parents and families. Environmental protections could be overturned, etc. The Dakota Access Pipeline could pollute water that millions of people depend on under a T**** administration. And so much more. This is the tip of the iceberg. I shudder to think about international relations now that the U.S. does in fact have T**** as our next president.

I gave a few lyft rides home after my co-counseling class on Tuesday, Nov. 9th. I remember how quiet the streets were. There was a chill in the air. It was so quiet. I reflected back on how uproarious Portland was when Obama was first elected in 2008. That was during the first three years when I lived in Portland and the year that I came out as Transgender. There was so much celebratory noise, people were so happy, and it felt like the entire city celebrated. November 9th, 2016--a quiet chill. The first lyft passenger who I drove to their home didn't know what to tell her students the next morning. She is a teacher who works with grade school aged children. I didn't know what to tell her either. I said it was difficult. How do you share this news with children in a way that they can understand? I told her that I've worked with children before and studied Waldorf Education. I suggested telling a story to the children. The next couple of people who I drove to their destinations were in shock as well. We talked about human rights and the lack thereof under a T**** administration. I chose to drive home after a few rides since I was emotionally exhausted and overall in shock.

I did some research on the internet when I returned home and saw all of the red states and so few blue states on a map of the U.S. Hillary was winning the popular vote yet not the electoral college. I felt fear. What about my Trans affirming healthcare? I wouldn't be able to afford the healthcare that I have through the Affordable Care Act if Obamacare is abolished. I felt fear as a Transman regarding important documents such as my passport, birth certificate, etc. that I still need to change the gender marker to male on those documents before T**** is inaugurated as President in January. I felt concern for every human being who isn't a a white, cisgender, straight male in this country. I cried a few times. I scrolled down Facebook and read different posts from friends and community members. It was difficult to fall asleep on Election night.

It felt like a collective nightmare.

We're all in it.

This is it.

I've been in process. During the past 12 days, I've talked about my feelings/thoughts about the election to friends, housemates, lyft passengers, classmates, a barber, my parents, and community members. As a coping mechanism, I've been keeping active. Continuing to work on Wednesday morning when I would have rather stayed curled up in bed or simply at home all day, in mourning. In process, feeling all of my feelings. I've been feeling all of my feelings while working, taking care of practicalities, appts., taking care of myself, and living an active life.

One way that I thought I could be of service is to write about my experiences. Thus, I'm finally writing about my experience for people to read and digest on their own schedules. This past week, I didn't want to talk about it anymore. I simply wanted to be and to write about it. I know that the majority of people whom I spoke with and have interacted with are devastated. It feels like a collective grief process that so many people are feeling and going through. On an individual level, everyone's S**T is activated right now. This is it, we are in the thick of it. It's messy, it's scary, it's beyond the beyond. Everyone can see America's blood, pus, and unhealed wounds. What was ignored and in the collective shadow is now clearly visible. It's a national and global healing crisis we are experiencing. My Mom said today that the healing part hasn't begun yet.

In this Country, the foundation and history of racism, misogyny, indigenous persecution, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. all of these isms and the social, cultural, and political institutions that uphold all of the isms is clearly visible and in the light. Illuminated for all to see. Needing to be reckoned with, acknowledged, and healed. In my opinion, the United States, as a Country needs to acknowledge all of the isms and apologize to Indigenous people in the U.S. and to all black people for all harm and persecution done. Reparations need to be made. The trauma of slavery needs to be acknowledged and sincere apologies and reparations need to be made.

There is so much division in this Country. Between T**** supporters and those that are abhorred at T****'s message of hate and discrimination. There are other stances yet I'm honing in on the major divisions in this country between acceptance/unity vs. hate rhetoric.

I began this blog to write about hope. I'm doing my best to take one step at a time. To breathe. To eat healthy foods, keep hydrated, and take excellent care of myself during these very challenging and extreme times. To reach out for support. To be heard, seen, and mirrored with love, compassion, and kindness. To connect with community. To do all of the steps to get a new passport before January as well as a new birth certificate with my name and male gender marker on it.

A few days after the election, a lyft passenger said my name correctly, Ewan. With an emphasis on the E. (ee-whan). I turned and looked in the passenger seat behind me and it was a friend who I met in Albuquerque when I lived there for 6 months in 2013-2014. (For this person's privacy, I'm not going to reveal their name). They have lived in Portland for two years. I knew that I would run into them sometime at a Queer/Trans event in Portland, yet this was our first encounter. I asked how they were doing. They said that they were having a very difficult time. On Wednesday, they were attacked and physically assaulted for being visibly queer while waiting at a bus stop in Portland. They were called epithets and were physically injured and have trauma from that experience. I heard them and I didn't know what to do except say kind and supportive words and I'm so glad they are okay. I felt horrified and scared for the many people who were attacked or assaulted the day after T**** was elected. It's beyond the beyond. People feeling fueled and empowered to act out in violent ways and to target members of the LGBTQ communities, People of Color, Immigrants, Women, etc. the list goes on. I thought of the book, The Stone Butch Blues and it felt like traveling back in time. Is this what it felt like during Stonewall or the 1950's? The feeling of safety that someone has to simply stand and wait at the bus stop was shattered for them since they were visibly queer.

Since Wednesday, November 9th, I haven't been feeling "SAFE" as an American in my own Country. I feel that American has a lot of potential. My Jewish Ancestors came here to escape from the persecution of pogroms and anti-semitism in Eastern Europe. My Mexican Great-Grandfather Duarte fled the Mexican Revolution and left his home in Michoacan as an 18 year old. Traveling north until he reached Fresno, California on his own. My German ancestors came here for a better life. So much persecution for simply being Jewish. Brown. Mexican. Immigrants.

America is the land of immigrants. How can this Country reconcile its past and how can we create unity in the present so that we can move forward in integrated and healthy ways as a nation?

It's up to each individual to discover who they truly are, most authentically. Then have the courage to BE one's most authentic self in this world. It's about taking personal responsibility for the internalized isms and phobias. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia. Do one's work around privilege or the lack thereof and become an Ally to all people.

We are all ONE.

I'm concerned about what life will be like under the T**** administration.

What I can do today is to get my papers in order and get that new passport ASAP and updated birth certificate. The future remains uncertain and the ground feels groundless.

May we continue to ground in these times of groundlessness and upheaval to the Earth even more so. We are on a spinning, magnificent, blue ball. Our thoughts matter. Our words matter. Black Lives Matter.

Your individual healing helps the collective healing process.

May you breathe. Root down for strength. Center yourself. Love yourself. More. Cultivate support. Reach out for support. Keep hydrated. Take one step at a time and do the best that you can.

You are enough.

We are all enough.

There is hope. Even if we are all in the dark at this time.

In light,

Ewan

Monday, April 18, 2016

You have to learn how to get up from the table when love is no longer being served

Last year I ended a significant friend relationship.

This blog post is an offering about relationships and accountability.

I've been contemplating and mulling over how to share this--if to even share it at all.

It's come to my attention that I need to express these words.

How I live and am in the world is guided by my inner compass.

I contemplate. I discern. I listen to my inner knowing.

From here, I then take action.

From decisions such as, how will I structure and organize my day? To big decisions such as which graduate school I chose to go to and important decisions regarding relationships, etc. I'm committed to carving out the time to create stillness, peace, and listen as the answers arise from my inner knowing. My inner compass.

From this place of knowing, peace, and stillness I received clarity and guidance to conclude a friend relationship that was significant to me since I moved to the Bay Area in 2009.

Our mutual friends and community were interwoven together with this friendship.

This ending had been building. I had clarity that the friendship was unsupportive to me. I didn't feel appreciated or seen. If I do not feel supported then I don't feel respected.

I feel that support, respect, appreciation, being seen, and heard are the basic building blocks of a healthy relationship. As well as trust and communication.

At times examples and experiences of major lack of support as well as small acts of unsupportive gestures, words, and actions are insidious. They build over time.

I choose to build, cultivate, and co-create relationships that are soul-nourishing, reciprocitous, supportive, where there is mutual appreciation. Where there is more harmony than times of conflict. Where who one is, their art, their offerings to the world are authentically appreciated, honored, supported, and respected.

What I didn't foresee was how this act of empowerment, choosing to end a relationship that wasn't healthy nor supportive nor empowering to me nor mutually beneficial or in the highest interest of all would create a rift in the community that I had been a part of and cultivated for years. A community that I loved and contributed so much to. A community of people that I saw as friends, supporters, allies, and family.

What transpired from this action that I took to end a relationship that I felt in my heart and core was unhealthy and unsupportive for my growth and evolution as a human being,

I felt like I lost my community.


The repercussions of my action that I took from my place and stance of empowerment, inner knowing, and personal growth were viewed as "bad" and "negative" by people who I called friends and community members. Multiple narratives were expressed that I heard.

The question that I have is, "Don't we as a community want to support, honor, and encourage personal growth, authenticity, healing, honoring one's truth and taking the action that one needs to take to be supported and live an empowered and healthy life?"

I did not receive the support and honor from those that I thought would have my back and would be there for me.

What I feel is important to say is that relationships whether it be a colleague, a friendship, a romantic relationship can be successful and still end!

Every relationship has a natural time-line.

Western culture views relationships ending as being "un-successful."

This isn't true at all. I feel that this friend relationship had a successful timeline and I honored it's ending. I was ready for it and felt empowered about the conclusion. So that I could move on and co-create healthy relationships where I feel honored, supported, appreciated, and seen.

Ending a relationship or creating any change is uncomfortable. It is unknown. It is not a safe and snuggly couch to sit on.

It's walking into unknown territory and not knowing what will happen next. It's having the courage to trust one's inner guidance and relying on one's inner compass to guide them on their journey into the depths. With or without the support of their friends and community for the decision that they are making or will soon make.


Many human beings mostly see things in terms of dualism. Good/Bad. Black/White. Man/Woman

The Queer/Trans communities in the Bay Area and beyond are all about moving beyond the binary regarding gender.

Can't we move beyond the binary of Good/Bad and dualistic thinking regarding relationships ending naturally?

Can we not see that our experiences and decisions are a spectrum? Just like gender being a spectrum as well as sexuality.

Endings and death are a spectrum as well.

There doesn't need to be an "other" in a relationship. Yes, everyone has a perspective yet I wish that we would view two people who ended a relationship from a grander perspective.

Zoom out!

There are two perspectives from two people. Maybe there are more than two!

Yet, do we need to create an "other"?

For example, I'm right and you're wrong! They are wrong and he's right.

There are more than two sides.

The stories and narratives that we do share with others have an impact on how people are perceived and thus treated.

Rather than choosing to push people out of one's community from "things they've heard," observe and have an expansive and open heart. A neutral mind. Do one's best to view an ending as a spectrum. It is what it is. It's a journey into healing. Into the unknown. It's mysterious. Unless, it's yours to experience you can have empathy, yet not understand. Since, you are not in the shoes of the person experiencing the end of the relationship.

Relationships can end and we can still be civil and neutral to each other in community. Greeting each other and saying hi. Having eye contact, etc.

We can evolve past a dualistic mind-set and honor each individual for the path that they are on. Whether that includes being on their journey with them or not.

We can learn to honor one's decisions when we know that they are a person of integrity, truth, and kindness.

May we all evolve and honor each person's path of personal growth, heart, and honor the decisions that they make from a stance of empowerment and evolution as they journey on.

Nothing lasts forever.

I like to say that forever is the moment.

This is why I feel it's important to be present with people. To honor the moment and to honor the relationships you have and cultivate in the present moment.

We need to learn how to let people go and things go when it's time for them to conclude. To end. To die.

As Nina Simone said, "You have to learn how to get up from the table when love is no longer being served."

I release this blog post. May all who read it receive it as an offering.

In light,

Ewan

p.s. BIG thanks to my beloved friend and facilitator, Riza Noyama-Zee for her support, guidance, and active listening regarding this topic. Her support and holding space for me to be heard and seen about this topic was and is invaluable.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Transformation Soup: Identifying My Body’s Gender

This article was originally published in print in LILIPOH Magazine's Culture Pulse Pages in the Winter 2013 issue. This is my first published article.

BIG thanks to my friend and editor of this article, Leslie Loy for this wonderful opportunity to share my story in LILIPOH Magazine. Another BIG thank you to the editor of LILIPOH Magazine, Christy Korrow for including the article in the Winter 2013 issue. Thank you both for this opportunity!

In Light and wellness,

Ewan

Transformation Soup: Identifying My Body’s Gender
Ewan Duarte

My body—this porcelain skin, these green eyes that can see the beauty of the world as well as the challenges and harsh realities of life. My auburn, curly hair that used to be red. Red as my beard. My body is always changing, growing, regenerating, experiencing, and aging. From sunrise to sunset, with the circadian rhythms as the Earth traverses around the sun. The sun, the moon, the stars, and my time here on this Earthly plane in this temporal, physical form.

When I think of my body, I think of a gift—a divine gift that I chose. I chose to be born this way, in this skin. One of my greatest challenges and blessings was to slowly learn, unravel, and discover who I authentically am, and am meant to be, within this physical form. This is my temporal gift, one I am always with: my body, a beautiful dysphoric body. These muscles, these strong bones, the blood coursing through my veins remind me of my ancestral ties: Eastern European Jews, Mexicans, and German people—a real diversity soup. I am a culmination of my ancestors, their existence, sacrifices, and lives. My blood, my bones, my body connect me to them all. I am proud of them for simply being and existing.

When did I realize that I was uncomfortable in my body? That the word “girl,” that “woman” did not fit me? Was it when I was a child playing on the all-boys football team at my elementary school in Clovis, California? My Dad picked me up after one of the games or practices. He asked me in the car, “Rachel, do you know the difference between boys and girls?” I got instantly upset and reactive. I yelled, “Yes!” That was the end of the conversation. It was quiet in the car as my Dad drove us home. Writing and reflecting upon this now, I thought that my Dad was referring to anatomy. I had the body of a girl. Yet, I wanted to play on the boys’ football team. It would take me until nearly a decade later, while attending college at UC Santa Cruz, to begin to question my own gender identity, to be exposed to and become part of a queer/transgender community.

My body. My soul. My spirit. It was during one of my meditations in my Portland, Oregon apartment that I realized, was able to receive the clarity and guidance, that I was a boy. I felt so happy and elated to finally know. I wanted to tell the world “I’m a beautiful boy!” To express it out loud—to shout with joy! Boy! After years of inquiry, personal examination, taking queer/transgender studies classes, reading books, articles, viewing film/media, going to lectures, and having conversations about queer/trans themes and experiences, I now had the experience. All of my studies and inquiry were the foundation to prepare me for this unfolding clarity—that I am a transgender guy.

I was simply, me, Rachel at the time. A unique individual with a feminine voice and laughter. I had felt androgynous for years—in between the “gender binary” of boy and girl. I was neither. I was a gender-fluid being. With this new clarity, I was continuing on my personal path of truth and authenticity. I was beginning to externalize the way that I felt internally. I now had a name for the way that I had felt for so many years: transgender.

The spaces my soul has travelled, traversed, and experienced thus far on my path as a transgender man are colorful, infinite, and spiral-like. Wow! I have come so far from where I have been, having experienced both soul and physical shifts. I have physically transitioned to become a man socially and holistically while living in San Francisco during graduate school.

I am in the transformation soup. How many fires must I go through? How many initiations to become the man that I truly am? Expressing myself holistically—this is my truest, most authentic form that I inhabit. This body that transcends gender, rises above it. Yet, I claim the identities of transgender, FTM (female to male), transsexual, and man. I am a man. I was a beautiful boy and I have become a beautiful man. An integrated man who honors his divine femininity and masculinity. A man who has lived this journey and continues to live it every day.

To continue to walk one’s path with personal truth, conviction, clarity, and empowerment. I choose to continue to be and express myself in a way that is most resonant and authentic. Today I am an empowered man, comfortable in my skin. I am grateful to be here now. Grateful that I know that my essence is a timeless being of love and light. Temporally, in my human form, I am Ewan, a transgender man; and so much more.




Ewan Duarte is an artist, writer, and award-winning filmmaker. He was born and raised in Fresno, California and received BAs in American studies and film/Digital media from UC Santa Cruz. Ewan studied and practiced Waldorf education at the Micha-el Institute in Portland, Oregon and recently graduated from San Francisco State University with an MFA in cinema. Ewan’s most recent films, Spiral Transition (2010) and Change Over Time (2013) have screened nationally and worldwide at film festivals, conferences, and art events. To receive updates about film festival screenings, join his newsletter, or to inquire about exhibiting his work, email Ewan at ewanduarte@gmail.com.

VISION
Culture Pulse is a pursuit in understanding the attitudes, questions and manifestations of human creativity in co-cultivating a community that nourishes lives of meaning.

EDITOR’S THOUGHTS
In the last Culture Pulse section, we explored our relationship to spaces, particularly the spaces around us, and how they are mirrored in our experiences of them. What if we begin to recognize that we physically inhabit not only spaces such as rooms, gardens, and so forth, but that our bodies and even aspects of our soul experiences are also spaces? In this issue, we invite Ewan Duarte, a California filmmaker, to reflect on his relationship to his body as he transitioned from a female to male body, and documented the process of what it means to relate to the one space we can never separate ourselves from, and yet which we largely identify with as aspects of ourselves—our bodies.