Human Library 2013

Human Library 2013


Let’s give a round of applause for our host so we can start… [clapping] Somebody said it was ok for me to clap… Remember the rule, the books have volunteered their story for you, so remember to respect their story, listen actively, open ears. Ok, so my name is Jamal Brooks ????. Let me just start off by saying whatever questions you all have at the end of me just kind of telling my story, nothing is taboo
nothing is of limits. However you wanna ask is what you wanna ask. So my story kinda starts when I was 16-
years-old and I became sexually active… I’m Irene Kovala. I am the president
here at Glendale Community College in so this is a story of my journey in terms
of how I I got her. Both my mother and dad had eighth grade educations. That’s that most schooling
that they had. My mother cleaned houses for a living so
every day she would go off and clean a house, a different house
every day and that’s what she did. And so together they tried to keep us fed and housed… So my name is Julian and I was born with a female body and from the moment I remember having an opinion to myself that didn’t feel right to me. Year after
year this this feeling a being male got shoved down
deeper and deeper but just because it shoved down doesn’t
mean it goes away. So I absolutely drank and used drugs and alcohol over, well yeah just to not deal with it
like if it would come up that’s something that I didn’t have the tools to deal with it. There was no one to talk to about it. I felt ashamed. You know I think a lot of it’s about
finding community finding others because there’s always we’re human and there’s always going to
be people we can connect with but in that day and age there was no way for me
to know where to go to deal with it so my answer was shove it
down, covered it up and don’t look at it. Maybe it’ll go away… Fast forward a few years, at that point I was still dealing with self-esteem issues, but I became very reckless in my sexual behavior and I became a part of this study that focused on HIV contraction in minority males who had sex with
male population. And so I was involved in
the study for about a year. After a year, I always turned up negative, always turned up negative and then finally my final time that I went, I turned up positive. I tested HIV-positive. And so my reaction initially was not uncommon. I said “no that can’t be. There’s no way I’d be HIV positive .” All these others were negative… Right, right, exactly… About the time when I
was in the fifth grade my parents realized that they did not
have enough income to really sustain us. We had
something called commodities and commodities were US Department of
Agriculture, I call them surplus but, bags a cornmeal bag a flour, lard for cooking, coffee, rice and they came in
brown bags stamped US Department of Agriculture. Powdered milk in order to do that, and
once a month they would go to I don’t remember the location but
they would go once a month and get these commodities, and I remember as a small child being very ashamed that those brown bags came into our home… So I get into these lesbian relationships and in my opinion I was lying to each and
everyone of them because I was saying that I am a lesbian and I’m with you, but in my
mind any intimate situation I felt male. Yeah I felt male. And unbeknownst to them because I don’t think they wanted to be with a man, they identified as lesbian. So needless to
say one after another string of unhealthy,
bad relationships you know my addiction is, I’m on and off
drugs and alcohol. There were times of sobriety and then back into it. So in my early thirties, and I did a lot
of things starting in high school I discovered
lifting weights. I did a lot of things that I tried to do to change what was
happening to my body, so I lifted weights. I did long-distance running, long
distance cycling, played around with diets. So my early
thirties I discovered bodybuilding. And in that, I discovered black-market testosterone, and ya all know
what that is? It’s steroids really. So the one that I picked, I had a
coach and he advised me on how to do it and what to do and I have to say it was awesome. For the first time in my life like my whole life I didn’t like guys, but I’d go “Oh, I wish had that guy’s abs,” or “I wish I had that guy’s chest.” Looking at them, liking what I saw, but not for the reasons my girlfriends
did, right? So I remember I was walking down the
mall and you know the mall has mirrors on the side? So I’d only been on testosterone for about a month and I looked in the mirror and I’m like “Oh, I like that guy…oh my god that’s me!” “Look at me, that’s me!” And I loved what I
saw for the first time in my life. I loved what I saw, but you know I’d have
to say that the lesbians in the community as in at the time did not love
what they saw too much. I think I was a little too masculine in my presentation and people
would talk about me and point. And you know that was hard, but for the first time in my life, it
didn’t matter to me what they thought. I liked what I saw. Like I stumbled upon
this thing finally give me the body that i wanted. What became very attracted to me, was
putting drugs in my body. So I quickly graduated from just experimenting with different
things to becoming a crystal meth addict. And I was a crystal meth addict and very reckless with my behavior. Very very reckless with my behavior. For several years. Yeah, it’s called gender identity dysphoria. It used to be called gender identity disorder and it’s been changed to this dysphoria and dysphoria just means a discomfort with something. So yeah there’s a
diagnosis. We’re in the mentally ill section still, but we’re working on changing that. We all are probably are on some level you know. Yeah I think it adds to the stigma
that we’re mentally ill and crazy. So they’re working on getting that outta
there, but on you know my dad struggled with it. I wasn’t gonna even tell him
because he really hasn’t been a part of my life.
So I do this, in like a year later he calls me. He’s like, “Yeah, I wanna come out and see you,” and I’m like “Oh shit.” My wife goes, “You better send him a picture…” I had such a negative stigma about it. There are about 1.3 million people in the United States that are HIV positive. Here in Arizona there are about 80 thousand people, reported, that are HIV positive. Seventy-five percent
of them are here in Maricopa County. You know, so I’m not alone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s not something that I’m going to be ashamed of. It’s just
something that it’s a health issues that I have to be aware of. I then I get the blessing of giving back the education, because I work
work with people who are HIV positive, who may have that stigma, who may may have that discrimination against themselves and so to work through that is a wonderful thing. And so that’s where I’m at today. Any questions? You said you got to a point, what made you decide you wanted to live this cleaner life? Was there a moment? Was there just a sitting back and looking at everything and saying, “Ok, this has to stop.” ‘Cause that’s a huge step. Often times, often times with substance abuse there, at least in my experience, there is a point in which you wanna stop, but you can’t because it’s no longer fun, it’s not what it used to be when
you initially started. Right. I and so… I actually wanted to stop doing drugs about two years before I came to the
realization that I need to live a healthier lifestyle. It was, it was a process. And it wasn’t just an epiphany like “boom!” And I think I our society, we think everything’s be solved in a half-hour sitcom our a one-hour NCIS episode. Boom! Somebody gets the realization that drugs are bad and they go into rehab. But it’s not like that. It’s not. And that’s… we that we expect that. We expect, “Oh we’re gonna get this cleared up before the
commercial break and then when it comes back the person is on the road to recovery already. Right. And, and at a certain point, I got tired of sitting on the side line, and being just this body that why full of angst and full of disease and full of just misunderstandings of life. You know
because at a certain point I fell into the trap of, “I’m
educated. I did what I was supposed to do. I
didn’t have any kids when I was younger. I did all the
stuff that was supposed to do and so why isn’t my life rosy!” You
know, why isn’t my life tremendous because you know when I was
younger, by the time I was 22 I was supposed to have a Tony. By the time I was 28 I was supposed to have an Oscar. And I was supposed to have three kids and have my husband and actually when I was younger I was supposed to have my wife and three kids and Boom! There it was, the picket fence. All of it! And it just didn’t turn out that way. You could still learn something positive even though everything was going great, you could still learn something out of it. Yes, and that’s a huge point that she’s making is that it’s a
lifelong of learning you don’t stop when you get the
bachelors degree you don’t stop and in fact here your day-to-day work is
where a lot of the learning takes place on and so to be a thirsty learner
your whole life is such an incredible value. I feel like I’m
still learning all the time from all of my colleagues
and everything that they do and from all of you. I’ve learned all the time and the day
that I stop I think is the day that I die, because if you don’t keep learning you
really get stagnant I think. I think you just sort of end up in a place that doesn’t give you real fulfillment. Now you’re hearing a value in that, of course. I don’t mean to say that that there aren’t other ways to have fulfilling lives, but I think learning is such a key. It’s such
a key all the way along. I came to the conclusion that I think my perfect soulmate would be a girl, but be transgendered with like a penis. So so someone like me. Like transitioned, socialize female born with a female body transitioned, or do you mean born male
body and transitioned, but kept their… didn’t get
surgery. I think that would be perfect for me. Right on! I love it! See there are people
who love us. [music: Ivete Sangalo- Flor de Reggae]

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