Zane Thimmesch-Gill, 2008-2009, Canada, visiting Glacier National Park
I’m excited to announce that my debut book, Hiding in Plain Sight, was just nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. It follows a homeless female-to-male trans kid as he struggles to survive on the streets. The book is an important resource for adults trying to understand the inner lives of at-risk children, and an inspiring story for vulnerable youth who dream of escaping poverty and violence. It’s also a plain ole exciting adventure story. The book is available through Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes.
And I couldn’t have written it without the invaluable experience of the Fulbright Program.
As a young adult, I lived on the streets. After years of struggling with extreme poverty and violence, I managed to get through college and graduate school. Although it might sound weird, once I escaped the streets, I started to miss them; no matter where you come from there’s something comforting in the known.
Chane Corp, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Tajikistan, celebrating World Earth Day by volunteering in Khorog City Park with students from various students from different American Corners’ clubs.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I knew there would be stigma surrounding this group in Tajikistan. While on my 10-month grant, I wanted nothing more than to be a personal advocate for tolerance; however, while studying and teaching in Kyrgyzstan, I developed an appreciation for keeping this personal information private. At various times, I have been told that this sort of discretion is not being true to who I am – but I disagree. Immersing yourself in another culture necessitates a sincere respect for local norms and opinions; being a successful cultural ambassador means finding the common ground that will allow you to be a productive, valued, member of your host community. Being a Fulbright grantee means you represent more than your own opinion; it means you are larger than your own passions.
When discussing sensitive issues abroad, my focus was always on the singular issue of tolerance. I sought to have difficult conversations with my students – ones that challenged not only their views, but also my own. When the racially charged unrest in Ferguson, Missouri hit its peak in November, 2014, the Russian news media (which is by far better funded and more chic than local Tajik outlets) devoted significant resources to covering the tension. Every night, nightly news would show dramatic footage of rioting and more than a few of my students genuinely believed that America, as a country, was on the verge of collapse. As dramatized as the Russian version of events were, this depiction offered a valuable opportunity for a frank and honest discussion about social issues in America and, indeed, around the world.
Jeff Roy, 2012-2013, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to India
In honor of Pride Month, we revisit 2012 Fulbright-mtvU alum Jeff Roy’s five month reflection on his grant to India exploring how members of the LGBTQIA community in India use music and dance to navigate tradition, modernity and globalization, in order to craft a contemporary, urban identity.
Now that we’re about half-way through, I thought we would rewind the past five months and also take a look at some plans for the future. It’s a pretty good time to do this, incidentally, since it’s holiday season in just about every part of the world. Last week, Hindus celebrated one of their most cherished festivals Holi. Like many Hindu religious festivals, “playing Holi” is less of a formal display of faith and more of a street party commemorated through a bombastic display of powdered colors, water, the use of mind-altering substances (which happen to be legal on religious holidays such as this), and dancing. Though not directly related to the LGBTQ movement, the use of paints and colored powders in street-side festivities provides an apt visual for what the festival symbolizes, namely the breaking-down of social norms and acceptability, the celebration of life in various dimensions, and the arrival of spring. I avoided most of the chaos on the streets for fear of my camera getting irreparably damaged.
With ‘Music in Liminal Spaces,’ my intention is to cover a diverse array of music and dance from individuals on both ends of the LGBTQ spectrum to see how, where, and in what forms queer voices manifest in Mumbai. Being one of the largest cities in the world, Mumbai has no shortage of talent. Because of this, I have managed to cover traditional and modern representations of gendered performance, from an Indian classical music mela (‘meeting’, or ‘concert’) held in the garden of a former Maharaja, to a rock concert inside a local club. For the past five months, I was able to produce a number of videos and deliver a successful presentation of these experiences at the Central and South Asia Fulbright Conference in February 2013. Ultimately, these events helped set the stage for the work I intend to pursue until the end of my stay in Mumbai.