Staley Jophiel Munroe
I came back, and as what often happens in Columbus, things kind of take you by surprise. No one really plans on coming to Columbus, but then things start working out. It begins to make good sense, because why would you ever leave California otherwise? Rent was exponentially cheaper, while still a great quality of living. And it was like, “Man, I knew this was going to happen. I knew I was going to come back and get sucked back in.” Because me and my friends in New York and California were from Columbus ourselves, and we joked that we would all end of living here again. It’s just so damn easy to live here. It’s not to say that people who live here aren’t capable of living elsewhere, but why would any logical person not take advantage of a really great place and the opportunity to live well, and not for an arm and a leg?
I was a bit sad to see Short North lose some of that really artsy-fartsy vibe. This was where all the super creative types were. It’s become more commercial, which isn’t in it of itself bad, but it’s all consumerism and capitalism. I don’t want it to lose that Short North quality, which is why I’m very proud of the Short North Alliance for keeping this the Short North and everything that it represents.
I learned that OSU had bought a great deal of real estate on High Street, and then shut down dozens of these iconic, gritty neighborhood shops and stores that were very iconic of the campus area. Those hundreds of thousands of people that throughout the week and on Friday and Saturday nights that were haunting those places, are now all going to be coming to Short North. There’s been a long-running plan from the developers up-top and the people with the big bucks to make things happen. There’s this big plan to drive a lot more business down into the Short North, which is why it has become so much more commercial and able to serve more people.
It’s a good thing, but I was around when it was the Den of Iniquity. When my mother was around, it was like the Red Lights district cesspool of danger. Night and day difference of course from its beginning to now, but somewhere in there it was this thriving place where artists and bands and creatives and weirds and queer people would go. As long as it never loses that, I’m fine with it.
I think bridge-building is always a willingness and a level of personal maturity in order to even have that conversation. Whatever the two sides are engaging over, we have opportunities to do so in Columbus. There are all these different opportunities that pop up. I know a lot of people who start home groups or support groups or get-togethers, even under their own homes. I have transgender girlfriends who have done that. There are art communities that meet to critique each other’s work. What I want to get across] is that where the conversation needs to be happening, there is a space and a willing heart in Columbus, OH for sure. There are warm, loving, inviting spaces for people who need support and are just looking to find that in the form of support groups or community centers or mentorship programs.
The transgender culture is the one community that is lacking in terms of organization or availability here. Not individually, there are many wonderful trans people here of all kinds. There are organizations, like the Ohio Transgender Group. Stonewall does represent the T aspect of that lineup as best as they can. It is a more conservative state. There are a lot of things on the docket and legislation that we keep seeing knocked down or pushed back or removed because of uber uber right-wing leadership who I guess find us very dangerous, which is crazy.
But I can’t think of many trans-specific events or places off-hand. Not that I want a tranny bar. I think we have a great deal of safety compared to other places. Again, you can always praise the progress that’s being made while still acknowledging the progress we need to go towards. Trans women of color are the most murdered minority group in the entire world. We’ve reached record numbers since January 1, 2016 in terms of specifically trans-hate related homicides. That fact still stands while I celebrate everything that all the groups are trying to do in town. Being trans myself, I didn’t even know what was available to me. I think a lot of trans women don’t know what’s available to them. You’re just left to figure it out for yourself in terms of your insurance, your health care, and finding the right doctor.
I’ve even thought to myself, “God, I just want to have all the girls over for dinner. And if they know others, bring them over. Let’s connect.” I could be like, “God, you know what it’s like to shave everyday and put on lipstick?” And they’ll say, “I know, right?” And that sounds so petty, but even just hearing stories about... Who’s your doctor? How did you find success here? Someone who’s in a loving relationship, hearing their story. Someone who’s a sex worker, and hearing their story. Someone who, just to get their body paid for, had to work this construction job. You hear all these amazing, brave, beautiful stories. I just want something like that to exist in Columbus so much.