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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Building Community for TransPersons with genderBLUR

[MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, MN] - If any naysayers hover around the theory of "build it and they will come," they had better not encounter the organizers of an event called genderBLUR. This small group has come out of the woodwork to hold three consecutive sold-out performances at Patrick's Cabaret this year, with many more in the works.

The event, coined as a "social event and party for the trans, genderqueer, and allied communities in the Twin Cities," began to coalesce after amore solemn meeting of the transgender community earlier this year.

Max Gries, creator of genderBLUR, recalls a moving experience. "In January of this year," Gries says, "there was a community meeting held at Spirit of the Lakes Church concerning a decision that had been made in the Minnesota Supreme Court against Juli Goins. It was a very complicated case, so there was a meeting held to talk about it.

Gries continues, "When I saw that there were around 200 people there, it really inspired me. There were people from all different experiences and their allies coming together. It was great."

And, Gries realized that while this room full of people was diverse in many ways, they had more similarities than differences.

"There were all of these factions of the transgender community, but they were all isolated from each other," Gries notes. "We started talking and networking with other groups, we contacted Patrick's about using their venue, and then, we started organizing and advertising."

Gries adds, "We were expecting 50, maybe a hundred people at the first event. But, all of a sudden, the place was packed. It was unbelievable."

Once the overwhelming success of the first event soaked in, planning for the second genderBLUR started, and a phenomenon was in the works.

In May and July, the second and third genderBLURs were also sellouts. About 30 to 40 volunteers are now on board at every event, and some of the area's best-known queer performers have graced the stage.

Building community was an original goal, and organizers feel they in many ways are achieving it. Ethan (who asked that his last name not be used), performance curator, observes that while future events will evolve to some degree, the basic formula will continue.

"One thing that we are very committed to continuing and making better is the social hour before the performance," Ethan points out. "Many people in the trans community feel very isolated, and if they come to an event, and all they do is sit there and watch people perform, they still won't have a chance to talk to anybody. We have greeters, and we try to make sure nobody comes there and has to be alone."

Next to community-building and outreach, another cornerstone of genderBLUR's mission is accessibility.

Devin (last name withheld by request), accessibility coordinator, emphasizes, "We want to be accessible to everyone. And not just persons with physical disabilities. We want to be economically accessible [a suggested donation from zero up to $10 is in place]. We want to cross all boundaries of race, social status, and age, also. We don't want anyone to feel left out."

Organizationally, more committees have been formed to ensure that quality and integrity remain at a high level, while the event expands to meet more needs in the transgender and allied communities as well.

According to Gries, "We've formed a steering committee for the organization beyond the event, and we've got a lot of ideas for the future, but nothing concrete yet."

Beyond learning the nuts and bolts of organizing and curating events, genderBLUR has had an immeasurable personal impact, as well, on each of the organizers.

As a transgender person who has had his share of struggles along the way, Ethan perhaps puts it best: "I can only give you my personal journey with this. The first one we did, while the event was going on, I hated it. I was so unhappy. I was really cranky. But the next day I couldn't stop crying. In the end, it was so good, and I couldn't accept that.

"It's not always easy for me at work, and as a trans person, I've had to get used to accepting the fact that that's just the way it's going to be. I'm so used to being isolated, and to not being around people who are happy to be with trans people, who accept you for what you are, for whatever you look like, and for however you define yourself-- without questioning it. It was just such a shock. [genderBLUR] is where people will use the right pronouns and not be disrespectful, and not look at you like you are a freak."

The next genderBLUR takes place October 13, and a couple of new features are in store. "We are going to serve dinner this time and start the event earlier," Gries explains. "That will go on from 5 to 7 PM. Then, the cabaret will go on until 9 PM, with an hour of social time after that."

Performers scheduled for the October gender BLUR include Becky Freund (spoken word); Hattie Salvador (acoustic guitar); and Rosa, Miss Mackie, and Esme Rodriguez (drag).

For more information on genderBLUR, or to get involved, visit www.genderBLUR.org, or call . The events are all ages, wheelchair accessible, ASL interpreted, and alcohol- and smoke-free. Also, so that everyone can be comfortable, the organizers ask that you refrain from wearing scented products.

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