FRESNO – Local educator and activist Karen Adell Scot will serve as Keynote Speaker at the Lavender Convention, set to take place on Saturday, Apr. 11 at Wesley United Methodist Church in Fresno.
The Lavender Convention is an inclusive day-long event for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and allies in the community to join in the celebration of common spiritual essence.
Scot is an award-winning Yosemite High School science teacher and now an advocate for transgender people, as last year Scot founded the organization TransCare to help transgender individuals with support during transition. In her Keynote speech the North Fork resident will talk about growing up transgender and the challenges she has faced, including her own transition from male to female.
“When I transitioned back in October of 2013, I had literally no one who was around to help me,” says Scot. “I was kind of the ‘Lone Ranger’ in my area and was very isolated. Most of my friends shunned me and I had isolated myself from my family. I struggled alone for so many months; I became despondent. It was a tough time. I determined that helping other transgender people was vital.”
From her first memories, Scot knew something was deeply amiss in the way she was presenting herself to the world.
“I was a little girl who, as a toddler, knew she was a girl. I told my mommy I was a girl and behaved and played as a girl from the time I was first self aware. I was forced to go to school as a little girl inside a little boy body and I behaved as everyone expected until I could no longer do it. I transitioned in my mind on April 21, 2013, and then began my physical transition.”
For more than 50 years, Scot followed a determinedly masculine path: football player, Cadet Corp Major, Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy, practitioner of Martial Arts, weapons expert. Always a teacher at heart, it’s now vitally important to Scot that the public understands what science has revealed in recent years and numerous studies about the minds and bodies of transgender people.
“All transgender people are formed in the womb in the second trimester,” Scot explains. “We are actually the correct gender brain in the wrong gender body. MRI’s of transgender women show the brain central formation is the same as nontrans women’s brains, but completely different from gay or straight men. Our EEG’s of our brains show our brains fire in the same pattern as non-trans women’s brains fire. We are a birth difference.”
Also of great concern to Scot and others in the community is the apparent increase of violence directed toward trans people.
“Transgender people are dealing with a cultural paradigm in America that places us in an environment where we are endangered. We have a 43 percent suicide attempt rate, and that jumps to 57 percent attempt if our families disdain or shun us. At least 6 out of 10 trans people will attempt suicide when their families shun them.”
If individuals are helped with support through their transition, says Scot, those numbers drop dramatically. For these reasons and more, Scot is speaking out to help others pursue what she calls “their own authenticity.”
“I travel and help transgender men and women. I counsel people each day on Facebook and sometimes I give transgender girls their first makeover and help them learn how to put on clothes and make up. I am very open and I care about people knowing the truth about transgender people. Helping others is a balm and keeps me level. Transitioning takes planning.”
Scot notes that transition is a process that is different for every person.
“Transition has no time limit. It is not a race. It has no fixed finish line. Some people want to completely transition like I have, but others are content to partially transition or sometimes not transition. It all depends upon the level of gender dysphoria they are experiencing.”
Gender dysphoria, also called gender identity disorder, is a term the medical community uses to describe people who experience extreme discontent living with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. Scot estimates that one-third of one percent of the population is transgender, and says the number of transgender people living openly is estimated at about 700,000 nationwide.
“When we are accepted, no matter how we are transitioning, it helps keep us alive.”
The upcoming keynote address is not Scot’s first brush with the public life beyond teaching. She was the main speaker at the recent Transgender Day of Remembrance, and Grand Marshall for the Fresno Pride Parade last year, and won the Fresno title Miss Tranz 2015. The Lavender Convention is particularly important to Scot, whose faith has been paramount to her survival, despite attempts by others to suppress it.
“I have been asked to leave three evangelical churches because I am transgender, even though I was a youth pastor, a worship leader and a board member of a local church,” says Scot, who is divorced with two adult children and three grandkids.
Despite the pain of exclusion and the possibility of persecution, Scot remains positive most of the time, rebuilding many old relationships as she makes new friends.
“Being authentic truly fills me with an unbelievable joy.”
The Lavender Convention brings people together for an inclusive day of workshops and worship geared toward the LGBT community and its allies. Scot’s intention at the event is to delve fearlessly into the past while encouraging those around her to find peace and purpose at every stage of life.
“I will be telling my story of how I survived a childhood of abuse because of the never ending love of God defending me in my life. I will share the importance of remaining spiritual to the lives of any person as they pass through their life.”