Last Saturday, one lucky person was randomly selected to win free airfare and a free conference pass to Gender Odyssey. That winner was Jannette Valdez-Witten. After reading her thank-you note, you’ll surely agree that Jannette is a WINNER in more ways than one!
Dear Gender Odyssey,
I came to know about Gender Odyssey online through an online parent of a trans child. I met my first trans friend Tammy, a Long Dance Sister in Arroyo Grande where I go to a native ceremony each year. Last year’s ceremony was our first to welcome a Trans sister.
When my trans granddaughter disclosed only a few short months ago; I already had a support system in place, people to talk to and fierce allies to help me journey through this process of tolerance and understanding. I was called to duty as a gate keeper for the Pink Saturday Celebration in San Francisco with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as a fund raiser for the Church of Empowerment (to which I am a member). My sister Valerie-Jean Rivera and I went together in honor and memory or our brother Dennis (an avid supporter of the Sisters and pride week) and Cousin Bill and Cousin Anthony, all of whom have passed away. During our stay in the city and during my work, I reached out to and met many trans brothers and sisters and well as non-conformers. I was immediately drawn to them, like family, to my people. I see you. I want to learn and understand you and support you.
So when my granddaughter disclosed her story to me, I was ready to accept and embrace her and her life, and determined and dedicated to do all I can to support her transition and journey to her true self. I like many others had little understanding of the difference between gender identity and sexual preference. I had just assumed I had a gay grandson. What a revelation it was to discover the truth.
I am a 54-year-old grandmother and great-grandmother. I identify as Native American, my family are members of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation and together with my sister served on tribal council years ago. I am of Irish, Mexican, Spanish, and English decent. My immediate family has five generations alive and we are in proud support of our transgender angel. I live in a small community in Central Valley California, where there is not a lot of support or resources for the transgender community here. I know of several who live in silent fear and most move to the Bay area once they get a chance where people are okay to be “out” and live their life.
I am determined to help educate my community and help to promote safety and truth for those who live in fear. I look forward to the end of violence and intolerance towards alternative lifestyles. I am so grateful to have been chosen to attend Gender Odyssey and have my travel paid for! Thank you to the sponsors who provided this for me: Gender Odyssey partners & sponsors like the LGBTQ Task Force, SouthWest Airlines, Aidan Key, Valerie-Jean Rivera. Without all of your support I would not have been able to go!
Aho Mitakuye oyasin (all my relations),