Ep. 16 The Intersections of Feminism w/ Lauren Sundstrom

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We have the lovely and inspiring Lauren Sundstrom on the podcast this week. Lauren is a proud trans woman and advocate for the LGBTQ community. She shares her story and insight with us, and we are so grateful to have her on!

As humans, we all possess masculine and feminine energies. Sometimes you may feel more feminine or more masculine, and that is okay. Gender is on a spectrum, and is part of our human experience.

Once we realize it’s okay to fully express ourselves, fear will subside. Gender fluidity will not destroy our society, it will help it thrive. We are fortunate to already see some positive changes.

Lauren always knew she was a woman. She was assigned male at birth, but always expressed more feminine. Her parents just assumed she was gay. At 16, Lauren realized she was actually transgender. Once she told her mom, they began looking for doctors to start the medical process.

At age 17, Lauren began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and at 21, she had full sex reassignment surgery. Not everyone undergoes this surgery, yet are still valid in their experience as trans.

Are hormones something you continue for life?

Yes, from a physical standpoint, its healthier to continue them, especially if you’ve had surgery. However, there’s not a lot of long-term research on HRT. That’s where as allies, we can fight for studies that help improve the health of transgender people.

So, is this movement “just a trend?”. Absolutely not. People are just becoming more accepting, and are more empowered than ever before. But, there is still work to be done.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality survey, about 40% of trans people have attempted or considered suicide. This is a shockingly high rate. However, when parents support their trans kids, this number drops to 4%. Lauren is so thankful that her parents were supportive.

For a time, Lauren went back into the closet. She felt the fear of being “fully out”, so took time to travel and figure things out. While modeling overseas, Lauren realized she had no reason to hide. Now, she is comfortable in all areas of life, and has no regrets.

This episode was born out of curiosity from Alexis’ husband, Evan. They began an open dialogue about relationships with trans women. Both concluded they love people for people, not their gender identity or sexual orientation.

We all need to be willing to have these important conversations.

On the other hand, “would you date this girl?” narratives are problematic. As Lauren says, “It’s been a trope in the media for years, a shock value with trans women. It’s used by cisgender (non-transgender) people to perpetuate violence against us.”

It is a trans person’s right to come out how they want, when they want, and with who they want. Safety is so important. Trans women are not “tricking” straight men into dating them. They are just trying to stay safe.

“[Coming out] to that one guy is not worth potentially taking your life away from you.”

The harsh reality is that black, trans women face the most violence. Nine black, trans women have been murdered in 2019 alone. And sadly, this violence is almost normalized in society.

It’s horrendous how people of color, minorities, and LGBTQ are made out to be criminals, when it is mainly cis white, upper class men that are committing rape and murder. The media narrative continues to allow transphobic/homophobic/racist jokes, and continue to allow our culture to think that’s okay.

“Words have meaning, words are wake, and words are violence.”

Because of our current administration, rollbacks on LGBTQ protection have occurred. Trans people are being denied space at homeless shelters solely on identity. Raquel Willis, an influential trans woman, faced these hardships. Young people are homeless because families are kicking them out for being LGBTQ.

The same National Center Survey found 15% of trans people have experienced homelessness. That’s over three times the national average. Trans women are not dangerous, they are vulnerable and need protection just like all women.

Are trans rights improving or getting worse?

Lauren believes that from a legal/political standpoint, things are getting worse. But the positive media portrayals have been monumental. Publications like Out Magazine and advocates like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox are paving the way.

As a society, we are becoming more comfortable with letting people express themselves. The close-mindedness can be due to lack of knowledge. If we educate, we become better allies.

The United States is more progressive than 10 years ago because we are constantly saying “no” to limited rights and close mindedness.

All women, trans and cis, deserve to speak up about their rights. While the Me Too movement has made space for that, it may only defend the physicality of a woman. Remember, not every woman has a uterus, and not every woman has a vagina. We have to be more inclusive than that.

Teaching people about proper pronouns and LGBTQ issues and helping people learn is the way we will grow, gain allies, and unify. — LS

It’s okay if as an ally, you make a mistake. Everybody is problematic at times. How we respond to feedback and make changes to become better allies is what really counts.

It’s just about listening. There is no shame in being wrong. — LS

As feminists, we must also learn to include all women. If feminism isn’t placing black and trans women forward, it is not proper feminism.

Transphobia is still an issue, and it can present in subtle ways. Like Lauren’s partner Matt, men may need to go through some self-discovery to become more accepting. It starts by undoing problematic thought processes instilled from birth.

Lauren’s strength and activism is amazing. People can relate and learn from her story and knowledge.

Open your mind and heart, and remember that everyone has gone through something. Listen, learn, and evolve a better human being.


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