Embracing our differences

The Spectrum Alliance hosts its third annual Dare to be Different benefit event

For trans people across the world, transitioning, or the process of changing one’s physical gender representation to match the gender their internal sense of gender identity, is one of the hardest and most difficult things they could ever undertake.

In the United States alone, millions of brave transgender individuals walk in their truth, while ignoring the hate and bigotry that can bombard them daily, from family members, institutions and even high ranking political officials sworn to uphold their rights as American citizens.

However, although they courageously identify themselves as transgender proudly, many transpeople never have the opportunity to undergo the process of transition.

If one can overcome the mental and emotional strength it takes to prepare to face a world that has been unkind, to say the least, to transpeople, and the struggle of finding a reputable surgeon to do the procedure, they are faced with a monster that many of us can relate to: A staggeringly large medical bill. However, many transpeople undergo this ordeal rather than face gender dysphoria, or the psychological strife due to someones body not matching their internal perception of themselves. For many transpeople in agonizing situations such as these, there is a sense that there is nowhere to go and no place to receive assistance from. Luckily, The Spectrum Alliance is proving that sense far from true.

On Sept. 23, The Spectrum Alliance is holding their third annual Dare to be Different benefit concert, 3-7 p.m. at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave.

But according to Kris Waldrab, vice president of The Spectrum Alliance, its more than just a benefit concert. It’s a place of acceptance, support and hope.

To truly understand the importance of the Dare to be Different event, it is helpful to understand its origins. Its birth was out of caring for a friend who was going through their own battle with transitioning.

Kai Kelly, who is now the president of The Spectrum Alliance, opened up his friends about his struggle with transitioning from female to male, as well his battles with gender dysphoria. Out of concern for their friend, Waldrab and others created The Spectrum Alliance and organized a benefit event to raise money to help Kelly with the cost, thus creating the first Dare to be Different event. After seeing the monumental impact that it had, they decided to continue the event annually to assist others in the transgender community who may be having similar struggles.

The selection process is no small decision. The Spectrum Alliance interviews many in the transgender community seeking aid. The call goes out a month before the event every year, spreading by word of mouth through various college GSAs and counseling agencies, who then encourage applicants to apply via The Spectrum Alliance’s website. After this, the organization comes together, interviews the applicants and makes a decision. Per Waldrab, there are many criteria to be considered when picking an applicant.

“We get an idea of what their ideal transition is, where they need help in that, where we can help them, and whether this event is something they can benefit from. But the biggest criteria in somebody we select is if they are ready and willing to give back to the community. So, somebody who is able to use the help that we give them, and turn around and use that to help the community.”

This year, they have a found all of these criteria and qualities in applicant Zach Snyder.

The planning of the Dare to be Different event is a huge deal for The Spectrum Alliance.

The process begins with the forming of a community of volunteers who then delegate tasks to other volunteers, such as seeking donations from local businesses, contacting performers, designing, printing and distributing flyers, and more.

One of the major draws of the event are the bands who graciously perform each year.

This year, attendees will be treated to performances by Indigo & Heath, Johnny Marsh, Emidio Krupa and more. However, to let Waldrab tell it, the biggest part of the night is the silent auction.

The Dare to be Different benefit does not just help those struggling with their transitioning process, but it also has a profound effect on people within the organization, such as Waldrab.

“It’s been great for me personally. To see the population of people in the community who are trying to transition and need help, and to reach out to them and help them is hugely personally rewarding to me. But the biggest personal effect that this event has on me is the overwhelming support that this community has for us. It’s very easy to see messages of hate all the time, especially on subjects so confusing and dichotomized, so to see how much support we get from the community is really rewarding.”

For those planning to make the event, they see that this year is the biggest yet.

Along with the fantastic musical lineup, event goers can open their wallets to bid on numerous items from local artisans who have lent their talents to the cause.

For Waldrab, one of the aspects of the event he is most looking forward to is how the selected candidate, Snyder, interacts with the community and how their support helps him.

“I’m also looking forward to seeing the love from the community that we have every year. Because each year, it renews my personal mission to work with the community and help them.”

But the Dare to be Different event is not all The Spectrum Alliance offers. They host eight support group meetings a month, as well as a LGBTQ Addiction and Recovery group every week.

There also is a social community that organizes a different event each month, in addition to various LGBTQ causes they campaign for.

For more information, visit www.thespectru malliance.org or www.facebook.com/thes pectrumalliance.