117 : Survivorship (w/ Liz Sweigart)

In this special episode, Liz Sweigart sits down with Noah, a Latinx trans man, who brings us an incredible story of survivorship. He graciously shares the variety of experiences he’s had over time and talks about how his identity over the years has impacted and influenced his family.

Find out more about Latesha on the BCC website or connect with her through her socials! LinkedInIGTwitterFB

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Ade: What’s up, y’all? Welcome back to Living Corporate. My name is Ade. So today, this conversation is going to be between Liz and Noah. We beg your patience – the audio quality is not the greatest, but it is an incredibly important conversation, and we hope you give it a listen. The conversation today is between Liz, who many of you are familiar with, and Noah, who is a Latinx trans man, and Noah spends some time exploring his different experiences over time, and Liz has a great conversation with Noah about what it means to be a first-gen trans man as, you know, he did not originally begin his interactions in corporate spaces as simply a queer person. His transition followed the course of his career. His transition happened concurrently with his career. It’s an important conversation. I think it’s an interesting one to listen in on, and I think it’s also important for anyone who identifies as an ally to understand what life is like and what it means to exist at all of these different intersectionalities or all of these different intersections of identity and how that might affect your work experience. In particular, Noah illustrates his point with several anecdotes about his experience in the workplace and juxtaposes his experience with, you know, what others might have experienced or what they did experience in comparison to what the reaction was to his behavior in the workplace. And I think it’s so important that as we–particularly for folks who manage others–that as we function within corporate spaces that we understand what it means to hold space for others, what it means to be allies, what it means to manage others responsibly. And with that, I’m gonna let Liz and Noah take it away. We hope you enjoy the conversation. Please send any questions or comments our way. We would love to hear from you. Thank you for listening. This is Living Corporate.

Liz: Thanks for joining the podcast. I’m here today with Noah. Noah brings us an incredible story of survivorship. We’ve talked about how being labeled, being boxed in, and finding your place on the spectrum [?]–his story is so rich in terms of [it crosses?] race and gender and ethnicity that come together and create [an environment?] that is particularly challenging to navigate, and so I’m really happy for you to introduce yourself, please, to the group.

Noah: Awesome. Well, first of all it’s an honor. Yeah, I’m excited to [?]–you know, I always forget that [?] others’ experiences, because it’s inevitably [?] every person out there. So yeah, thanks again for having me. My name is Noah. Full disclaimer: Liz and I met in [college.] We did go to Rice University together way back in the day, right? [both laugh] So I’m originally from–I was born to Mexican immigrants, born and raised in Houston. Obviously did university there at Rice, and yeah, I feel like I’ve lived three lifetimes [in the time that I’ve] been on this earth. Went from, you know, coming out as queer in college to eventually moving across the country. I’m now in [?], and I am in my late thirties. I started my medical transition just a few years ago. I consider myself a female-to-male transgender man, and yeah, I moved up [?] for graduate school, and yeah, I’ve had a whirlwind of an experience the last few years.

Liz: Yeah, “whirlwind” is probably the right [term]. [Over] your life you’ve had a diversity of career experiences. I mean, you’re an educator as well as a scholar. You have–you know, you’ve done so many different things over the course of your career. How have you found that your expression of self has changed in terms of presentation across those different environments?

Noah: It really, really has changed over the years. Yeah, I began my professional life–during college, after, we’re talking the mid-2000s, and I was at the time out as a lesbian, and when I was working in a certain job–I actually started my career in the corporate world, before I became an educator, and, you know, I was seen as a quote-unquote “butch lesbian.” I [tend to] dress in more masculine clothing. That’s how I’ve always felt comfortable. But also because of the way that I would be looked at by bosses and supervisors, you know? I felt very uncomfortable even just trying to dress and present as myself. When I began teaching middle school and high school, my presentation didn’t change. I was also out at that time as genderqueer. I was very afraid of students and their parents Googling me and, you know, finding articles about my gender identity, gender queerness, and how that would impact me at work. I, you know, obviously wasn’t at the point of, you know, wearing ties to my job, but, you know, [?] or khakis and a dress shirt–when a feminine person wears them versus when a person who isn’t feminine wears them, you know, it really does change, you know, the way you carry yourself if you’re looked at as the capital O “other.” But I have medically transitioned. I’m pretty much cisgender-passing, and I’m currently looking for work–I feel like the way that I dress professionally, you wouldn’t blink an eye at me, where it used to be this just huge, huge deal. And I have a really funny story about a temporary job I had right out of college. I was working for a software company, and–I was doing data entry and data analysis for the sales department, and I was pulled, you know, from my little cubicle and asked to speak to the manager for a moment, and he went into this really long spiel about my presentation, about dress code, and–he [used?] the feminine words. He was like, you know, “You’re a very colorful person. You are very visible.” I mean, these are quotes I will never forget, and then finally, at the end of that conversation, I said, “Well, sir, what would you like me to do?” And I was thinking to myself [?]. And he said, “Well, could you take that extra earring out?” I asked him, “What exactly do you want out of this?” You know, I had an extra earring back in my, you know, cartilage [?] part of the ear. So I took that out and said, “Okay, are we done here? Can I go back to work?” And he said okay. I think I just made him nervous about what it was really about, you know? So yeah, that’s a very interesting question, because obviously I’ve been through this really [straining?] gamut of experiences just for wearing collared shirts and slacks to work.

Liz: And, you know, it seems like the most mundane thing, right? Putting on pants and a shirt to go to the office.

Noah: Literally putting [?], yeah.

Liz: And it’s so fraught for people in our community, and it’s something I think about as well in terms of “How do I express my own identity?” I’ve always–you know, I’ve always identified as a woman. I’ve always identified femme [at center?], but certainly an aspect of my identity has been that I’m not high-femme. And it’s so interesting to see how we navigate this impression management [?] and, in some senses, for ourselves. There was a period of time certainly, [?] in my early 20s, where I know that I was dressing for me because I was trying to–I was trying to do something to feel like I belonged, because instead I was spending a lot of energy fitting in, and it was not working for me.

Noah: Understandably, yeah.

Liz: So, you know, I find it really interesting that you now, as you say, you really pass a cisgender male, and if anyone were to pass you on the street they wouldn’t give you the second glance. Because you do present certainly masculine [at center?] I’m curious, you know, as somebody who was–you know, had a genderqueer identity, somebody who has always had the ability to appreciate and revere the benefits of the feminine–not necessarily identify with the feminine, but certainly to embrace the feminine. Do you feel that you’re in any way now boxed in by the way in which you’re read, or have you achieved–

Noah: Interesting question. Yes, [?]–when I come out to people, you know, [?] the non-binary–I don’t want to say the center, because that’s–you know, outside the realm of, you know, the binary ones and zeroes. I do feel sometimes pigeon-holed as to, you know, what people expect of me. Do I [?], even in professional settings, to wear your typical masculine clothing? Of course, you know, but in my day-to-day life, you know, to be super restricted–not that I certainly want to wear, you know, hyper-feminine clothing earlier, but restricted as to what is masculine, what is feminine, you know, it brings to mind a lot of, you know, past experiences on what is acceptable of the feminine person to wear versus the masculine when you look at the same articles of clothing. And it’s interesting that our conversation has already kind of developed over to just clothing, but, I mean, it’s a very visible part of our community, and so it’s a huge part of our expression. I’ll give you another great firsthand example. When I was an educator, I one day went into the teacher’s lounge to make some copies as, you know, we were often doing, and I was teaching summer school, and I was wearing, you know, simple khakis, collared shirt, and a pair of, you know, Converse sneakers. It was summertime and, you know, we weren’t dressed as hyper-professionally as usually. I had noticed during the week that one of the female-identifying teachers was wearing a nice skirt and blouse with some matching Converse, which I thought was an adorable look, and that was no big deal. I wear, you know, a very similar outfit on the masculine end of the spectrum, and as I am making copies this day, the school director walks in, stands next to me, puts his hands in his pockets, looks down at my feet, and just stands there until I noticed him – which is a very typical managerial tactic in corporate or in any organization to let the employee know what you think without saying anything, which I’ve always found very strange. You know, he just stared at my shoes until I looked at them and looked at him, and he noticed I acknowledged what he was looking at and walked away. And I thought, “Well, this is so strange.” The same simple article of clothing is okay for a woman to wear at work, but because at the time, you know, I was presenting as a masculine woman, there was a different reaction. And to this day I just find that so very strange and wonder, you know, now that we’ve progressed a little bit as a society, would that still have been a big deal today, you know? So again, that’s just, you know, one [?] example, but should I today–let’s say I, you know, end up teaching high school again for example. If I were to walk in, now that I’m cis-passing, with the standard male–you know, masculine professional outfit, if I wore [?] mascara and eyeliner, for example, because I felt comfortable doing that that day, would that be acceptable, or would that also cause, you know, [?]? I don’t know.

Liz: I think that’s such a fair question, and I think it’s one that many people are grappling with as they come to identify and find their gender expression as not fitting one of society’s particularly rigid rules.

Noah: Right. And again, we’re just talking clothing so far. You know, we haven’t even gotten into what it would be like to change your hair style or, you know, to do the makeup thing, whether you are a male-identified person or–you know, there’s so many different factors at play when it comes to gender presentation, and that’s just, again, gender presentation. We haven’t even gotten into queer identity. There’s so many factors at play that we could go into, so I’ll let you guide the conversation. [laughs]

Liz: Well, I so appreciate you bringing that up though, ’cause that’s–that really to me is at the heart of our conversation, the incredible richness of the experience, but also all of the nuance and all of the texture. And the [?] of it–I mean, again, I’m gonna go back to the clothing, because I think one of the areas that I know I have seen–frankly I’ve seen bias is around clothing, and clothing that [?] to be worn by, you know, [?], right? Like, I’ve seen–I’ve certainly seen stereotypes played out, and it is a form–[?] What I’m interested in is your perspective on, you know, [a] son of immigrants, having a very strong Latinx identity yourself, one that I know you’re very proud of for good reason, and wanting to express yourself, not just in terms of your gender identity but also in terms of your cultural identity. How do you see the interplay of those two things? Because for me it seems like an incredible challenge, particularly in communities of black and brown folk who are battling, you know, multiple biases and stereotypes around presentation of their queerness. And so I’m curious what you think and feel about that.

Noah: Right. [?] A specific example of that intersectionality would be our hair, you know? Which has become a hot-button issue, even in the news recently, you know? You’ve got, you know, black folks who have dreads, and in certain companies or school districts or businesses [they’re] told that they have to cut off their hair, which is a clearly, clearly racist request of them, you know? And so the intersectionality of being a black and brown person and, you know, presenting in a way in which, you know, you’re proud of your own race and who you are on top of being queer just makes things, you know, 1,000 times more difficult. You know, when–for example, if a masculine lesbian was to, you know, have longer hair and then cut it after, you know, having been employed for a while by the organization, you know, that’s something that I feel is still an issue depending on the part of the country that you’re in. You know, to be a woman [that?] can take on a masculine hairstyle and to be a woman of color definitely affects the way that that person is gonna be perceived at work, as well as–you know, again, because I had the previous identity of a quote-unquote “lesbian” who had short hair, depending on how my hair was done, I would get different reactions from my bosses, whether it was in corporate America or in education, you know? If my hair reflected my black and brown culture–[I love to go to?] a barbershop, get my edges done, you know? These are things that people of color, you know, love to do, when we have short hair and we’re, you know, masculine at center. Those kinds of hairstyles would, you know, make a manager or boss’s eyebrow pop up, and I feel that those are those subconscious racial biases that a lot of folks don’t realize that they have, you know? And like I said, you have that happening, plus it’s a person of queer identity. You know, at that point–again, depending on [where?] you are, it [?] a can of worms with a lot of people’s unconscious biases.

Liz: I’m totally with you on unconscious bias around hair, and you talked about makeup and clothing, presentation, especially, as you said, as it pertains to those in the communities of color, because, again, you’re in a heavily–typically a heavily white-dominated environment, and there is not necessarily a whole lot of tolerance for the other, and that is something where I think it’s particularly striking to me when, you know, you Google, you know, “unprofessional hair,” and you see pictures pop up, again, of dreads and braids, and–some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, and yet the comfort of the majority requires the silence and suppression of the minority.

Noah: Absolutely.

Liz: So one of the things that you’ve never been shy about is your activism. [both laugh] And it’s one of the things that I’ve always admired most about you, and, you know, I think [?] you’ve always looked for ways to really bring your story out and to make things very personal, and it goes back, I think, to something that–I think it was a joint class we might have been in together, and one of the underlying themes was that when you’re trying to convince people of something, right, when you’re trying to change behavior, the way to do it is to get people to believe in stories and to get them connect with people, to get them to connect with facts. And so, you know, when I think of your personal story and how much of your story you’ve put out there, I’m curious, you know, as the son of–as the son of immigrants, as a first-generation American, how comfortable has your family become with, you know, the part, in a sense, that they play in your activism? They may not–you know, it’s not necessarily active with signs in the street, but they certainly are a huge part of your life and a huge part of who you are and how you express who you are. So can you talk a little bit about how your identity over the years has impacted and influenced your family?

Noah: Absolutely. My folks are really, really amazing people. Shout-out to Mom and Dad. My mom especially has been my biggest supporter. Everything that I’ve done, you know, both professionally and socially, I–you know, I feel like a part of my activism, besides literally going into the streets and holding up signs at certain protests, has always been just to educate. I’m one of those people that strongly believes educating the masses has got to be the foundation of any activism. We’re not gonna get anywhere without teaching people about who we are. I hate to use this word, but sadly personal connection trumps facts sometimes. If you know a queer person, if you know a trans person of color, if you know lesbians next door, all of a sudden, you know, you see a lot of cishet people realize that these issues are important because they affect real, real people. But yeah, when I came out to my parents–obviously I came out a couple of times, initially as queer at 19 in college, and, you know, my dad’s initial reaction, verbatim, was “Whatever you do, don’t let this ruin your life,” and I thought that was a very strange phrase for him to use. And, you know, I talked to my mom about it later, and I realized what he meant by it was to not allow my identity be something that affects me at work or be something that, you know, causes me to be hurt by someone or to become depressed. Unfortunately, while that was a very well-meaning thing to say, it did impact me in all of those ways, you know? My father’s brother, my uncle Ezekiel, was gay himself in a very small town in Mexico. He died just a few years ago, about seven years ago, of alcohol-related illnesses, which I believe was partially because of him being queer in a very, very small town in rural Mexico, you know? So my father was very aware of the impact socially that being queer could have on someone, you know? So he’s been a big part in just kind of being protective. He’s fully accepting of my identity, but again, he’s a very practical man and has always been concerned about how my identity will impact me scholastically, at work, in just general society. My mom, on the other hand, has always had more of a–not necessarily a hands-on approach to supporting the activist part in me, but I’ll give you a great example. I was interviewed about my genderqueer identity back in maybe 2006, 2007, and this was in one of the local papers. And she went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of them, and, you know, one of my friends was on the cover of this magazine–this newspaper was just, you know, walking out of Kroger, picking up these newspapers, and she said someone looked at her really funny, because the title, you know, was very obviously a queer article. And she [?] this person, and she said that–she said, “Well, my child is in this magazine,” and just, you know, picked up a bunch more and walked away. Little things like that that show support, you know, socially, which I think–you know, little things like that make a huge impact, you know? Whoever was looking at her, [?] at her or picking up this particular magazine, probably changed their mind a little bit. You know, like, “Oh, gosh, I didn’t realize.” Like, “That’s the reason why this woman was picking up a bunch of these newspapers.” [?] in this article. That’s a big thing, you know? And to this day, you know, whatever I’m doing regarding, you know, school stuff, [inaudible] graduation, getting back into the workforce. You know, my mom has been very scared for me as well as very proud. You know, as you know, I recently, you know, survived a traumatic brain injury, and speaking to my mom about that in person, you know, she was really very scared, you know? Her family was very impacted by that. To this day we don’t know if it was a hate crime or not. You know, there was no video evidence. All of this was investigated by local police to narrow down any suspects and arrest anyone. So, you know, this assault is just gonna be part of my history that is–you know, it’s gonna be this horrible mystery of “Who may have done this?” But on the other hand, you know, I’m so grateful to be here, to, you know, tell that story, to be able to, you know, teach my parents what it’s like to be a queer person in a [?] world and to see them grow and change, [to?] grow and be [?] accepting and be, you know, just the model of [trans?] parents. I think it’s what keeps me optimistic. At the end of the day, [?]–today for example. I’m, you know, never again gonna be in the closet. I’m never again want to work for an organization [that doesn’t?], you know, go out of the way to make sure, you know, queer folks at this organization or place of employment feel safe, feel just as valued and a part of the team. You know, I don’t see myself doing anything different. I can’t even imagine, you know, being employed again at any place where I’d have to be in the closet or hide who I am, ’cause all that does is, you know, hurt not only myself, but it hurts the rest of the community, you know? Anyone in our community not able to be visible, you know, that reverberates out into the rest of the community. We feel that.

Liz: Absolutely. And again, you know, I’m always struck by the passion with which you speak, because I know that 1. it just comes from so deep within you, but also I know how much you have loved other people who have had similar–you know, similar challenges. Maybe they did not necessarily have supportive families the way that you did and they struggled with, you know, academics, they struggled to find employment. And again, I’m grateful and appreciative to you for bringing up your [?], and I’m so sorry that you had to go through that experience. I am curious, having had that experience and knowing what the statistics are like for–[?] frankly around the world for violence against trans persons, [?] particular trans people of color–what do you think needs to happen from a societal mindset shift and change? What is the–what is going to be the tipping point when you think this will really be [battled?] in society?

Noah: I think it’s–the solution has–[because?] people of color in general, you know, sadly [?] part of those statistics, which, you know, infuriated me, but at the same time, you know, once I was well enough to rationalize things mentally, I was not that surprised. So I think the solution has to be at least two-fold. Trans women of color, especially black trans women, are the most statistically likely, and some of them are sex workers, because it is very difficult in this society to be a trans person of color–again, especially a black trans woman–and look for gainful employment without the discrimination that’s rampant out there, so some people turn to sex work as part of a way to combat poverty. You know, it’s a survival tactic, so we’ve got to look at poverty. We’ve got to look at systemic racism and transphobia in the workplace, how that impacts queer and trans folk–especially queer and trans folk of color–and their ability to just simply go out, work, and making a living? So we’re looking at, you know, the need for–in my opinion, we’ve got to have a federal equality legislation put in. It can’t be just state-to-state anymore. There’s got to be a federal bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, and that in and of itself will be huge in helping, like I said, trans folk of color working. You know, having [?] and helping with poverty. And on the other hand, you know, we’ve got to keep educating society, and keeping queer and trans folk in the history books, keeping queer and trans folk in mind when you’re teaching anything, from musical history to, you know, American history, we’ve got to keep queer and trans folk in mind, not only in, you know, traditional high school, college education, but also, you know, in the workplace. Are we, you know, not only having these–I think the word “diversity” lately, but are we having, you know, diversity or educational workshops in our organizations? You know, are we teaching teachers, for example, to better understand their trans and queer students? You know, so it’s got to be–you’ve got to have a nuanced approach to solving the issue, but at the end of the day it all starts with legislation and education.

Liz: That is a very powerful statement, and I so am with you in terms of the issues with poverty and lack of accessibility of gainful employment and job opportunities. Because when you take away the opportunities for people to pursue legitimate work, then you literally leave them with no other options, and that is–I mean, that’s just an untenable position in which to place people as a civilization, as a civilized society.

Noah: Right. Now, you said the word legitimate, and I just want to emphasize that, you know, sex work is also work. I am pro-sex worker rights, and I think that should also be legalized in order to help people who are in sex work and don’t want to be in it anymore, be able to get out of it freely, and also for people that are victims of sex trafficking, to be able to go to authorities and say what’s going on without fear of being arrested for sex work. So that’s a whole other issue, but it is, you know, unfortunately very, very related to trans folk who are in poverty and go that route. Does that make sense?

Liz: That totally makes sense, and that’s actually–I really [admire?] you calling [me out on that]. Help me. How should I draw the contrast? How else can I describe it?

Noah: I mean, I think it’s simply a matter of people finding the work that they really [?] to do. You know, if somebody wants to be a sex worker in the realm of, let’s say, [?], being part of [?] or, you know, even–you know, if it’s [?] boudoir photography. There are many, many different things that are sex work besides prostitution, so we have to look at it, you know, again, in a [?] way, and, you know, just look at things in the matter of “Why do people sometimes end up in jobs they don’t like?” Well, it’s not just–it’s not just sex work obviously. Some of us end up in cubicles doing hum-drum, super monotonous things just because we want to have some sort of income to pay the [light bill?], you know? So just looking at it more broadly, I just feel like sex work as a whole needs to be destigmatized and looked at it as, again, something that some people do because they absolutely want to and something that others do, just like any other job, because they’re just trying to find a source of income. So looking at it in a way that takes the shame out of it. Does that make sense?

Liz: That totally makes sense, and thank you for that and for educating me on that. You’ve talked about your own search for employment. I mean, I know now you recently finished your graduate degree and very unfortunately, tragically, your next steps were put on hold by your assault and your injury, but now you are getting yourself back out there and you are looking for and pursuing new opportunities. You talked a little bit earlier about how you are specifically, you know, looking for organizations where you can be yourself, where you [?], because that’s–you’re out of the closet. And so I’m curious, how have you been evaluating potential places of work? Is that a privilege–is being able to do that a privilege? Going back to the topic that we were just on.

Noah: Mm-hmm. Yeah, great question. I do take into account the fact that I do have privilege in certain areas. I have educational privilege that I know a lot of my peers, you know, just weren’t able to have, either because of their grades in high school, not being able to go to college, or financially not being able to even, you know, get to the college they were accepted to. Graduate school, that obviously makes me, you know, hyper-privileged as far as education is concerned. So I’m very, very grateful to have been able to attain these things in my life. Again, I currently live in New England. I’m in Massachusetts, and another piece of my privilege that a lot of people don’t have is the ability to decide if I’m gonna go home, back to my home state of Texas, and work, or if I’m gonna stay in this particular state. Right now my journey is keeping me here in Massachusetts #1, first and foremost, because, you know, ironically enough, I feel safer here, despite the TBI. I feel safer as far as [?] treated at a place of employment, whether I end up at an organization or end up at an institution of higher learning or back in public education. We just passed Proposition 3, which was legislation–going back to legislation being important. Massachusetts now has it in the books that it is illegal to discriminate in public spaces. If someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, military status, or so many factors–any of those things, all of those things, are now protected under Massachusetts law regarding, again, public accommodations, as well as employment. So as far as that goes, I’d feel safer if I were to work up here in Massachusetts, versus Texas where–and people forget this–you can still be fired for being gay. You can still be fired for being queer, being bisexual, transgender. You can still be fired in Texas [for those]. So that’s been a huge part of my decision-making as far as geographically where I’m gonna stay. And also looking at, you know, different organizations. I’ve been looking at nonprofits, [?], and, you know, again, I’m blessed that most [employment?] where I could [?] are much more progressive, as far as, you know, treatment of employees. Not to say that New England is perfect by any means, you know? We’ve got our issues up here that we’re constantly dealing with, hence, you know, continued activism and literally getting out on the streets and protesting, you know, awful things when they happen, but, yeah, like you said, I do consider my privilege. Also, now that I’m cis-passing, you know, I go to an interview now, [and] people listen to me rather than kind of look away like they used to when I was a masculine at center presenting woman versus now. And that’s an entirely different conversation, the difference of how I get received and how much more people listen when you have a male voice versus what it was before.

Liz: Yes. I think the patriarchy is an entirely different conversation.

Noah: Oh, absolutely. [laughs] An entirely different one.

Liz: So Noah, looking toward the future and thinking about, you know, your legacy and what, you know, what you want to create and [?] in this world and what, you know, what the imprint that you’re going to make is, where do you see–the arc of your career, your activism, your journey–where do you see that going, and what is your–what’s your hope for the future and for those listening who are still not able to be living their fully authentic selves in the place that they’re in? What words of encouragement do you have?

Noah: That’s such a beautiful question. I do want to have children at some point. You know, when you said the word “legacy,” I immediately thought of not just the physical things that I’ll leave behind and not just, you know, words I’ll leave behind, but I actually do want to have children at some point, and, as corny as it sounds, leave them with a better world than what I came in with, you know? A school I used to teach at, we had this statement – we’d always leave a place better than we found it, and I would teach the kids–usually just me walking into the cafeteria and, you know, picking up trash, or, you know, going on a field trip and making sure to wipe your shoes before you walk in and step on carpet. You know, it’s more than just that. It’s literally “let’s leave this entire planet better than we found it,” and so I’ve kept that as a mantra with me. So, you know, as far as that goes, I would love to–I have one book I’ve written of short stories that I’m seeking to get published. I want to leave some writing behind. I’ve been debating on whether or not to write a memoir or whether or not that would be–if I would be doing it for the right reasons or being visible for the sake of others and not ego, then I may pursue that in the future, but I want my personal legacy to be education [?], whether it’s, you know, just teaching students, high school and college level, and impacting their lives in that way, or whether it’s through my writing or through my activism. I want to leave more knowledge behind and more visibility for queer and trans folk. As far as, you know, this next generation, I’m actually so super hopeful when I look at Generation Z, which I think is what they want to be called. I’m not sure.

Liz: We’ll let them self-identity.

Noah: We’ll let them self-identity. Exactly. [laughs] Where we come, what I call the “Oregon Trail” generation, you know, growing up, we experienced so many beautiful things after Stonewall, but we weren’t there yet regarding, you know, certain things, like marriage equality. Okay, we’ve got marriage equality. What’s the next step? Well, we’re looking at, again, you know, having a federal anti-discrimination bill that includes gender identity and sexual orientation. You know, it’s been 50 years since Stonewall. I don’t want it to take another 50 years for me to be–and my words of encouragement, you know, folks that are still in the closet and for the younger folk coming out as queer, trans, non-binary, keep fighting the good fight. There’s so much left to be done, despite all of the things that we’ve accomplished. We can’t stop. We can’t get comfortable. That’s when things regress. So we’ve got to keep fighting the good fight, and again, we need legislation [and] we need education.

Liz: Well, I [?] on that. When I hear the word “fight,” I definitely think of you and carrying the fight forward, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your willing to be so open and candid and authentic with me and with our listeners on this podcast and for really sharing so many of your stories, because that is how we are going to really get to know each other, and when we do that we’ll actually really see each other.

Noah: Thank you so much for having me. It really is an honor.

Liz: Thanks so much.

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