Hannah Michelle Bussa
Omaha’s only LGBTQIA2S+ media outlet, Speaking of Happy, has started a new livestream event series called “Frankly Speaking,” hosted by Eli Rigatuso and Avalisa Gallo.
Rigatuso said about his identity, “My expression is trans masculine, although being Two Spirit, I also believe that intrinsically I am both/and, male/female, masculine/feminine, able to relate across the spectrum of gender as well as committed to there being no gender at all.”
Gallo is a Black trans woman.
“On the spectrums of gender identity and expression, I exist at the extreme,” She said. “Very much woman. Very much feminine.”
Frankly Speaking is a discussion forum for transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming folks to have frank conversations about their experiences. It is a space that brings light to the intersections of identities and a space for people to learn.
Rigatuso created Speaking of Happy in 2009 with the intention to put the word “happy” back into the word “gay.” He wanted to share the joy of LGBTQIA2S+ people, instead of just their tragedies.
In 2015, Rigatuso came out as transgender at the age of 50 and Speaking of Happy evolved.
“It became a space for me to share my experiences coming out and being a 50-year-old queer transmasculine Two Spirit of the Menominee Nation,” He said. “Little did I know what I was about to face in living my truth.”
Rigatuso began hosting workshops to create a space where people could answer questions. They wanted people to gain a greater understanding of how to affirm transgender, nonbinary and gender diverse or nonconforming people.
At a Transgender Day of Visibility panel in 2018, Rigatuso met Gallo. Since then, they have worked together on a variety of projects. During many of these projects, they wished they could speak more frankly about their experiences. They decided they needed a space for people like them to share their frustrations and Frankly Speaking was born.
Rigatuso said their goals are to uplift and educate, as well as to spread some joy. He also said trans-identifying people are not a monolith. There are as many ways to express gender as there are people in the world.
“I am not the Lorax! I don’t’ speak for all the trans folks,” Gallo said.
“Sometimes we need a space to share what we are really thinking without having to temper it and be gentle with the feelings of others,” Rigatuso said. “If you see yourself in something we are saying, that is not our issue, that may just be something you need to take a look at.”
Rigatuso said they are available for trainings at businesses and organizations for those who want the information delivered in a more sensitive and loving way, but through Frankly Speaking, they can share without reservations.
They put a lot of work into the show. For every hour of livestream, they put in about 15 hours of preparation into the experience. They are also committed to compensating their guests. Rigatuso said that they also strongly encourage people to tip their guests for sharing their personal life experiences and doing that emotional labor.
“[Frankly Speaking] is a great way to learn and challenge your own beliefs about what it means to be transgender, nonbinary or gender diverse/nonconforming,” Rigatuso said. “You get to choose how you would like to interact with us too! Ask questions on the live chat or sit back and be that fly on the wall! Totally up to you!”
Readers can support Frankly Speaking by signing up to be a patron on Patreon.