Transgender community faces challenges in Central New York

By Jessica Corbett and Emily Hull

Elliott DeLine reads from his new book, Show Trans, at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, New York, Oct. 15, 2014. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

Elliott DeLine reads from his new book, Show Trans, at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, New York, Oct. 15, 2014. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

Syracuse-based author Elliott DeLine read excerpts from Show Trans on Oct. 15 at Buffalo Street Books in downtown Ithaca. The novel chronicles a difficult period of DeLine’s journey with sexuality when he transitioned from female to male nearly five years ago.

Show Trans, DeLine’s latest book, will be available on Amazon for Kindle download on Oct. 31. A paperback copy of the book, which the author self-published, was released Oct. 1.

In the book, he addresses the difficulty of being a transperson in Central New York, including limited access to hormones and adequate health care, and said he wants other transgender people to feel a part of a larger community.

“I want them to take away whatever they personally need to take away from it. I hope it makes other people going through similar experiences feel less alone,” DeLine said.

A 2011 UCLA study says that approximately 700,000 Americans identify as transgender. No current governmental statistics exist because the U.S. Census Bureau does not offer citizens the option to identify as transgender on the decennial survey.

Maureen Kelly, vice president for programming and communications at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes said research in 2009 revealed a definitive absence of care and resources available to transgender people.

“We heard stories of transgender people driving eight hours round trip to Philadelphia to receive routine preventative health care and hormones to support their transition,” Kelly said. “We knew we needed to do something to address this need.”

In 2009, Kelly founded Out for Health, a program that provides outreach to LGBT people, their health care providers and the community at large. The program commissioned research to understand the challenges LGBT individuals face in the Ithaca area.

DeLine echoed Out for Health’s commission results.

“It’s a ridiculously difficult process to transition, and it is not this way in cities like New York and Philadelphia,” he said. “Trans people need the same resources as everyone else, but we often go without them.”

Click the photo above to view an interview with author Elliott DeLine. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

Click the photo above to view an interview with author Elliott DeLine. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

On Oct. 20, The Advocate, a gay news, LGBT rights, politics and entertainment magazine, published an opinion editorial by Kelly commending Ithaca, New York, as a “haven” for transgender people.

Kelly noted in her editorial that the transgender preventative care and hormone program opened in winter 2013, offering healthcare, information, hormones and support for transpeople in the area.

Additionally, Out for Health currently provides medical appointments, family planning, STD information and youth groups to citizens of Ithaca, Elmira, Corning, Hornell and Watkins Glen.

Although there has been an increase in support services, Jason Hungerford, a board member of the Ithaca LGBT Task Force, said the area still lacks a definitive health care for the trans community.

“There are not enough doctors who are even willing to have a trans person as an ongoing primary care patient,” Hungerford said. “That’s not even touching on the topic of health insurance for a trans person.”

The task force was founded in the 1980s to advocate on behalf of the LGBT community for non-discrimination laws in Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca. In October 2013, the task force moved to an inactive status, responding to other programs that had begun serving the community.

However, Hungerford also noted the fairness and inclusion gays and lesbians have benefited from still has not fully reached the trans community.

“Throughout the country it is still very taboo in many ways to be transgender,” DeLine said. “Although I do believe that is changing, there are more options and more resources available in metropolitan areas.”

DeLine hopes sharing his story will encourage readers to build a stronger understanding of the trans community’s struggles.

“There’s not one trans experience, not one right way of doing it,” he said. “My main goal is to make people feel validated and empowered to write or talk about their own experiences. I want people outside the transgender community to see us as people, and see the way all forms of oppression overlap.”

Click here to view a video interview with author Elliott DeLine.

Read this story on Ithaca Week.

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Cornell’s Big Red Barn reopens after summer expansion

By Jessica Corbett and Steve Derderian

The Big Red Barn is a popular student event venue at Cornell University. It reopened at the start of the semester, following summer renovations. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

The Big Red Barn is a popular student event venue at Cornell University. It reopened at the start of the semester, following summer renovations. (Photo by Jessica Corbett)

The red siding appears worn, and its the interior is dominated by warm chestnut wood paneling and Cornell Red paint. There are clusters of red-topped tables and a bulletin board overwhelmed by flashy flyers. The flyers promote Speed Friending, Spa Night and one reads “Show Us Your Muscle,” with tearaway info tabs on the bottom. It’s twelve steps up to the half-moon landing, which overlooks the tables and faces the window-paneled double door entrance. Cash register keys click and dishes clank together, blending into moments of chatter and laughter.

Following a series of renovations that shut the Barn down this past summer, the venue continues to expand its popularity, regularly hosting both campus and community events on the East Hill.

“I think we put the barn on the map,” Kris Corda, manager of the Big Red Barn, said. “If you look at our calendar, we’re booked almost every single day.”

There are already 30 events on the books for the next month.

“I feel like we’re always adding new events,” she said. “Our request for events is up this year, and we’re at capacity as of right now.”

Corda said there were more events from 2013-2014 compared to 2012-2013, but the total may not greatly increase, because the Barn could not hold events from July 1 through Aug. 15 this year.

The number of total events hosted in the Barn has increased from 229 in 2001-2002, to 636 in 2012-2013, averaging one to two events per day. Runjini Raman, a student employee at the Big Red Barn, said the increase of event is due to an increased number of campus groups and labs hosting events there.

“I feel like there’s specific programs that come here a lot,” Raman said. “I think the Big Red Barn is well advertised, but there’s still groups that don’t come here or may still not not know about it.”

Corda said she’s proud of the Barn.

“It’s a great space for graduate students, which is much needed,” Corda said. “I think there’s a historical element to it. I think a lot of professional and graduate students would say they have an attachment to the Barn that makes them feel comfortable.”

Physics student Kayla Crosbie attends the weekly grad gathering, but has also taken Tango classes at the Barn. She said the draw for her, and most grad students, on Friday night is the $1 beer. Alan Kwan, a graduate finance student said the Friday night festivities are what bring different groups together.

“A lot of my friends are in Johnson [Graduate School of Management], but through classes and random happenstance, I meet people from all over,” Kwan said.

Click the slide above to view a slideshow of the Big Red Barn and hear grad students at Cornell share their experiences with the venue.

Click the slide above to view a slideshow of the Big Red Barn and hear grad students at Cornell share their experiences with the venue.

To secure its longevity, the Barn has recently undergone a series of renovations that were necessary to keep the Barn safe for student use. In 2007, a beam from the Barn’s ceiling came apart and required construction from November 2007 to March 2008. This past the summer, the Barn was expanded to increase the capacity of students and add some office space. Though most building improvements are not visible, Corda said the changes were considered a cultural reinforcement project.

“We weren’t operating under any unsafe conditions,” Corda said. “They were really saying more work needs to be done in support of the building. When we were closing it in 2007, we had to remind a lot of people that we weren’t closing it permanently.”

The Big Red Barn, which was built in 1870 to house Cornell’s first president, Andrew Dickinson White, has been a gathering place on Cornell University’s campus since the 1950s. An old carriage house featuring a large brick patio, and surrounded by grassy fields, the Big Red Barn is flooded with graduate students on Friday evenings. Tell Grads It’s Friday, a grad-students-only gathering held from 4:30 to 7 p.m., is just one of many events hosted at the Barn each week.

Fifth year graduate student Nate Van Zee said the Barn also provides a haven for graduate students to interact more exclusively with their peers.

“It’s kind of a novel thing,” Van Zee said. “Its separates us from our normal happy hour because it is unique.”

Though there is no current plan to expand the Barn beyond what it can host right now, Cordo said there are always ideas to improve the Barn.

“Yes, we can always use more space,” she said. “But I’m always conscious of keeping the character of the bar, and I think that’s really a big part of what it is today.”

For a slideshow of the Big Red Barn, click here.

GreenStar to open third Ithaca store as co-ops trend nationally

By Jessica Corbett and Lauren Mazzo

Photo by Lauren Mazzo

GreenStar Co-op has two locations in Ithaca, New York. A new store on College Ave. is set to open sometime in 2016. (Photo by Lauren Mazzo)

GreenStar Co-op announced last week it will open its third store in Ithaca on College Ave. in 2016, reflecting the rise of cooperative businesses across the country.

GreenStar Co-op, a community-owned natural foods market created to provide Ithaca residents with locally-sourced food, has been around for more than four decades. But in the last three years, the number of co-op businesses in the U.S. has grown by a third.

Today, the the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives estimates the nation has about 300 worker cooperatives in various industries, compared to the amount documented by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives in April 2011. At that point, the state of New York had 13 co-ops. Today, there are 20 in New York City alone.

In June, the New York City Council approved a $1.2 million grant called the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative. Eleven worker cooperative support organizations, including the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, received portions of the grant ranging from $35,000 to $230,000, Antoinette Isable-Jones, FPWA communication director, said. The money will be used to develop 28 new co-ops and provide support to 20 existing co-ops.

“Worker-owned cooperatives are known to increase worker wages, provide improved working conditions, but also contribute to sense of pride amongst workers and foster a new era of community entrepreneurs,” Isable-Jones said. “With this first-time-ever grant, we are excited about the opportunity for New York to become a model and national leader in creating a thriving cooperative economy.”

Weavers Way Co-op of Philadelphia, which serves 5,200 households, has seen a 12 percent growth in sales in the last year, General Manager Glenn Bergman said. That growth compares to a national average of 2.4 percent for all grocery stores reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

GreenStar and Weavers Way Co-ops are both part of national group of cooperatives called the National Cooperative Grocers Association.

“We share information with other co-ops, and we also work together, and we go to meetings together, and we purchase together to get better pricing,” Bergman said.

Association members share more than just tips and suppliers—they also share values that have proven successful for the cooperative business model.

“I like the fact that the profits go back to the community, the members, or [the] staff,” Bergman said, noting that the co-op also provides health insurance, vacation time and sick time to employees, as well as nonprofit support to the local community.

Joe Romano, marketing manager for GreenStar, said the community-oriented nature of the co-op has been key in GreenStar’s success, ultimately leading to its expansion into catering, a public gathering space, a nonprofit, and now its Collegetown store.

In a community of more than 30,000, GreenStar boasts nearly 10,000 members.

“That tells me very clearly that we’re meeting the needs of the community, which is obvious because the community started the business to meet their needs,” Romano said.

Romano moved to Ithaca and started working in an entry-level receiving position at GreenStar 15 years ago. He said he didn’t care what he was doing—he just wanted to work at the co-op. Today, he said he couldn’t be more proud of his role to better the Ithaca community.

“It’s important because it is part of the community of Ithaca. It’s owned by the community,” Romano said. “There’s no Mr.GreenStar that’s going to get a yacht at the end of the year. If we do well, the community does well.”

Check out our interview with Joe Romano on SoundCloud.

Read this story on Ithaca Week.