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Episode five of 'TEA: the Transgender Experience in Arkansas' with Elliot Rogillio

Taylor Johnson: "Elliot, what are your preferred pronouns?"

Elliot Rogillio: "He, him."

Johnson: "When did you realize your trans identity? What was your trans coming out process like — and where are you now in that journey?"

Rogillio: “It was a little bit different for me. I started realizing things around, maybe age 13, 14, but didn't kind of acknowledge it until about age 24. Like, I just put everything in a little box. And then I finally came out fully at 25. And started medically transitioning at 25, as well.”

Johnson: "Is navigating your relationships with friends and family any different pre and post transition?"

Rogillio: "In some ways it is. With family, it's pretty much the same. With friends or making new friends, it can be a little bit in the waters, especially right now with everything going on."

Johnson: "Does your identity affect your work life at all?"

Rogillio: “I would say no. But I'm not in a space where I have to disclose very often that I'm trans. So that makes a difference."

Johnson: "You recently volunteered with the Fenix Youth Refuge Experience, or FYRE for short, an after-school art program for LGBT youth coordinated by Mount Sequoyah Center and Fenix Arts. Tell me about your experience working with the LGBT youth in the program."

Rogillio: “I mean, it's been really great. I realized that at 14 kind who I was, and these kids are realizing it at the same time. The difference is they're not scared. They're not scared to come out. They're not scared to express themselves, they kind of have this amazing little bubble of everything figured out. And just to see that level of like, not scared at all, is crazy. And it just makes me feel like we're going in the right direction. So, it's been really nice. Also, I could just sit and do crafts with the kids. Like, that's awesome."

Johnson: “So overall, that's a positive experience for you. And so what's your takeaway?"

Rogillio: "Shows like this, and programs about getting people to understand and like, do an olive branch of empathy, have really been helping. I feel like twenty years ago, it it was like, career ending, job stopping to come out as trans and now people feel safe, like I feel safe at my job to kind of tell my coworkers and that's amazing. To be able to do that.”

Johnson: “Elliot, you are currently receiving gender affirming care. If you're comfortable with it, can you describe your treatment to us? And what value does that care have for you?”

Rogillio: “Right now I'm doing testosterone injections. It's .5 mL every two weeks done in my stomach. And what it means to me is being able to kind of enjoy my own body and like, see it as my own. And enjoy those qualities like my hairy back. I never thought I would, like, love my back or something like that but it's being able to love different parts of yourself and kind of realize and be more at home."

Johnson: “Here's a few political questions for you. The Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit striving to end discrimination against LGBT people declared a state of emergency across the U.S. due to hundreds of bills filed and several laws enacted, many targeting transgender civil rights. As a trans American, how does legislative and judicial bias affect your day-to-day life?"

Rogillio: “It does making going outside a little scarier. But day to day, I feel like it worries me to go pick up my medication, stuff like that, going to doctor's visits if I'm going to be safe. Also, people that are further along in the process, who have like, had the medical everything transition -- hysterectomy and everything. I really worry about those people. Because of the hormones being cut off. And without some sort of injection, they are just left. You cannot go without hormones. So that part freaks me out. And I worry a lot about those people in my community.”

Johnson: "Do you have any fears related to national conversations about your identity? Have you noticed any shift in how people in your community interact with you?"

Rogillio: "I've noticed a shift, some people have really stepped up and done above and beyond what you would expect to help people -- like allies, stuff like that. And some people have just kind of laid it under and pushed it under the rug. And some people have gotten more violent with it."

Johnson: "Where do you find support in your life for your mental and emotional well-being?"

Rogillio: "I try to find support and let people I know that do love me. People in the community trying to just kind of knit together and acknowledge the problem."

Johnson: "What advice do you have for individuals like yourself that wish to transition or are beginning that process?"

Rogillio: "I know it's very scary to kind of come out on your own and realize who you are. But it's worth it. And I mean, it's something that honest to God, ignoring it for 10 years, I've learned that it doesn't go away. It's never going to go away. It's better to be who you are, then try to hide it. If that makes you comfortable."

TEA: The Transgender Experience in Arkansas is directed and filmed by Listening Lab director Emerson Alexander, edited and co-hosted by Sophia Nourani, and produced by Jacqueline Froelich. To learn more, visit TEAon Listening Lab.

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Jacqueline Froelich is an investigative reporter and news producer for <i>Ozarks at Large.</i>
Sophia Nourani is a KUAF producer and reporter.
Emerson Alexander is the coordinator of KUAF's Listening Lab.
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