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T in the Life: Jen Richards
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Identifies as: "I am a trans woman."

Neighborhood: Andersonville

Zodiac: "I'm a triple Aquarius."

Life's work: "Being me. Creating spaces that help others to do the same for themselves."


What is the best thing about being gender-variant?

"Anyone who visibly deviates from imagined norms of a given community, in a way that is still conceivable in the terms of that context, ends up expanding the sense of what is possible for others. To live, work, love, and laugh as a trans person, whether I intend it or not, serves as an invitation to others to not only critically encounter their own gender, but to engage in a dialogue with their own sense of authenticity. As I'm granted the unusual privilege of being able to do so safely, I regard this opportunity as a sacred gift. Plus, I get to wear way more purple, and I can't overstate what a joy that is."

Whom do you admire most?

"Within the trans community, Kate Bornstein has been a huge influence, as has been my friend ellie june navidson. Intellectually, William Irwin Thompson remains my primary touchstone. Morally, the professors at Shimer College evinced an integrity that I asymptotically aspire to. Generally, anyone who is both kind and able to laugh at this delightfully absurd life. I also appreciate people who find my use of words like "asymptotically" cute rather than unbearably pretentious, though I suspect most people feel it's the latter."


"I am the Managing Director of eighth blackbird, a Chicago based, multiple Grammy Award-winning contemporary classical music ensemble, the president of New Music Chicago, the creator of the community websites We Happy Trans, Trans Love Stories, WTF Trans Dating, and the leader of #transchat (on Twitter)."

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the trans/ gender-variant community?

"Practically: work. The moral health of any community can be gauged by how the most vulnerable members are treated, and those most at risk within the LGBTQ family are trans people, particularly trans women, specifically young trans women of color. These women are often at risk because sex work is the only income available to them. We need to find a way to provide more options for those who want them. This will entail changing the entire system of how trans people are treated on the job, providing resources to employers, promoting trans friendly workplaces, sharing success stories, and creating professional networks among trans people. We Happy Trans is about to launch a collaborative project intended to address each of these points."

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