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Coming Out Debbie Event LGBTQ Organization Our Center Place Transgender

TINN – Trans in Northern Nevada

Left to right: Erica, Francesca, Valerie. Credit: Erica Pionke.

I was at Our Center last weekend to participate in their program “Women Who Brunch.” On the website, it is billed as a “monthly event [that] mixes great food and conversation to encourage the growth of community in a friendly nonstructured environment.  Le[d] by our own volunteer[,] Debbie Dyke.”

Yup, that’s our Debbie.

Credit: Erica Pionke, 2018.

At the same time, Trans in Northern Nevada, or TINN, was holding a board game event.

TINN was wrapping up, but Valerie and Francesca spent some time with me so I could learn more about their organization. Apparently, Valerie had spoken during the meeting and talked about her intersex status.

Francesca is the co-founder and president of TINN. She said that they wanted an opportunity where transgender folks could get out and meet each other and learn from each other. TINN started in 2011 after a prior group, which was centered around the bars, fell apart.

Francesca said that she transitioned in 2011, legally changed her name in 2013 and underwent surgery in 2015. She said she dressed in female clothing when she was a child. She wanted to play with dolls and play foursquare with the girls, but she would find herself in trouble with the adults. She learned she was different in 1970 from watching a movie, but continued to live in her assigned gender until 2011 when she started transitioning. She even married a woman in 1975, and started cross-dressing again in 1985.

She said they hold these TINN meetings to hear people‚Äôs stories.  She said that having these talks makes you feel good.  Sometimes the meetings have 6 people and sometimes 30.  They also do movie nights, hiking, bowling, and are always looking to plan other events, too. Francesca loves karate and will take anyone to learn karate for many reasons, including self-defense.

The best way to find TINN is through a group on Facebook and programming events at Our Center. You have to fill out a questionnaire to get on the Facebook group. Just make sure you’re not looking for a relationship–that’s not what this group is about. As of today, they have 246 members. They also put out a paper resource guide that you can pick up at Our Center.

She is very proud of helping people. Data indicate that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide. Only one person in their group has killed themselves.

When I asked Francesca what she wants people knew about TINN, she said she wished people knew that TINN is a safe group.  They accept everyone for who they are.  If the folks in TINN can help, they want to help you transition.  Having friends in a supportive trans group is the best thing you can do to not be alone.

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Art Beauty Debbie Dino Valentino Drag King Drag Queen Health LGBTQ Mom Our Center Personal History Place UNR

My ‘About Me’ Video

My ‘About Me’ video just dropped an hour ago. If you want to blow your mind, check it out.

It’s 3 minutes and 30 seconds or so of amazingness. Shot mostly on location in my exotic and luxurious Sparks, Nevada office. I also got to spend a lovely day with Debbie last Saturday, looking for rainbow things and taking photos and video footage all over Reno. I learned how to splice together film and audio, how to make the sound loud and quiet and how to add text and credits to a video.

I have to give credit to Nick Gapp, Media Production Specialist, at Dynamic Media Lab at UNR, who helped me with my video when I had gotten a little too “extra” and got lost in the sequence. He also showed me the ins and outs of sound mixing.

There is a lot of footage that did not make it into the video. There’s even more that did, but was removed. We tried to go to places that I’d mentioned in my blog like Our Center and Reno Little Theater and things that I wrote about in my blog, like rollerblading, and people that I met, like the Twampson Sisters and Dino Valentino, and, of course, my Debbie.

Please take a look, like it on YouTube, and maybe I’ll make some more!

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Art Debbie Event History LGBTQ Our Center Political

Bull (Dyke) In a China Shop

On Friday, Debbie took me to see Bull in a China Shop at Reno Little Theater. I. Loved. It.

Evonne Kezios as lead character, Mary Woolley
Credit: Reno Little Theater facebook

I don’t know if it was because it was my first time back in live theater since the pandemic (I’m sure that helped), but this play gave me sooooooo many feels.

They still have a few shows left next weekend: March 24, 25, 26 at 7:30pm and March 27 at 2pm with a post-show talk-back. I plan to attend that the 27th matinee to experience all of the feels again. I look forward to hearing from the cast and crew.

You can read about the show on the theater website, but the gist is a historical story of two women, a professor and her student, who become the president of Mount Holyoke and a teacher there at the turn into the 20th century. But the real twist is they are lesbian lovers and, gasp!, feminists. The president, Mary Woolley, is a butch and assumingly unique in style and approach for her day, while her partner, Jeanette Marks is a more femme character.

They have an age difference, according to Wikipedia, of 12 years. So as whiny and immature as the Marks character is written and regardless that neither Debbie nor I are neither academics, the story very much reminds me of us.

I immediately connected to the demographics of the characters. I also realized quite early that I have never seen a butch lesbian character portrayed in live theater.

Woolley is an aggressive, ambitious, visionary and unique woman and feminist, to which I also could relate. One important line I will never forget was when Marks was berating Woolley for not carrying forth her vision of revolution, and Woolley replies, “I am the revolution.” I immediately thought of all the women like Debbie who have moved through the world as themselves, forwarding the LGBTQ+ change we see today just by being themselves.

There is also an understory of impatience of youth versus the calculating risks and rewards in the battles of revolution. This includes the antagonism of selling ones values out for money that allows them to live their dreams and the dreams of their partner. This is the perpetual question for anyone working toward social justice.

The lead characters, Evonne Kezios as Woolley supported by Tara Rispin as Marks, are fantastic. It took me a minute to fall in love with them, but I did. Hard.

Terri Gray was perfect as proper and equivocal Welsh, who I wanted to punch by the end of the play. Sydney Tello as Pearl and Claire Hachenberger as Felicity were absolutely adorable. Felicity made me laugh the hardest because she was such a chill goofball.

Claire Hachenberger, Sydney Tello, Tara Rispin
Credit: Reno Little Theater on facebook

Kudos to the Director, who I hope to hear from at the talk-back. The lighting designer, Chad Sweet, did a great job creating a lot of different environments and turning the stage into a wash of different colors and lighting over something like 26 scenes in 90 minutes.

Let’s talk about these friends, though: Intimacy Director Adriano Cabral and Assistant Intimacy Director Thomas Rao. These friends, working with the main characters, created some bedroom and night time scenes unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in live theater. I actually found the intimacy choreography on Thomas’ website and I’m a little disappointed that I don’t think I got to see all the goods they had choreographed.

Tara Rispin, Evonne Kezios
Credit: Reno Little Theater on facebook

The intimacy scenes were really very family-friendly, but, like I said, unlike anything I’d ever seen in live theater before. They seemed very genuine and I felt the intimacy. Maybe I’m just thirsty for content like this.

My favorite scene was Woolley, on a river in China surrounded by unseen diplomats, reflecting in monologue on her love for and return to see Marks again after 6 months traveling. Her musings were so lovely. All the feels.

If you saw or see the play, please drop me a note to tell me what you thought of it. And if you happen to catch your name on an alert in this blog as having contributed to the play, please repost and Thank you.

Credit: RLT
Categories
LGBTQ Our Center Place

Reno’s Our Center

Welcome to Our Center. This will be the first in a series of posts about the Biggest Little LGBTQ Community Center in Reno, which has an active Facebook presence. My hope is that this blog will show me as a human person walking around and observing in the LGBTQ world of Reno, while Our Center is the hub from which most of my adventures will eventually connect. Our Center is the Kevin Bacon of the Reno LGBTQ scene.

Our Center is located at 1745 S. Wells in Reno.

The space is a walk-up storefront taking up about half of the building and approximately 3,000 square feet of space with a lot of nooks and crannies within. Parking is available on the street out front or in a lot on the south side of the building.

Upon walking in the door, you find yourself in the lobby where they kindly ask visitors to sign in via ipad.

To the left is a bulletin board that takes up a full nook and 1/3 of the storefront window. There you can find listings for events and groups within Our Center and in the community.

Small nook with bulletin boards and flyers attached.  One wall has cabinets and pamphlets.
Bulletin board. Taken by Erica Pionke.

To the right is the reception desk and LGBTQ merch displays. The racks have t-shirts, beer coozies, pride flags of all sorts, bumper stickers, rainbow jewelry, and other came-to-slay-bought-some-gay merch.

Debbie at the Our Center reception desk.

Walking back into the bowels of the Center, there is a very tight boardroom to the left.

Tight board room at Our Center with about 8 comfy boardroom chairs around a long conference table.
Board room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

As you keep walking back, you pass a small office, a small open work room and a tiny corner kitchen space.

On the right is a brightly-colored open space with a work table and cabinets that have scissors, yarn (for the bi-monthly knitting group), markers, glue, and everything your 3rd grade art teacher could have supplied to you. A bulletin board showcases its artists.

Colorful art nook with table and four chairs and lots of art supplies.
ART room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

Beyond the art nook is a library nook packed floor to ceiling with LGBTQ literature for the reading and borrowing. There are a few comfy chairs in that nook. I kick myself for not taking a pic of it.

The back of the Our Center space opens up into a large conference space that wraps around into a colorful medium-sized annex. The large room has a coffee bar, large flat-screen television, piano, tables, chairs, and a comfy leather sitting area.

Conference room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

The colorful annex sports shelves of board games and another little work space and couches. The annex then leads around into a supply room which appears to lead back to the main hallway.

Back room with a person in a yellow cardigan at a small table with their laptop.  The picture shows shelves full of games and the walls are painted blue and bright pink.
Colorful annex to the conference room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

I may have missed a room or two. Like I said, there a lot of little nooks to hide out and work or relax and chit-chat. Subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this page to read more about Our Center in the next few weeks.

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Debbie LGBTQ Personal History

EP + DO

Before I go off running and tell you all about the Reno LGBTQ scene, I need to help you understand where I fit into the LGBTQ community. I am a cisgender female with a loving cisgender female partner named Debbie who I’d like to introduce you to today.

My last post talked about my coming out experience with my parents in the summer of 2010. This was right before I moved out to rural Wyoming (is there any other kind of Wyoming?) for 1.5 years.

While in Wyoming, a friend suggested we take a trip to Las Vegas for a youth sobriety conference. I had never been to Las Vegas, and it seemed like a good reason to go.

While at the conference, I went to a workshop for the LGBTQ community, which I had been craving desperately during my 15 months in Wyoming. This is where I met Debbie.

Debbie was on the panel of speakers. She was in her late 40s at the time, so she didn’t quite fit the young person demographic. She knew it and used this opportunity to try out her stand-up comedy routine. She had me hooked.

I grabbed her number after the workshop and asked her to meet me at the dance party that night. That was the last time I would talk to her until…

…I found out that I had obtained a job in Las Vegas. Since I knew no one else in Las Vegas, I called her. She told me that she would “show me around town.” She’s so confident.

After I arrived in Las Vegas in late May of 2012, we would meet up for coffee and she introduced me to her friends. Over time, we became good friends. She was always available to make me laugh or make me think.

We started dating after getting to know each other, and she has continued to make me laugh ever since. From Las Vegas, we moved to Arlington, Virginia, and then here to Reno in April of 2020. We’ve been together going on 10 years, through a total of five surgeries and one COVID-19 pandemic.

We are very different people. I like to run, hike, ski, and paddleboard. Debbie likes to people watch and chill in her kayak when I can get her on the water. I’m an introvert and Debbie needs people. We come from different backgrounds and even age groups. Thankfully, Debbie has this ability to connect with anyone, no matter their background or age group.

She’s constantly introducing me to her new friends, even with people whom she has just chatted up on a park bench while I was off running around. She’s kind with an authenticity and spark that make people immediately trust her. And she’s funny. Oh goodness. She can break tension in any room.

Did I mention that she’s a fantastic cook? Her street tacos are requested all over. Expect delicious enchiladas when you’re in the hospital or your family is having a difficult time.

She is the most generous person I have ever known.

I could go on and on and on about Debbie. Really. Mostly, I just want you, my reader, to know that I do not show up to this party alone.

And Debbie wants you to know that I’m taken. She also wants you to follow me on Twitter.