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By Josh Watkins
Forty-one percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals attempt suicide at some point in their life. Come November 20, we will be marking the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance—a day created to recognize those who have been murdered because of transphobia, and to shed light on the continued violence that is faced by the transgender community.
Scout Fernandez, a gender-nonbinary individual who uses they/them pronouns, is challenging the social stigmas that surround the transgender community. However, Fernandez didn’t easily come to terms with their own gender identity. When they initially allowed their feelings about gender to surface, Fernandez took to the Internet to find similar people. “I had very little luck, resulting in feeling alone in my identity. The lack of understanding of my own gender pulled me into a deep depression, bringing me closer to becoming part of that 41 percent of trans folks that attempt suicide.”
With a desire to prevent others from being ashamed of who they are or feeling that their identity is invalid, Fernandez created and has begun producing Roaming Gender, a web series that documents the stories of gender-variant people around the world. “It’s a library of experiences that have never been told,” Fernandez says.
Roaming Gender is meant to show people that they’re not alone on their gender journey. The docu-series is a resource for those who may be exploring gender, as well as those seeking more information about gender identity. “I want it to be used as a source of education for those who do not quite understand what trans and gender-nonconforming people experience in our day-to-day lives,” they say.
After doing some research, Fernandez found that although there are resources for binary trans identities, resources for nonbinary trans identities are lacking. “Gender truly is a spectrum, and I want to offer a platform to everyone who would like to share the story of their experience with their gender,” they explain.
Season one of Roaming Gender revolves around eight individuals in Austin, Texas—including Fernandez. The first episode included simple introductory questions such as: “What is your name? What are your pronouns? What is your gender identity? What is your sexual orientation?” The season continues with explorations of gender expression and identity, gender and age, relationships with one’s body, and the evolution of one’s expression. A new episode is released every Thursday.
The immediate goal of Fernandez and the Roaming Gender team is to travel across the United States and Canada to document as many stories as they can. Their long-term goals include gaining nonprofit status, employing the entire Roaming Gender team to go on tour, and documenting the stories of gender-variant individuals from other countries and cultures. “It has already developed so quickly, and so many folks are on board to help make it a reality.
Fernandez advises those in the queer community to trust themselves, even though that can be incredibly difficult when they have no role models. Fernandez also explains how awful it is to see people in the trans community judging and hating each other, and deciding who is not trans enough, or not trans at all. “No one has the right to say who is trans and who is not, other than the person who is experiencing their gender.” Fernandez believes that the last thing the queer community needs is to be torn apart by one another.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance focuses heavily on visibility. To Fernandez, visibility is “being not only seen, but acknowledged. Not only listened to, but heard. Not only accepted, but supported.” It is one thing for people to say that they are accepting of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, but it’s another thing to show support and respect for the transgender community. Fernandez also suggests that those who feel safe openly expressing themselves should utilize their privilege as a platform to help those who may not feel safe sharing their stories.
Fernandez is currently on a North American tour with Roaming Gender’s artistic director, Tori Reynolds. Roaming Gender plans to film in Houston this month, and is looking for submissions from people interested in discussing their journeys with gender. The project accepts all gender identities!
To get involved, stay up-to-date with their tour, and learn more, visit roaminggender.com.
Josh Watkins is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. He’s passionate about social justice and RuPaul’s Drag Race.