Equality Arizona
The Arizona Equals Conversation
Arizona Equals Aeron
0:00
-47:28

Arizona Equals Aeron

The ASU film student joins the show to talk about representation, education, community, and identity labels

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Full Transcript

00;00;00;12 - 00;00;22;00

Jeanne

From Equality Arizona, you're listening to the Arizona Equals Conversation. I'm Jeanne Woodbury. I'm the interim executive director at Equality Arizona and I'm the host of this podcast. It's one of my favorite things I get to do each week. Right now, we're looking for new guests to join the podcast, so if you're queer and you live in Arizona, I want to talk to you.

00;00;22;06 - 00;00;47;21

Jeanne

Let's set up a time to record an interview! If you want to send me an email, it's just my first name at EqualityArizona.org, or you can use the form on our website at EqualityArizona.org/Stories. While you're there, you can find the whole archive of past episodes of the show. Today's episode of the podcast is an interview with Aeron, a film student at ASU and a recent transplant to Arizona.

00;00;48;23 - 00;01;15;06

Jeanne

We ended up talking a lot about representation in a lot of different areas — education, social media, film, TV — and we also got into this idea of the utility of different labels: how we find them, how they help us, how we can add to the discourse around labels, by choosing them and by identifying with people and sharing our thoughts and our feelings.

00;01;15;17 - 00;01;48;12

Jeanne

It's a really cool conversation and I really appreciated their perspective about that, particularly as it comes to the word genderqueer. I think there's always more to be said about all of that, and I think that this is a great interview to hopefully jumpstart some more conversations about all of those topics. So let's just get started.

00;01;52;23 - 00;02;11;25

Aeron

So hi, I'm Aeron and I use any pronouns and I think I'm here just to really talk about the community and just expand people's minds and be able to start the conversation of LGBTQ.

00;02;12;07 - 00;02;12;18

Jeanne

Thank you.

00;02;12;24 - 00;02;13;02

Aeron

Yeah.

00;02;14;11 - 00;02;22;05

Jeanne

So I think when we were emailing, you mentioned you had just kind of recently moved to Arizona, right?

Aeron

Yeah.

Jeanne

And did you move here to go to ASU?

00;02;22;18 - 00;02;28;29

Aeron

I did. Everything shifted after college. So after high school, I was like, I'm going to come out here.

00;02;29;15 - 00;02;31;28

Jeanne

And how did you make that decision?

00;02;33;15 - 00;02;48;01

Aeron

Well, I was, like going into film and stuff, I was like: I need more of an environment that allows more film creators, something that had more like, what's the word… like connections.

00;02;48;12 - 00;02;50;18

Jeanne

Oh yeah. So like networking kind of?

00;02;51;15 - 00;03;03;00

Aeron

Yeah yeah yeah. And living in Pennsylvania, that was not a thing. I come from a small town in Lebanon. It's near Lancaster, so it's very hick-y. Do you know what hicks are?

00;03;03;11 - 00;03;05;25

Jeanne

Yeah. I mean, I know what that area of Pennsylvania is like.

00;03;05;27 - 00;03;12;21

Aeron

Yeah. So we have, like, some of the Amish, very conservative. And it was definitely not a place for film.

00;03;13;21 - 00;03;15;06

Jeanne

Right. That makes sense. Yeah.

00;03;15;07 - 00;03;22;08

Aeron

So I had to come somewhere different. And Arizona, I was expecting a little different because I was like, it's Phoenix, Arizona.

00;03;23;02 - 00;03;24;01

Jeanne

What were you expecting?

00;03;24;07 - 00;03;46;05

Aeron

I was like… I don't… It was this big city. It was like, it has to be like more liberal and just, way different environment. Which it was like I definitely experience less negative things here that I have at home. But it's still there's moments that I'm like still in kind of a red area, which can be negative, depending on who you are.

00;03;46;15 - 00;03;52;04

Jeanne

Yeah. What are some examples of like maybe what you were expecting and then what's actually been the case?

00;03;53;00 - 00;04;09;01

Aeron

So I think I was just kind of like, Oh, there's going to be more outlets and different like environment, it's going to be more of a positive, more of a liberal environment.

00;04;09;01 - 00;04;13;15

Jeanne

Yeah, like being able to find like here's the center for this and here's this, or all of that.

00;04;14;00 - 00;04;36;02

Aeron

Yeah, so I was kind of like, Oh, I'm going to go in this environment and it's going to be totally different than where I was because Lebanon was very conservative, which I mean, there's nothing wrong with being conservative. But some of the viewpoints that they had, some of the negative impacts that like the side of conservative they were, was negative.

00;04;36;06 - 00;04;40;22

Jeanne

It can be really difficult to be queer in a conservative environment.

00;04;40;22 - 00;04;41;06

Aeron

Yeah. Yeah.

00;04;41;09 - 00;04;45;01

Jeanne

Even if people aren't hateful to you, it can still be really difficult, I think.

00;04;45;04 - 00;05;10;28

Aeron

Yeah, our school, I mean, our school provided a lot of different outlets to support those people, but overall they didn't really like get down and kind of explore the negative parts of it, even talking to them. A friend and I were making a movement to change our caps and gowns because our caps and gowns are gendered, so the girls wear white and the boys wear blue.

00;05;11;09 - 00;05;38;00

Aeron

And it was just us trying to change that because there's no reason for it. It was just a tradition that they had years ago that serves no more purpose anymore. So we were trying to change that and trying to get rid of that. And still with the two years like we started our freshman year, just talking about it and then brought it to the attention of administration my junior year and still nothing has changed.

00;05;38;10 - 00;06;06;00

Aeron

I'm waiting to go back, so I'm going back in December and I'm hoping to go to like a board meeting and talk about it more and try to change that and get rid of it. Other than that, like, there's still other things. We have a gender neutral bathroom at my school, but it's kind of like you need to be careful going there because now kids use it to give an outlet for them to smoke cigarettes in our school…

00;06;06;06 - 00;06;34;09

Aeron

…and they're like, Oh, the gender neutral bathroom, just go in there and smoke. Like, It's okay. And that's making them like, Oh, we're going to shut down the gender neutral bathroom. And it's like these people who are cis are going in there to take advantage of it when there's a bunch of other students who need that and find support in that and it's being taken away from them because of these other students.

00;06;35;11 - 00;06;50;03

Jeanne

That's a really good insight. I never really would have expected that as the consequence of… like it's very… I don't think anyone would have thought, how is this going to get abused by just people who don't even need it?

00;06;50;18 - 00;06;50;29

Aeron

Mm hmm.

00;06;52;26 - 00;06;58;13

Jeanne

Do you know what people are trying to do to keep that open?

00;06;59;03 - 00;07;28;11

Aeron

Definitely a bunch of the students, queer students, just going to administration, like speaking out about it and saying how we can't shut it down like that there was so much built up to allow that to even be there, and having that taken away is insane. And I was a part of the broadcast program within my school, so we did the morning announcements every morning and we made it a point to like include anyone or speak on anything.

00;07;29;15 - 00;07;56;01

Aeron

So it was definitely like, make sure you're… we obviously couldn't pinpoint certain things or say certain things about it on the announcements, but we kind of like… be respectful and just be aware of what you're doing and how what you're doing, Could it be affecting other students in a negative way? And overall at the school, there's a lot of students who do negatively impact queer students.

00;07;56;01 - 00;08;33;26

Aeron

There's, I would say I would — most of students would be just yelled at slurs within our school, daily. I would say at least once or twice a day, I would hear it negatively used towards not only me, but other friends and other students in school. I just remember there was one morning especially that 7:00 in the morning, I'm getting out of my car to walk into school and there's just these kids in their car screaming at me and my friends like, Oh, you F-slurs, like No one likes your kind… and we're just walking into school.

00;08;33;26 - 00;08;54;25

Aeron

And I'm like, That's unbelievable. Like how people are able to do that. And we brought it to the attention of the administration. Nothing was done. We knew the exact place that they were and their car was, like their parking spot. Made it aware to the administration; nothing was done.

00;08;54;25 - 00;09;01;01

Jeanne

What do you think motivates people to behave that way. I mean, do you think it's just hate or do you think it's insecurity?

00;09;01;23 - 00;09;49;10

Aeron

I like a lot of the issues I see is done by education. There is barely any education within, especially Lebanon that has to do with queer or minorities in general. A lot of what we learn is completely whitewashed. People aren't learning. There's a teacher who recently went into our middle school who actually talked about these things. He brought up awareness and he got backlash from it, from administration, like he started this diversity club in middle school and it was on the verge of being shut down because it was "too radical," it was "putting things in the mind of students."

00;09;49;14 - 00;10;14;19

Aeron

So that was a big thing that he had to stop from happening. He was like, It's a diverse club. Anyone can join, anyone can be there. It has nothing to do with radical, like, ideations. Like it's just to keep students in a safe environment. So I definitely, like, growing up, I wasn't taught any of these things. I was only aware of what the word gay meant in like seventh grade.

00;10;14;25 - 00;10;38;26

Aeron

And at that point I grew up very conservative and it's a very, like very Christian conservative area. So I mean, majority of my friends and I did. So just hearing what that meant, I was like, What? Like, that's not okay. Like, I was praised for, um, like I was praised for saying it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

00;10;39;16 - 00;10;40;21

Aeron

As funny as that is.

00;10;40;22 - 00;10;41;06

Jeanne

No, but it's.

00;10;41;07 - 00;10;45;24

Aeron

As a child. I'm saying these things and getting like, yeah, that's exactly what you should be saying.

00;10;45;24 - 00;10;51;11

Jeanne

You're absorbing political slogans that are like, older than you are at that point that you're saying them.

00;10;53;08 - 00;10;53;21

Aeron

Exactly, yeah.

00;10;54;17 - 00;11;15;04

Jeanne

And so I wonder, like, you know, you're having the same experience those kids are probably having who are yelling slurs at you, right? And not getting real exposure to things, having everything kind of suppressed. What do you think enabled you to get out of that mindset and why do you think they're still stuck in it?

00;11;16;10 - 00;11;50;04

Aeron

I would say I definitely… with how I grew up, I had more liberal side, to my mom. My mom's side was more liberal. So I still heard a lot of homophobic, racial things, but I think it started off with a little bit of that. And then social media, I got a hold of that and just the people I was in, in my environment, I was a big theater kid, so I was with a lot of kids who did know what that was and did identify within the community.

00;11;51;06 - 00;12;16;02

Aeron

So learning about that and just being surrounded by it really helped me. Like, This isn't bad, this is okay. These are people, like this happens. And then like obviously I grew to learn things about myself, like how I identify within the community and just being able to work through that. I definitely would say in eighth grade I struggled with that.

00;12;16;05 - 00;12;47;17

Aeron

I was like, Well, why am I feeling this way? I shouldn't be feeling this way. I should be, like, I should like guys, like I… So that was a lot to have to process and break down. But I think my outlet was definitely theater and broadcast and just who I surround myself with. And a lot of the students who don't have that or still acted in ways that were hateful towards not, not just the community, the LGBTQ community, but to black, black people within our school.

00;12;47;28 - 00;13;10;18

Aeron

Like they didn't have that. It was a lot of people. And you could tell like, Oh, well, they're in this club. Or like there's a lot of quote unquote segregation. Like, it was, it was subtle, but it was there like the broadcast crew, all the broadcast kids were very liberal. And then you would go over to the FFA, Future Farmers of America.

00;13;11;00 - 00;13;16;16

Aeron

That was Oh, well, those are the Conservatives. Like there was, it was very segregated through our school.

00;13;16;16 - 00;13;18;01

Jeanne

Like political segregation.

00;13;18;01 - 00;13;32;25

Aeron

Yeah, it was very politically segregated. And just within those clubs you could see that more students that were in the more conservative, created more negativity towards the kids in the other clubs.

00;13;33;00 - 00;13;58;13

Jeanne

And I imagine the segregation itself feeds a lot of that behavior. You mentioned being involved in theater and then also doing this kind of multi-year advocacy around access for queer people and like the gowns and everything. Was that a kind of contiguous thing of, Here's the theater, kids, we're all doing this or here's the broadcast kids, we're all doing this kind of advocacy?

00;13;58;20 - 00;14;37;29

Aeron

Yeah, definitely. So it started off with me and a friend of mine whose name is Grayson, and it was both of us taking initiative to try to change that. And then when we kind of grew that, it was, majority was students who participated in theater, in broadcast, who were included in the GSA club. So you could really tell like what students were in the conversation and who took a step back, maybe because they didn't want to express it just because the environment they were in and what the other kids would think about them trying to advocate for that.

00;14;38;15 - 00;14;44;11

Aeron

And then you could also see that they just, some of them just didn't. And some of them were that negative block within the school.

00;14;44;21 - 00;14;58;01

Jeanne

Right. Yeah. All of those experiences I think, as far as I can tell, lead directly into wanting to study film. But was there anything else that really motivated you to take that path?

00;14;59;11 - 00;15;28;07

Aeron

I would say the majority is just to make change and do different things, but also teachers, the teachers, some of them just were these great, amazing people who supported you. There was definitely ones who didn't, ones who said negative things. And I just remember being in a class with a teacher who would consistently talk about, Oh, well, you're going to get this Christian boyfriend and, is there a hickey on your neck?

00;15;28;07 - 00;15;42;08

Aeron

Is that from your boyfriend? I would consistently hear these things from the teacher and I'm like, first of all, that's inappropriate in a classroom setting. And second of all, who knows, maybe I do have a boyfriend. Maybe I don't. Why does that matter to you?

00;15;43;01 - 00;15;45;08

Jeanne

That's actually just very inappropriate. Yeah.

00;15;45;24 - 00;16;16;09

Aeron

Yeah, like it shouldn't be said in a classroom setting. So just having those things I got the negative part and I think that definitely drew me away a lot because that certain teacher was also the leader of our Students for Christ Club, which I was a part of. And then it just became so uncomfortable and so suffocating for me that I relied on the other teachers which were so supportive.

00;16;16;09 - 00;16;48;02

Aeron

A teacher of mine in broadcast — I had two — they were just amazing people. Not only did they help me through so many different things, but they also showed me how film can be that outlet of support to myself and other people. And I think that definitely impacted me to join film and just come out to a place, especially here. Another thing with Arizona State is that they are very involved with native reservations around here and including their voices in their students' programs.

00;16;48;11 - 00;17;02;06

Aeron

So I think coming out here was like, well, they teach those things. They kind of allow that outlet to open minds and open voices of minorities.

00;17;02;24 - 00;17;06;24

Jeanne

And that's really different than Amish country in Pennsylvania.

00;17;06;24 - 00;17;37;09

Aeron

Yeah. No 100%. Definitely different environment. I'm going from a big area where there's fields everywhere, like coming here it was like, Oh, there's… it's city. Like obviously not like New York, but it's 100% different than coming from a small town that's full of fields. So coming out here was different. And I've experienced totally different things with the people and who I am, and like who my environment is by.

00;17;37;26 - 00;17;59;14

Jeanne

Yeah. What's the environment like at ASU? I went to ASU, but I graduated a while ago, so I don't really know what it's like now for queer people, but it when I went there, it wasn't closed off, but it was also sometimes difficult to find out where the groups were. Where can I go to express myself?

00;17;59;14 - 00;18;27;20

Aeron

Yeah, no, definitely. Within the school there's a lot of different sides of things and I think being in the art program, I see a different side of ASU and I am surrounded by people who are accepting and who are advocating for those rights, for people of minorities. I have had one bad experience here, just — which, I was just saying like, just one — but like still it's like, having that experience.

00;18;27;28 - 00;18;43;02

Aeron

I was walking home and these kids driving by, I was with a friend, and they just yelled out their car slurs and I'm like…

Jeanne

This is in Tempe?

Aeron

Yeah, yeah. I just got out of this environment and now I was just reminded of it again.

00;18;43;15 - 00;18;57;27

Jeanne

I mean, even one experience like that is… I mean, you say Just One. It's like that, that's a really pretty traumatic experience, to be yelled at from a truck, right? There's like, kind of implicit violence in it.

00;18;58;04 - 00;19;23;29

Aeron

Definitely. Mm hmm. But I think there is resources and outlets. They definitely do a lot better job with any genderqueer students. They have the ability to, like, say, this is my preferred name, and right away that's used, right away that's put in the roster. Going around in like classes, I'm sitting there like, Oh no, what name are they going to say?

00;19;23;29 - 00;19;48;11

Aeron

What's going to happen? Because it's just a roster. Are they going to put the preferred name? Because sometimes it doesn't happen. But I've experienced complete relief going to classes and having the names called out because they put the preferred name there, which I think is very good and a very good step forward from previous years. And there's a lot of inclusion like going to the club days.

00;19;48;11 - 00;20;16;24

Aeron

There's multiple clubs that you can join that allow for voices to be heard and people to express how they feel and I think that's definitely really important to provide that outlet for students because a lot of the times where they're coming from, especially if they're coming from a different state or different environment, like, like myself, there aren't those resources or some of them grew up in worse situations where they're shocked by this.

00;20;16;24 - 00;20;36;22

Aeron

They're seeing a club in general that's representing them, and I think that's really important. I think ASU is doing a way more sufficient job than in prior years, like looking at the school. When I was in high school, coming here and realizing what they're doing, there's definitely always improvement, but…

00;20;36;28 - 00;20;37;14

Jeanne

For sure.

00;20;37;14 - 00;21;09;22

Aeron

There's always improvement in everything. But I think they've done a really good job. Within just the film program, there's teachers who express this and who I've already met who are genderqueer, and just the amount of respect that's put on them is just… like it shocks me, like it really does. You don't experience that a lot, especially coming from a small town, having a teacher be genderqueer blew my mind.

00;21;09;23 - 00;21;20;14

Aeron

It blew my mind. And I was just, like, shocked by it. But it was amazing to be able to see that because there are teachers like that, there are people like that. And seeing that was really eye opening.

00;21;20;23 - 00;21;44;03

Jeanne

Do you find that that improves the like… Well, I guess what I'm asking is, does that translate into being able to study the things you want to be studying more? Like if you have a teacher who's genderqueer and you're in an arts program or a film program, they can connect you to aesthetic styles and languages and things that are different than one another teacher might.

00;21;44;03 - 00;21;47;06

Jeanne

Has that been a really positive experience for you?

00;21;47;07 - 00;22;14;20

Aeron

Yeah, no, 100%. I'm currently enrolled in a woman gender and society class and just sitting in that class, like while the teacher is not genderqueer, but hearing the things and hearing what they're telling other students is like, wow. Like they're talking about these things. They're expressing these things. And we're not just sitting in a class where it's like, Oh yeah, there's queer people and there's people of color and then it moves on.

00;22;14;29 - 00;22;40;23

Aeron

No, we go in depth, we talk about it, and it was amazing. And then another teacher who will be my professor next semester is genderqueer. And I think it just makes me so much more happy to be in the class. I'm like, someone who can relate, someone who understands, like, and they talk about how they're going to be doing genderqueer studies and how to join the classes.

00;22;40;23 - 00;23;17;22

Aeron

Like they're telling you this, all these classes like how they love to be involved in queer studies and how when they went to college, they studied film, but they also studied psychology and queer studies. And it's like having those classes, you can type in when you type into the roster of classes, like there's so many different like there's not only queer studies, but there's just different topics, like just everything within the community and I think that's really important and having those because they're electives and anyone can take them.

00;23;18;07 - 00;23;29;09

Aeron

So I think that's really important and it's really like empowering to see that. It's very important to see that because you didn't see that before, so.

00;23;29;21 - 00;23;53;12

Jeanne

No, not really. I mean, I didn't see a lot of it when I was there. It was there. But I think it's grown as a program. You've used the term genderqueer a few times, which I really love, but I feel like has kind of fallen out of use to a certain extent. I had someone at a grocery store the other day ask me, Are you genderqueer?

00;23;53;12 - 00;24;20;11

Jeanne

And I was like, I never really use that term, but actually I do like that term quite a bit and they were so excited to talk to me about like figuring out their identity and using that word specifically as a tool to help them figure out their identity. So I think hearing you use that word reminded me like, oh yeah, this is something that hasn't been used as much, but I think is a really useful word.

00;24;20;11 - 00;24;26;04

Jeanne

And so I was curious, how did you find and connect with that term for yourself?

00;24;27;10 - 00;25;04;28

Aeron

I think growing up the word transgender was negatively used and I think that's why I just more… pulled towards genderqueer because it includes so many different things within it. And the word transgender… a lot of people, I, I think it's also just internally I learned for it to be it was like, oh, that's that transgender… or it was used negatively.

00;25;05;08 - 00;25;15;02

Aeron

And I think hearing that and like having people use that so much around me, like, oh, this is my friend, they're transgender. And I'm like… okay?

00;25;16;01 - 00;25;17;17

Jeanne

It was kind of othering?

00;25;17;17 - 00;25;42;15

Aeron

Yeah, like it made them othered and it's, I didn't see the point in that. And I think genderqueer, having a used a lot is kind of more like so much more broad it's so much more like connecting at least for myself and a lot of people like a lot of non-binary individuals don't use transgender, they do use gender queer.

00;25;43;12 - 00;26;05;05

Aeron

And I think that connects to them more. And I don't know if it's because growing up we were so used to hearing transgender in a negative light that we kind of strayed away from that. But I think genderqueer kind of just makes it more… like…

00;26;06;13 - 00;26;07;29

Jeanne

Do you feel like there's more potential in it?

00;26;08;09 - 00;26;09;15

Aeron

Yeah, yeah.

00;26;10;04 - 00;26;10;24

Jeanne

To like, carve your own path?

00;26;11;02 - 00;26;55;12

Aeron

Yeah, I think it allows because — Yes, yeah, because transgender was very use like, oh they're transgender, they're male to female or female to male. Like that's a trans man. That's a trans woman. And I think using genderqueer people are more like, oh, they're genderqueer, are they gender fluid, non-binary? Like there's so much, there's so much that people identify as and even using genderqueer like I'm genderqueer, I'm trans masc or I'm trans fem and I think it opened up so much more identities and so much more relation within people to maybe like connect and understand how they identify and why they identify this way.

00;26;55;22 - 00;27;19;17

Aeron

Because I think a lot of the thing is also taking gender and throwing it out, because of how much it was used and how negatively it impacted people. Gender is a concept and looking at how people react to it and using the word gender queer, it kind of just shows that there's no real point in gender.

00;27;19;17 - 00;27;43;25

Jeanne

You've used the word like, connecting, quite a bit with genderqueer, as like connecting to other people. I tend to think about gender as this really relational thing. Like for me it's hard to say, okay, I just have this really strong internal sense of what's going on. I really think, okay, how do I relate to other people? And then how does that kind of structure my gender as a relational thing?

00;27;43;25 - 00;28;07;18

Jeanne

So I like what you're saying in terms of that, and it really sounds like that's kind of what you're saying: genderqueer as this different way to relate to other people. I wonder with something like throwing gender out, I mean, we don't really totally have the power to do that. But what you're describing is, creating these spaces partly where you can do that, with the people who are there.

00;28;07;27 - 00;28;10;24

Jeanne

Is that, is that true or am I kind of misinterpreting what you're saying?

00;28;10;25 - 00;28;34;18

Aeron

No, I think I would totally agree with that. I think it also allows the people who don't totally feel like, oh, I was born into a female body, but I'm a man. Like some people don't identify with that. And I think using genderqueer people are like, I don't feel right in this body, or I don't feel right identifying as my assigned birth.

00;28;36;03 - 00;29;13;16

Aeron

But I'm not the opposite sex. I'm, I'm not, like I'm just a human. I'm a person who identifies as something different. And I think genderqueer is used a lot to help people pinpoint or identify like, I'm not cis, but I'm not the opposite gender. I'm non-binary or gender fluid. And I think using that and taking back the word queer, which has been done the past few, few years, like queer was used in very negative connotation.

00;29;13;16 - 00;29;41;06

Aeron

But now we're taking it back and kind of using it as an umbrella term. Not only with sexuality, but gender. So I think using the word genderqueer allowed certain individuals to be able to connect. And I think the connection is just, oh, well, I feel the same way. Or like I'm connecting with you because we have similar mindsets or we think the same or, maybe not everything.

00;29;41;06 - 00;30;08;16

Aeron

But you can pinpoint like, Oh, I, this, I feel this way and I feel this way. And a lot of people who identify within genderqueer, understand that and can allow for a better environment because of, I think, everything within the queer community. Queer youth is so much more… the rates for suicide is so much higher then…

00;30;08;16 - 00;30;10;14

Jeanne

Yeah, I mean it's, it's, it's terrible.

00;30;10;17 - 00;30;40;21

Aeron

Yeah. Being out of it and I think having that connection, having that, like I don't feel as though I am a trans man or trans woman. I feel genderqueer, I feel non-binary, gender fluid. And I think that opened up a whole new environment to allow queer students or queer youth to connect and to have that representation, that light, that feeling of inclusion.

00;30;41;05 - 00;30;59;12

Jeanne

Yeah. I'll speak from my own experience, which is, you know, I initially got to that point, of like, okay, I'm not cis. And then I spent maybe three years trying to figure out, okay, well, what can I actually do from here? Right? And I didn't feel like I was connected to other people in the way that you're describing.

00;31;00;04 - 00;31;22;19

Jeanne

And the people I really connected with who were able to — well, their experiences really showed me, okay, it's just about what am I going to go out and do? — were other trans women. And so that was something where I was like, this is an identity that's really helpful for me in terms of showing me a path for how I can exist in the world and who I can be connected to.

00;31;23;16 - 00;31;47;24

Jeanne

And I think that for many people, like you're saying, identities like trans woman or trans man can feel like the opposite of that: not a path that is easy to follow or fits with your experience. And I think probably now I wouldn't necessarily have that exact same experience, because it's a different moment in time and communities are different.

00;31;47;24 - 00;31;57;13

Jeanne

For me, I found those people on Twitter. That was kind of my thing. Where did you find the people that you could connect to?

00;31;57;19 - 00;32;27;14

Aeron

Um, TikTok.

Jeanne

Oh yeah?

Aeron

So many things were found on TikTok and a lot of social media is like that. I know Tumblr was a big thing that I was able to find these people or find more support through it and understanding with it. But I think a really big thing that has helped was TikTok. It provided so many different people, different individuals, different stories that…

00;32;27;14 - 00;32;51;07

Aeron

Scrolling, you'd find someone talking like, Well, I feel like this and I'm sitting there like, I don't feel that way, but I do feel what you're saying, like with this or that, and just connecting to those people, texting them like, hey, like what did you do about it? What do you feel? Like, I'm having similar feelings, but I don't know how to interpret it.

00;32;51;07 - 00;33;16;18

Aeron

So I think that opened up so much and just allowing people to hear other stories and other people's experience really opened up. And I think TikTok is used worldwide now. It's huge. It's, it's… so many people watch it, so many people listen. So I think that's definitely the big thing that allows for those platforms to express.

00;33;17;08 - 00;33;41;22

Jeanne

How do you find stories and experiences like that on TikTok? I think some people go on TikTok and they end up looking at videos of like ASMR type things, like I don't know how you… I don't actually really know how TikTok works in that sense of like, how do you connect to a community through it without already having that community to go out and find. What is that like?

00;33;41;22 - 00;34;02;27

Aeron

Um… Algorithm. Algorithm has so much to do with TikTok, so many… like there's this side or that side of TikTok and I think just scrolling through finding those certain ones that you like, liking them or watching them or looking at the comments, going on their page, it creates this algorithm to let you see different parts of TikTok and different people.

00;34;03;07 - 00;34;39;05

Aeron

I mean, even searching. I definitely did that myself in high school, like I feel like this. What does this mean? Like, why am I feeling this way? And hearing the words of genderqueer, or just anything within the community. You just, I'm searching it up. I'm looking like and I see all these these people who tag like hashtag genderqueer, and you're able to watch all these different experience or stories or just everything. And there's platforms on TikTok that's like, comment or like slide in our DMS and talk to us and tell us how you feel.

00;34;39;05 - 00;34;43;27

Aeron

Or there's a community, there's people who relate to it.

00;34;43;28 - 00;34;48;01

Jeanne

It's not just the videos; it's people actually talking to each other and listening.

00;34;48;01 - 00;35;17;21

Aeron

Yeah, I think it allows platforms to not only be on TikTok but have like a website that allows people to talk. And I know there's a lot of Discord, Discord that people will go on and you can text so many different people. There's… with my hometown there's the Lancaster Coalition. And they have a Discord that kids are talking on all the time.

00;35;17;27 - 00;35;43;14

Aeron

They're texting each other like, hey, you feel this way, you feel that way? And then they talk to themselves and maybe they hang out or maybe they just call and they talk about their experiences, which I think is important. And having that representation, especially in media, not only there but within myself, and film, I think it's important that I want to be able to show that representation because you don't normally see that on TV.

00;35;43;14 - 00;35;44;00

Jeanne

It's true.

00;35;44;27 - 00;35;58;11

Aeron

And a lot of that is on TV like especially in the 1900's, it was a lot of just male-identifying people dressing up as women to get a laugh out of people.

00;35;58;11 - 00;35;58;18

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;35;58;27 - 00;36;04;25

Aeron

I think that connection is really important, especially if they're on TikTok, and just media in general.

00;36;05;05 - 00;36;24;19

Jeanne

Yeah. So I mean, I'd love to hear about your goals for your film studies. Do you want to work in that kind of area of like creating mass media with representation? Or do you have a… I mean, I know some people in film studies programs are doing really kind of avant garde stuff. What's your goal with that?

00;36;25;15 - 00;36;51;29

Aeron

I think I have so many — like right now, I have so many different ideas in my head.

Jeanne

That's great.

Aeron

I'm a freshman in college. And I'm like, I could do this. I could do that. And I think my main point in things is I want to just… I want to make movies. I want to make actual movies like thrillers or just TV shows that have representation in such a natural way, like in our everyday life.

00;36;52;13 - 00;37;13;12

Aeron

I think a lot of the stories that we're seeing now in media is like Love, Simon. It's a good film, but it's… someone's coming out, and they have to deal with all of this and the internal, and I think that's definitely important. I'm glad we have that representation of different films in general, just having people within themselves coming out.

00;37;13;12 - 00;37;30;05

Aeron

But now we need to show people in everyday life, we need to show people interacting with others, like, yeah, they're queer and there's, there's no emphasis on it. There's no like, this whole story's about you coming out. Not that. Just showing people.

00;37;30;10 - 00;37;56;06

Jeanne

Yeah, I don't know if this rings true for you, but I think when a story and when the whole body of stories focuses on that internal coming out process, it's actually really isolating because it just kind of says being queer is about having difficult feelings and figuring out how to say them…

Aeron

Yeah.

Jeanne

…instead of, being queer is about being around other queer people and living your whole life as a queer person in public.

00;37;56;10 - 00;38;21;19

Aeron

No, definitely. I think a lot of them have a lot of isolation. And while it's true for some people, others, they grow up in a place where that's so much more accepted and they feel like they don't need to hide that or they don't need that internal like process of hatred, of isolation within themselves about it. And in some ways, I feel like it could harm some individuals watching that.

00;38;21;19 - 00;39;07;18

Aeron

They're like, well, they have — and there's so many that have this internal struggle, never come out, never say anything, and a lot of them end up committing suicide on these films. And it's like you're showing this one outlet, this one way out. That's not it. There's so many more opportunities for so many people. There's so many resources to be able to help not only yourself, but others like be okay and help you learn your identity. And a lot of films I'm seeing are about that internal struggle and then they come forward about it and it's conversion therapy and there's this big uproar in the family, religious family.

00;39;07;18 - 00;39;35;22

Aeron

A lot of them start off with the internal struggle, them saying something and their family's very religious. And there's this, Oh, I hate you, this hatred. And I think a good scene to show this like internal struggle, then this religious family is in Glee. Santana, she has a lot of internal struggle and then comes out to her Abuela…

00;39;35;24 - 00;40;00;20

Aeron

And her Abuela just completely just denies her. And I think it's important to have representations of that. But majority of them are like that. And I think we just need to show people not, not a queer coming out story, just people like, oh, this is my friend, they're dating a girl. It doesn't matter. No, you don't need to say anything like.

00;40;00;20 - 00;40;04;10

Jeanne

Right, and actually show like real people's lives.

00;40;04;19 - 00;40;44;14

Aeron

Yeah, no, definitely. And I think a lot of times they're just they they put them in this box, they isolate them within, not being isolated, coming out. They're like, Yeah, this is my friend, they're trans and it's like, okay, you didn't need to see that. Like, that wasn't important within the storyline. I think it's just… the creators need that, they need that, Oh well we're improving things because we have a trans person and it's like, no, you have, you have a person…

00;40;44;18 - 00;40;50;09

Aeron

And I don't think it's important to outline that if it's not needed within the storyline.

00;40;50;12 - 00;41;15;24

Jeanne

Yeah. And like if you're going to write a trans character, think about how would this actually work for a person in their life instead of just — here's a person, they slot into this character role or we give them a tragic story, whatever it is. And it's sort of like, here's a label for this character instead of like, I don't know… for me when I think about the parts of my life where I'm Being Trans.

00;41;16;05 - 00;41;33;28

Jeanne

It's like filling out forms and dealing with insurance and like, that's not always true. Sometimes it's about being around other trans people, but it's not just like everything I do is the trans version of doing something, right, which I think is kind of what a lot media portrayals end up creating.

00;41;34;18 - 00;41;41;29

Aeron

I would totally agree. There's this really good documentary that I watched. It's called Disclosure.

00;41;42;11 - 00;41;43;04

Jeanne

That's great. Yeah.

00;41;43;05 - 00;42;32;20

Aeron

And it provided so much education within media and the community. It showed like how it progressed through the years and what they did a lot of the times when they presented a movie that included a trans character, they would — So there's, I'm not sure the name of the film, but it was a trans woman and the actor was a male and they kind of made it more aggressive because they're showing this progression of a character who could be played by someone who's experienced that thing, not a man.

00;42;34;01 - 00;43;07;01

Aeron

And I think that was definitely something that helped me realize different like, it should be played by the people who represent it, who are able to know the story and show it accurately. And the first time we ever — a lot of, a lot of film in prior years was trans women. And the first kind of time you see any sort of trans man or transmasculine is in the L Word and there was a lot of negative impacts with that.

00;43;07;01 - 00;43;17;17

Aeron

They showed him being more aggressive when he started testosterone, and I think that shined a bad light on… anyone.

00;43;17;17 - 00;43;19;05

Jeanne

Yeah, they didn't handle that well at all.

00;43;19;05 - 00;43;53;14

Aeron

Yeah. I think it made it very negative and it made it made people be like, oh, that person started testosterone, better beware because they're going to get really angry. And it's not like that. Like it's not. I think they just shined a really bad light on it. And a lot of the lesbians in the movie were like saying, Oh, well, you're just denying that you're a lesbian to this trans man who still is in relationships with women.

00;43;53;27 - 00;44;18;16

Aeron

Like, no, he's not denying he's a lesbian, he is a man. And I think that just made so much more ability for people to hate, for people to gain this, well in the L Word they didn't like that trans man because he was just, he was just denying that he was a lesbian. And I'm like, no, no, he is a, he's a man.

00;44;18;28 - 00;44;23;14

Aeron

And they're just making it such a negative thing.

00;44;23;14 - 00;44;41;18

Jeanne

Yeah. And that's the whole butch flight concept. And it feeds into the a lot of like the TERF stuff in Britain where it's, oh, well, these are just people who are gender nonconforming, but they're not trans. They shouldn't transition or whatever. And it's, it just feeds into all of that.

00;44;41;19 - 00;45;08;27

Aeron

Everyone's story is different. Whoever you are, whether you are identifying as trans man, trans woman, gender non-binary, queer, genderqueer, like everyone has a different story. It's not the same whether someone… because you constantly get the people like, Oh, you're trans, did you get the surgery? Like, does it matter? Some people do, some people don't. Maybe because they're comfortable with it, maybe because they don't even want it.

00;45;09;09 - 00;45;37;13

Aeron

Some people don't. And I think that's something that's also need to be talked about, like, we don't need these things. You don't need to transition with bottom or top surgery to identify within these certain communities, within these certain identities. Like some people don't choose to do that. And that's their choice. And I think that a lot of the times when showing them through media, it's always the same.

00;45;37;27 - 00;46;11;21

Aeron

It's always the same representation, like, oh, well, I just got this surgery and I have to get this surgery to like fully transition. No, you don't, you don't. Everyone, everyone has different stories and I think it needs to be shown more. And going back to what I want to do in film like, I want to show that. I want to be able to have coming of age movies, stories, shows that just represent people. Not, not people like, not a story about someone who's trans and it's all about them because they're trans.

00;46;12;00 - 00;46;37;06

Aeron

No, I want to show people and like include… you're not like… a majority of the time when you're going out in public, there's probably someone who's trans and you just don't know it. There's probably people who are a lesbian or gay. You don't know. You can't, you won't know. And I think it's important to show that and that it's normal.

00;46;37;06 - 00;46;59;07

Aeron

It's not this crazy thing. Oh, you're part of the LGBTQ community, like explosive, like this crazy thing. Like, what about this? What about this? Like, yeah, I'm a person. I'm a human being. I don't think it's important in some senses to other them.

00;46;59;16 - 00;47;04;20

Jeanne

Well, thanks for talking with me. We've got to wrap up, but I really appreciate you taking the time to be on the podcast.

00;47;04;29 - 00;47;08;01

Aeron

No of course, it's awesome. I really thank you for the opportunity.

00;47;08;02 - 00;47;28;20

Jeanne

Yeah, totally. Thanks again to Aeron for sharing their time with me and for sharing their story on the podcast. If you're looking for ways to get involved with Equality Arizona or to join in the conversation, just visit our website EqualityArizona.org. Thanks for listening and I'll talk to you again next week.

Equality Arizona
The Arizona Equals Conversation
Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.
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