By Steven O. Evans, PhD
OutClique magazine celebrates all letters of the LGBTQA+ rainbow. Our South Florida community has something for everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, or group with which you identify. We also have numerous community outreach programs. SunServe has been a staple providing numerous counseling services. OutClique had the privilege of talking to Misty Eyez, SunServe’s Training Coordinator & Transgender Services Case Manager, but also known as their Mind Expander!
OutClique: Tell us about SunServe.
Misty Eyez: SunServe was created in 2002 as the first social and human services agency to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community in South Florida. SunServe originally focused on providing low to no-cost mental health counseling and senior services for LGBTQ people and has evolved into a thriving organization helping over 5,000 people a year. Our goal is to provide high quality, culturally relevant care for all, with an emphasis on helping those in financial need, minorities, youth, seniors, women, transgender people, people living with HIV, and those with life-challenging physical or emotional conditions. We also offer a myriad of education and training services. Unfortunately, even in 2019, LGBTQ individuals face health disparities and societal stigma that makes the assistance SunServe provides critical to the well-being of our community.
OCQ: How did you get involved with SunServe?
ME: That is a funny story. I never really knew anything about SunServe, but when it was time for me to get my name and gender marker changed, I asked around to see who could help me. Someone told me I needed to call Santi at SunServe. When I arrived at SunServe, I met Mark Ketchem, the Executive Director, who saw a large and lovely woman walk into the office and recognized something in me – an “it factor” or a presence and his wheels must have started to spin. He got my contact info from Santi and called me in to meet with him and brainstorm some ideas. The Transgender community is a large component to the LGBTQ Community here in South Florida and he wanted to see how SunServe could better assist this community. As a lifelong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, I easily slid into my position at SunServe.
OCQ: What are the Transgender services that you and SunServe provide?
ME: I actually wear a couple of hats at SunServe. My first job is as an Educator, Trainer / Mind Expander. I just mentioned I’ve been a lifelong Advocate for the LGBTQ+ Community, and I have been an entertainer in South Florida for the last 16 years. My goal as an educator / trainer at SunServe is to expand and combine my talents as I go into the business world teaching LGBTQ/Transgender tolerance and acceptance through understanding.
I do two types of Trainings.The Basic 2.5/3 Hour LGBTQ+ training that will provide participants with a more inclusive perspective of the entire LGBTQQAAAI2SP community and then it goes a bit more in depth with understanding transgender individuals. They will learn about the gender spectrum, gender identity, as well as the history and life experiences of transgender individuals. They will also learn how to serve the population more effectively by gaining an understanding of the transgender community. This session will provide participants the skills on how to better relate with LGBTQI co-workers and students. To help participants to be able to address transgender issues in a more informed manner. To help participants gain a historical perspective of transgender issues from a social, political and economic viewpoint. It will also help participants gain a clear perspective on how to address our diverse population of students, faculty and staff, such as those from the LGBTQ+ community in a respectful, legal and appropriate fashion.
My second job stemmed from the heart I have for my community. When I transitioned I did it all alone, without any help or guidance from anyone. With the help of Google, I found how to do things I felt I needed to do. That is a very scary and lonely place to be, and I would not wish that on anyone. I let Mark know I wanted to help my Trans Brothers and Sisters on their journey. So, I am also a Case Manager, essentially holding the hands of my Trans Clients so that they are not alone on their journey. Helping them navigate the many, many roadblocks and hurdles in their path, to trans competent care and services. (Hormone Replacement Therapy, Health Insurance, HIV Care, or PrEP as HIV Prevention, Name / Gender Marker Changes, Laser Hair Removal, Electrolysis, Support Groups, Financial Independence, Therapy / WPATH, to name a few). Many Trans people struggle with self-love and self-acceptance, leading reclusive and isolated lives. As a case manager, I believe in wrap around care and encourage peer and social support as well. I try to organize a monthly Safe-T-in Numbers event where we go into the world to do something fun in public, like the fair or a carnival or a museum etc.
OCQ: What are your seminars like?
ME: Well, I think my trainings are FUN. Often times I go into a training and I can tell the participants have NO Desire to be there and attend yet another boring Powerpoint Training. That is where the entertainer in me comes out and I make the learning FUN and exciting instead of a boring lecture.
OCQ: What advice would you give someone that may be questioning as transgender?
ME: My first advice is if your questioning your gender, or having these thoughts then you are trans. My second thing I would tell them is that, “You are not alone,” you have many many trans siblings and we can help you. My final advice would be to reach out and call me 954-764-5150 extension 126 or email me at MistyEyez@SunServe.org and I will do anything I can to help you.
OCQ: What would you want our readers to know about the transgender population?
ME: Where do I start? I guess that I would start with the fact that there are many types of Trans People, and the gender spectrum is a continuum. That Trans People are People too with Human Emotions and Feelings, and we hurt and bleed just like you. I would also say that being Trans is not a choice, or a trend. Just like being Gay or Lesbian when you are Trans you are born this way. Yes, you can can choose to come out of the closet or not, and yes there is a choice to accept it or not, to run and hide from yourself or to be brave enough to start your journey. But the reality is you are who you are, and that is not a choice.
Finally I would like your readers to know that Trans People have existed since the beginning of ever. The first evidence of Trans People existing is 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic (6500–3500 B.C.E .) and the Bronze Age (2000 – 1500 B.C.) Cave drawings depicting what archaeologists call the 3rd Sex — there wasn’t a word yet to describe Trans people. And if you search for 3rd Sex or 3rd gender in history, you will be shocked at how common trans people are throughout history.
OCQ: How can we be more accepting of transgender people?
ME: First and foremost, don’t be a jerk. But an obvious point is to respect someone’s pronouns. Meaning- when they tell you they are a man, please use He, Him, and His Pronouns, and when they say they are a woman- use She, Her and Hers. Some trans people also prefer They, Them and Their pronouns. Please do your best to respect and use their proper pronouns. That and the obvious golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12).