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‘Trans Figured’ is a fraught journey toward survival, hope

Brian Belovitch crafts a memorable memoir

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Grit, glamour, aspirations, addiction: “Trans Figured” chronicles the ever-evolving life of Brian Belovitch. (Cover design by Rain Saukas)

The title delivers on its promise, and so much more: “Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man,” by Brian Belovitch, chronicles the highs and lows of a “gender outlier and his dramatic journey through the jungle of gender identity.” Born into a working class, first-generation family in Fall River, MA, Belovitch writes with heart, honesty, and grit, about life as a queer teenager, a transgender woman named Tish (and, later, Natalia Gervais), an HIV-positive gay man, and an addict transformed by sobriety. The Blade recently spoke with him, in advance of two area appearances, on Jan. 15 and 17.

Why did you decide to write this book now?

I started it way back when, in the ’80s, and had shopped it around, and no one was interested in anything trans back then. In fact, there was not a good reception at all. It was very negative. So it tells you a little bit about how the times have changed. And I wanted to write it because, it’s a message of — I know it has a lot to do with gender and identity, but it’s also a message of survival and hope. I also wanted to make sure it was my version of the story, and not someone else’s.

What did you discover, during the writing process?

I was very surprised at how much more respect I have for myself, as someone who struggled through difficult circumstances. It gave me a renewed sense of confidence. It was cathartic in many ways, but painful, obviously, to revisit some of the things.

Did the book change your perception of yourself, past or present?

When you’re a young person trying to find your way in the world, the way people perceive you is how you form your own ideas about yourself. The idea is, you’re going to grow up, be successful, fall in love, and make money. I really believed that becoming another gender, and living the American dream of being married to a handsome man, was going to solve all my problems. I had such high expectations of fitting in, like everyone else. But it didn’t work out that way.

At this stage of my life, it doesn’t really matter to me as much. But perception, back then, meant everything to me… Validation, I guess, is a better word than perception. We live in a culture that validates external achievements. It validates beauty, education, intelligence, and conformity. I mean, look at the state of the world. Don’t get me started on that… I can only be the best person I can be, and try to effect change.

Why did you transition, back to Brian?

By making myself this beautiful, exotic creature, there was a certain sense of excitement that came from that. I had gone as far as I could possibly go in creating this identity that I thought was going to bring me all the happiness in the world — and what actually happened was the exact opposite. It didn’t bring me love, success, calm, peace, and satisfaction. What it did bring me was a lot of rejection, a lot of ridicule, a lot of obstacles. I didn’t fit into the straight world, I didn’t fit into the gay world… I was objectified. I felt like I was a sex object… and it was the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and I had tested HIV positive.

What did you get from being high, and what did you replace it with when you got sober?

The high gave me a false sense of confidence. It made me feel powerful, invincible. It made me feel like I could do anything I wanted, and I didn’t have to think about consequences. When I was using crack and freebasing cocaine, my whole life became about chasing that all day. Giving that up, in a way, is like transitioning.

As a sober person, I started to really understand, or find my own truth, about things I really liked to do. I’ve been sober now for over 32 years… Slowly, you start to fill it [intoxicants] with things that are more meaningful to you. I started writing, and went back to acting in plays. I was lucky enough to get some work with the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. But it’s not just one thing you can replace that with. You have to take a look at yourself and find out, what are the things you want to do with your life.

As an HIV survivor, I had to work very hard in my sobriety to keep my health insurance because I had to keep a roof over my head, to keep my doctor’s appointments, my head above water in the area of employment. When you’re taking care of yourself in that way, it builds confidence…. The [contemporary] high for me is calm and peace and stability. I love stability. I treasure stability and sanity more than anything. That’s what replaced the high — and, also, being of service and helping others has been a huge, huge gift.

How do you identify now?

People keep forcing me to come up with one. But for convenience, I would probably be a cisgender gay male of trans experience. I’m never going to not be trans. I’m not trying to erase my trans history. It was a great thing. I had a blast. There were some aspects of it that were really fantastic. But as with anything else, you gotta take the good and the bad, and come up with some sort of decision.

A documentary (“i’m going to make you love me”) by Karen Bernstein is expected to be released later this year. There’s also talk of a narrative feature film. “Imagine,” Belovitch speculated, “the brouhaha over who’s going to play a transgender character who becomes cisgender.”

ABOUT:
“Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man,” by 
Brian Belovitch, is available at skyhorsepublishing.com. Belovitch will do a reading, sign books, and conduct a Q&A, at LA’s Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd) on Tues., Jan. 15, and at Dog Eared Books, in San Francisco (489 Castro St.), on Thurs., Jan. 17. Author info at brianbelovitch.com.

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Television

‘Jeopardy!’ champ helps 83-year-old accept Trans people

Schneider recognized the challenges that come with being an openly Trans woman on national TV, but noted: “I thought it would be worse”

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Amy Schneider (Courtesy of Sony Television & Pictures Corp.)

OAKLAND – Trans “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider, the most winning woman in the show’s history, opened up in a recent interview about learning that her TV presence helped an 83-year-old man learn to accept Trans people. 

In an interview with NPR, Schneider recognized the challenges that come with being an openly Trans woman on national TV, but noted: “I thought it would be worse.”

Though Schneider has dealt with her fair share of transphobic comments on the internet, she told NPR’s Ari Shapiro that she stays out of the comment sections because it’s better for her mental health. 

However, she did recall receiving one Twitter post that highlighted the positive impact of her visibility. 

“After two to three years of conversation, you being on “Jeopardy!” every night has taught my dad to be accepting of Trans people,” the post said, according to Schneider. “You’re the first person he’s used correct pronouns with, an 83-year-old man saying, this isn’t too hard. Thanks for your message of love.” 

“That is just one of the best things I could hear,” Schneider said. “And that I’ve been able to do that, give people that experience – and if I’m helping them, that’s what I want to do most of all.”

On Friday, Schneider won her 33rd straight game, the third-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history, amassing $1,111,800 in winnings.

Recently, the history-making contestant returned to Twitter after a brief hiatus sparked by being robbed at gunpoint over the New Year’s weekend. 

“Hi all! So, first off: I’m fine. But I got robbed yesterday, lost my ID, credit cards, and phone,” she said, adding: “So, I doubt I’ll even start writing tonight’s game thread today, and if I keep winning, it may take a bit for me to get caught up. Thanks for your patience!”

Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, has been an inspiration to many during her historic run on the show. 

“Seeing Trans people anywhere in society that you haven’t seen them before is so valuable for the kids right now that are seeing it,” she told ABC affiliate KGO-TV in November, adding: “I’m so grateful that I am giving some nerdy little Trans kid somewhere the realization that this is something they could do, too.”

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Online Culture

Tom Daley: Bad Dad Jokes!

Terrible jokes, but I love them! Not sure if Lance does…

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Los Angeles Blade Screenshot via YouTube

LONDON – British Olympian and gold medalist diver Tom Daley along with his husband D. Lance Black pass along some really terrible ‘Dad’ jokes.

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Celebrity News

Out Trans Munroe Bergdorf is covergirl as Cosmopolitan UK celebrates 50

“I believe the people want trans inclusion, racial equality, to end misogyny so women and girls feel safe walking home at night”

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Courtesy of Cosmopolitan UK

LONDON – Starting this upcoming Friday, January 21, customers standing in the queue at checkout tills and newsstands across the United Kingdom will be greeted by the sight of model and Out Trans activist Munroe Bergdof smiling back at them from the cover of the 50th anniversary special edition issue of Cosmopolitan UK.

In the cover story interview conducted by PinkNewsUK gender and identity journalist Vic Parsons, Salvadoran-American filmmaker, actor, model, and intersex rights activist River Gallo, along with writer, stylist and consultant Aja Barber, Bergdof discusses career, climate change and global warming, cancel culture, pronouns and the future of Trans rights.

“I hope there’s a young trans girl looking at this cover thinking: ‘I can do it too and who I am is not going to hold me back,’” she says.

Bergdorf adds: “I believe the people want trans inclusion, racial equality, to end misogyny so women and girls feel safe walking home at night.”

“I don’t think we have ever been as enlightened as a people as we are now, even if there is a lot of misinformation around. I do feel like the spark has been lit. Less people are passively accepting what they have been presented with and that’s an incredible thing.”

In a commentary piece written for London-based fashion and cultural media outlet Grazia in February 2018, Bergdorf noted;

A woman is more than a vagina, than her ability to bear children, the gender she was assigned at birth, a socio-economic class, marital status or sexual history – yet every one of these points has been used to define and control a woman’s place in society. This is why feminism must serve as an inclusive tool of liberation for all female identities and experiences, not just some. This is where so many women are still getting it wrong.”

[…]

I long to see more cisgender women in positions of influence standing up for trans women, making people aware of issues that may not affect all of us, but that we should all care about deeply.

[…]

We must learn to see all women’s experiences as worthy of being listened to within feminist discourse. Because the fact is not all women possess a functioning reproductive system, not all women have a vagina, not all women’s vaginas are pink. So, when ‘pink pussies’ are used as imagery intended to unify all women, what they are actually doing is excluding a large amount of women from feeling like they have a voice within feminism.”

Bergdof deleted her Twitter account due to the torrent of transphobic abuse she received on the social media platform PinkNewsUK reported.

“Tired of being a punching bag. Twitter is not a safe app for transgender people,” she wrote.

The activist called on social media platforms take more action to combat the abuse directed at transgender people and women online.

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