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Nancy Nangeroni was born in Boston, raised in Milton, Massachusetts, and graduated from MIT in 1976 with a degree in electrical engineering. After graduation, she finally felt free to begin to address her long-suppressed gender issues – but the road ahead was still rocky. Several years later, living in California and increasingly despondent about her place in the world, Nancy nearly died in a motorcycle accident. While recovering from her injuries, she resolved to move beyond despair into action.

Eventually moving back to the East Coast, Nancy connected with the “gender community.” She began volunteering with the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) in 1990 and became its executive director from 1997-98. She founded the Boston chapter of the Transexual Menace, wrote extensively about gender issues, and co-edited and published In Your Face, the Journal of Political Activism, the first periodical to document hate crimes against transgender persons. After the murder of Brandon Teena (an event portrayed in the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry), Nancy helped organize the first national action against murders of trans persons.

In 1995, Nancy founded the award-winning radio program GenderTalk, which aired weekly for over 11 years, attracting an international audience. She led gender diversity training workshops for corporations, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations. In 1998, Nancy met and fell in love with Gordene MacKenzie, a feminist professor and gender activist from New Mexico. Together, Nancy and Gordene produced a music video about the 1998 vigil (led by Nancy) for Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts. Rita’s murder and the ensuing controversy over disrespectful press coverage helped spark what is known today as International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).

In the 2000s, Nancy served for six years as chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition while leading Boston’s TDOR event for over 10 years. After ending GenderTalk, Nancy and Gordene produced a series of gender education video programs called GenderVision. While GenderTalk no longer airs, GenderTalk.com continues to serve thousands of visitors monthly though its archive of past shows. 

OUTWORDS traveled to Albuquerque in February 2018 to interview Nancy at the home she shares with Gordene. Nancy is at work on her memoir and serves on the board of the TG Resource Center in Albuquerque, while Gordene creates and sells jewelry for a growing clientele. Nancy and Gordene miss producing GenderTalk, but enjoy doing activism and writing together. And they still love doing radio – so maybe one day they will take to the airwaves again, to provide a vital lifeline to individuals around the world needing support, information, and inspiration.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:00:00] Gordene will thank me for-
Michael Brewer: I saw a picture of you in-
Natalie Tsui: Great. Ready. Whose phone is on silent? Turn the phone on silent.
Michael Brewer: That's Mason. Let me see. No. We'll talk later. Let's see. Okay. Again, just look at me here. Now tell me your name and spelling.
Nancy Nangeroni: I'm Nancy Nangeroni; N-A-N- G-E-R-O-N-I. That's all Ns, as in Nancy.
Michael Brewer: [00:00:30] Okay. Let's see. Tell me where you were born, and also, tell me when you were born.
Nancy Nangeroni: I was born in Boston in 1953, on September 30th.
Michael Brewer: September 30th, 1953.
Nancy Nangeroni: September 30th, 1953.
Michael Brewer: Okay. That means [inaudible]. Okay. Let's see.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:01:00] [inaudible] actually.
Michael Brewer: Great.
Natalie Tsui: Don't look at me.
Nancy Nangeroni: Sorry.
Michael Brewer: All right. Next. Now tell me about ... [inaudible], so tell me about your family life and tell me about your early-
Nancy Nangeroni: How I grew up?
Michael Brewer: Tell me about growing up in New England.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:01:30] Sure. I grew up in a former farmhouse, a big old rambling house in the town of Milton, and with a big family. We had eight kids total in the family. My father and mother actually both grew up poor and both worked really hard, and so we kids grew up with a good life in the suburb. We weren't wealthy but we were ... I never had to worry about money growing up,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:02:00] which very much shaped my attitudes to look beyond money to other things. Both my parents did civil rights activism, which made a big impression on me. So I was in the middle of a big family. Very conventional family, and I knew from an early age that I was different, and had to postpone until adulthood doing anything about it,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:02:30] because there wasn't really a good option in the context I grew up in. There was no rebellion tolerated in my family. So, that had to wait until adulthood for me.
Michael Brewer: [inaudible] actually.
Nancy Nangeroni: Sure.
Natalie Tsui: Just a moment. Did we unplug the fridge?
Michael Brewer: Are you [inaudible]?
Natalie Tsui: I don't hear it but if it kicks in we should just do it now, can I cut?
Michael Brewer: Okay. People in sound use that for zero.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:03:00] Well, there you go. Yeah
Michael Brewer: Okay. Tell me about your family growing up in New England.
Nancy Nangeroni: Well, so we lived in Suburbia, my parents were Catholic. We went to church, we did all the usual things. I had seven siblings, I had two oldest brothers and two older sisters,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:03:30] and then I had a younger brother and two younger sisters, so I was right in the middle of all of it. Where should I go from there with that?
Michael Brewer: Well, you can quote me, they are not going to hear me. So try and quote phrase some of the questions and the answers so they will have a context. Tell me about your brothers and sisters, did you get along, what [inaudible]?
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:04:00] I would say a mixed relationship with my brothers and sisters, there was quite a bit of competition. I had a very difficult relationship with one of my older sisters who had a lot of emotional difficulties, and still does to this day. So that certainly had an impact on me, but I loved being part of a big family. It was really fun when we had holidays and get-togethers and so forth,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:04:30] so I was very proud of my family growing up. My parents instilled in us a reverence for education, and leading upstanding lives. I didn't talk explicitly about morality, but morality underscored everything. We were trying really hard to be good people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:05:00] and that was an unspoken thing that was absolutely essential in our lives growing up. We were a good family, and we were trying to be a good example to other people. My dad was a supermarket executive, he worked for one of the early supermarket chains, and he also went on to head the board of directors at the hospital, he was on the board of directors of the banks,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:05:30] so he was a very well-known and respected member of the community, as was my mother. he did a lot of charity work, she would help out a number of families that were less well-off in the city of Boston, and Roxbury, and Dorchester. She was just a very generous and giving person, so that was the context of our family, was this righteous upstanding model citizen family.
[00:06:00] SLeftist values, very liberal progressive, and yet at the same time a little bit homophobic. That homophobia ... I was never personally homophobic, but at the same time I knew the limits of what was allowable within my family, which was part of why I had to wait until adult hood before I could really explore my gender issues, and figure out what was the right thing for me in this life.
Michael Brewer: [00:06:30] How did you know folks were homophobic?
Nancy Nangeroni: I knew that my mom at least was homophobic because we had, well there are a couple of things. One was that early in my life, I had decided I wanted to be a dancer, and she said, "You don't want to be a dancer, you know they're all homos."
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:07:00] So that clued me in right there, plus we had a cousin who was gay, but it was the sort of thing that was whispered about, "You know he's a homosexual." There was ... It was very clear that being gay was outside of the norm of our family. Interestingly, my younger sister, one of my younger sisters,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:07:30] it was very obvious to me she was a tomboy, and it was no surprise to me when she came out as lesbian. She actually paved the way for me within our family. She came out as lesbian maybe a decade before I finally came out as trans, but it wasn't until adulthood really that either one of us could be ourselves, and really express our true nature.
Michael Brewer: I'm just going-
Natalie Tsui: I'm sorry to interrupt. I wonder if we can just get you a little bit close to the camera.
Michael Brewer: [00:08:00] How old were you when your cousin came out? When you say some of these things, when events or these things happened, just give us a context of how old you were, like you're saying you didn't do it until you were an adult, but then you said before that you knew at an early age that you were different. Be specific like I knew at 12, or 15, or whatever.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:08:30] I knew from the time I was very, very young maybe five or six that I was different, and that I wasn't content with having been assigned to be a boy in this life. So that was some of my earliest memories, are of that difference. My cousin who was gay never actually came out as gay until a couple of weeks before he died of AIDS.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:09:00] It took him ... that was how deeply closeted my family was, that just the admission to being gay was so difficult for him that he couldn't do it really until the end for him. This is a very sad story about how he died. I was actually in California when I was in my 30s,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:09:30] and then I got a phone call asking to help with him, and I know this is probably a little bit afield. He was in the hospital and he had AIDS, but nobody was admitting it at the time, and so I became the point contact. I ended up getting closely involved with his mother and him, and it was a big to-do, but he ended up going back to live with his mother. As I said he wasn't able to acknowledge
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:10:00] that he was gay until just before he died. So maybe that provides a little family context in terms of how difficult that was.
Michael Brewer: Okay, you mentioned before that there was competition among the kids. What kind of competition? For grades, for [inaudible] in school, for athleticism, or for the attention of the parents?
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:10:30] I think every large family has a lot of competition in it. There was certainly competition academically, I had an older sister who was the smart one in the family until I came along really, and bested her stuff, and so I took over this spot in the family. I was the smart one. My younger brother took over the spot as the athletic one. One of the things my mom used to say is how she used to remark on was just how different each one of us was,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:11:00] how much of an individual each one of us was in the family. We each found our own way to be different, and to stand out within that large family. For me it was around schoolwork, and being smart, and getting good grades, that sort of thing. So I ended up going to MIT and all that entails.
Michael Brewer: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Sorry to interrupt again. There's one final thing which is I've noticed that your earing keeps on clinging to your-
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:11:30] It's rattling.
Natalie Tsui: It rattles against the necklace, so can we remove it?
Nancy Nangeroni: Which would you like to remove?
Michael Brewer: Cut the cameras. Okay, good. I said I had some questions specifically, and shared a couple of other ones that I need to ask you, and then I'll ask the ones that I wanted to. [inaudible] before we forget.
Natalie Tsui: [00:12:00] [inaudible] when you're leaning forward [inaudible], like you're in.
Michael Brewer: Those can show.
Natalie Tsui: [inaudible].
Michael Brewer: Okay, so now you went to MIT, and you studied electrical engineering, so what subjects ... As a youngster, what did you like about school?
Nancy Nangeroni: When I was young and going to school, when I was in grade school and all,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:12:30] I certainly enjoyed science and math. I was very good at them, so I didn't have to work very hard at them. I probably enjoyed socializing as much as anything else though. When I went to MIT, there were ... I got bit by something which is that my father had worked, had been such a hard working person. He would confide in me about
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:13:00] just his life being about working, working, working, going to sleep, get up, work, work, work. So I grew up promising myself I would never work that hard, and so I didn't develop good study habits and I went to MIT, and I really struggled. It was very difficult for me, and it actually soured me on technology a little bit. I still enjoy it, because I have a facility with it, I'm very good with tools and technology,
[00:13:30] but I lost my love of it. I lost my excitement for it, it became something that I do and I do it well, but it was no longer a passion. All the time I was at MIT and as I said, I struggled. I did manage to graduate, but I had this other burning issue in my mind that I was waiting to graduate, so that I could start working on my gender issues. I needed to get out there on my own,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:14:00] so that I'd be free of family, and finally be able to figure out how in some way I was going to live the second half of my life as a woman, which is what I promised myself when I was younger. So after MIT, I figured that in order to live as a woman, I needed to be far away from my family, in order to have that freedom. So I moved out to the West Coast, and I looked up there was a transsexual support group in Orange County.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:14:30] Their response to my inquiry was very off-putting. I had sent some inquiry and they responded with a form letter about here's what you need to do to have surgery. Surgery was never at the top of my list, in fact I never really thought much about it honestly. It just wasn't on my bullet list really,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:15:00] so that was very off-putting to me, so I spent nine years in California. It wasn't until the end of my time there, and this was about ... well I should say before. Shortly after getting that letter from that support group, and what was for me a tremendous disappointment, I had a terrible motorcycle accident. I was very,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:15:30] very unhappy and really torn. I really felt myself to be a pervert, a seriously disturbed individual. There were almost no examples of transgender people in society. Of course, there was Christine Jorgensen, and then there was Renee Richards, but that was it and neither one of those were role models that I could identify with.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:16:00] So I was just despondent, and so I rode my motorcycle with abandon, and had the inevitable accident that nearly killed me. Put me in the hospital for several months, crippled me in various ways. That was a wake-up call, and while I was in the hospital,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:16:30] my roommates discovered my stash of women's clothes in their search to find a phone number for my parents. I was outed to my roommates, and then my recovery from the accident, it was a remarkable thing because I had been very, very unhappy and just feeling like it was a cold world for me, and there was nobody who knew me and loved me. I was very alone in my life,
[00:17:00] in my daily life. Then amazingly when I had that accident, all of a sudden all these people, strangers, who I'd never known, never met stepped up and helped me. I just felt like I was receiving all kinds of love really from people I'd never met, love that I hadn't earned, and that just had a remarkable effect on me.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:17:30] My life really changed dramatically, and I began appreciating the people around me. I was bathed in all this positive reinforcement, I was living with roommates who were wonderful to me at this time, and so I began coming out. I knew that if I didn't come out, if I didn't do something different, I was just going to end up killing myself or worse.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:18:00] I had always expected that if I had that terrible motorcycle accident I'd die, and then it would be over and no big deal. Well, I'm not so easy to kill. I survived but with lots of broken bones and you name it. I realized okay, so it's not going to be an easy death, you're sticking around, so you got to make the most of it.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:18:30] So I began coming out, and my life truly transformed between the kindness and generosity that I received in recovering from the accident, to finally coming out. Finally, I moved back to the East Coast eventually. I met the transgender community by first discovering Transgendered Tapestry magazine, which was published by the International Foundation for Gender Education out of Waltham Massachusetts.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:19:00] I discovered that in probably 1985 or so, and once I discovered that magazine, I realized oh my God, this is right close to where I grew up. Here I've moved all the way across the country, and yet here's this organization. In that magazine, Merissa Sherrill Lynn was a writer of great intelligence and integrity. Hers were the first writings about transgenderism that really resonated with me,
[00:19:30] that really made sense. She was the one who said, and I'm of course I'm paraphrasing. She said we are not sick, it's the culture that's sick to deny our existence, and to deny us a fair place within our culture. So I moved back east, and I started going to trans conventions. We called ourselves the Gender Community back then, and I got involved with IFGE,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:20:00] I began doing volunteer work there on a regular basis. I eventually joined the board of directors and finally about 1997, the organization was in a lot of trouble. The treasurer, by this time I was on the executive committee that the treasurer was suggesting that we shut it down, and so I volunteered to become executive director figuring that I'm smart.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:20:30] I'm an MIT grad I should be able to do this, yeah very foolish on my part. So I became the executive director and it was very, very difficult. I was attacked by people in the community who I knew, who I assumed would be supporting me. I was attacked before I was even in the position, and so from my first day on the job I couldn't wait until I could leave that job.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:21:00] I spent the next nine months or so, reforming the organization, improving the magazine which had gone downhill quite a bit, yeah.
Michael Brewer: Would you say you are an activist?
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah. I didn't start out as an activist. I started out with the transgender community, really trying to find my role,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:21:30] my comfortable place. I knew I was a crossdresser, I had long been cross-dressing in private, the question was I really going to try, and transition and live as a woman. Was I a transsexual or just a crossdresser, and so I wrestled with that for two, three years, but as I got more and more involved, I became a more and more committed activist.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:22:00] I was inspired by Merissa Sherrill Lynn and Yvonne Cook-Riley at IFGE. I had always burned at what I considered to be gender injustice, just the categorization of people by their sexual anatomy into genders, and the restrictions on them that went along with those genders. I always felt like people should be allowed to pursue
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:22:30] the lives of their choosing, and should not be subjected to those kinds of restrictions. My mom was a feminist, not a great feminist, but I always felt very supportive of feminism and its goals of eliminating the prejudices against women, and improving women's opportunities and so forth.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:23:00] So I felt the same way about gender in general, not just about women but in terms of everybody. It seemed to me from an early involvement with the trans community that transgender people could actually be a catalyst, and could have a much larger effect than just winning a place in society for ourselves, but we could actually, because we cross over that gender divide.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:23:30] We have experience living as men and as women, both in the same person then perhaps in the best of all possible worlds. We gain experience and wisdom that we can bring to the world, and to the war between the sexes if you will, and hopefully do some healing society-wide.
Michael Brewer: What does it mean to be transgender?
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:24:00] To be transgender, I used to call it transgressing gender norms. To be transgender is to I guess to revolt against gender norms, to defy gender convention, that's what I would call transgenderism. A lot of people think that transgender means to transition.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:24:30] They think all transgender people change their gender, they change from man to woman or woman to man. I don't agree with that at all. A lot of people do transition but a lot don't. Transgenderism I think is really about moving beyond gender, about moving beyond the limitations imposed on individuals by the gendered expectations of others.
Michael Brewer: [00:25:00] Okay. Tell me about gender identity versus gender orientation.
Nancy Nangeroni: Gender identity is really a political thing, because identity is a political thing. Identity is a label that we apply ourselves, that we use to identify ourselves to other people, so it's a shorthand for other people to understand
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:25:30] a lot of things about us in a single word or two. It's also a way of recognizing one another and affiliating, so if we have a common identity then we have a basis for organizing together. I see identity very much as a political thing, which is why I never identified as a woman. I live as a woman,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:26:00] but my identity has always been transgender because I was born male, raised as a man, and live as a woman. So to me, that's outside of any strict definition of manhood or womanhood, and yet I know a lot of people in the transgender community would dispute this. A lot of people will say, but you are a woman,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:26:30] and they're welcome to say that, but my identity is a transgender person. Maybe a transgender woman, but so now gender orientation on the other hand, I'm not sure that that's well defined. Orientation really is about a direction, there's sexual orientation which is
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:27:00] your sexual attraction to men or women. I suppose gender orientation might be your attraction in terms of gender, which might not be the same thing as sex. You might be attracted to male to female trans people, you might be attracted to female to males, or whatever, so a gender orientation would be akin to sexual orientation,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:27:30] but with a lot more complexity to it. I don't know that that term is used by very many people, I've used it but I don't know that others do.
Michael Brewer: That helps to explain to the lay person who may see someone who is raised as trans transitions to female, but then is attracted to females with feminine energy.
Michael Brewer: [00:28:00] I think that a lot of times people don't understand that.
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, the whole idea of someone like myself transitioning male to female, then still being attracted to women, is something that kept me for a long time from moving forward from outing myself and from moving forward with transition, because I figured if I transitioned,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:28:30] then no woman would want me, because any lesbian woman who's going to want a lesbian woman, not a trans woman. So that was a very cautionary thing for me for a long time. There's a couple of things there, I used to at lunchtime, this is back
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:29:00] when I was still in California in the mid 80s. I used to go out in my car at lunchtime, and I would listen to a narration of Napoleon Hills, Think and Grow Rich. In that, he would say for every desire that you have, there is somewhere out there the fulfillment of that desire. This was a book written in the 1920s or 30s,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:29:30] but in that wisdom, I took heart that my desire would find its fulfillment out there somewhere. There would be out there a woman who would find me an acceptable partner, and yeah, it is I guess confounding for some people that someone would transition, and then still be attracted to a same-gender person.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:30:00] There's all kinds of desire out there. It really, really, really stunned me when I first came out into the community, and there were so many people, of course this was at cross-dressing conventions that I was going to where there were so many people who were attracted to me. Who wanted to be with me sexually, I was really surprised at that. I came to learn that transsexual women are very much in demand by a certain segment of the population.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:30:30] In fact, it's a key issue there because our culture doesn't recognize attraction to trans people as a legitimate thing. Because of this, a lot of the men who are attracted to trans women have very, very deep feelings of guilt and anxiety over their attraction, and this results in a lot of violence against trans women by men
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:31:00] whose attraction, whose their own attraction to trans women is so repugnant to them that they end up taking it out on the objects of their attraction, with terrible violence. That was the issue that really resonated with me that I dedicated my life to fighting, that I still fight today as best I can. I'm not perhaps as energetically as I once did.
Michael Brewer: [00:31:30] Then that leads to the young lady Rita-
Nancy Nangeroni: Rita Hester.
Michael Brewer: Tell me who she was, and how did she affefct you?
Nancy Nangeroni: Well to tell you about Rita Hester, I have to tell you about Chanelle Pickett, because Chanelle came first, and to tell you about Chanelle Pickett, I have to tell you about Brandon Teena. So Brandon Teena was a young male to, I mean female to male-
Michael Brewer: Tell me the time period.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:32:00] In 1995, a young trans man named Brandon Teena was murdered in Falls City, Nebraska. His murder got a big write-up in the Village Voice, and at the time Ricky Wilsons and I had just met, and she was looking for some kind of activism to work on. She had tried getting me to go to the Michigan Women's Music Festival, which was denying entrance to trans women.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:32:30] I told Ricky you know what, I would be much more interest, I'm not interested in getting into somebody else's party, but now when a transperson is being murdered, that's something I'd be interested in working on. When Brandon Teena murder came along, Ricky and I issued a nationwide call for demonstration in Fall City in Nebraska at the court house where
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:33:00] the murderers were being tried. The murder happened before 1995, the trial for the murders began in 1995. We flew out, we organized the first nationwide demonstration on behalf of transgender people, and we flew out to Falls City in Nebraska. We didn't know if were going to meet with baseball butts, we knew that
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:33:30] the only example we had to draw on of somebody doing something like this was back when people had gone to the south to protest against discrimination, against African Americans in the South, and some of those people had been met with terrible violence.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:34:00] We didn't know what was going to happen. We did our homework, we consulted with the police there beforehand, and we had a very good experience, a very empowering experience. While we were there, there was a murder in Massachusetts of Deborah Forte, and then a little while later, just a few months later, there was another murder in Massachusetts of Chanelle Picket. Chanelle Picket was strangled to death in the apartment of a young computer programmer. This is in the fall of 1995. The papers all sided with this programmer, they all said that he had strangled her to death.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:34:30] They all talked about how she had transformed during her time with him, how he had discovered that she was a man, and that this had led to an altercation during which she regrettably died. Well of course the story was something different, he had strangled her to death, and it was his own guilt over what he was doing that it caused it.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:35:00] I led a series of demonstrations at the courthouse in Middlesex County in Cambridge, around Chanelle Pickett's death. During one of those demonstrations, a newspaper reporter interviewed a trans woman named Rita Hester. This was after the verdict, the verdict was not guilty, the judge did throw the book at him,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:35:30] because the judge was finally convinced about his guilt. He was convicted of assault and battery, the judge gave him two years for assault and battery for first offense.
Michael Brewer: The verdict was not guilty?
Nancy Nangeroni: Verdict was not guilty of first-degree murder. I worked with the district attorney's office in this case, and Adrienne Lynch was the district attorney at that time. She pursued a first-degree murder charge, which
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:36:00] she did I think because in the murder I mentioned earlier, Deborah Forte in Haverhill, Massachusetts in May of 1995, while we're at the Brandon Teena demonstration. That prosecutor pursued a first-degree murder conviction, and got a second-degree murder plea deal. So I think the district attorney in Cambridge was going for the same thing, except in this case the defense was very well financed.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:36:30] They had one of OJ Simpson's defense lawyers, and they beat her up and he was convicted only of assault and battery. The news in the wake of this verdict, newspaper interviewed Rita Hester who said, "I'm very disturbed by this. I'm afraid that this will lead to open season on transgender people." Well, three years later, I'm sorry a year and a half after that verdict,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:37:00] Rita Hester was herself murdered in Allston, Massachusetts. She was stabbed more than 20 times in the chest, and any one of which stab wounds would have been enough to kill her. This is typifying the kind of deranged level of violence that is wielded against transgender people, in the well I won't go into the psyche of their killers. Anyway, so Rita Hester was murdered.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:37:30] I was at home with Gordene, Gordene and I had recently met, she was visiting with me. We got a phone call from a reporter, I was at that time the point contact for transgender activism in the Boston area. I had been on the front page of the Cambridge Chronicle and stuff, and so I was the one everybody knew. So this reporter called, and said there's been a murder, do you know this person? We said no, but then we went to work, Gordene and I finding out what we could.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:38:00] I helped organize a vigil for Rita Hester along with Alejandro Marcel at the transgender Health Network, and I ended up leading that vigil on that. She was murdered on a Saturday night, we held a vigil the following Friday evening in Allston starting at the model caf, and then walking through the streets of Allston to her apartment, which is about four or five blocks. That's just the mailman. I'll back up a little bit, it's just the mailman, he'll just leave it.
Natalie Tsui: [00:38:30] Since we're doing this [inaudible], when you shuffle your feet, you're making little bits of sounds, I can put a little ... or maybe it would be quieter if you weren't wearing your shoes.
Michael Brewer: [inaudible]. Okay. That was easy.
Nancy Nangeroni: I'm mortified to have to be here without shoes on.
Michael Brewer: How much time have we used so far? How much time have we used?
Natalie Tsui: 27 minutes.
Michael Brewer: Okay.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:39:00] How much time do we have?
Michael Brewer: We have time, but we're doing fine. What I want to hear is with Rita Hester, that you started the vigil. Tell me how many, I want to get a sense of that. How did it start, and what did it blossom into?
Nancy Nangeroni: We called for, in the wake of Rita Hester's murder, we called for a community meeting which was held at the Arlington Street Church in Boston.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:39:30] About 30-40 people showed up, which was a really big turnout at that time, and people wanted a vigil. So we organized a vigil, we held it in Allston, Rita's mom was there, her sister and brother were there, and about 200, 250 people showed up for this. We walked through the streets of the city with candles, I led the vigil with Rita's mom on one arm, and her sister on the other arm.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:40:00] It was the most moving thing I've ever experienced.Her mom was very open in her grief, and she wailed out into the night, "Who killed my child." Subsequent to the vigil, and the vigil was a big deal, and subsequent to this, newspaper stories were ... I shouldn't say subsequent.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:40:30] The newspaper coverage of the Rita Hester murder was terrible. Newspapers called her a transvestite, they called her a man leading a double life. She had been living as a woman for I don't know if it was 7 or 9 years but for a long time. She was well liked, a lot of the people who showed up were from the local rock-and-roll community, wasn't just transgender people, wasn't just GLBT people, wasn't just activists. She had a lot of friends, and I ended up in a running battle with the newspapers.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:41:00] I talked with Emily Rooney on her Greater Boston show on PBS, and we had such a back-and-forth going in the media in Boston that it was picked up nationally. In San Francisco, a transgender activist named Gwendolyn Smith picked up on this, and she declared that from then on that November 20th
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:41:30] would be the Transgender Day of Remembrance. In my great wisdom I thought, this will never catch on, but it did. I ended up leading Boston's Transgender Day of Remembrance event for many years, 10 or 15 years I don't know. It became, it just became an opportunity for people to just pour out their grief, for people to testify about what they've been through.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:42:00] The Transgender Day of Remembrance in Boston was just the most moving experience. We routinely got hundreds of people and we re-enacted that initial candlelight vigil over, and over, and over. We did our best to call attention to the murders of transgendered people. The transgender people are a very small fraction of the population,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:42:30] and yet our murders and the violence done against transgender people is way out of proportion to our small part of the population. We are much more likely to die by violence, we're much more likely to attempt or commit suicide. Transgender people suffer terrible violence, and yet we're used by the media to attract attention for decades. The television networks have used transgender content
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:43:00] during sweeps week in order to attract viewers. So the culture at large has an interest in us, and yet at the same time, it has this cognitive disconnect. At the same time it has an intense interest in people going beyond gender norms, at the same time it feels terribly guilty about it, and that's where the violence comes from.
Michael Brewer: Okay, and so the Day of Remembrance is it only local or is it?
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:43:30] The Transgender Day of Remembrance started in San Francisco with Gwendolyn Smith, but it was enacted in Boston as well. The first year there were maybe somewhere between half a dozen cities or so, but it grew. It's like a snowball, and it is now - in hundreds of cities worldwide.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:44:00] It has become the single most widely observed transgender event of any kind, although there are plenty of people in the community who also want to have a celebratory event to be just as widely observed. Rightly so we shouldn't only be talking about violence against transgender people, but the Transgender Day of Remembrance is the event that really carried the transgender community into the public awareness.
Michael Brewer: [00:44:30] I see things about transgender people who are victims of violence and it seems that a lot of them it's along racial lines.
Nancy Nangeroni: The people who are most victimized, the transgender people who are most victimized are people of color. It's a double whammy. People of color are stigmatized in our culture,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:45:00] it's hard being a person, I don't know from personal experience, but we know people of color are discriminated against, to be a queer person and a person of color is to be doubly stigmatized. To be a transgender person and a person of color, is to be doubly stigmatized. There's also issues around economics and class. To be a person of limited economic means to be a poor person, to be a homeless person,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:45:30] and a person of color, and a transgender person, makes you incredibly vulnerable. You're considered by way too many people to be the dregs of society. It's not true of course, but people of color who are trans are the most victimized people that there are in our culture as far as we know.
Michael Brewer: [00:46:00] Just want to ask, is there a hierarchy in the LGBTQ community? Is there a hierarchy between gay, lesbian, bi?
Nancy Nangeroni: Hierarchy in terms of privilege, in terms of risk and vulnerability?
Michael Brewer: In terms of privilege, in terms of who gets the ... Who's in charge of whether it's funding or?
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:46:30] There is of course hierarchy within the GLBT community, as is within every community, and the hierarchy is probably more based on economics than anything else. Money buys privilege, and so those with more money, for a long time I know that or at least it's been my understanding that gay men
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:47:00] tended to have the highest level of income, and so have the most privilege. You have organizations like the Human Rights Campaign that is the most well funded organization, and it tended to be run by gay men. That is changing I think. I think that it's a less pronounced difference, but I'm no expert on this. It's not really a question that I should be answering.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:47:30] Certainly, for many, many years, trans people fought to be included in the queer community. There was tremendous back-and-forth around inclusion in the Employment non-discrimination Act, which still hasn't been passed. We still don't have, GLBT people still don't have explicitly defined protections for their rights to employment.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:48:00] There was a tremendous controversy around trans inclusion in that. There's been a lot of backbiting and infighting within the GLBT community, and just as there was within the trans community, and remains of course. It's always been my position that we do far better by working together, than by attacking one another. So I've always tried to be a voice for forgiveness of one another,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:48:30] and for looking forward and finding better ways to collaborate, because collaboration is the key to our success. It's not just collaboration within the GLBT community, we need to collaborate with other people who are organizing around other issues. There's health issues, there's issues around class, and race, and opportunity,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:49:00] every issue that we organize around is a potential avenue for collaboration. The transgender community is not a large community, we haven't accomplished what we've accomplished to date. We haven't found the level of acceptance that we found just by going out there, and demanding our equality and demanding our recognition. The trans community started back when I first came out,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:49:30] and I was going to these conventions. At every convention, there would be a benefit event and that event never benefited anyone in the trans community, it was always some outside cause. The trans community was very smart, and this is people before me, in reaching out to other communities, in showing concern for other people's welfare not just their own. That's the model that I've always tried to espouse in my activism, and I think that's what works for us.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:50:00] We can't expect someone else to care about our needs, unless we show that we care about their needs as well. That's the way forward for all of us.
Michael Brewer: Okay.
Nancy Nangeroni: We should talk about GenderTalk at some point.
Michael Brewer: [00:50:30] Yes, okay. Tell me who was Lynn Conway and what things ... Do you know Lynn Conway, and what things you have in common?
Nancy Nangeroni: I don't really want to talk about Lynn Conway. I don't think I do know who Lynn Conway is. I do know who Lynn Conway is, I'm certainly aware of the work that she's done,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:51:00] but I don't have any experience with her that I can really talk about. So I would leave that out.
Michael Brewer: Okay. There was a person [inaudible].
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, there's a lot of other people I'd rather talk about.
Michael Brewer: You talk in your article about conservative transgender figures in the media and also non-conservative transgender portrayals. You mentioned Laverne Cox in the second category.
Michael Brewer: [00:51:30] Could you talk about the difference between conservative, and other types of transgender roles.
Nancy Nangeroni: Oh my God. Of course transgender people occupy every place on the political spectrum,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:52:00] and so some people are conservative, some people are liberal. Conservative people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:52:30] I don't know how to talk about conservative trans people without being judgmental. I'm not an expert on conservative transgender people. I know that in my early years when I was going to lots of conferences, there were a lot of very deeply closeted crossdressers, and people who were very well-off financially, who had a lot to lose.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:53:00] So there was a tension between those who like myself, who were willing to put themselves at risk, and those who were not. My supposition is that the conservative folks are less willing to take risk, and less willing to advocate for significant social change. Maybe less concerned with issues of social justice, but that's not really comfortable territory for me.
Natalie Tsui: [00:53:30] There was a plane.
Michael Brewer: It's all from a distance. I think we could ... no.
Natalie Tsui: I can hear it in the ... its like a very low frequency, but its ...
Michael Brewer: Okay, well since we're on that, what do you think of Caitlyn Jenner?
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:54:00] Caitlyn Jenner is an interesting case in point, she is certainly a person of tremendous privilege. I'm thrilled that conservatives have someone who can speak to them in their language, makes sense to them. Caitlyn Jenner is very much about a binary kind of gender, she's not somebody who is out to disrupt gender norms near as I can tell.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:54:30] She wants to be a woman in a very conventional sense, which is great for her, and I applaud her for her void of discovery and self-discovery. Her show that she did was actually pretty good, and I applaud her for having the trans activists that she had on her program. She had trans women of color,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:55:00] she had Kate Bornstein who is about as radical a person that you'll see in mainstream media I think. I think she did a good thing there, so I think her heart is in the right place. It's a big tent and everyone is welcome.
Okay, well said. Okay. I'm just [inaudible]. I'm going to go around a couple of more, and then we're going to get to things we do definitely want to talk about.
Michael Brewer: [00:55:30] Well, you talked about three things that had an effect on shaping who you are. You talked about your parents civil rights work, you talked about the motorcycle accident, and that was right the way you put ... it seemed to me that there is a silver lining behind [inaudible].
Nancy Nangeroni: Exactly.
Michael Brewer: Then Yvonne Cook-Riley.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:56:00] Yvonne Cook-Riley. Yvonne Cook-Riley was a director of operations at the International Foundation for gender education, and she was a stalwart for the organization and for that community. She was number two, she wasn't the one who wrote brilliant Op-eds and articles, but she was the first one who said to me, when you come out and when you decide to transition,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:56:30] are you going to, or I should say when you come out, are you going to exit the closet on one side of the hall, only to go in the closet on the other side of the hall. When you transition are you going to disappear and become a woman that nobody knows is trans, or are you going to remain visible as trans. That was really, really important to me, and has really been a guiding principle for me ever since.
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:57:00] I'm much more comfortable if people know that I'm trans, but Yvonne was somebody who spent countless hours on the phone with desperate trans people, who called in to IFGE for help. Yvonne was incredibly generous, and she was also a spiritual leader. She was one of the early people to be honoring
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:57:30] and looking into the connections between alternative gender, and Native American spirituality. Also, Yvonne along with Holly Boswell, was one of the first to advocate for a non-surgical transition. Yvonne lived as a woman but she did not have sex resignment surgery, and that was really key to opening up a space
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:58:00] for more diversity in gender, and more diversity within the trans community. She was somebody, Holly Boswell was actually more ... Holly was very well spoken, and wrote many articles about these things. I happened to be physically close to Yvonne. Yvonne was in Waltham and I was in Cambridge, and so I got to spend a lot of time with Yvonne. She had a big effect on me that way,
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:58:30] but she really helped me move my thinking from beyond transition as moving from man to woman, to instead moving into a gender space that where I gave myself freedom just to be myself, not limited by what a man or a woman is supposed to be.
Michael Brewer: Okay. I hear terms like someone can live [inaudible], or someone ...
Michael Brewer: [00:59:00] the other term, and it's escaping me now, but basically living passing or fitting in. So why is it important to you to also embrace who you are, and to be out there as an activist?
Nancy Nangeroni: My mother once asked me, this is a couple of years after I transitioned, when are you going to start being Nancy
Nancy Nangeroni: [00:59:30] and stop being transgender? When you're going to just start being Nancy? I told my mom, I said mom, I'm much more fortunate. I'm in a much better position than most transgender people, and it's really important for there to be visible transgender people in the world. Because of my privilege, I can do it with relative safety,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:00:00] so it's really important for me to be visible as transgender so that people out there know that they have met and spoken with a transgender person. They didn't devolve into some terrible lifestyle, nothing terrible happened, the earth continued to turn, everything continued as before. I'm far more comfortable when people know me as transgendered,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:00:30] because then I'm not confronted with when somebody mentions something about the past, or something okay do I need to out myself as trans now so that I can speak honestly about my childhood, do I want to disrupt this conversation with that coming-out story that I'm going to have to tell in order to tell this. I can't tell you how many times in conversation when I've made that decision, yes I need to out myself in order to speak honestly here.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:01:00] Then the other person has just glazed over, and the conversation has for all intents and purposes ended. I'm just much more comfortable if people know up front that I'm transgender. I will deal with whatever consequences come. Fortunately, most people in their hearts are good people, and especially the whole time I was coming out I was very careful
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:01:30] to show compassion for other people in their reaction. So people aren't responsible for how they were brought up in gender. A lot of people were raised with terrible strict gender ideals,, and it's very very upsetting for them to move outside of those gender norms, and it's not their fault that they were raised that way. I always tried to show compassion for other people's response to me being transgender,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:02:00] going to cause some people some discomfort, things go a lot better people really appreciate it when I say that's okay, whatever your reaction is. So stealth was never really an option for me, just because I was so deeply involved in activism from before the time I transitioned really.
Michael Brewer: What do you think of the political, present day political situation? It's sometimes-
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:02:30] Trump?
Michael Brewer: Seems like you take a step forward, and then things try to move you back.
Nancy Nangeroni: Well you know our country's founders supposedly were geniuses because they set up a system of checks and balances, so things are moving backwards for the transgender community right now, thanks to Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and but they're not moving backwards fast.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:03:00] There's tremendous resistance, we have done a lot of good work over many years, President Obama was besides being the most amazing man, was a wonderful president for our community. I actually got to shake his hand at the White House once, it was quite wonderful, but things ebb and flow. We know that Democrats are going to fight for trans rights, Republicans are generally going to resist them
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:03:30] and try to take things backwards, and so we know that the Democrats don't have an exclusive hold on power, and the things are going to go back and forth. So we're in this game for the long run, and this too shall pass. Donald Trump is not going to be in the White House forever, and you measure progress by not ...
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:04:00] You do measure progress by laws passed, but I've never, legislation has never been my priority. My priority has always been winning people's friendship. My feeling is that the most effective way to do activism is by making friends with people. When you make a friend, then you've won an ally, you've won someone who will say good things about you to other people. So to me that's the bottom line is
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:04:30] are we making friends, and we are making friends. The trans community has more friends than ever before, and Donald Trump may have brought a lot of people who are uncomfortable with transgender people out of the closet. In the long run, that may even work to our advantage. Certainly, the women's movement is much stronger since Donald Trump took office, and so hopefully the same will be true for the whole queer community.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:05:00] You have to take a long view of these things. Laws are great, they really make a difference, but what really counts is what's in people's minds, and so that's what's most important.
Michael Brewer: Okay. What is something you needed or wanted, that you didn't have in your formative years?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:05:30] Something I, I don't remember what I wrote on this. I probably said it's all about community and support, and identity. In my early years I didn't have any support for the side of me that identified with femininity and womanhood. I didn't have any community that I felt like consisted of people like me,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:06:00] and so those are things that are now available to young people in a lot of places. They're not available to young people universally, but we've made a lot of progress, and there's a lot of young people who grew up with those things, and that's a great thing. I was very much out on my own when I was young, and so that was probably the most defining thing about my early experience.
Michael Brewer: [01:06:30] How do you feel being, it's not like this is your end, there's change that's happening around the world, with acceptance, and just ability, and just knowledge. How do you feel being an integral part of that and seeing it happen in your life?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:07:00] I have been so lucky. I feel like an incredibly fortunate person. I sure went through hell for a while, I went through craziness but I came out the other side as someone who made a difference in an area that I never thought I would actually be able to make a difference. I was able to change the way society views gender and transgender people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:07:30] I can't imagine, I never imagined that I would have that kind of satisfaction in my lifetime. That is the fulfillment of a dream, but it was a dream that I didn't dare dream. I dreamed that I would get to live the life of my choosing, but to actually be part of a world-changing movement.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:08:00] I just feel incredibly fortunate. I'm humbled by it, I am just, I don't know how to express that level of ... I'm just grateful in a bottomless way that I've got to have this experience in my lifetime that I've been able to impact things the way I have.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:08:30] Of course I didn't do it alone, I'm just one part of an army of people who made these changes happen, but these changes are real and they will persist and it is a good feeling.
Michael Brewer: Now tell me how important in helping to make these changes is the media,
Michael Brewer: [01:09:00] and you can also bring in your experience with your radio show, and what that's about.
Nancy Nangeroni: In the early days of transgender activism, our focus was in a large measure on the media, because the media is where people get their information, and the media was not helpful to transgender people. For the longest time, we were portrayed as abnormalities, as freaks, as attention-getting curiosities at best,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:09:30] and as deranged killers at worst. So we worked hard to get good stories in the media about trans people, and we did from time to time, but there was always a certain amount of frustration. The story was never really the way we would tell it, so in 1995, I started a radio program called GenderTalk out of MIT's radio station in Cambridge.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:10:00] We became the leading radio program on transgender issues, probably on gender issues maybe I don't know about that, but the world wide web came online. Around was coming online around that time and within a few years, we had a worldwide listening audience. Gordene MacKenzie joined us in 1999, and as an academic
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:10:30] and author of the book Transgender Nation, she took our program to the next level. We became a voice for our community. Media is so powerful because media goes right into people's homes. It is the dialogue that you have with the general population, it is through the media. The media is the conduit. It's different today, now we have social media so things have changed,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:11:00] but at that time there was no social media really, and so the media was where it was at. So GenderTalk became this vehicle for our activism, for our messages, we finally got to speak in our own voices, we talked with people all over the world. We talked with transgender people in Nepal and Australia, we talked with Australia's first trans Prime Minister, the only trans Prime Minister in Australia to date.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:11:30] [Actually MP, member of Parliament, not Prime Minister] We were a conduit for transgender people all around the world who were alone, who thirsted, who hungered for a voice of sanity, a voice of reason, a voice that made them feel a little less crazy. More like they deserve to be here in the world, and there was a place for them, and that's what we tried to do with GenderTalk and we did it for many years.
Michael Brewer: [01:12:00] What happened?
Nancy Nangeroni: In 2004, two things happened. Number one, we spoke with Barney Frank a couple of times. We interviewed him a couple of times, and he challenged us because the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Washington there was a lot of controversy around trans inclusion, and he was putting forth a bill at that time that did not include trans people and drawing a lot of fire for that,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:12:30] and we spoke with him about it and he said, "Well if you think it's so easy to pass a law that includes trans people, how come you haven't done it here in Massachusetts." I was really taken aback by that, he was right. Also I was in a motor vehicle accident in 2004 that gave me a terrible neck injury, so I was in a lot of pain, a lot of the time. A couple of years later,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:13:00] I decided I just couldn't continue to do the show in pain, it was too much. Also I decided to move into more political activism, and work with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to pass legislation in Massachusetts, to show Barney that we could do it. So we ended GenderTalk, intending to come back and do more radio, because we love doing it and so hopefully we will do it again.
Michael Brewer: [01:13:30] But you have all the archives anyway?
Nancy Nangeroni: We do have the archives, are all online except the first hundred shows or so, but we've got over 400 shows online. So yeah, lots of good stuff.
Michael Brewer: You mentioned that the first transgender Prime Minister of Australia, and I see on different shows the Orange Is the New Black, the show that Jill Soloway, the other show that- Transparent.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:14:00] Transparent, with now disgraced Jeffrey Tambor.
Michael Brewer: We have transgender electrical engineers, we have transgender ... I saw another politician recently in a race that won against her rival.
Nancy Nangeroni: Don't remember her name.
Michael Brewer: Yeah I know that there's transgender doctors. What do you see, whereas before you didn't see all these? Where do you see the future, how do you see the future.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:14:30] The future for transgender people, I'm not the most brilliant person at seeing the future. I'm not, it's funny but I don't know if I've ever been the visionary. I've always ... I really am in my heart an engineer, I'm somebody
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:15:00] who takes pieces and puts them together to make something, and those pieces are often the visions of other people. Moving into the future, I would like to see, I don't know that I can give you a good forward-looking, I don't know that I can predict the future actually.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:15:30] I think that ... yeah I'm sorry, I don't know that I'm a good prognosticator that way. I think there are people who are a lot more visionary than I am who I would defer to on that.
Michael Brewer: Okay. Would you like to see or do you think that there would be more transgender people who are visible in all walks of life?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:16:00] Sure. Yeah, transgender people are becoming more visible, and will become more visible, and it's becoming commonplace really. If you check in to what's going on with kids in school, kids transgenderism it's not a big deal. Kids who have transgender peers, unless they've been stoked by their parents to object and to make trouble about it,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:16:30] for most kids it's just not a big deal. In fact, there's more and more kids now who are identifying as gender queer.So gender queerness seems to be very much an up-and-coming identity, and it makes sense if you declare yourself to be gender queer then what you're saying is I will not be bound by any gender walls. I will not restrict myself based on somebody else's idea of
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:17:00] what someone of my gender should be doing, and to me that's the ideal state that every individual should be free to fulfill their potential in the manner they see fit. Gender should no longer be used as a restriction on what they can do.
Michael Brewer: Let me ask you, why is it important to you to tell your story?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:17:30] My story isn't really important. It's a hard question actually.
Natalie Tsui: There was a car revving just now. Also there's six minutes on the card.
Nancy Nangeroni: Okay. My story isn't really important, what's important it's only important to the extent that
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:18:00] it creates a space for other people to lead their lives without having to go through the things that I went through. So in telling my story, I've always told it with that thought in mind that I went through terrible suffering, my body has lots of injuries and stuff because of the distress that I suffered being a closeted trans person. So I don't want anyone else to have to go through that,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:18:30] and so if telling my story helps people avoid that, then I want to tell my story. The truth is, there are other stories that are so much more important than mine, which is why people like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have become such important spokespeople for our community, because they come from communities thatre at greater risk. They are more representative of the people who are bearing the brunt of the burden of transgender identity.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:19:00] There are young people today whose stories need to be told, there are so many stories that need to be told. If I could tell you one story, I would say you need to read everybody's story, you need to hear more stories, more different stories. My story is one of relative privilege and good fortune. There are so many other stories that are more important than mine, and at the same time I'm a human being, I need my story. So there you have it.
Michael Brewer: [01:19:30] What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about coming out?
Nancy Nangeroni: Do it, don't delay. Longer you wait, the worse it is, but oh yeah. Sorry. To anyone who is thinking about coming out, I would say that you need to do it. To not come out is to make it much more difficult to live your life with integrity. It's to be hiding a part of yourself,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:20:00] and that hiding it complicates your mind, it complicates your life, and it makes things more difficult for you. When you come out, sure you might lose something, you might lose a friend or a few friends. You might lose a family member, I lost family members, but I didn't lose it all, and what I gained was so much greater than what I lost. When I came out, I gained a community that I had never had before. I had never had any kind of community,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:20:30] and the transgender community, and the larger queer community has been the best thing that ever happened to me, next to my partner.
Michael Brewer: Tell me about your partner.
Nancy Nangeroni: Well, I met Gordene MacKenzie at a convention in Texas, and our chemistry was incredible, it was so volatile and exciting. We used to call ourselves Molotov and Nitro,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:21:00] that's our nicknames. Gordene is the fulfillment of my lifelong dream to have a partnership of equals, to meet somebody and to have someone who is just as smart as me, and just as capable of as I am, and who also would be a partner in activism. She brings an academic rigor that I never possessed,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:21:30] I was never somebody who wanted to study hard and work hard, and do the research and all of that. Although that has changed actually, but Gordene brings ... I hesitate to say she completes me, but in some ways we're so opposite that we bring to each other tremendous strength that comes from our difference in perspective.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:22:00] She has taught me so much about activism, and feminism, and integrity. Obviously I end up at a loss for words. Partnering with Gordene is just a fulfillment of a lifelong dream, which has been everything I hoped for, and more, and truthfully.
Michael Brewer: [01:22:30] Do you have something that you were celebrating recently?
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, and we, neither of us is really, neither Gordene nor I are really a big fan of marriage. We've seen too much harm done in the name of marriage, but we're very aware of the inheritance issues around
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:23:00] that marriage makes a lot easier. Anyway, Gordene and I recently married, but we called it our legal hitching ceremony, and we held a guerilla ceremony over here in the Rio Grande Nature Center, which does not allow weddings. I talked with them beforehand, because it was only a few people, they turned a blind eye. So we snuck in, and held our little wedding ceremony there. We were officiated by Virginia Stephenson,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:23:30] who is one of New Mexico's leading transgender activists who also happens to be a minister. It was just perfect, and so now we are legally married which is good, but it was never ... We have been committed life partners for almost 20 years, and there's never been a time when we felt like that wasn't going to work out for us. Not that we don't have our struggles, every couple does.
Natalie Tsui: [01:24:00] The card's almost out so I'm going to cut.
Nancy Nangeroni: Oh my God.
Michael Brewer: Say when you're rolling.
Natalie Tsui: Speed.
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, because we talked about day of remembrance, we talked about Rita.
Michael Brewer: Who was Gunner Scott?
Nancy Nangeroni: Gunner Scott was the director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and he was a trans man that I met while we were protesting against Bay Windows,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:24:30] which was New England's largest GLBT newspaper who was being very transphobic. In their coverage of the Rita Hester murder, they refused to use the right pronouns for Rita, and Gunner participated in a demonstration where we marched through the streets and ended up at the offices of Bay Windows with a megaphone which was fun. Gunner went on to help found, he was one of three founders of MTPC,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:25:00] and ended up the other two founders moved on to do other things and he ended up leading the organization, which I joined when I stopped doing GenderTalk.
Michael Brewer: What is the acronym?
Nancy Nangeroni: The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, MTPC, is the leading transgender advocacy organization in Massachusetts. It's based in Boston, founded in 2001.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:25:30] It successfully advocated for passage of a trans protection ordinance in Boston, which was the second in the state. The first was Cambridge that I spearheaded in '97. Gunner Scott was an amazing activist, he was somebody with great vision. He had personally been homeless,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:26:00] and so he knew what it was like to really struggle, and he knew where help was most needed. So I ended up as his number two, and I did everything I could to support him in his work. I became chair of the steering committee for the organization for six years, and we passed a statewide trans non-discrimination ordinance.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:26:30] We ran into a lot of opposition from conservatives who called our bill the Bathroom Bill, and we ended up with the last-minute compromise. We had to accept passage of the bill without inclusion of coverage in public accommodations, because of these Bathroom Bill opponents. We ended up having to conduct a separate struggle
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:27:00] over a period of four years to pass another piece of legislation, including public accommodations protections for transgender people. The whole idea of Bathroom Bills has become a big deal nationally. North Carolina, North Carolina passed a bill, an egregious bill
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:27:30] that fortunately has been mostly rescinded, but people are very uncomfortable with the idea of transgender people in bathrooms. People are used to segregating people by sex for bathroom use, and there's a lot of concern about that. There was a similar concern in the early days of the gay movement, the gay and lesbian movement, that gays and lesbians were going to be in their locker rooms and bathrooms, and going to be perverting their kids.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:28:00] There's also similar concern back in the civil rights days that people of color in our bathrooms we're going to cause trouble, and they're going to put us all at risk. So this fighting of fair treatment of all people has a long history, and the anti trans Bathroom Bill propagandists are just the latest incarnation. They too will go down in time.
Michael Brewer: [01:28:30] Okay. What would you regard as the most significant changes in the trans community and the LGBTQ community today, compared to way in the past?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:29:00] The biggest change for transgender people is the establishment of a legitimate transgender identity, so the fact that one can now say, I am transgender and be treated with respect, is a huge change. There was no such thing in the past and to be transgender was to be a subject of great suspicion, so to have widespread support for being transgender, it was unthinkable 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. Anyway,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:29:30] I don't know how to properly contextualize the drama of that change for transgender people. It's, I don't know of any good parallel but, it is a dramatic sea change to be considered to be a legitimate member of society, rather than some shady pervert or something.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:30:00] The fact that transgender people are getting elected to office, and are able to be out and occupying positions of respect throughout society, is a huge change. That means that there are role models now for kids who are growing up trans, and that was something that didn't exist when I was growing up. There was nothing like that. So that's the biggest change.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:30:30] Within the queer community, trans people were very suspect 30 years ago. We were a threat to GL, or to gay and lesbian liberation and respect, and so it took a long time for trans people to earn their fair place in the queer movement if you will. That's all happened
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:31:00] and it was done, patience in some places and impatience and others, but it's very exciting to be a full member of society, and to be able to be out and proud.
Michael Brewer: Okay, very good.
Michael Brewer: [01:31:30] What would you say is the most important underlying reasons for the progress that the LGBT community has made?
Nancy Nangeroni: Underlying reason for the progress.
Michael Brewer: I'm just thinking, was it things weren't given, necessarily given. Maybe you had to protest, you had to fight for your rights.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:32:00] I think the progress that the GLBT community made was inevitable. It's really the result of a lot of individual efforts, a lot of commitment by individuals, a lot of sacrifice.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:32:30] People had to be willing to stand up, and put themselves at personal risk. People much braver than I am stood up, and marched, and agitated for recognition of what gay, and lesbian, and bi, and trans people were suffering. The progress is just the result of a lot of individual efforts.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:33:00] Sometimes people think of movements as a great leader emerges, and everybody rallies behind them, but I think as much as we celebrate our leaders in the trans community, and the larger queer community, I think that what has been more important is the very grassroots nature of the movement.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:33:30] It's the individual who decides to come out at work, or to come out to their family, they're the ones who make the movement really happen. That's the level that feeds, that's what empowers people in positions of leadership. You can't lead it if people won't follow and for me as a leader, I've always thought of my leadership to the extent that I'm a leader, and I don't claim to be some great leader, but I always think of it more like figuring out
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:34:00] which direction people are moving and getting in front of them, and facilitating. So for me it's more about facilitating people getting what they want, like the Rita Hester thing. I never imagined that we were going to have a candlelight vigil. All I knew was that I arranged for a place for the community to get together and decide what to do, and I facilitated people in coming to the conclusion of what we're going to do, and when we're going to do it. For me,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:34:30] my role is as a facilitator to the extent that I can't, because I'm fortunate to be in a position to have the skills to do that facilitation, but it's really all the individuals out there that have made this movement happen. It's built on, the feminist movement built on the civil rights movement, and it's built on almost a tradition of progressivism if you will,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:35:00] that our society is moving forward towards greater respect for individuality, and that's a great thing. I would like to think that the transgender movement, is just one more aspect of respect for individuality.
Michael Brewer: Okay. I was just thinking, you mentioned that your partner is visiting the Middle East.
Nancy Nangeroni: She's in Egypt.
Michael Brewer: [01:35:30] Egypt and you elected not to go. What is that about? Then would you like to see in the future where ... It seems like some countries still need to get on board.
Well, we know that there are a lot of places in the world where women are not treated as equal citizens, and transgender people are treated as even less than.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:36:00] There are still people in those countries who identify as trans, and of course there are women everywhere who live in subjugation, and so-
Michael Brewer: [inaudible] specific, than this example.
Nancy Nangeroni: For Egypt? Yeah. My partner is in Egypt right now and I elected not to go with her, in part because I don't have her same degree of interest,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:36:30] but also in part because I felt like I would be at great risk, and we would be at risk as two women. If I passed as a woman, will be at risk as a lesbian couple. If I didn't pass as a woman, then I would be at risk as a transgender person, so I felt like traveling to Egypt was just a risk that I wasn't willing to take. It wasn't important to me to go there,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:37:00] she had a friend to go with so who is also an Egyptophile or whatever, but yeah. Whenever Gordene and I consider international travel, we have to consider is this place going to be safe for us. I'm not a big risk taker I guess anymore. I was once, but not anymore and I don't feel like
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:37:30] putting myself at risk in a country that I'm not familiar with, where I could get in trouble for doing something as simple as holding my partner's hand, or kissing her, or just for being who I am. It's unfortunate, but the world is changing. The world is changing, and it doesn't surprise me that there's an East,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:38:00] that there's a lot of difficulty between East and West between very conservative ideologies that subjugate women and liberal ideologies, that believe in the potential of every individual, and that there's a drama that is going to play out there.
Michael Brewer: Okay, I'm just going to skip around a couple of times.
Nancy Nangeroni: Be my guest.
Michael Brewer: [01:38:30] Just make sure that we cover these things. Now you went to MIT as an engineer, is there a good old boy system of engineers, or was there acceptance? The other thing too is I saw a picture of you, and I thought was it in an ice rink, with the MIT?
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, I played hockey at MIT. Yeah, there's a lot there.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:39:00] I attended MIT as a guy, and I played hockey there. Played varsity hockey eventually and I couldn't have ... When I was at MIT I didn't even think about transition or anything like that, everything went on the back burner while I was there, I had more pressing concerns. My engineering career was ended by the accident
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:39:30] I suffered in 2004, and so my career changed a lot when I transitioned. I used to love work as much as technology has its limitations. I used to basically make all my friendships at work,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:40:00] so I depended on work for friendship as well as for my work. I was a single person, and so my life centered around my work. When I transitioned everything changed, all of a sudden work became a very uncomfortable place for me. I remember I left the job where I'd been working, because it was really pretty uncomfortable. Even though people tried not to discriminate against me,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:40:30] that didn't remove the discomfort. I thought maybe I'd do better in a job where they hadn't known me as my male persona, but it didn't really ... I never really found a comfortable work situation after that. It really changed things for me. There is no old guy network I think, engineering is a terrible profession honestly.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:41:00] I think it's very ageist, and so there are not a lot of older engineers. Most engineers leave the profession long before retirement age at least in my experience, although perhaps I'm skewed by my interest in startup companies. I liked the excitement of working for start-up companies, and I liked having a lot of responsibilities.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:41:30] In the company where I transitioned, one of the guys who I had hung around with came up to me one day and said, "Gosh, you must be the only transsexual ever to have come from MIT." I told him, "You know actually, there are more transsexuals in engineering than in other professions." People who are trans tend to gravitate to professions
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:42:00] where they don't have to deal with other people quite so much, and engineering of course being one of those. So it's funny engineering is a haven for trans people, and at the same time for me it was not a comfortable place. Although I miss it at the same time, I had a kind of a love-hate relationship with it.
Michael Brewer: [01:42:30] Were you a good hockey player? You made varsity?
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah. Was I a good hockey player? Is that what you said? No I wasn't a good hockey player, I was an okay hockey player. I was good enough to make the varsity team, but you got to understand, MIT's hockey team wasn't very good in those days. They may be better now, but I remember losing to a high school team when we were. It's probably while I was playing junior varsity,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:43:00] but yeah we had a terrible coach until my senior year. We finally got a good coach, and we started winning a few games, but yeah, I was okay. I was a good skater. There was a TV show that did a special on transgender, and they called a transgender revolution, it's back in '97 and they did a segment of me rollerblading and stuff. They focused on me for one segment, and had some beautiful footage of me rollerblading which was fun. I enjoy skating.
Michael Brewer: [01:43:30] Okay. Couple other things. Let me ask you about ... How do you feel about, there's been a couple of movies, and TV shows, where non transgender actors are playing transgender roles, how do you feel, or what do you think about that?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:44:00] I know a lot of people get up in arms about non-trans people playing trans roles.
Michael Brewer: [inaudible] film and TV.
Nancy Nangeroni: All right, okay. In film or TV, there have been a number of productions now where non-trans actors play trans people. I guess I would say that if there had been lots of employment for trans actors,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:44:30] I would have no issue with non-trans actors playing trans roles, if trans actors got to play non-trans roles as well as trans roles. We're in the early days of trans acceptance, and it's great if we can have trans people play trans roles, but they're actors. They're pretending to be something they're not, and so I can't really go to the mat arguing that only trans people should play trans roles.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:45:00] Then I would have to say trans people could only play trans roles, and we don't want that either. I'm just not a big fan of getting up in arms about one thing or another.
Michael Brewer: Okay, let's cut that.
Nancy Nangeroni: It's always unfortunate when an actor doesn't do a good job playing their role, and it's especially unfortunate
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:45:30] when its a non-trans actor playing a trans role. When you're out there advocating for transgender dignity, and a non-trans actor comes along and plays into stereotypes and bad behavior, it's not helpful. So definitely, but at the same time, there have been so many producers and actors who have just bent over backwards to do a good job. Felicity Huffman did such a wonderful job in her role many years ago.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:46:00] I forget the name of the movie, and then to be embarrassed at the Academy Awards was to be shamed for having played that role was incredibly egregious, but generally most people are going to try to do the right thing. It's only those who are out to make a quick buck, who are going to play to the stereotypes, and we know who they are.
Michael Brewer: [01:46:30] You mentioned before that in engineering, it's usually a young person's profession, and I have a list of things, we talked about things that in the trans community in terms of violence, and bullying and other things, is there ageism in the LGBT or specifically in the trans community? Is that an issue?
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:47:00] I don't think that ageism is particularly an issue, not that I've seen in LGBT community. I know that from the start when I first got involved in the community, we respected our elders and we listened to them. I had such respect, and I'm not just talking about me, there was a lot of respect, and I think there is.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:47:30] I don't feel that I get discriminated against because of my age in the LGBT community. Of course the young kids have tremendous energy, and they're going to be racing along, and I'm not going to keep up with them in every pursuit, and that's okay. I feel that I'm valued for what little wisdom I can bring to the table, and there's great organizations like SAGE, the senior action in a gay environment.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:48:00] I think that's the acronym, but there are organizations that are working to help GLBT seniors. I feel visible and respected in the GLBT community, and maybe that I don't get out enough, but I feel good about it. I love the queer community, I have to say sure there's bad actors everywhere,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:48:30] but I just I love queer folks. It's a great family, I'm proud to be a member and there's no place I'd rather be.
Michael Brewer: Okay. What is hyper-sexualization?
Nancy Nangeroni: What is ... Hyper-sexualization is I think,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:49:00] and I'm no expert on this, but there are some people out there who look at trans people as sort of the ultimate in kink. I think that there are some people who can only think about sex when they think about trans people. There are some people who can only think about our genitals, I like to call them bathroom heads, but there are some people
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:49:30] who just can't get their focus anywhere else than on your sexuality. There's unfortunately,sex is a commodity that is bought and sold in our culture beyond any reasonable measure, and some people view trans people, trans women in particular as hyper sexual.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:50:00] There's no justification for that other than the fact that it's people's imaginations, and it's where they go. I'm no expert on these things though.
Michael Brewer: Okay, let's see. Well, is there a difference between,
Michael Brewer: [01:50:30] you're from the East Coast, you've been to the West Coast, it seems to me that there is a lot of, in the early days, a lot of activism on the East Coast. Is there any difference between the trans community between the East Coast and the West Coast? I know that folks in general say that LA or California is more laid back, that they focus on more in tune with what's going on, the news or that kind of things.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:51:00] Again, I'm sorry, but I did live on the West Coast for a long time, but I was very closeted when I lived there, so I had no connection with community when I was out there. I've had limited connection, there's a lot of great activists on the West Coast, there's a lot of great activists on the East Coast.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:51:30] My experience in activism has been almost exclusively East Coast, so I can't really draw a meaningful comparison. Sorry. People used to ask me when I first transitioned they would ask me, "What's the difference? What's it like being a woman?" My initial response was well, people opened doors for me, they're really nice to me.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:52:00] At first that's how it was, but in time I came to think very differently about it. My experience isn't exactly that of a woman, because I'm very out as trans, but in general in public, it's very different being treated as a woman and being treated as a man. As a man, people assumed that I was capable, whereas a woman, people assumed that I needed to be taken care of, or that I'm incapable and that was an observation that wasn't immediately obvious to me for what it's worth.
Michael Brewer: [01:52:30] What do you think this project OUTWORDS, and do you think it's a ... What do you think about this project that OUTWORDS is going? Use OUTWORDS projects in this.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:53:00] It's great for a project like OUTWORDS to be there to be capturing our history as a community, to be capturing first-person testimony from people who have been out there, either in the public eye or doing activism. It's important to remember our stories. We may be one of the first communities to have this kind of
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:53:30] detailed testimony to our past. One of the things that I've grieved over a little bit in my life is my lack of connection with my past. My family, my connection with family was disrupted by my transition, and even my family doesn't have that much connection with its past. So capturing our history, capturing our people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:54:00] and having something tangible to communicate about our past forward, is I think of tremendous value. It will give the people who come after us something that we didn't have, which I think will be really life-changing.
Michael Brewer: Okay, very good. I'm going to open it up also to Natalie.
Natalie Tsui: Well there's one technical-
Michael Brewer: [01:54:30] So Natalie is going to ask you a question, but again just-
Nancy Nangeroni: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: There's actually one technical question that I want to ... or one that I want to get again for ... because we got a couple before the earing, so I'm like if we could just quickly go through those again. It's like your name, and then a little bit about your childhood.
Nancy Nangeroni: My name is Nancy Nangeroni, and I grew up in Milton, a suburb of Boston. I lived in a house with two and a half acres, so I got to spend lots of time outdoors,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:55:00] which was wonderful. My family was very conventional Catholic, was a very white suburb. It was a large family, I had lots of brothers and sisters around, Christmases and holidays were always a lot of fun. I did not have a lot of friends growing up, I was isolated in I think in large part,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:55:30] because I felt so different from everyone else. I had at my core, I knew I had this need to live as a woman, and it wasn't the question of whether or not I was going to live as a woman someday, it was a question of when. I tolerated my childhood by making myself that promise, that once I grew up and became an adult and was on my own, that I would then pursue for myself that transition that I couldn't undertake when I was young.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:56:00] But I knew from the early age that that was what I needed to do. It was just something that I couldn't share with anybody. Looking back I have nothing but respect for those people, especially young people whose families aren't accepting who come out to their families, and kids who get thrown out of their homes for coming out as transgender,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:56:30] kids who end up on the street, who end up as easy prey for predators. I have nothing but respect for their integrity in declaring themselves Trans, and in living their lives as they see fit. I was somebody who didn't have integrity, I lived a lie in some sense for a long time.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:57:00] I have nothing but sympathy and respect for people who suffer for their choice to live with integrity.
Michael Brewer: What's the process that trans people grow to accept themselves?
Nancy Nangeroni: I think the process for most trans people is learning about other trans people. When you're trans-
Michael Brewer: Say the process of.
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:57:30] Sorry. Take a breath for a second.
Michael Brewer: Okay. I don't want to put in words, but I would say, "Sometimes trans people have to lie to the point we're of acceptance of themselves, and sometimes it starts with ..."
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:58:00] I think most trans people need to find a way to accept themselves, because we exist in a non-trans society, and it's a society without a lot of trans visibility. So for many if not most trans people, I think that self-acceptance ... There are some kids who are just very clear, I'm a boy, I'm a girl,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:58:30] contrary genitals notwithstanding. There are some kids who are just resolute in that from the beginning, but there are a lot of us trans folk who needs something to help us arrive at a place of comfort with our identity. That I think comes most often from community, from other transgender people, whether it's reading a story in a book, seeing a story on TV, or in the movies, or actually meeting and talking with other transgender people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:59:00] or from our parents. In many cases, wonderful parents reach out to trans community, and learn for themselves, and then help their trans children. I think it is mostly the trans people who have come before, who blazed the trail for most people like myself, who don't have that clarity about self-identity. There are individuals who have that clarity,
Nancy Nangeroni: [01:59:30] and they always amaze me. I have a friend, Alejandro Marcel, a female-to-male trans man and he says, "I always knew I was a man from the earlier stage." That always amazes me, I never knew I was a woman. I just knew I needed to live as one, and that's different. It's just one of the many different flavors of being transgender that are out there.
Michael Brewer: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: I still have some questions.
Michael Brewer: Go ahead.
Natalie Tsui: [02:00:00] Another question I have is, you're talking a lot about community and feel like it has with concept of a chosen family, so I was wondering if you could talk about your chosen family, and also where your hope is for your chosen prodigy?
Nancy Nangeroni: Okay. Neither Gordene nor I ever wanted to have kids.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, that's [inaudible].
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:00:30] I know, I just had to say that. For me, family is a complicated subject and really community is my chosen family, because the folks in in the queer community, I resonate with other queer folks in a way that I've never resonated with my family. Chosen family, for those of us
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:01:00] who feel a certain amount of alienation, although I love my brothers and sisters and they love me, but still, chosen family is at the heart of our lives. When I think about holiday celebrations, I think about chosen family, I think about the LGBT people that I know and love, and non LGBT people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:01:30] but chosen people among whom I feel comfortable in my identity that I don't have to justify or defend myself. As I said before, a community to me was an unexpected surprise, and delight, and something that gave me a life that I'd never had previously. They gave me a quality of life
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:02:00] that I had never enjoyed previously. The queer community, I'm sorry I'm running out of words. Gordene and I never wanted to have kids, neither of us. I felt like when I was younger, I felt like I was such a big pervert, that I didn't want to bring other kids into the world,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:02:30] that I didn't want to mess them up. Now that I'm older and know that the sickness wasn't mine, it was the culture, now it's a little bit late for me. I'm just as glad I didn't have kids though. There's plenty of people in the world, but Gordene and I, we love our family. Our family is chosen, and they play as important a role in our lives as any other family.
Michael Brewer: [02:03:00] What's your relationship with your parents though?
Nancy Nangeroni: No, my parents-
Michael Brewer: Would you just tell me the relationship with your older family.
Nancy Nangeroni: My siblings?
Michael Brewer: Yeah, yeah.
Nancy Nangeroni: My siblings. I have a good relationship with many of my siblings, some not so much but
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:03:30] mostly I get along really well with my sisters. I have one brother who was amazingly supportive when I transitioned, he's a violinist, but he lives on the other side of the country now, so I don't see him much. I have a very good relationship with my sisters. It's very loving, we don't see a lot of each other, we're not close geographically, and so we see each other occasionally, but we have a great time when we do.
Michael Brewer: [02:04:00] I was thinking, just like society in general becomes more educated, and more interaction with people who are different than them and accepting, is that something that also happens within the family?
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, some parts my family started out very accepting and stayed that way.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:04:30] I can't say that there ... Strangely enough there hasn't been a lot of change in my family down through the years. There's a few who aren't accepting, there's a sister-in-law in particular who was problematic, and that hasn't changed. The ones who are accepting always were, and you think there would be some evolution, but there wasn't.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:05:00] My parents when I came out to them, my father in particular, I figured as a guy, transitioning to living as a woman that this would be very embarrassing for my father that this would be very difficult for him, and he was a saint. When I came out to him, not only did he express just unreserved acceptance, but he asked me what I was going to do with it.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:05:30] He challenged me to do something, to be an activist about it, and I thought that was just wonderful, just an amazing, amazing level of support.
Michael Brewer: Good. I know you had another one.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, I did, but it kind of escapes me. Okay, so leading up to your motor cycle accident, I think you were saying that you were in a dark phase, I was wondering if you could just elaborate on that a little bit
Natalie Tsui: [02:06:00] and maybe give advice to people who are in a similar place. Because if someone might be watching this maybe it would be good to hear that story and ... like what you wish you knew now, or then that you know now.
Nancy Nangeroni: Well, I'll see what I can do with it. So prior to my motorcycle accident, I was in a very difficult place. I was very, very unhappy,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:06:30] I just didn't see any way that my life was going to work out okay. I was very, very unhappy. The worst part of it all was that I turned it on myself, I blamed myself for who I was, and how I felt, and I was wrong in that. It took a terrible, terrible accident to shock me out of that.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:07:00] It changed my relationship with other people, but I think maybe the most important thing for people who are struggling with these kinds of issues is don't blame yourself. It's not your fault, it's our fault, it's the culture's fault that we have made you feel so terrible, that we've made you feel so out of place. It's the culture's fault that there isn't a place for you,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:07:30] that there isn't a place where you feel comfortable, where you feel loved and valued for who you are, without having to hide anything about yourself. So please for those people who are feeling that way, just know it's not your fault. It's the culture that's not right, and you should love yourself. My mom used to say, you can't love anyone until you could love yourself, but she never told me how to love myself.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:08:00] She had no idea what I was struggling with, but if you're struggling with something like this, the most important thing, blame somebody else, anybody but yourself.
Michael Brewer: Good advice.
Natalie Tsui: Right, that's good.
Michael Brewer: Any more?
Natalie Tsui: I think that's it for me.
Michael Brewer: Is there anything that you haven't talked about but you'd like to?
Nancy Nangeroni: No, no. I'm drawing a blank at this point.
Michael Brewer: Okay. You said before that there were three stages.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:08:30] Yeah, well it's funny because my life is really divided itself into these almost discrete segments. There's the pre motorcycle accident time, then there's when I was out there on my own, and very, very lonely. I used to watch Clint Eastwood movies and imagine I was Clint Eastwood at High Plains drifter, just out there totally on my own and crazy.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:09:00] Then after my motorcycle accident, everything changed. There was this long period of time when I felt loved and cared for, and I was coming out, and people were very, very accepting and I got involved in activism, and was successful everything is wonderful. Then I met Gordene, and with Gordene things went to a new level, a much smarter, much more informed activism.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:09:30] Also, when you take on a partner, unless your partner is just like you, you're going to learn a lot of things and you're going to change a lot as a person. I've changed a lot since becoming partners with Gordene, so it feels like a third part of my life, a different part. Sometimes I actually have trouble remembering the difference, what it was like to be that other person, because I feel like I've changed so much down through the years.
Michael Brewer: [02:10:00] So, how about the fourth level, or with the future. Or are you, is it once an activist always an activist, or what do you see for your future?
Nancy Nangeroni: For my future? Well, so moving forward from this point, I hope to be able to continue this work. I've just been invited to join the board of the transgender Resource Center of New Mexico
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:10:30] and so I'm looking forward to getting involved again here in Albuquerque. I'm hopeful that we'll do another radio show. Gordene and I both have big mouths, and we love using them, and we enjoy doing radio, so hopefully we'll get back into that. I'm working on a memoir, it's closing in on completion,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:11:00] so I actually hope to be able to do a little touring and some reading of that, I would really enjoy that. That would be really fun, I love meeting people and I love getting out there, but the radio show is to me wonderful because we get to invite whoever we want to come on and tell us about their particular expertise. It's just a wonderful way to learn from the horse's mouth.
Michael Brewer: [02:11:30] Would it be different at all from your other-
Nancy Nangeroni: From GenderTalk? No, I don't think it would be terribly different, I don't know. The transgender movement is in a very different place. When we were doing GenderTalk, we were the only thing out there, except for a couple of little program, little local programs, we were the only international program at all. Today, there's a lot of transgender acceptance,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:12:00] but some of the same problems, the rate of murders of transgender people has not gone down at all. That continues to be a terrible problem, so the need is still out there, no one has found an effective way to address it. Maybe a radio show would help, certainly education is always a good idea, so we can only hope.
Michael Brewer: [02:12:30] Okay. Let me just make sure that everything is ... We touched up on binary and non-binary.
Nancy Nangeroni: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael Brewer: Well let me ask you this, there's a lot that is going on in the African American community like the Black Lives Matter and different things against police brutality.
Michael Brewer: [02:13:00] A lot of folks are saying especially they have this, I remember there was recent political election in Alabama and folks were saying ... A lot of times folks that even with this administration, that white women even though they may be feminists or basically they're the ones who supported-
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:13:30] They voted Trump.
Michael Brewer: They voted Trump, and so folks are saying that it may take those people to have a change of heart in order to help issues with Africa Americans. Do you see that also with the trans?
Nancy Nangeroni: The trans community? I try to make it a habit of thought to
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:14:00] not break people down into demographics, and so I don't think in terms of segments of the population and all. I think the trans community moving forward just need ... The thing that I think is most important moving forward is that we remember that community, and collaboration, and respect for individuals, is the most important thing we do.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:14:30] It's vital that we not lose that message that we not get into power struggles that we not get into divisiveness over individual issues and such. So I think as long as we remember that the change we make is most lasting if we make it in a positive way, rather than in a negative. It's not helpful to force people in the long run.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:15:00] I'm saying it's not helpful to force people to treat you okay. In the long run I think what works better is if we win people's hearts and minds, as they talk about it, it's fairly clich, but I think it's true. I think if we win people over as friends, then we've created something lasting. If we pass a law that says you have to treat me a certain way,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:15:30] I think that's very helpful on an immediate basis, for people who are being mistreated today. It drives the forces of divisiveness underground, it drives the hatred underground, and so I don't think that that is the same level of solution as when we win friends. I think that we need to educate people who are racist,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:16:00] we need to educate people who are misogynist, but that education can't take the form of you must think this way, you must believe this way. We need to approach people in a way that allows them to open up to an appreciation of the value and the beauty of every individual. That allows them to recognize that their preconceived notions of the limitations of someone else,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:16:30] based on some characteristic like skin color, or sex, or transgender nature, we need to invite people and allow people to open themselves to that acceptance, to that understanding. It really is ... Back in the 90s we had an organization called the Transgender Menace, and we used to call it a disorganization, because it wasn't really an organization,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:17:00] it was more like an idea. The Trans, excuse me the Transexual Menace, the Transexual Menace, the demonstrations, we would have demonstration would be wearing our T-shirts, but our motto was confronting with love. When we held demonstrations, we were not angrily shouting, and we were not denouncing things that we were opposed to, we were talking in positive terms. Talking about the value of people, talking about transgender people being good people and so forth,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:17:30] and I think that personally in my experience, that's the most productive way to approach all change. I think that the Black Lives Matter, is a perfect example of that. It's not saying racists are jerks, it's saying our lives have innate beauty, and have value, and that's what makes a movement happen, and the Black Lives Matter is a brilliant example of that.
Michael Brewer: [02:18:00] All right. Okay. Again, I'm going to ask you, is there anything that we haven't touched on that comes to mind?
Nancy Nangeroni: Quickly reviewing my lifetime. We talked about it, and we talked about [inaudible], yeah. See the stuff that's most important to me is the activism, and I'm glad I got to talk about some of the principles behind it. Do you have any questions personally?
Michael Brewer: [02:18:30] How do we normalize the trans community?
Nancy Nangeroni: How do we normalize the trans community? I think President Bill Clinton gave us the answer to how do we best normalize ourselves. He was talking to Human Rights Campaign banquet, and at that time he was talking to a gay and lesbian community. He said you need to get out there and meet people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:19:00] and people need to meet gay folks in order for them to be accepting of gay folks. Likewise with trans folks, the more of us that are out there interacting in a day-to-day fashion, then the more normal it becomes. Normal just means something that happens a lot, and so trans people are becoming more and more normal, and less and less remarkable. I wonder what the next thing is.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:19:30] What comes next after transgender? I Right now we're seeing a Me Too movement around women, and sexual harassment, and that's very exciting to me, and it's all part and parcel of the same thing. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop doing transgender activism, and be helping out with one of these other movements, instead if the trans work,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:20:00] but I carry so little momentum into a movement like that whereas I bring much more to the transgender movement. So I have to make this decision, but it's exciting to see men in positions of power being called out for bad behavior. I just look forward to the day when our president feels the heat.
Michael Brewer: Okay, I think we can ...
Michael Brewer: [02:20:30] okay. Keep rolling. You know what? this documentary, and one of the subjects was female to male transgender. We said that it was remarkable that his father accepted him being gay, but he didn't accept him as being transgender.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:21:00] He accepted her as a lesbian, and not him as a trans man?
Michael Brewer: Right.
Nancy Nangeroni: Yeah, well it's the next step isn't it? I don't think that's a completely unusual thing, that's not the first time I've heard of it. It can be hard for someone, it can be hard especially a parent. As a parent,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:21:30] you want your kids, what a lot of parents say is they are very concerned about the difficulties that their children will face. When a child comes out and tell a parent is gay, parent thinks no this child is going to face terrible discrimination, and God knows what else, and likewise when a child comes out as trans. A lot of parents imagine what this person is going to face, what's going to happen to my child. They hear about violence against trans people,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:22:00] and so being trans I would say is more radical maybe, than being gay. It's a more radical departure maybe from what people are used to thinking about, and so it can be harder for parents to accept a child as trans, than as gay or lesbian. It's certainly no less natural for a person to be. It's a hard one.
Michael Brewer: [02:22:30] Okay, all right.
Natalie Tsui: That's good. We got to get room tone.
Nancy Nangeroni: Okay, quiet.
Michael Brewer: Yeah.
Natalie Tsui: 30 seconds room tone.
(silence)
Natalie Tsui: [02:23:00] We're about 20 seconds, we need like 10 more, sorry.
Michael Brewer: Just keep rolling it. I'm just going to ask one very last thing Natalie.
Natalie Tsui: Okay. Let's just do 10 more seconds of room tone.
(silence)
Natalie Tsui: [02:23:30] Okay. That's good, all right, so go ahead.
Michael Brewer: What is, and I understand that the concept is changing or it's maybe in the whole concept, but what is gender dysphoria?
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:24:00] Gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a discontent with one's assigned gender. The gender that people expect you to be. It's the term that is used to create a medical diagnosis, so that people could be treated with medicine, and surgery for transgender issues.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:24:30] Gender dysphoria is not synonymous with transgenderism, because like I'm not gender dysphoric, I'm perfectly content with my gender these days, but for a long time I was gender dysphoric, because I was discontent with having to live as a man. There's actually a lot of controversy around the term gender dysphoria, because
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:25:00] medical caregivers need some diagnosis in order to prescribe medicine, hormones for transgender people. Those transgender people who desire them which of course doesn't include all transgender people, and for the surgery. So there needs to be a medical diagnosis, because the way our medical system works. In order to obtain insurance coverage for these things, you need a medical diagnosis,
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:25:30] in order to have a diagnosis you need a term. Gender dysphoria is that term. There's a lot of people that feel that it's stigmatizing, and so there's a lot of concern about the way the term gets used. There's good arguments on both sides of that issue, there are a lot of people who benefit from having that diagnosis. It's one of those damn if you do, damn if you don't situations.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:26:00] It's necessary for some people, it's stigmatizing for some others. It's typical of the complexity of our world, where there are not simple answers, there's not a one-size-fits-all answer to any of these issues. We just have to learn to live with that.
Michael Brewer: Okay, all righty. I think we already touched on two, like the medical and health, is it a big concern.
Natalie Tsui: It's [inaudible].
Michael Brewer: [inaudible] wrap it.
Nancy Nangeroni: [02:26:30] It's time.
Natalie Tsui: Okay.

Interviewed by: Michael Brewer
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: February 08, 2018
Location: Home of Nancy Nangeroni, Los Ranchos, NM