The Catalyst program at Basic Rights Oregon aims to increase leadership capacity and champion transgender social justice equity across the state. The program puts together a cohort of transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming Oregonians to gain skills and build community together. Jo Doyle, the Leadership Development and Training Program Manager for Basic Rights Oregon, coordinates the Catalyst program. Ari Rain is a participant this year. They both join us to share the goals of this program.
BRO’s next leadership cohort will be specially for trans and gender-diverse BIPOC people across the state. Applications will be posted later this summer at basicrights.org.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: We start today with a Catalyst program at Basic Rights Oregon. Its goal is to foster new leaders and to champion transgender social justice across the state. For three years now, the program has put together cohorts of transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming Oregonians to help them gain leadership skills and build community. Jo Doyle, the Leadership Development and Training Program Manager for Basic Rights Oregon, coordinates the Catalyst program. Ari Rain is a participant this year. They both join us to share the goals of this program. Welcome to you both.
Jo Doyle: Hello.
Ari Rain: Hello. Thanks for having us.
Miller: Jo Doyle, first. What are your overall goals for this program?
Doyle: I always say, first and foremost, this program is about community building among the trans and greater gender diverse population across the state, but we have three pillars: First, community building, 100%; second is diving into each individual’s goals around how they see themselves as a leader and how they want to build up their own personal leadership goals; and, third is diving into advocacy, community organizing and social and racial justice areas of how we can do better for the trans and gender diverse community and beyond.
Miller: But you lead with community building. What do you mean by community building?
Doyle: This community tends to be a community that gets put in isolation. We’re celebrating Pride Month right now and gay and lesbian liberation actually was omitting trans liberation for a very long time. Our visibility has really, really blossomed a lot over the past 10 plus years, but for the longest time, the trans community had to stay in isolation, had to stay hidden, had to stay secret. And it also was erased in a lot of history. And we’re here, we’re proud, we’re great people and we need to be included in the liberation process for the greater LGBTQIA2S+ community. And so community really means a lot to us and that’s why for me personally, it’s kind of the forefront of the foundation of this program so that we can come together all across the state and celebrate who we are and learn from one another.
Miller: Ari Rain, why did you want to take part in this program?
Rain: Yeah, I think from going on what Jo said, we’re stronger together. There is a lack of community, I would say, available to us as trans and gender nonconforming people to where I had a person who I am now very close with who participated in Catalyst in the past year. And they really just described it to me as creating a whole new family and they got a lot of benefits out of it – leadership skills and resources for themselves and opportunities – and they’re right now in LA pride. They’re all over the place. So it was really something that I wanted to explore. I’ve been part of leadership programs in the past and this was something that was really specific to what I wanted to do and sort of figure out exactly what my goals are and how to achieve those goals with the support of the people in our community.
Miller: Did you have specific goals in mind, in terms of new leadership skills or networks that you were hoping to get specifically from taking part in this group?
Rain: Yeah, absolutely. So, I specifically work for a university in the voice clinic and we work with a lot of trans folks who are seeking gender affirming voice therapy and other surgeries for gender affirming care. That’s really been my goal to help advocate for trans patients in the health care realm. And it’s a very difficult thing to be a person who is a minority and to advocate for oneself while trying to do a great many other things. So I think my goal was to make those connections within healthcare in the Portland area – obtain references, create resource guides for the community. And in the future, I would also like to create some support groups. That was something that within Catalyst really felt the most valuable to me by just having the support of about 20 other individuals who really understood my personal experience.
Miller: You noted that a friend of yours who told you about Catalyst from taking part in the previous year, that they were able to basically find family through this group. Is that the case for you as well?
Rain: Oh absolutely. There are a handful of people who I now regularly commiserate with on a regular basis. Just this past weekend, my partner and I helped organize a free closet for trans and gender nonconforming folks. And without them, it would have been so much more work. And these now family friends showed up and they helped set up, they helped break down, they spread the word and they walked away with a bunch of clothes, too, so that was really meaningful. And these are just people that now we get to show up for each other in whatever sort of goals we’re trying to achieve and it feels really fulfilling.
Miller: Can you explain what a free closet is?
Rain: Yes. It was an event we hosted just because we heard in the community that this is something that had been around pre-pandemic at some of the Q Center and Brave Space and some of these other queer organizations to where people could go and they could look through clothing that they maybe didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t have access to resources to buy those clothes including makeup and chest binders, things of that nature. So we held an event and we brought out masses of clothes and people walked away with a lot of free clothing and it was a big success.
Miller: Jo Doyle, I understand from the website and from the request for people to apply to be a part of this that you’re seeking out a lot of different kinds of diversity – geographic and generational and racial diversity – when selecting participants. Can you give us a sense for what you were able to achieve in terms of the final group?
Doyle: Yeah, I think one of the greatest ways that we were able to be successful in this cohort was that we, for the first time, had this cohort be completely online. We also really do our best to make it as accessible as possible. So if folks need a laptop, the laptop that folks need wifi will provide the hot spot. If folks need childcare to be present during our session, we will also give that. The fact that this was completely online, I think, really allowed us to stretch our reach and we have folks that are from coastal towns, from urban areas, from rural areas, folks from all the way as far south as Ashland, Eugene, Coos Bay and Corvallis and, of course, the Portland and Salem metro areas were kind of where a lot of our folks came from. But I’m really proud of the fact that we were able to get such a far reach across this pretty big state including the age difference. We have intergenerational folks anywhere from as young to 18 to 50 plus and really also paying attention to other intersectional identities, of course racial identities. We had black, indigenous and other people of color representation. And that was really important to us and I felt overall we were really, really successful with that, with about 50% BIPOC representation, really good intergenerational representation and again having folks all across the state in the coastal, urban and more rural areas. So I’m really proud of it.
Miller: Ari, how much are you able these days to take care of yourself as you’re trying to help others?
Rain: I think that’s sort of a regular balance that I’m always in the midst of, but I think with the legislation that is regularly coming up against trans rights, it’s very imperative for me to stay aware and updated on what is going on, also to recognize that there will always be someone who is trying to take away my rights and to know that what I can do to counter that is to show up in my community and to provide support to other people. That does feel exceptionally fulfilling. Because within our community we’re fighting and we’re striving to just keep the rights that we have, first and foremost, now we have to counter the legislation that comes out on a regular basis; and, go figure, it happens right before election time.
For me, I need joy in my life to keep going. I need to have access to my community and so part of my leadership goals was to find ways to bring that joy to our community. In the past we’ve done what I like to call fundraisers, and I think we need that community building to dance, to laugh, to experience fun together, to remember that this is what our community is about. This is who we are and it’s what keeps us going forward. We can’t just keep fighting and putting our heads down. We also need to take a break and we need to cry and we need to emote and we need to dance. We need to yes. This is a fight, but also we can’t fight without having our own energy and keeping ourselves safe.
Miller: Ari Rain and Jo Doyle, thanks very much.
Rain: Thank you.
Doyle: Thank you.
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