Author Archives: The-Ada-Rhodes

About The-Ada-Rhodes

Dr. Short is an expert in robotics, automation, and design

Soroptimists International Corvallis, Ruby Award Speech

On May 19th 2019, I was honored to receive the Soroptimist Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women” from Soroptimists International Corvallis. The Ruby Award is given to a woman who has worked to improve the lives of women and girls, has had a significant impact on the lives of women and girls, and inspires and encourages other women. 

The award was given at their annual spring tea, and I gave the speech below:

Thank you. Activism and community organizing is often thankless and underappreciated work, so I feel deeply seen and truly honored to receive this award today and to get an opportunity to draw attention to some causes that are important to me.

As they said in my introduction, I am Dr. Ada-Rhodes Short. Throughout my day I wear a variety of different hats; currently I am the senior mechatronic design engineer at Lora DiCarlo, which is a company that is making space for women in the tech industry while confronting the stigma around sexual health and sexual pleasure of women and people with vaginas. Additionally, I teach engineering and design at OSU several times a week, where I treasure the opportunity to interact with students and help shape them into more compassionate and empathetic humans. 

However, what I am most proud of is my work as an advocate and community organizer in the queer community; which has included everything from co-founding the first LGBTQIA group at Baylor University (which is the worlds largest private Baptist university). To my work here in Corvallis where I strove to create mutual aid networks within the local trans and queer community. The work I did continues as Corvallis Trans Support, and is being carried on by a new generation of activists and community leaders. For more information on how to support them please find me later in the day and ask how you can help.

As you likely know the Ruby award recipient gets to pick a charity to receive a one-thousand-dollar donation. I found choosing a charity to donate to particularly challenging, and I found myself frozen with indecision. So I did what I often do when I am unsure of how to proceed, I turned to my community and the chosen family that surrounds me and asked them for their advice. 

The most common response was that I should choose Trans lifeline, which is a grassroots, trans run hotline and microgrant giving non-profit that offers direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis. They have given out nearly three-hundred-thousand dollars directly to trans people who desperately needed it, and answered over sixty-six-thousand phone calls from trans folks in crisis. I would highly recommend that you take the time to look them up and consider giving to their cause, which has personally helped members of the local Corvallis community and saved the lives of people I consider to be family.

However, the most valuable thing I gained from these conversations with the people I hold in beloved community wasn’t an answer of who to give to, but how they chose to direct their love and attention and care. In our daily struggle against the rise of fascism, the rollback of civil rights protections, and the looming threat of climate change. It is so easy to focus on how we choose to direct our hate, anger, and frustration into the world, but I implore you, to PLEASE take time to turn to those around you and ask them “how do you choose to love today” and to hold their answers sacred in your heart.

Thank you


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A BRIEF CONTENT WARNING: This speech discusses violence, homelessness, suicide, transmisogyny, and cissexism if you are unable to hear about these things, I will completely understand if you excuse yourself and return when I am done speaking.

I would like to open by reading the poem Transmisogyny by Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok is an Indian American performance artist, poet, and activist who identifies as gender non-conforming and transfeminine and uses they/them pronouns, I am sharing this poem with their express permission

  1. Promise me that I will matter if I don’t shave.
  2. Promise me that I will matter if I don’t wear a dress.
  3. Promise me that I will matter if I don’t wear makeup.
  4. Promise me that I will matter if I am not fabulous.
  5. Promise me that I will matter if I am ugly.
  6. Promise me that I don’t have to have been “born this way” to
  7. Promise me that I don’t have to always have known to matter.
  8. Promise me that you will not assume what it was like for me to
  9. grow up.
  10. Promise me that I don’t have to modify my body to matter.
  11. Promise me that you won’t call me a man no matter what I
  12. look like.
  13. Promise me that you will not repost all of the articles about
  14. how we shouldn’t assume gender (and then still do it).
  15. Promise me that I don’t have to perform white femininity to
  16. Promise me that I don’t have to perform cis femininity to
  17. Promise me that I don’t have to perform upper class femininity to matter.
  18. Promise me that you see the femme in my hairy body.
  19. Promise that you see the femme in my brown body.
  20. Promise that you see the femme in my messy, uncouth, dirty,
  21. scarred body.
  22. Promise that you understand that my gender is not just a hobby or a politic.
  23. Promise me that you understand that I wasn’t just assigned
  24. male at birth, I’m assigned male every day walking on the
  25. Promise me that you understand that as a form of street harassment.
  26. Promise me that you understand that as a form of gender
  27. Promise that you understand that I am hurt.
  28. Promise me that you understand that I am scared.
  29. Promise that you’re okay with my gender coming from violence.
  30. Promise me that you understand that sometimes I prioritize
  31. my safety over your binary.
  32. Promise me that you will allow me to narrate the story of my
  33. Promise me that you won’t love me like a man, kiss me like a
  34. man, fuck me like a man.
  35. Promise me you won’t forget that when you’re horny.
  36. Promise me you won’t forget that when you bring me home.
  37. Promise me that you’ll say something when they call me ‘he.’
  38. Promise me that they will not look back on my life and call
  39. this a phase.
  40. Promise me that you believe me when I tell you this not a
  41. Promise that I will matter when I am too tired to prove my
  42. gender to you.
  43. (Or don’t.
  44. I’m used to it).

<A Brief Moment of Silence>

Welcome everyone, as you already know it has been a really hard year for the trans community.

Today we read the names of some of the trans people who were murdered this year, the majority of who were trans women of color.

We say their names to affirm their identities and validate their lived experiences, AND we are careful not to forget that there are so many more of our trans siblings who died facing violence and injustice this past year that we do not know about, and we leave space for them in our hearts.

We didn’t read the names of those who died from treatable medical conditions, but were denied medical care or turned away from emergency rooms.

We didn’t read the names of those who died in the street, unable to rely on the social supports that many of us take for granted.

We didn’t read the names of those who took their own life

Something a trans adult is 22 times more likely to attempt.

If we did add the name of every trans person who died as a result of systematic injustice in America this year, we would still be reading the list now.

If we expanded it beyond our own boarders this hour would expand to a day, would expand to a whole week in order to read all of the names of our trans family that we have lost.

PROMISE ME, that you will not forget the UNKNOWN, the UNSEEN, and the UNSPOKEN.

 

You may be asking yourself “who is this nervous young woman?”

My name is Ada-Rhodes Short, I use she/her pronouns,

I am white, which is important to acknowledge when we are talking about issues of privilege systematic violence.

I am a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, and the facilitator of Corvallis Trans Support.

And I am a trans woman.

 

I am speaking to you today as the facilitator of Corvallis Trans Support and a member of the local trans community.

Corvallis Trans Support started as a public outreach project of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, but in the last year has expanded to be so much more.

Originally, we were just a monthly support group that provided care, support, encouragement, and a little bit of community to trans folks living in Corvallis and the surrounding area,

But recently we have been trying to do more.

What I am most proud of is our monthly potluck.

Our potluck is a little different from the run of the mill potluck, while it is encouraged that people who are able should bring a dish to share, we always make sure there is room at the table for queer and trans folks in need of a hot meal.

We also use this time to collect food and clothing for our food pantry and community closet, both of which are free for trans and queer folks who may a need little extra food, a warm coat, or just some shirts and a pair of pants that make them feel better about themselves

 

You may be asking yourself why do we need to do this? Isn’t Oregon one of the more trans friendly states?

and

While it is true that Oregon has enacted many policies to protect trans folks, a lot of those policies are not enforceable when needed.

 

I wasn’t far into my transition when I transferred to OSU and moved out here from Colorado, but I was optimistic that things would be better here.

However, when I got here I was surprised to hear story after story of trans folks who struggled to afford a safe place to live, food to eat, and their medical bills.

Some people had trouble maintaining employment, and would be dismissed upon transitioning for vague reasons that were not clearly explained at the time.

Others were incapable of working due to mental health problems compounded by systematic stress and persecution.

And some were capable of working enough to afford housing and food, but were forced to be underemployed and live in poverty, because the only way that they could afford necessary medical treatment was to qualify for OHP.

And EVERYONE complained about the cost and availability of trans friendly housing.

 

Earlier this year I experienced this first hand.

After a rough summer, in which I had to go to the police about two men who had been harassing me, I found myself in a series of sudden conflicts with new roommates (something that had never happened before transitioning).

Unexpectedly, I was told that it had been decided that it would be best if I moved out,

AND BEFORE I had a chance to get my room packed they began to move in a new roommate on top of me.

So I found myself frantically and unexpectedly looking for housing on short notice.

This did not go very well.

One interaction that sticks out in my mind was with a landlord looking to rent an empty room in a house they owned.

Currently they were renting it to two undergrads, just a few years younger than myself (I had just turned 26 a month before), and everything seemed fine.

However, eventually the conversation took a cold turn.

This is an excerpt from the email they sent me

“The two people who have already committed to that apartment are both fairly young underclassmen.  They are both great kids–a guy and a girl, not a couple.

She is studying engineering, he biology, so they are both serious students.  But both of them are fairly young and timid, early 20’s.

I think it would be asking of them a great deal to have a roommate who is not only much more mature than them in terms of age, education, and emotional experiences, but also brings into the household gender issues which might make them quite uncomfortable.

As the property owner, I just think I would be making an unreasonable request of them.”

 

Further down the email told me about the landlord’s “gay brother” in a transparent attempt to comfort and absolve themselves.

 

The story does eventually have a happy ending,

after a few weeks of staying with friends and a few nights spent in my very supportive doctoral advisor’s guest room,

I moved into a place with my current roommate who has quickly become a close friend

 

This experience opened my eyes to the pervasiveness of cissexism and transmisogyny that on some level I had thought were not problems that I would personally face

I had a stable job

I had degrees, and awards, and references

And yet even with all of my educational, economic, and racial privilege I found myself homeless with little to no warning

During that time the only thing between me and sleeping on the street was the community of trans folks that I call friends, and often think of as my family.

I often wonder how this would have turned out if I were less privileged

I mean,

I didn’t have to deal with racial prejudice

I could afford an unexpected deposit and moving expenses

I could pay first month’s rent

I could turn to friends in my time of need, and store boxes in their garages, while I crashed on their couches or cuddled up in their beds

And Without every one of those things, I know it wouldn’t have turned out the same

 

So please, PLEASE

 

PROMISE ME, that you will not forget your privilege

PROMISE ME, that you will not ignore the struggle of people less privileged than yourself

PROMISE ME, that you will be there for your community when they need you

And I PROMISE YOU that I will do the same

 

To all of the people under the big trans umbrella here tonight, trans men and women, demi, femme, masc, non-binary, two spirit, and all my gender creative and gender non-conforming family

Take time tonight to reflect on your last year

Take time to be kind to yourself and heal your wounds

And remember that you still have a lot of life ahead of you, so do your best to make sure it is a good one

To everyone here today, including friends, partners, and allies

Remember that we are here tonight as a community to declare that trans suffering will not be invisible

PROMISE ME that you will remember.

Hiya! My name is Ada-Rhodes Short!

Ada (is) Short is the professional page and occasional blog (in theory) of Ada-Rhodes Short (me).

I am a PhD Candidate at Oregon State University in the Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering department studying design and decision making. I have a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines where my research focused on modelling risk for autonomous decision making, and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Baylor University (Sic’em bears!), where I did research related to bone and fossil reconstruction while working with Dr. Caroline Skurla and Dr. Brain Garner in the biomechanics and biomaterials labs. I was also a founding member of Bear Bots (Baylor’s robotics club), and founder and President of Sexual Identity Forum, an LGBTQ etc. student group (SIF’em bears!).

My most recent industry work was with Sphero as a mechanical engineer, first in their hardware department and later in their Social Robotics Group (now Misty Robotics). During my time there I worked on various products including BB-8 and Ultimate Lightning McQueen.

In addition to my academic and industry work, I currently facilitate Corvallis Trans Support, which is a group that works to provide emotional support and combat food, clothing, and housing insecurity for trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks in the Corvallis area. This work is done as a community outreach project of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis.

Thanks for reading!