DAVENPORT, Iowa — Last night at the rally in support of trans rights in Davenport, Iowa, Scott Xavier Fieker shared his story of transition and hope. About 100 people came to the Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad Cities to heat from local speakers. The event stayed positive and focused about love and compassion in the trans community. At one point, the community took time to recognize trans people in the audience. A few people who had never been in a welcoming environment before were moved to tears.
Scott became a counselor after leaving his teaching career in Missouri. A Hispanic student had been broken up with by his white girlfriend and became suicidal. After his family cast him out because of his depression, other students brought him to Scott for support. The school administration then pushed Scott out for helping the student.
Instead of giving up, Scott went back to college to get his counseling degree and fell in love with the work. He has worked as a crisis clinician and therapist for mental illness, sexual abuse trauma, and grief and loss.
Scott came out and transitioned ten years ago. At the time, he was working with adolescents in treatment center. The administration felt that he was mentally ill and thought people would perceive him as a pedophile. “I had quite a fight on my hands” there, especially after the administration isolated him from other staff and reassigned him to an office in the chapel basement.
This setback did not deter him. Scott learned how to handle discrimination and how to stick up for his rights. He filed an EDOC complaint and was able to stay in his position for another year. After almost a decade of work as a counselor, Scott came to Davenport, Iowa to marry his partner Kurt Stevens.
Coming out as trans made Scott’s practice more multi-cultural. After working in culturally separated places, Scott felt that working with marginalized people helped him see intersectionality. He noticed race and disparities in health care a lot more. Scott pointed to the high murder rate for trans women of color as an example.
Being female to male, “I got a lot of privileges that most men don’t even recognize that they have. White male privilege aspect was very apparent to me. I could say things as a man and not be questioned”.
While speaking out became easier, there are still barriers for Scott and for all trans people in the Quad Cities area. There are no local healthcare providers for trans people. Illinois doesn’t even recognize gender as a discriminating class, and you can’t change your birth certificate in Kansas. People either don’t know what to do or are uncomfortable with trans people. “Medical schools are behind the times,” and new doctors don’t have the training to help trans people.
Scott pointed out that the rate of suicide is high for trans people. If family and friends are supportive, though, the rate goes back down to average. People might think that being trans is a mental illness or people are seeking attention because they see that the suicide rates are so high, but “they aren’t looking at the reasons for that”.
Scott has some advice for young people who are struggling: “keep fighting, keep being who you are, believe in yourself.” People fear being stuck in the wrong body forever or being alone, but Scott encourages people to keep their integrity “even if you only get to express yourself in the mirror” or behind closed doors. “My purpose for living is the make sure that kids don’t go through the same experience that I did. What I needed to hear was that I was intelligent, I was right, that I knew about myself.”
The recent leaked memo about trans identity from the Trump administration has “definitely affected people’s safety”, and the number of calls to crisis hotlines like Trans Lifeline have quadrupled. The memo has affected Scott personally and in his own therapy practice. He has gotten more calls, more texts, and more questions from peers and friends who have trans relatives and friends.
In response to the memo, Scott in planning to start a female to male transgender support group in the area. He also wants to offer support lgbt+ specific counseling, and he hopes to continue speaking out at local churches on trans issues. The holidays are a rough time for the community because lgbt+ folks often aren’t on good terms with family. Scott will be having grief sessions and sessions on how to celebrate and make new traditions with friends.
As a counselor and a trans man, Scott encourages trans folks to “take the time to celebrate yourself.”
If you are in the Quad Cities area, there is a demonstration tonight at the courthouse in response to Jeff Sessions being removed.