At the 6th annual Outfest Los Angeles Trans, Nonbinary & Intersex Summit in West Hollywood, California, attendees shared an afternoon of storytelling, dialogue and laughter.
The fest showcased short films from emerging trans, nonbinary & intersex filmmakers. Each screening was followed by a moderated conversation with the filmmakers and offered a glimpse into a particular theme. Filmmaker Perspective #2 | Our Bodies, Our Choice featured two of our #TransBodiesTransChoices films: My Abortion Saved My Life and Trans Bodies, Trans Choices. Our collaborators Cazembe Murphy Jackson and Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez participated in a Q&A after the screenings.
TransLash was in attendance at this event and recorded an IG live, but Meta/Instagram completely blocked our video in the USA and worldwide. To make this conversation accessible, we ripped the IG Live video for YouTube along with a transcript, below. You can also access our trans-affirming guide to Roe v. Wade here.
TRANSCRIPT: Outfest Q&A with Cazembe Murphy Jackson and Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez, moderated by Jaden Fields
Jaden Fields: Check check, mic two, one. Okay.
Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez: We on, hi.
Cazembe Murphy Jackson: Hello.
Fields: I wanna invite everybody to take a quick breath, you know, find your breath, take it at whatever pace feels good for you. It’s a lot to receive stories. You good? You got your mics on? I just wanna give y’all a second too, to get settled, get comfortable. Yes. Thank you. I’m a little bit of a mess, so bear with me. But yes, thank you both so much for sharing your stories. And I just wanna start off first.
I wanna just thank you for joining the legacy of trans and non-binary and genderqueer and gender nonconforming and intersex storytellers, ’cause that’s how we find ourselves. That’s how we find each other. That’s how we know, like, that we’ve always existed is the stories that we tell. So I’m so grateful to you both for sharing your stories. And I’d love to know why was it important for you, in this particular moment, to share your stories this particular way?
Jackson: So, hey y’all. It’s an honor to be here, first of all. That’s a good question. I think it’s important to tell my story in particular because I don’t all hear a lot of trans men talking about abortion, and I know that they’re, you know, we out here and we are getting abortions. And I think it would’ve done a lot more for me, when it was time to get an abortion, had I seen that representation. Just knowing that I wasn’t like a fish out of water.
But I also just wanna say that, also I think telling abortion stories helps to normalize the stigma around abortion, and even in situations not as egregious as mine, folks should still have access to abortion.
Fields: Absolutely. Absolutely, too often there’s a focus, or some people who are anti-abortion, sometimes allow for the exception around survivors of rape or incest, but often they don’t include trans and non-binary survivors in that conversation. So thank you so much for naming them. Jack, what about you? Why was it important for you in particular to tell your story in this way?
Gutiérrez: Well, Cazembe and I have been talking about our abortion stories for years. Like we’ve had abortion stories with We Testify, the organization that we worked with, and just doing abortion speak ups forever. But I started talking about it about a year after I had it, because I kept seeing such really sad stories about how people regretted their abortions. And it was always cis women talking about it and it bummed me out. I laugh at my abortion story. Yeah, it was heavy, but you can’t tell me it’s funny. The condom broke and I took plan B and that shit still didn’t work for me. Like that’s funny that I somehow fell upwards like that into that situation. I can’t help but laugh at it.
And ever since I started talking about it, I get emails, DMs, messages from other trans people that are going through the same things and didn’t know that it was something that was survivable, didn’t know that it was something that there was, you know, a light at the end of the tunnel for, and they’re scared. But they’ve seen something I’ve written, or they’ve listened to a podcast I was on, or they saw this documentary, and they see folks like me and Cazembe just living.
You know, we’re out here. Half of y’all, I’ve seen you on Tinder, so. We’re living our best lives, you know? There’s life after it.
Jackson: Me too.
Gutiérrez: So I wanted to make sure that I use the privilege that I have, as someone who feels comfortable telling their story, to be that person to say, you know, there is life after this. I could’ve used that at that time.
Fields: Absolutely, thank you both for sharing that part. Y’all gonna get some gems from them. Okay. There is a life after your abortion. That really leads me to my next question, ’cause both of you alluded to it or explicitly said that having an abortion really saved your life. And as trans and gender non-conforming people, that process can be really, can bring up a lot of dysphoria, especially in the ways that they might misgender or be really weird. These people are so weird about bodies. It’s so weird.
Gutiérrez: These people are weird.
Fields: These people are weird. They’re weird. And they’re super weird about bodies. I’m like y’all the ones that need some help. So I would love to hear a little bit more about like how being able to have an abortion impacted your relationship with your body and your gender.
Gutiérrez: Well, I always said that my abortion was gender affirming care. My story has always been not a traditional experience. You know, we hear about how folks navigate the story, but mine has always been, you know, the idea of having a uterus, remembering that I have one, trying to get sterilized for 10 years and not being able to get it. Cut the shit out, cut it.
I feel like it was, you know, at the time I was 19 when I got my abortion, my birthday had just passed. I had just turned 20. I was just out, newly out. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t cis until maybe a couple months before this happened. So when I found out I was pregnant, it really gave me kind of insight as to why that was so, you know, why was that so terrible for me? It wasn’t just the idea of becoming a parent, which is something I will never be doing.
Fields: Come on, clarity.
Gutiérrez: I’m sorry, I can’t. I’d be a terrible parent. Mainly ’cause I don’t like, I’d let them run amok. But being pregnant and then seeing my reaction to finding out that I was pregnant, besides the situation that I was in, which was not a good one, kind of led me to feel more ownership of my body. And understanding what I could and could not accept with it. So it helped me out. But I do wanna hold space for those of us that are trans and want kids. Like that’s amazing. Just, you know, not me.
Fields: That clarity’s important, too. If more people knew they didn’t want to have kids that’d be so good, right? Don’t do it then. What about for you, Cazembe, how did that impact your relationship with your body and with your gender?
Jackson: Yeah, so I too was, you know, around the same age. I was 20 when I had my abortion, but that was about 20 years ago. And so I’m actually in a place where I want kids and I’m single.
Fields: Cazembe said shoot your shot.
Jackson: But no, really, you know you gotta laugh at this shit because otherwise you’ll cry. No, I think, you know, I wasn’t identifying as trans when I had my abortion. I was presenting in a very trans-masculine way, or what we, in the black queer community, called a stud. And you know, there was definitely the stigma of, oh I’m a stud and I’m pregnant kind of thing. Didn’t help because I wasn’t walking around telling everybody, oh, I got raped.
And so it was just like, I think the thing that it was for me, in relationship to my body is, you know, getting raped made made me feel like I was losing my bodily autonomy, and like the self-determination over my life. And I think having the abortion gave me a lot of that back. And being able to say, you know, this is a choice that I get to make, and making it. That’s why I so closely relate my trans identity to my abortion experience, because I feel like it’s one and the same, it’s both examples of of putting my self determination for my life into action.
Fields: Wow, I’m just like, wow, yeah. Yes. Yeah, trans people, we be knowing, it’s self determination. Yes, wow. Yes. So you’re both from the south, Cazembe, I know you still live in the south, have been organizing in the south, and give up to the south. I’m not coming down from here soon. Right now with the overturn of Roe V. Wade a lot of states have had trigger laws, and organizing, especially in the south, has become a lot more difficult.
So I would love to hear from you specifically, Cazembe, what is it that folks are seeing on the ground? And how can those of us who aren’t in the south, and are trying to be better accomplices to folks organizing on the ground in these states that have these trigger laws or have really intense abortion bans on the books, how can we better be supporting, especially queer, and trans, and non-binary, and intersex organizers, and people trying to access reproductive care?
Jackson: Yeah, that’s a great question. And one that people often ask. I think multiple, multiple ways. I happen to live in Georgia, where just this past week the heartbeat ban went into effect. And so it basically has outlawed abortion for everyone, unless you catch it before six weeks. And you know, it’s a sad time for organizers, but at the same time, it’s our job to be able to craft a vision that people can actually believe in and build steps to obtain that vision. And so I think that we, you know, it’s a rough time in the south. It’s always a rough time.
We’ve been dealing with this kind of, I’m gonna call it what I want to call it, ’cause I got the mic in my hand, but. We’ve been dealing with this kind of new Confederacy rise for a long time. And you know, I think Black southern queer women in particular, when it comes to reproductive justice in the south are killing it. And really coming up with strategies. I just did a training at an abortion skill camp that Black Feminist Futures put on, where they’re training folks up on, you know, sometimes, you know, Martin Luther King Jr. said it. I say it all the time. Like we can’t follow unjust laws. And it’s our moral responsibility not to do it.
I think people are training up to be able to make sure people get the access to healthcare that they need. And that’s what I’ll say. And you know, I would say as far as the things that people could do, donate to abortion funds, get active with your local abortion fund. If you’re in a state that you know abortion has been banned in, still talk to the abortion fund, there’s different websites you can go to to find out what’s legal, what’s not legal.
Talk to attorneys. Do whatever you have to do to feel comfortable. Also, as a storyteller, I would say if you have had an abortion, tell your story, help normalize it. Because your silence, as Audre taught us, is not going to protect you.
Jackson: That’s right. Bring in Audre real quick. Thank you. Her first book gives your money to the abortion funds. Thank you so much for that. Speaking of money, cause capitalism is evil, right? Both of you touched on, in your stories, the impact of poverty, really. And how that impacted even being able to access an abortion. So could you both share a little bit more about just what that was like navigating for you, and like what you see in the work that you’re doing? How living through poverty impacts people’s access to overall reproductive care.
Gutiérrez: I explicitly chose a medication abortion over a surgical procedure, even though the surgical procedure probably would’ve, it would’ve been like a shorter bounce back time. I may not have had to leave the job that I had at the time, ’cause I was a full-time student. But a lot of it was gender related… At the time I was like, a bunch of strangers in my garage? Not so much. In my thirties, maybe. May be fun, but different.
Fields: Clarity, once again.
Gutiérrez: You live and you learn. But it was a hundred dollars cheaper of a procedure, too. And I could go home, be by myself, take two pills and handle it. The partner that I had at the time, not great. But I was privileged enough, even though I didn’t have any money. Like I had nothing to spare for it.
But his parents, ’cause he was the same age as me. His parents had given him a credit card for emergencies. And so we put it on that. And then when my financial aid came in I was able to pay for half. And I also didn’t have a car, and I had to depend on him, ’cause his parents gave him a car. I didn’t have any of that. That was basically food for the month. I had to just not eat for two weeks because I had to pay for that half.
So I can only imagine how much worse it would’ve been if I had actually, you know, had a child, because I can’t afford that at all. But it was definitely rough at the time. And I didn’t know what an abortion fund was. So I didn’t know that that was something I could have access to.
Fields: Absolutely, thank you so much for sharing that. Cazembe?
Jackson: Yeah, I think it’s worth saying that poor people, particularly Black and brown folks, are disproportionately affected by poverty. And yeah, for me in 2001, $300 was a lot of money as a broke college student. I went home, my mother was not supportive, so I got a payday loan, with those like 300% interest rates, probably turned into a thousand, maybe more, that I ended up paying for that abortion.
And yeah, I know I had the privilege, if you can call it that, of being able to get my mom to come pick me up from Huntsville and bring me to Austin. But you know, I think that’s another way that abortion funds actually help folks now, is like getting from one place to the other to be able to access your abortion.
That’s why I say donate to ’em, volunteer, whatever you can because, especially now more than ever, folks are having to travel across state lines to be able to access abortion. I didn’t have to travel across the state line, but I definitely had to go three hours.
Fields: Well thank you both for sharing. I think it’s so important to highlight how being poor is such an expensive experience, and how all of these systems are set up to keep you in cycles of poverty. And even though you both were able to access an abortion, it still impacted how, like your overall wellness and your overall livelihood. And I know about them payday loans.
Fields: Okay, the payday loans are, hoo, they’re evil as well. Capitalism, I tell you. Okay, so I have one last question for y’all, a little envisioning question, ’cause we’re manifesting futures here. And as people continue, ’cause this isn’t a new fight for access to reproductive care, access to abortions. This is a long fight. As we continue to fight, if you can envision, what would a gender affirming, trauma informed abortion look like for you now?
Gutiérrez: An abortion clinic run by trans people. I don’t wanna see or be seen by cis people anymore. I don’t wanna be perceived.
Fields: You heard it here first, folks. Whoever got that coin, go ahead and open that trans abortion clinic.
Jackson: You know, one of our trans elders, Miss Major, always says right, shout her out. She always says, you’re not trans until you are. And I think when I think about what a trauma informed, gender gender affirming abortion would look like, it’s like everybody is getting treated the same. Everybody is getting treated like humans.
Like ask everybody their pronouns. Ask everybody what their body parts want to be called. Ask everybody what their preferred name is. And do it in a way where everybody feels respected and affirmed in their care. And you know, remember that trans people exist, but remember some of these folks don’t know that that’s where they’re going, and respect that. Respect it, just like respect the future. When we talk about manifesting our futures, respect that.
Because 10 years ago, I didn’t know that I would be in this seat talking about my own trans identity, and I still, or 20 years ago, still deserved that type of care.
Fields: Thank you both for your honesty and openness in sharing your stories. I’m deeply grateful to be able to have this quick conversation with you, and to have seen your story up there. Give it up for them one more time. Thank you. Now check out the resources they mentioned.
Outfest, established in 1982, is a queer arts, media, and entertainment organization that empowers LGBTQIA+ storytellers and clears pathways to visibility of their work by all members of the public.
The 6th annual Outfest Los Angeles Trans, Nonbinary & Intersex Summit showcased a multitude of trans, nonbinary & intersex experiences as a vision for the future. This year’s summit was a time-capsule titled Manifesting Our Future – a call to action to imagine ourselves 50 to 100 years into the future and to leave behind a record of our stories. While trans, nonbinary and intersex people have garnered varying levels of visibility, the goal of this year’s summit was to unpack how visibility can shape our collective future. Storytelling is a manifestation of our imagination and the futures we dream of as trans, nonbinary and intersex people. The future is ours, the future is here, and right now more than ever, we have the power to manifest it. https://www.outfest.org/
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