Transformative Justice and Healing

Transforming the Medical Industrial Complex (Part 3/3)

How can the ideas of transformative justice be applied to the medical industrial complex (MIC) to bring healing to oppressed peoples? In the last two episodes, we discuss ways the MIC prioritizes profit over healing and actively harms people. This episode, we invite our friend Jaden Fields to share his work in navigating the MIC while grounded in transformative justice. He runs an HIV education and empowerment program for trans people of color, cofounded a social support space for trans masculine folks, and advocates for approaches to eating disorders that are trans-inclusive and anti-racist.

This is the third episode in our series on “Transforming the Medical Industrial Complex.” Our past episodes can be found here:

Part I – Profit Over People (MIC 101)
Part II – Ableist Constructs of Mental Health

Editor’s note: You may have noticed that we took down our original post, and that this time around, there are a few changes. After much discussion and reflection, we had to make some edits to our recording. Here are Jaden’s thoughts on why this was necessary:

“When we first recorded the podcast, I felt very comfortable being open and candid with Andy and Kelly about some of the topics we discussed. Upon later reflection and after listening to the first part that had been posted, I realized that I had handled some of the content irresponsibly. I had spoken with authority on issues and experiences that are not my own. As a transmasculine person, someone who is beginning to benefit from some aspects of male privilege, I have a lot of toxic masculinity and internalized misogyny to unlearn. I’ve been called in about the ways in which I have perpetuated misogyny and I believe that is important that I am transparent about this process. Thank you, Andy and Kelly, for going on this journey of accountability with me.”


Audio Transcript:

Andy Su (AS)
Kelly Park (KP)
Jaden Fields (JF)

KP: Hello everyone! Welcome to our third and final installment of the Free Rads podcast series on the Medical Industrial Complex (MIC). Just as a recap, in our first episode we talked about what the MIC was, what it stood for, and the ways in which profit was prioritized over healing in so many areas of our life and in society. In our second podcast episode we talked to someone who had an experience with her family member with the MIC, and how it treated mental illness as a pathology and an isolatable problem, and how disability justice is being kept at bay by some of the other structures in the MIC. And today, we’re going to be talking about something hopefully more hopeful: how we can apply concepts from transformative justice (TJ) to dismantling some parts of the MIC and hopefully informing work that takes power away from those structures and puts it back into the community. I’m here with two friends of mine and I’ll let them introduce themselves. But first, I’m Kelly and my pronouns are she/her.

AS:  Hi everyone, this is Andy. Pronouns they and he. Excited to wrap up our last podcast in this series on the MIC. I’m excited to bring on our new guest, Jaden Fields. A friend of mine who’s a black trans man who works at APAIT. And I’ll let him introduce himself.

JF: Hello everyone, my name is Jaden Fields and my pronouns are he/him/his.

AS: Thank you for that wrap up, Kelly. I’m really excited for this podcast because of the ways that we’ll talk about new strategies and new forms of knowledge that people are developing to address the MIC, to really address the needs that people have always had and the ways to do so in community and with each other. We wanted to bring on Jaden because he works with a myriad of organizations that we feel apply TJ frameworks on a whole range of issues like trans justice, masculinity, and eating disorders. Actually to start off, Jaden, can you introduce yourself and the work that you do?

JF: Yeah, like I said I’m Jaden. I work at APAIT (Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team). I run an HIV education and empowerment program for trans people of color, primarily. It’s a really cool program called HEART (HIV Education for At-Risk Transgender Individuals). I also run a trans masculine social support space called Toolbox, where we have conversations around deconstructing what masculinity can look like in people who are transitioning into masculinity or who have transitioned into masculinity as well as having conversations around vulnerability and healing some of the traumas that we experienced being assigned female at birth. And I also work with T-FFED, Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders, around advocating for the trans and gender non-conforming communities and body image and eating disorders (ED), as well as navigating the professional ED world.

AS: That’s a lot. That’s awesome!

KP: Would you like to start us off with a content warning for our listeners?

JF: Yes, a content warning. Some of the things that will be brought up will be around food, eating disorder behaviors, trauma related to eating disorders, navigating accessing treatment around that. We’ll also mention something around sexual violence and my beginnings with the advocacy work. Content warning for all those things

KP: Thank you, we just want our listeners to feel safe and feel empowered to do whatever they need to do to take care of themselves. The first thing we wanted to ask was how you see TJ in the work that you do? And take us through your history with TJ.

JF: The roots of everything started in doing work around sexual violence when I was in college, Take Back the Night (TBTN) and The Clothesline Project at USC (the University of Southern California). That work really opened my eyes to what TJ is because that’s where the roots of it come from–how to address issues that happen within oppressed communities and how we can hold folks accountable without disposing of people. Because abuse definitely happens in these communities. How do we address that without having to call the police per say? The police exist, and it’s very traumatizing for a lot of folks. And that was where all of that started. Now that looks like, for example, with T-FFED working with eating disorder professionals, going to these conferences and giving trainings, and trying to open their eyes to the fact that different kinds of people can experience an eating disorder and how can they and all of us better support those folks. For example, with APAIT and the work around HIV and Toolbox, how do we work with these bigger systems that understand HIV as a very specific thing, where the assumption is that it only affects certain people. APAIT as an agency is already sort of doing that work to dismantle that idea by having something that was originally just focused for the API community. It’s expanded since then [to include other POC]. How can we work with the County (the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health) to navigate so we have more culturally competent and more useful programming? And we have to work with them to get that money, so how do we do that? So yeah, that’s some of the ways I navigate or bring TJ frameworks into the work that I do.

AS: That’s a lot to work with, and I’m excited to have this conversation with you. I want to start by thinking through what is TJ. I know you mentioned TBTN, the advocacy work against sexual violence. Can you speak more to what TBTN is and how, I know you spoke a little bit about the TJ piece, what is TJ to you when addressing sexual violence?

JF: Take Back the Night (TBTN) is this large movement that at USC was a week of events that raised awareness about sexual violence. When I was running it, I was trying to raise awareness about the kinds of stories that don’t get told. Moving beyond the frat party stories, which are most of the ones we hear in college. So that was sort of the work I was doing. And the way TJ showed up in that was, how do we address this without having to go and report to campus police or the agency on campus that handles that kind of thing, because we already knew that they weren’t equipped to be able to handle it yet. So that’s when I was like, we have to do something. We have to acknowledge this; we can’t just let this keep happening. We have to transform the way we talk about consent. But we’re not going to dispose of them from the community.

AS: Yeah, and I think that speaks a lot to the origins of TJ, and the principles behind TJ, because it was started predominantly by queer and trans people of color organizations and communities. Just because of the ways of that queer and trans people of color communities don’t have access to the current forms of “justice;” I’m putting that in quotation marks. Sometimes they don’t have access, but other times they recognize that by using those systems they just create more harm. It’s so present and weighs heavy on the queer and trans communities to figure it out, because we can’t dispose of each other, and we can’t report on each other, because that feels like turning on each other. I think navigating spaces is so hard, because there are so few queer friendly spaces already. I think the accountability piece and the safety and healing piece of the victim/survivor, all of that speaks to the ways that TJ is trying to come up with new strategies, new language and new systems. Actually Kelly, do you want to talk about the model we borrowed from INCITE? They have this model to talk about the four tenants or four dimensions of community accountability or transformative justice. Do you want to speak to that?

KP: In the model of community accountability that’s put forth by INCITE, we have one area in which we strive to create and affirm values or practices that resist abuse and oppression and offer safety, support, and accountability, and that’s recognizing that abuse and oppression often happens in places where people sometimes turn to when sexual violence, for example, occurs. Another big part of TJ is developing sustainable strategies to adjust community behaviors, especially if they are abusive. I think the key point in here is that it’s sustainable, and that what Jaden said about not disposing of the person who might have committed the abuse is really powerful concept, because you sort of acknowledge that they are also part of your community and there was something in your community or our community that allowed it to happen, and it’s not just the fault or pathology of one person. Another echo of the MIC there. A third part is committing to the again, ongoing development of everyone in the community and the community itself and to transform the political conditions and try to reduce the oppression, reduce the harm, and reduce the violence that’s in communities. And lastly, community accountability asks the community to provide safety and support to community members who are violently targeted, and sometimes that doesn’t just mean the victim or the survivor, but it could also mean that person who committed the abuse has also been damaged by systems and structures of oppression, and just throwing them away in the prison industrial complex or throwing them to the police when the police is already an oppressive force is not a good way to deal with the things that affect people.

AS: I just want to quickly reference INCITE. INCITE is a women, gender non-conforming and trans people of color grassroots organization against violence. And so now it’s a national activist organization primarily of people of color, femmes of color, and so it started off as trying to advance a movement to end violence against women. So that really speaks to the TJ model in addressing sexaul assault. I think about, even just thinking through the example that Jaden was talking about, the different ways and dimensions of TJ that play out. You have to have safety and support, which is one of the tenets, for the survivor. And you have to have some kind of way of addressing the community member’s abusive behavior–that’s the other tenet, of the perpetrator, and speaking to transforming political conditions, what allowed for that to happen, again speaking to ways that homophobia and transphobia make it so that there’s no room to talk about consent, and that stuff like this happens. But then ultimately the hardest one to really do might be the values and practices piece, because that’s where you’re trying to do the long, hard, work of changing people’s perspectives and values. And not just getting rid of the bad values but replacing them with really strong principled values about consent and open dialogue and accountability, which is hard for people to talk about and takes some time. I want to let Jaden–do you want to add anything to those ideas of TJ or how you see TJ?

JF: Yeah, I mean I see it first and foremost as “okay, no one in this community can be disposable” because of the systems of oppression that exist, we’re already trying to be disposed of. So that’s my mindset into going into anything. That they can’t dispose of you. Because if we get rid of you or we dispose of you, then you will have nothing. And we’re just replicating these larger systems. But speaking to the values and practices, you’re right, it’s so hard because there’s so much unlearning folks have to do. I think of it as there’s all of this unlearning, which is painful, and all of this reloving, which is hard. How do you love yourself into humanness again? You have to unlearn these things and, with that, is trying to also unlearn the shame and the guilt, and not seeing yourself as an unworthy human. And part of that is you have to learn to love yourself–period–sometimes, or again, or knowing that, in the future too, loving yourself through the mistakes that you will make again. Which is also really hard once you become aware of things and knowing you don’t want to make a mistake again. But it happens, and how do you love yourself gently through that?

AS: And that’s the accountability process, I think we’ve talked about. Mia Mingus has spoken about this, and other TJ folks, about the way that we’ve structured punitive justice in a binary fashion where there are good people in this world and there are bad people in this world. The perpetrators are the bad people, and the victims are the good people. But we know it’s messier, it’s so much messier than that, where oftentimes the perpetrator is someone who has suffered trauma and that is how they understand the world, and they haven’t had the resources to process that for themselves. And in other circumstances, you have people who are survivors, but are also survivors that have privilege or are in positions of power that really complicate this dynamic of a powerless victim and this [perpetrator] with power. I think TJ is really trying to unpack that and recognize that we’re all just people, and we’re affected, influenced, taught, and learned in these systems that teach us what to value and what to deem as “other” or “dangerous.” Okay cool. So I think we wanna move in and we’ve hinted lot around how does the work that Jaden was talking about and other things that we’ve seen are transformative and come from TJ. I want to also think about Jaden, your work with TFFED at Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders. Can you speak to that work and what you’ve done with them?

JF: TFFED is really cool. It grew out of a hypothetical project that our founder had wherein they went around asking ED facilities if they could take a trans woman, a hypothetical trans woman, a friend of theirs. And that was like people didn’t know, some people didn’t know what that meant, some people immediately asked about surgeries instead of anything about an ED, asked about surgeries, misgendered a lot, it was just extremely horrible. And so out of that TFFED was born, and we definitely straddle the community focus with interacting with the professional ED world because we do know that some folks might want to access professional treatment, and it can be more appropriate for someone who has more extreme behaviors to have that sort of environment and be able to monitor what’s happening in the body because of those behaviors. Meaning that we couldn’t just be like “peace out, professional world, because you suck.” So with that we have a community focus, we have a Facebook support group that’s just a really great venting space for folks that has members from all over the world just being able to just spill whatever might be happening that might either be triggering disordered behaviors or even just promising updates about accessing treatment or getting to therapy or transitional things related to ED, because one of the things that I didn’t know right away or I wasn’t completely prepared for was for myself, with testosterone it increases your appetite, and as someone who has an ED, like, this could affect recovery in ways that I wasn’t initially prepared for. But that kind of stuff, providing the support around that, and for folks who are in the community, are in a space that’s closed and we can just sort of talk amongst people who get it. But we also train professionals; we do Trans 101/ED as they exist, understanding gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia and how they can work together in trans people (but they are different), and not confusing those because that happens. But anyway, training professionals, going to these conferences and really pushing folks to be intersectional, and to think beyond the normative narrative of who gets an ED. It’s not just white cis women. And the motivation behind ED isn’t just to look good. That’s the surface motivation, that’s what you can say, oh that’s why I’m on a diet, because I want to look good, it’s bikini season, it’s whatever. But that’s not the sole motivation. It’s all these systems of oppression, it’s trauma. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s a mental health issue that isn’t talked about as a mental health issue. It’s talked about as a body thing, as some medical thing because of the medical ramifications that it can have, but there isn’t that connection either between mental health and medical needs — which is like, all of these things are in one body, so you would assume they could work together, but no.

KP: That could be a whole other podcast series.

JF: Right? But so with TFFED that’s kind of how we navigate that, understanding that we can’t dispose of [the professional medical] field because there’s certain things that doctors need to monitor, for someone who’s really deep into their disorder.

AS: That’s great. I think that for me, I’m very new to understanding ED and all the complicated nuances of the industry and the ways that the community has been addressing it, so I think everything you’ve mentioned is really interesting! I don’t even know where to start.

KP: Yeah, so in terms of working with medical professionals or providers, what sort of strategies have you taken to give them education or bring them up to speed on some of the issues that you’re dealing with?

JF: So it’s depends, it looks different for folks. I think right now because trans is “in,” more folks are like “oh, let’s do something. I didn’t even think about trans people.” So we’re capitalizing on that, because why not, just sort of take capitalism back. So we train those folks who are open suddenly to trans people. What role does trauma play in ED and cis gender trauma and intergenerational trauma, and if my family was [enslaved] and trying to get the scraps of food, that struggle and that scavenging for food exists in my body. That memory and that trauma exist in my body now. So we wrote that letter and it sort of led to this ED shift movement that on top of just rethinking what you’re doing — because it all sucks, it’s not helping anyone anymore — we need more people of color and queer and trans folks actually doing this work in this field. So that means you need to have more scholarships to go into this because the kind of folks that go into this can afford to do this, but there aren’t a lot of scholarships for ED research or going into that field. So we need more scholarships. You’re a giant entity, one of the giant entities in the ED field, so start a scholarship. And get more diverse presenters anyway! Because there are some. So when you recruit for people to present at your conference, go beyond your usual networks. That kind of stuff. But if you’re going to want to be in this, you need to shift who’s at the table, and we’re willing to help you shift that and to start coming to the table if you make it more accessible, i.e. scholarships to these conferences and work with you to expand who you’re trying to reach. Which is difficult because we sort of become the tokens, and that is part of what happens in this kind of work as the only trans organization that is doing work around ED. We are definitely the tokens. And when I’ve gone to these conferences, I’m one of very few black people, the only black trans person around, so I know that I’m a token — but I also acknowledge the privilege that I have to be able to get to these spaces and using the community space prior to these things to build up my capacity to be in the space. And taking these stories that I’m hearing and the narratives that people are sharing to these spaces so that it’s not just my story, not just one aspect of it. Because if you’re gonna be intersectional, we’re gonna have to get all these aspects to it, and really pushing them almost aggressively sometimes to be aware of it, or there will a more aggressive callout.

AS: Yeah, and I think that’s a lot of the transforming the political conditions, right? Of the circumstances and pushing those values and practices that they haven’t developed and they haven’t thought about and they won’t think about. And so yeah, it’s so much work because you feel the burden, because you understand the gravity of the situation, the role and responsibility of being in that field, you have to bring all these aspects, and I think that same weight that — is that a pun? No. The same weight of that responsibility needs to rest on all the practitioners in the ED field.

JF: And that’s really how it started. They forget that. They started with the lens of white feminism. You are only seeing this one narrative, and then using problematic things where you’re pathologizing and demonizing certain kinds of bodies. There was this huge confusion of like, oh my god what do we do with trans people, especially a fat trans person or a fat disabled trans person? Like what do we do? You can’t assume that if someone is trans and trying to get a treatment that transition things will treat an ED. Because that is also an assumption across the board for trans people, that transition-related things are a cure for other things in life, that “oh you’re depressed and your trans, so you must need to go on hormones or get that surgery, but granted we’re gonna have all these stops before you do it. But once you get it you’ll be fine.” But that’s not gonna — I have an ED and I’m trans. I don’t have an ED because I’m trans. And that is not easy for people, and they assume even just with people of color, “oh you must have these kinds of things going on with you because it’s more likely to happen in your community, so that must be what it is.” So really trying to shift that, really pushing them to look beyond that. And part of that is being in the space and being like “hey I exist, so what do you do with me?” Speaking of — let’s say Becky is a black trans woman and this intervention is family based therapy. If Becky is living on the streets and has some chosen family, what are you gonna do there? Are you only accepting biological family? Which a lot of folks do. If you don’t speak to your biological family, if having meals with them is a root of so much shame around food, then that’s not gonna be helpful because you’re not going to get better, you’re just perpetuating the same thing.

AS: For those that don’t know, what is family therapy when it comes to ED?

JF: Family-based therapy is a form of therapy wherein you include the family, essentially, and part of the therapy sessions and part of meal plans and a part of going to nutritionists if that’s necessary, and thinking about feeding plans for folks if they need to start a refeeding process, that kind of stuff. So if these places aren’t accepting chosen family, then how is this “proven-to-be-successful” form of treatment going to help someone, if you’re only accepting one kind of family?

AS: And in the ways that like you said, actually putting trans people through this family-based therapy just re-traumatizes them and actually makes it harder for them because so much of their trauma comes from their biological family. Yeah! And I know you’ve spoken with us about how have ways of thinking about chosen family shifted and defined healing?

JF: One of the things that we have done before and we’re gonna start doing more with TFFED is community meals, because we do have to eat, and for so many communities of color and for queer and trans folks in particular who can’t access their families of origin, family meals were important. And that’s a core in so many communities of color, that family meal is everything. And so when you don’t have your family of origin, how are you supposed to — you miss that, right? But also knowing that that space, that site was a place of trauma and shame and food policing, and probably everyone at that table had some sort of eating disorder — because it’s not talked about, people’s dysfunctional relationship with food. So we’ll have this community meal wherein folks can be among chosen family, wherein we’re not gonna police people’s food. You don’t police bodies and you don’t police food and you don’t have numbers talk because it’s triggering to hear how many miles you ran today or to hear how many calories you ate or to hear how many hours going to the gym — that can be really triggering to people. So we don’t talk about the food while we’re eating it. We talk about other things while we’re eating it so that the focus is not on the food, so that people aren’t thinking about how people are watching you eat, especially if you’re a fat person and you’re always aware of people watching you eat. If you’re a thin person no one watches you eat. If you’re a fat person, people are watching you eat and making all sorts of assumptions about you and your health and your morality and whether or not you’re a good person. So being aware that as trans people you’re being policed and being surveilled, period; as a person of color you’re being policed and surveilled, period; as someone with an ED, whether you’ve been in treatment or not, at some point people were watching how you ate. So you’re aware of all of this, but so you can be among community where we’re not going to police you for what you eat or how you eat. But we are going to hold you accountable for eating, however much you’re eating, but you’re getting a meal that we make. We encourage potlucks if we can, [and] try to have options for vegans so that folks can enjoy the food too, and that there is that home-cooked aspect of it that a lot of folks can’t always access either, and then afterwards have a conversation about how folks are feeling about: what are some grounding techniques knowing that you’re full right now, knowing that you just ate, and how do you not go into whatever disordered behavior you have around having just ate? How do you check in about that and be present in your body and not just distance yourself from it? Because a lot of these kinds of behaviors have the same effect that drugs have: you release the same kind of endorphins. Some of those behaviors are encouraged, like running, but it can get excessive. Or you know, things that aren’t as acceptable like purging. That’s very bad for the body, which is why it’s important to be able to access doctors and know what’s happening inside your body if you’ve been purging for years; what kind of treatment are you going to need? What kind of medical help are you going to need? Because you will need that. So trying to make space for that and encourage folks not to go into those behaviors in that space and have some sort of collective healing, a check in about “how do you feel in your body right now? Is it okay, what do you need?” Maybe not have a conversation and we have a party afterwards — maybe we just need to dance afterwards because we don’t get to experience joy enough as a trans community — we often just gather for people’s deaths — so how do we, along with having this community family meal, also experience joy, but still have that check in? So that’s part of the framework around TJ. When it comes to really highlighting the importance of community healing, and not shaming folks for missing family, especially in communities of color, families and those meals with family were so important. How can you have an aspect of that in a way that feels healing and fulfilling?

KP: I feel like I’ve learned so much more in this time with you, Jaden, than in my year of medical school. So thank you, medical school.

AS: I think it’s just the ways we’re talking about all of this at once, and we’re drawing the parallels and the ways that like you were talking about, surveillance affects trans people, surveillance affects TPOC, surveillance affects people with ED, and then what happens when you throw all of that together? It’s like you’re hypersensitive to the conditions around you, and I feel like that’s what lends itself to being attuned to what is needed for TJ, right? Being attuned to what a community is feeling, being attuned to what a community needs, and what the community can be doing to move towards that. That seems like a lot of think about, but the privilege to NOT think about is huge! And just because you don’t think about it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting the people around you. That’s the key thing about masculinity, where there’s just this entitlement to this space and other people’s energies. I think it’s given me a lot to think about. I would definitely like to see if we can wrap it up? Yeah? Cool. Um, how are folks feeling ? What are folks wanting to ask or think about in closing?

KP: I think that again, I’ve learned a lot. I’m definitely hearing you and everything about how even things like logistics for conferences, be mindful of every decision that the medical community makes even if you don’t think that it was intended to harm. I think that’s one way of holding the medical community accountable. Can we all maybe brainstorm ways, other ways beyond that to hold people like me accountable?

AS: I think speaking to that is again, not to really think about the conditions that are happening around you, because Jaden you were talking about [how] there are folks in the ED community thinking about how race impacts ED. But in a very selective way, of like, you have an ED because you’re coming from a POC community. So being attuned to all those things because of that privilege of selectively thinking about these things when you don’t have to. But the fact is, for people who live these lives, they don’t have a choice.

KP: And I think a part of not compartmentalizing everything is also recognizing that I’m a member of the medical community, but I’m also someone who does have marginalized identities and I have experienced structural oppression, and recognizing that people in the medical community need to take care of themselves and also be vulnerable and be willing to acknowledge that they’re not invincible and that their own histories are informing the care they’re giving people. I think that is something we can definitely work on.

JF: That last part, what you said, our histories are informing the kind of care we giving people, that’s so important, so important. It makes me think about an upcoming conference that I’m going to go to wherein we had to sort of push for a healing space at an ED conference, wherein we’re talking about ED all day, and the people that go to these conferences are either professionals or have ED, or both, which is often common. And we need to also have a healing space because ED behaviors happen at these conferences. That self-care for folks in this field isn’t there. You don’t have to be invincible, to provide care to people, and I feel like that’s something that’s missing, that needs to be encouraged. Like you were saying that it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to also take into account your own self care.

KP: And the thing is just recognizing the humanity of everyone and yourself, which is a pretty cheesy way of describing what we just talked about but it’s how I’m thinking about it.

AS: Yeah, it sounds so simple, but that’s because the issue is so ingrained and so rooted and that’s way this work is so radical. I mean that’s what radical means, to address at the root. What we started talking about was how the MIC prioritizes profit over humanity, and so one of the really powerful things that we do both within and as people who are navigating the MIC is to recognize the humanity over the profit, over the systems of knowledge that we’ve developed, over the systems of gatekeeping and surveillance that we’ve developed. And also [with] the systems of resistance we’ve developed — in the form of organizing, in the form of community building, in the form of hosting conferences — that needs to be checked too. In the end, it’s about people and our humanity, which is messy.

KP: All right, well, thank you to Andy and Jaden and to all of our listeners and our Free Rads collective. It was such a privilege and a joy to spend time really talking about these issues. I personally feel like I’ve been transformed by these conversations, and I hope you have been too. Any parting words?

AS: It’s been a privilege to host three podcasts, and this is the definitely not the end. I think this is the start of a lot of difficult conversations.

JF: Yeah, thank you both for reaching out to me. I feel really honored to be here and to be having these conversations with folks, and I think it’s really important that you’re even doing this series, to really look at TJ in the context of the MIC because we have to work within it sometimes. So how do we do that?

KP: Okay, thank you!

AS: Yayyy!

Andy Su (they/he) is a rocket science engineer turned community organizer. They are working towards becoming a high school physics teacher to work with youth in envisioning a liberatory future in the stars.

Kelly Jiyoon Park is a medical student and science fiction enthusiast based in Los Angeles. She is passionate about reproductive rights, mental health literacy in immigrant communities, and not actively contributing to the medical industrial complex. In her free time, she enjoys choral singing and having strong feelings about social justice, books, and the internet.

Jaden Fields is an LA-born queer Black femme transboi, community activist, and poet. He currently works as a Health Educator at APAIT, running the HEART program. HEART is an HIV education and trans empowerment program for transgender people of color, who have the highest HIV contraction rates in Los Angeles county. During his time at USC, Jaden planned events for Take Back the Night, a social movement to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault, while highlighting the high rates of violence that transgender and gender non-conforming folks face. His work in college has informed his social activism. He is a core member and support group facilitator of the grassroots, community-based organization, Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders (T-FFED), traveling with them to different conferences to raise awareness about how trans and gender non-conforming individuals are disproportionately affected by eating disorders, usually as a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma. Jaden emphasizes the importance of a trauma-informed approach to treatment and recovery, in his work with T-FFED. He believes in the beauty of vulnerability and the strength in the stories that trans and gender diverse bodies hold, so he uses poetry and storytelling as a vehicle for change.