40 of the Forty: Stefhannie-Josephine

Jan 2015

“It’s important for you to be in your right state of mind, body, and soul/spirit before you can give your talents and gifts to the world.”

Stefhannie-Josephine is eloquent, perceptive, and clear-minded. She speaks from the heart, but her words come with a certain thoughtfulness that demonstrates she has the insight and experience to back them up. Call it perspective… Call it confidence… Call it spirit…

Whatever you call it, Stefhannie-Josephine’s got it.

True Colors Fund: What do you think about when you wake up in the morning?

Stefhannie-Josephine: I think about what I have to do. And that ranges from different things – right now, for example, as Ms. Gay Pride of Portland, it’s “are there any events that I need to attend?” “Are there any events that I can volunteer at?” “Are there any community events where I can go show my support and lend a hand?” I’m starting to plan a benefit for Pride Northwest.

True Colors Fund: You have to tell us about Ms. Gay Pride!

Stefhannie-Josephine: It was never about the crown or being a pageant queen (yes, I loved it. I’m not gonna lie!). Because I identify as a plus-size trans woman of color, my motivation was to show people that I can do it! It’s been amazing. I won the title June 6th, and the next weekend I performed at the Youth Club in Portland, was in the Pride parade, and went to the Pride Festival. I’ve hosted events as Ms. Gay Pride and will be hosting another in the fall. It’s really about being an ambassador for Pride.

True Colors Fund: What’s your biggest takeaway from Ms. Gay Pride?

Stefhannie-Josephine: I’ve seen the community come together in more ways than I’ve seen before. When you’re on the other side of the crown, you see them out in public and you wonder what it’s like and how it is. But being on the other side and being the titleholder, and seeing people interact with you differently, is like winning the popularity contest. People who didn’t know your name before all of the sudden know everything about you. It’s been really interesting, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s really an eye-opener. One person told me that they were happy that I ran because it gave them the confidence to do what they wanted to do. It’s a humbling experience and it has helped me grow as a person and as an entertainer.

True Colors Fund: Have you always been an entertainer?

Stefhannie-Josephine: I am a queen through and through. On and off the stage!

True Colors Fund: What’s your biggest dream?

Stefhannie-Josephine: My biggest dream. Oh wow. I haven’t thought about that in a long time! One of the biggest dreams that I have is to be able to do something for somebody without a consequence. Whether that’s helping them find a job, put clothes on their back, food in their stomach, or a roof over their head. I want to help them to help themselves.

My approach is like the harm-reduction model – meeting people where they are at. Being homeless, that really resonated with me. You saw all different walks of life, and a big part of it was seeing that addiction was a big thing. If someone has an addiction, it’s not necessarily your job to tell them what to do – but to find out what they need at that time. A good example is the needle exchange. Their focus is: if you’re going to use IV drugs, street or medicinal, you can get clean needles so that you don’t contract an STD. They’ve been working on this for a while and their efforts have dramatically drawn in results that are really good. The risk factors go down.

At the end of the day, we’re (LGBTQ) all a community so why not help one another?

True Colors Fund: What is it like to be you?

Stefhannie-Josephine: Oh! Okay! Just drop it on me! Okay! (we got this…)

What is it like to be me?? It’s not easy. Um. The best way I could put it is, being me is unlike being you. When I wake up in the morning, I am completely free. With every step that I take, there is a burden that’s being put in my shoulders. It grows more and more as I step out the door. When I step out the door, I’m starting to fight the battles of a plus-size person, as a person of color, and as a trans* person. That weight grows on top of my shoulders in addition to what I already carry as a person and a plus-size person.

At the end of the day, I am exhausted. Not just physically, but also emotionally. There is a constant battle. There can be many battles within the war and so far I’m winning the battles!

True Colors Fund: What is your “tweet-able” message to folks?

Stefhannie-Josephine: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” “A world that is totally our own. Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” <- TWEET THIS!

We all face battles daily. Some we win… Some we don’t… And that’s okay. How do you come out victorious? And how do you pick yourself up when you fall? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter!

The 40 of the Forty list gives lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth who have experiences with homelessness and/or housing instability a chance to speak for themselves. The young people on the list were nominated by homeless youth service providers, social workers, educators, individuals, and other folks across the country. Over the course of forty weeks, we’ll be releasing full length interviews with each young person featured on our list.