“One is not born a man; he becomes one.”
by Hayden Smith
“Black trans guys get referred from all over to me because I’m the only name they have,” said Luc Bensimon, leader of the Kansas chapter of Black Transmen, Inc. (BTMI).
BTMI is a nonprofit organization six years running whose goal is providing services for black transgender men nationwide as an affiliate with Black Trans Advocacy (BTA).
BTMI, with its headquarters in Texas, offers support to its communities in as many ways as possible, from education and peer support groups to fundraising for trans-related healthcare to job fairs and clothing drives.
Luc Bensimon, leader and founder of the BTMI Kansas chapter, became incredibly inspired by the message of BTMI and BTA after attending last year’s Black Trans Advocacy Conference.
“The first year I came back from the conference I was just crazy,” he says. “That was all I talked about.
“I was so determined and driven. That’s how much they influenced me. I said, Kansas needs a chapter. Instead of asking someone to do it, I just did it.”
The Kansas chapter is relatively new amongst the 14 other state chapters, coming to life shortly after Bensimon’s trip to the BTA Conference. Kansas and Texas are the only two chapters in The Gayly’s region, though he is currently putting Missouri in the works.
With his drive to start up a new chapter when the first is hardly a year old, Bensimon describes his work as more of a calling.
“When I went to the conference the first year and I came back here, there was like a newfound activism, a newfound fire, a newfound niche. Everyone has a thing in this world that they’re obligated to do,” he says, and he found his with BTMI.
The Kansas chapter has already affected major change within their community, with one of their most notable projects being their clothing drive.
Their current system allows both for transitioning youth to leave behind clothing that no longer matches their gender identity and take clothing that does or trade with their peers.
“We wanna link with the helping agencies here, but my boys are kinda like, ‘We just need to keep it in our community.’ I don’t know how much you know about Kansas,” he laughs, “but it’s very conservative here.”
When initially starting the Kansas chapter, Bensimon said his initial concern was, “How many black trans men are there in Kansas?” However, the demand for such a group quickly made itself apparent.
One member of his organization noted the novelty of being surrounded by peers who looked like him. “He was telling me he would walk into a support group in Missouri and he’d be the only trans person of color. The only one in the room,” Bensimon says.
“I’m going through the same thing. Whatever event, I walk in, and I’m the only person of color in the room. The only trans man, at times,” he says. “With BTMI I learned yes, there are people who look like me. There are people who are going through my struggle.”
With all the material change that BTMI creates, one of the most indispensable services it provides is letting black trans men know that they are not alone.
For more information on local chapters, services, and how to get involved, visit www.blacktrans.org.
Copyright 2017 The Gayly – August 27, 2017 @ 11:15 a.m. CDT.