Beck Cerón (Pt. 2), on loving his transgender & sober self, the freedom of “queer,” and allyship in pronouns
(Publication Date: 11.29.22)
Overview: In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, host Adam Williams talks again with Beck Cerón, picking up where they left off in their previous conversation.
Adam and Beck go deeper into Beck’s story as a transgender man and the freedom he feels in his queer identity. Beck shares about his experience with gender dysphoria, as male in a female body. He talks about how that experience of himself tied to his use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, and ultimately how he would get clean and sober, and transition into the full confident humanness of himself as a man.
Adam and Beck also talk about allyship through the public use of pronouns (they/them, she/her, he/him). And Beck tells what it feels like to him to finally be able to look in a mirror, and love and trust who he sees there.
SHOW NOTES, LINKS, CREDITS & TRANSCRIPT
The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.
Along with being distributed on popular podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via khen.org.
Connect with Beck Cerón
Instagram for Beck’s mocktail bartending business, A.F. N.A. Drinks by Rock Bottom: @sober.salida.bar
We Are Chaffee
Looking Upstream Host & Photographer: Adam Williams
Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray
Producer & We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin
We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby
Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom
Director of Chaffee Housing Authority: Becky Gray
Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service. Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.
[Intro music, guitar instrumental]
Adam Williams (00:05): Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a human-forward conversational podcast based in Chaffee County, Colorado. I'm your host, Adam Williams.
Today's guest is Beck Cerón, back for part two in our conversation. I can't say enough about how deep and powerful and important I think this conversation is, and I can't say enough for how vulnerable and real Beck is in sharing his story. Of all the meaningful topics we talk about on this podcast, I don't know if there are any more fundamentally human than what Beck brings to the microphone today and of course to his life and to our community every day.
We talk about his identifying as transgender and queer. We talk about his experience with dysphoria as male in a female body and how that experience of himself tied to his use and abuse of drugs and alcohol and ultimately then how he would get clean and sober and come to express himself as male and transition into the full confident humanness of himself.
(01:04): He shares about what it feels like to finally be able to look in a mirror and love and trust who he sees there. And we talk about allyship through the public use of our pronouns, they, them, she, her, he, him.
This podcast, Looking Upstream, overall, it's built on a foundation that relates to social determinants of health. Those are all the factors that influence our wellbeing, like our senses of stability and safety and just good health in daily life.
Sometimes that's done overtly like when we talk about housing affordability and health resources in our community. Oftentimes it's done more indirectly through the sharing of very human and personal stories like Beck's. I hope you will take the time to listen to this whole conversation with Beck.
Maybe you'll even feel compelled to share it with someone or a bunch of someones, but at the least, I hope you'll feel a bit closer to your own humanity, a bit more confident and self-loving, feeling more connected to yourself and to others.
Here it is, part two of my conversation with Beck Cerón.
[Intro music, guitar instrumental]
Adam Williams: All right. So Beck, we are back again. I appreciate you coming back in for part two of this conversation on Looking Upstream. Thank you.
Beck Cerón (02:24): Thank you. I'm glad to be back.
Adam Williams (02:27): We've had a chance to talk in the meantime and I'm pretty excited about what we have to get into today. And the reason that we wanted to have a part two is because, I’ll remind listeners that on part one, we were really starting to peel back layers of the onion, we were really getting into, I think, a meaningful, even powerful subject matter and then we ran out of time.
So again, thanks for making the effort and coming back in. I will remind you back where it was we left off so we can just pick right up and go from there.
(03:02): We left off with you talking about it was related to identity and you were saying that you had a newfound confidence and energy and I think even a sense of freedom in who you are now and you can take pride in yourself in a way that you feel like you had lacked, I think, for your whole life, maybe, leading up to what the last couple of years or so. So if we pick it up from there, just what has made the difference for you to feel that freedom and sense of confidence?
Beck Cerón (03:33): I mean, yeah, I recently got sober April 20th or so, it's kind of ironic, will be my fourth year of being sober. And so, I think with that, I was able to find a sense of clarity in my own mind and trust my own thoughts. And that led me to find the confidence to go forth and actually start doing things to help me with my identity like going through hormone replacement therapy.
And I think after that, on top of sobriety, that added an additional confidence boost because now, again, I get to live in the body that I want to be in. And now you don't have to take hormones to do that, but for me in my path, that's what was required, and so I'm stoked for that and that definitely has helped me.
Adam Williams (04:41): So we're talking about transgender identity, that's where we had left off in that conversation. And I want us to allow, if you don't mind, for some of the basic knowledge sharing here for any listeners who might not be accustomed with what some of these things are about, so there's something to keep in mind as we go forward.
So what would that hormone therapy, what did that do for you? Why was that a choice or a need for you and your body?
Beck Cerón (05:13): Again, this is my own path, so at first, I mean, I definitely was leaning towards being more androgynous and I was slowly coming out and having people refer to me as they then with non-binary pronouns, if you will. And somewhere deep in my soul, I really just wanted to come out as male. And again, I'm a people pleaser and in the past I felt like I had to conform myself to what others probably felt more comfortable with.
But this urge to come out and be my full self really was starting to get to me. I mean, taking the hormones really helped because within every step that the hormones had to offer, even with my voice, I like to say going to what it's supposed to be. So for me, a deep voice, obtaining more facial hair and everything like that, it has to offer, those were all super affirming things that it had to offer.
(06:29): So I think it's really important for me. I mean, just knowing I had it in my hands prior to even giving it to myself for the first time, I felt free, like even then, I was really excited about it.
Adam Williams (06:44): What was the burden prior to that? What was it that felt not free?
Beck Cerón (06:51): Someone would argue this, otherwise, but I felt like it was unnatural, like I felt unnatural in my body for years. I don't know if I mentioned this in the previous podcast, but if it were up to me, when I realized I was in the wrong body, I was five years old. I remember this moment and I recall where I was even standing and I just remember asking my mother being like, "Why don't I have male parts? Or why don't I look like that?" And my mother was really nice and she was just like, "You just don't."
And I remember being distraught, just completely upset, and then it's kind of blank after that. So that was the first memory that I have of realizing that I was in this body, but I had to make peace with that because I didn't know there were options. I mean, I was a kid, I didn't know anything about a lot of things. So I carried on with my life. And even later on as a teenager, I just assumed this was it and I was just more tomboy or this or that.
Adam Williams (08:08): That's a term that gets applied a lot in that case, isn't it?
Beck Cerón (08:12): Yeah. Oh, yeah. If you're a female and maybe you're trying to identify with more masculine type things or clothing and stuff like that. Now I'm at a point where, especially with my kid, I try not to put a gender on clothing or colors or anything like that ever, but in the past, that's what I was raised to believe.
And so, I would hang out with my brother all the time instead of my sister and my little sister while they would play because he had video games and he had all the cool toys I always thought, and I just felt really comfortable hanging out with him in his room all the time. I don't know. Again, that's like a societal thing that we put on our kids and everyone around us that masculine toys or trucks and NASCAR, little race cars and stuff like that. Those are boy toys, but they're not, they're for everyone.
Adam Williams (09:16): There's a lot around that color situation too, because I have a particular memory with my older son at a playground, but the toy he had was largely white, but there was a little bit of pink on it. And a dad who was there with another toddler referred to my daughter, I'm like, "Well, he's my son." "Well, I saw the pink." “It's just a color, man.”
(09:39): But we have that socialization for sure. And I think I have had these conversations before and what I think is probably actually a jaw dropper for many people who maybe have not had these conversations is that you are five and just I think back to my childhood and I think most of us, all of us, we go through childhood taking what is put on us, that's by family, by society.
We accept the things we're told because we trust that those are the answers, but you already felt something inherently within you even at that early age that, "Okay, this is what my mom is telling me." Of course, I mean, no fault there, but I wonder then how you took those feelings, that distraught feeling how did that conversation over time continue with her.
I assume she just thought that was an innocent, "Oh my little girl is asking this question," and then she just forgot about and went on. When did it really evolve to maybe coming out more with these thoughts and feelings of who you are with even just your family?
Beck Cerón (10:53): Yeah. I've put a lot of thought to that. I mean, if my little girl came up to me and said, "I wish I had a boy body," I'm trying to think of childlike terms, I would explain. But back in '95, '96, there wasn't a lot of terminology to implement towards your kids and saying like, "Well, you're stuck with what you have."
Because my mother would always let me wear her button ups, I'd wear my brother's clothes, if anything, they were always super supportive of my style, I didn't know identity then. And so, I'm grateful for that. My parents have always been pretty supportive of that.
But I guess when I realized that it was a physical thing, that I just realized that it came back probably during puberty. I just forgot about it, I just took it as it is. So puberty is when I realized that dysphoria of realizing that I was uncomfortable with my body started to come in.
Adam Williams (12:12): I had wanted to ask you about this for you. If you're able to describe what that experience was for you. Obviously that is not necessarily what applies to everybody. What is your experience as you remember that feeling, if you can help us understand that?
Beck Cerón (12:30): Yeah. I mean, I can try and elaborate the best that I can. It's debilitating in all the ways and it can create a lot of problematic issues within relationships, friendships, even how you view other people. And when you're not comfortable in your own body, you start to lash out and subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways.
At first, I didn't realize it, and so you know you should never do this, but I remember taping my chest to see how flat my chest could get. I mean, for me, I was lucky that I didn't have a larger chest or anything like that, but I would just look at other men and just be like, damn, I would look up to them and then sometimes I would resent them. And so it would cause some frustration.
So all the things that I just felt like I shouldn't have had happened to me and my body are happening without my control, and it's really unfortunate. It's a touchy subject too, for a trans man to talk about because it can bring back some of those memories, but it was my experience.
(13:53): And so I had to force myself to take pride in my womanhood in my woman body. And I hate saying that. And not to say that I don't take pride anymore, I still do. I don't know. Yeah, it's the experience.
Adam Williams (14:13): Well, thanks for sharing that and for letting me know that that's also maybe a question that I push a line there, is that something that we shouldn't go farther with.
Beck Cerón (14:23): Oh, not at all. No, I appreciate the questions. Honestly, if I can, I'll tell you anything. I like to overshare. I like to talk a lot. It's funny because I definitely take pride in trying to share my experience and to say that the nerves aren't there would be a lie, but that's a part of the experience that I want to share with people.
It is an uncomfortable topic sometimes and it's okay to get nervous around these subjects, but it goes to show you're not alone. If you are listening to this and you feel that and you feel like you have to repress from that because of those feelings that you're having, then it's okay.
Adam Williams (15:12): Sometimes I ask guests why they share their story, why come sit here with me, why are we talking about these important big vulnerable, scary, sensitive, whatever it is you feel about the topic. So I'll just ask you that now. Why is it that it is important to you that we have this conversation and that we share it beyond this room, beyond just the two of us?
Beck Cerón (15:36): I believe it is becoming a thing where you're hearing more people come out and express the differences between the binaries or the differences between self-expression and I think it is becoming more of a thing. And maybe there was a little bit of that where I was noticing it and I felt confident to come out as well in so many different ways like with my identity and my sexuality and everything.
So everything's always changing and I feel like I'm constantly coming out, if you will. But it's important because you do feel alone even though you feel like you might know there's a lot of people out there like you, the feeling of being alone is so strong still and you don't know why and it's just because you just don't have that person to come out and see that or reach out to. It's interesting.
Adam Williams (16:44): I want to ask about when did you really recognize and come out, because there's the story you just shared a little bit ago about when you were five and that you have that clear memory of first thoughts. But when was it, what's that evolution to a place where you feel at least confident enough in yourself to say, "You know what, world, this is who I am and you need to accept that"?
Beck Cerón (17:13): It's odd because I feel like I've had a little bit of that growing up, those moments here and there, I guess. But I feel like right now, because I'm living in the now, I feel that now more so than any other time in my life, I guess. And I don't know, maybe it comes with maturity, but I've been able to, again, sober up so I had that clarity to come out as trans and become who I am.
And I feel like with that, on top of all the things I've ever been through and came out as and experimented and experienced and all that stuff, I think right now I feel the most free because I am at this place now where I can express everything and not feel judged or told how to do it.
(18:07): There are certain things that kept me from being at my freest moments, for instance, when I came out as a queer when I was a kid, I didn't know the term queer and I wanted to come out easy. And so I said I was bisexual and of course my mother is awesome. She was like, "I have a feeling you're gay." At the time I was like, "No, I'm not." And I was in denial and she was so right. So even with that, I didn't feel comfortable calling myself a lesbian or even gay because again, I was stuck in a woman's body, I didn't really identify with being a lesbian.
(18:52): And so, I felt like I had to be a certain amount of queer or straight or into women a certain way. And I just felt like there was still something missing, I guess. And so I think up until now, now that I'm comfortable in the body that I am today, I identify as queer, and for me, that's everything, that's the full spectrum in my world. I feel like that term is the most freeing, not to say being lesbian or gay or bisexual or any other.
Adam Williams (19:28): Sure. We're only focusing on your stories individually today.
Beck Cerón (19:32): So for me personally, that's the most freeing as something else would be for someone else. And so now because I have that confidence, I'm able to express myself, and in the way that I even act, I felt like I had to act a certain way around certain genders or at certain people.
And now I'm really comfortable with being who I am and I like to be outgoing, whereas I used to worry about oversharing or being over complimenting people too much or any of those odd things. Now I just let it rip and if you don't sit with someone else, hopefully they'll have the nerve to express that to me or set up a boundary. But normally, I just like to be super outgoing and I feel like now I can do that because I'm happy with where I'm at.
Adam Williams (20:33): Something about the word queer, I think by definition actually about a generation older than you. I'm 46. I think you had said in the previous conversation you're 31.
Beck Cerón (20:46): Yeah.
Adam Williams (20:48): And when I was growing up very young in the late '70s, so primarily the '80s and then a teenager in the '90s, and the use of the word queer was derogatory. But what I've noticed over time and I really appreciate is that it's been taken back, I think. It's been reclaimed and given this sort of power.
And you describe it as a sense of freedom, and I think what I'm hearing you say is that that freedom comes through being more of an all-encompassing word to use that allows you to be all the many things that really any of us are in whatever ways in life. But when we put these labels that are too strict and restricting on us, so I think you're ready to say something there.
I want to hear just about that word. And I don't know how familiar you are personally with experience with the evolution of that word, but I love that you take that and say, "This is the one that feels best to me."
Beck Cerón (21:52): Yeah. I've definitely been there for when queer was derogatory, used as a negative term. And honestly I have been yelled at from cars driving by saying things that I won't mention and I'm just like, "Yeah, that's what I am." Cool and it's wild. I'd say middle school was the worst. Those kids can get pretty creative with their beat downs. I dig that because I feel sad, it's bringing me to another thought actually. The fact that I'm queer now and able to express myself and I feel this sense of freedom, I just feel like anyone should be able to do that, whether they're queer or not, or if they identify as straight or gay or anything.
(22:47): So I mean, I won't list them all off of course, but there are pressures for all sorts of people to feel and act a certain way, either their parents taught them to act that way or their peers teach them to act like that, act a certain way. And I just feel like people should be able to express themselves with vulnerability and kindness and honesty without being obviously pressured into a certain way to act or even dress or anything like that.
Adam Williams (23:22): I realize that no one's asking me to define myself. We're sitting here having this conversation, I'm aware of this. But this is with purpose, I hope people hear with compassion and love and all the things. And I think though the world is asking you to explain and define yourself, well, what's this label, but nobody has ever asked me that.
And I'm a cisgender, heterosexual male who never had to think about it. Because again, growing up, especially in the time period I did in small town, rural Midwest America, I'm surrounded by conservative, I'm surrounded by there's only one way to be, “We identify you as a boy.”
So I never had a chance to even think in those terms. Not that we do then, we're really young anyway, but what I learned was who not to be because of all the pressures, the jokes, the religion, the TV show jokes, the politics and what it means to be "normal" or whatever word to be used there.
(24:29): So I remember actually thinking as a young child things like, "I hope I'm not that thing. I hope I'm not gay because wow, the way everybody acts around that, that sure seems like I wouldn't be accepted, I wouldn't be loved."
(24:45): And nobody still, again, 46, never in my life has anybody asked me to define who I am, they're already putting a whole story on me, especially if I'm not walking down the street alone, I'm with my wife, I'm with my sons. Well, they know my whole story or they think they do. And as a male growing up in this society, I think there's not a lot of room to express that vulnerability, you're saying to just be that gentle, soft person who maybe is more than that narrow lane.
Beck Cerón (25:17): I agree. Yeah. I believe everybody can have the ability to be vulnerable and have a sense of unique style and to able to express how you want to treat others without being judged or even being called gay if you're too nice to anyone. I don't know. I think it's unfortunate.
When I first started my hormone therapy, yes, I felt really confident, I felt really free, but I think because of that, I was catching myself a lot like I was being too comfortable and outgoing with, say, another male or a masculine identifying person, and I thought, "Oh, maybe they think I'm coming onto them too strong. Or am I being too expressive because I just had this newfound energy?"
So I had this sense of I wanted to keep talking to everybody, I wanted to be super outgoing with everyone. And I remember talking to my therapist about it and just expressing how I... I think everyone should have a therapist by the way. Anyways.
Adam Williams (26:32): I had a therapy session earlier this morning.
Beck Cerón (26:34): There you go. I just want to throw that.
Adam Williams (26:35): I actually realized that was a bad idea before we come in here and get into a deep conversation together because I wanted my energy for you, but go ahead.
Beck Cerón (26:42): No. No. I always felt really invigorated after a therapy session. And I think even if you think you have nothing going on in your life and you feel like everything's smooth, seeing therapist's just great. So I even expressed my therapist about I just felt like maybe my energy was too strong and I was starting to become self-conscious again, and I was just like, I'm worried about all these things.
And she held me down from that and gave me the confidence because it's really just knowing that other people have boundaries as well as you do, mostly, of course. But knowing that other people have boundaries and if you are too much for someone, then hopefully they'll have the nerve again to express that and calm you down or tell you that. So for me, that was freeing.
(27:32): Again, I went back to being confident and again, just being myself and I can hug my friends a little bit longer. I don't feel so weird to hug other people. Because at first, I was nervous like, "Well, shit, now I have facial hair, what if my bros don't want to hug me like they used to?" And then I thought, "Well then, were they ever my bros beforehand?"
Adam Williams (28:03): Did you ever encounter any of those sort of moments where they flinch? Which really has to do with them of course, because that has to do with how we, as men, interact with other men and what the socializing thing has been. Oh wait, you can't get this close because what does that look like? What does that signal? Does that sin? Did you ever encounter one of those moments with male friend?
Beck Cerón (28:26): I think it was all me in my head, honestly. And I'm thinking of some situations where I thought maybe they felt like, "All right. Okay, I'll give you an ass out one arm hug." And then I realized that's just them, that's how they hug people like me. I really hug people and I like when someone gives me a really good hug back.
Some of my other friends give me some pretty good hugs and it's like a competition who could hug the tightest, and I love that. But that's just me, some people don't like that. And again, so at first, maybe I took that as a, "Oh, they think I'm being too gay." And then I thought, "Well, I am queer." No, I'm just kidding. And it's funny though, I even asked my coworker and I was like, "I just feel like my bros, I don't think they feel as comfortable around me now that I'm identifying super masculine." And he was like, "Well, then were they ever your friends?" And I was just like, "Oh shit, yeah."
(29:41): He might have been right about that, but in the end it was all in my head, I think, and I was just super hyper aware of offending someone or making them uncomfortable. And then I realized, "Oh shoot, I'm like entrapping myself." And so I had to get rid of that because it was something that was on my mind. I mean, obviously I talked to my therapist about it and I was tired of it. Now I'm free of that and I get to express myself anyway that I want.
(30:13): I'm just kind of rambling, but I have some friends in Denver who are also fellow trans men, one of them being pretty close to me, he's like a brother to me, he's great, he'll wear high heels and a dress to an event with his beard and he looks super good and it's super expressive in all the ways.
And when I first met him, I thought he was very masculine and he gave me that newfound confidence to express myself however which way that I want. I mean, my style in general is very bro-like, I guess, if that's a style, but like what's femininity and masculinity, what's confident and not confident, I guess. To express yourself fully, to me, that's super confident.
Adam Williams (31:08): It is. And to love yourself in all the forms, which can include the masculinity and wearing a dress and high heel if that's how you feel. But if we go way back early in the conversation, we're talking about pink and blue and dresses mean girl and blue jeans with dirt on a mean boy playing.
And these sorts of boxes that we've created societally that are very longstanding haven't been questioned by the masses anyway. And so, it's all really, I think, very easy shorthand. But how many people truly feel like, "Well, I'm not getting to express myself." I mean, we do have plenty of ego issues and issues with security, insecurity not being who we fully are.
I think when people get to where they're uncomfortable, like you're saying if you give a friend a hug and they're uncomfortable, it's like, well, that's because they have things going on with them. We're like, 'Well, these are the rules we've learned."
(32:05): I'm not sure what to do at this moment to be who you fully are or ought to be the goal for every one of us. And most of us, almost all of us, I think are so scared to go out with, I have a nice big beard. I don't know. Am I willing to go out and address in high heels and not feel like I'm going to be attacked in some form or other? That takes a lot of courage and confidence and self-love, I think.
Beck Cerón (32:30): Yeah, it's gotten to the point where I'm in that train of thought so well that I forget that there is that societal idea that we have to act a certain way. Let's say if I experience hate speech or if I see even a fellow, someone that you would never see saying these things being transphobic or maybe they don't even realize they're being transphobic or if I witness anything of that nature out and about, I'm almost taken back. I'm like, "Oh, right." There are people that think like that still.
So I'm usually taken back if I hear of maybe some of the teachers not seeing eye-to-eye with some of the trans kids in the school system or they don't approve of calling them by their name because they feel like it's not up to them, it wasn't their choice, I'm taken back and I'm really upset about that.
But that's unfortunate. For me as a parent now, I feel like somewhere in their experience they were taught that that was normal, to live by the binary, to know that certain things were meant for certain genders, and it's unfortunate. And so to them, it's normal.
Adam Williams (34:03): Those rules are unbendable to most of society. This is the way it is. This is what "normal" is. These are the rules. What else could there be? I think they struggle with abstract thought or thought that goes outside of what they've previously been taught. And then to realize, well, wait, what we were taught was created by humans, but largely men throughout history.
And wait a second, I also am a human and I'm in this time, in this, now, can I rethink this? Can I find a different sense of that truth? I think most people seem not to be built to critically think through those moments and say, "You know what? Yeah, this is the way we've always done it, that doesn't mean it's the way we always have to do it."
Beck Cerón (34:47): Right. I agree. Again, I'm always taken back when I experience that where they're just so stuck in their ways in that thought process. And I think it's hateful. But I'm excited though because, again, I'm taken back because I'm now in this world where even from cis, hetero identifying people, they're open minded as well and they totally are okay with befriending and seeing their friend who's either queer or trans, maybe just someone a little different than them and treating them as an equal and being totally cool with it.
And it's so refreshing. So I mean, I live in a nice town where I see a lot of that, and again, that's why I feel like I'm taken back when I experience the opposite and I'm like, "Oh, right. Dang, that still exists." And here I am just wanting to exist and move on with my day or my life, as well as anyone else, they just want to live and do things like go to the post office without being at risk of getting stabbed or yelled at from a truck or something driving by.
Adam Williams (36:07): You mentioned before pronouns and that you use he, they, how about we talk about pronouns? Because you and I have had this conversation before off the microphone a little bit, and I think it sounds like that's an important subject, your thoughts there.
Beck Cerón (36:28): Yeah.
Adam Williams (36:29): What is the significance of being vocal about that? I use he/him, what's the importance of me as an ally being vocal about that?
Beck Cerón (36:42): Yeah. I mean, stemming off from what we were just talking about with being able to exist freely and just be ourselves on a normal day-to-day life thing. So to normalize it is the ultimate goal. And to do that is to not over strain it, but definitely make use of putting your pronouns next to your name in an email or on your cards, your business cards, or even asking someone what their pronouns are and even doing it in front of other people, which I love to do personally. I don't know.
Adam Williams (37:22): You can do it on social media accounts now too, which is the one place actually that I have applied it, I think, is on my Instagram account. But to be honest, I have had a little concern that, well, is that received well? Is that received as allyship, or is that seen as me being performative trying to show something else that might be read as hollow or false? Is it truly something that is of use?
Beck Cerón (37:51): It is and it is of allyship. When I see that, I get excited. I'm excited to know that that person is able to express that without feeling they shouldn't have to. And for me, it's so normalized in my world that if it's not there, I wonder. Even though, let's say this person has all of these feminine qualities, I guess, maybe let's say long hair, and I even hate to say it like this, but with long hair, dress and all that stuff, I still wonder.
And so for me, it's comforting seeing that because I don't know, I won't know and I won't assume because it's just not in my nature anymore to assume that, I wouldn't want them to do that for me. So it's cool because, like I said, I personally doing it in public, but there's been a few occasions where I feel like maybe even someone came out to me because I asked them that, I gave them the opportunity in public to express how they wanted to be identified as.
Adam Williams (39:11): It made them feel safe then, you immediately then make it known, I'm paying attention to this, I care, you can share with me. But I'm sure it sounds like you're not even realizing that that's a sort of coming out moment for them.
Beck Cerón (39:27): Yeah.
Adam Williams (39:29): That impact. Sorry. That's blowing my mind right now. The impact that you have in an instant by simply showing you care enough to ask that question to someone who hasn't possibly never been asked and they're saying in a way, you might be the only person that ever hears that.
Beck Cerón (39:44): Yeah. One person, I have their name saved as Cincinnati person from the bar because I don't recall their name, if you're hearing this reach out. I used to work at Woods. This person was sitting there with a friend and again, I can't assume I wanted to proceed talking with them, and I'm not going to assume she/her or he/him, or they/them with them so I just wanted to know and I just asked and they were mind blown.
And they were maybe a little bit older than I am, and they were just mind blown. They were like, "I never been asked that. No one's ever asked me that before." And they were like, "I really think they/them is pretty cool. I think I like that a lot." And I'd say, this person, their style was super androgynous and regardless, I just felt the urge to ask.
(40:46): And so, I asked their partner and their partner was she/her. And it was great because I really like to ask just because, again, I can't assume and I don't know. And then I guess you're right, I don't realize I'm doing that and they're having this whole moment. I made it a point to ask another person in front of my coworkers because I just had the sense I should ask and I wanted to ask specifically in front of everyone else, and they said they/them.
And because I just had a feeling maybe the people around them wouldn't have asked and would just assume, and so I just felt like, at that moment, it was my duty to do so instead of just doing it like I normally do. I made it a point. It's funny, I don't know how much I can elaborate on this, but I recently just applied for a passport and I felt the need to put M, so now you can put an X, which is great. It's this huge thing, we've come so far.
(42:00): And so now we have X as an option on our passports, which is wild. I get it with the stated of Colorado, which mine is X on there as well. But when I applied for my passport, I definitely stuck with M. And not only because I definitely identify more with M, but somewhere deep within, I had this sense of I wanted to be safe, wherever I go, I don't know what countries are going to be totally cool with it.
So I felt conformed to putting M on there, but whereas there's going to be someone who is truly just not identifying with F or M and need to put that X, and I'm glad they can do that, but it's sad that I even worry about it.
Adam Williams (42:54): It is. It's sad that there is any component related to safety simply for being who you are, who any of us are. But then you walk around here on a regular basis around your daily life because I really am happy for you for this that you said, "Oh yeah, I just got reminded that there are some people who don't see the world in this all inclusive way."
And I'm glad that you're able to do that so much of the time. And at the same time, obviously you're aware, like you just demonstrated, "Oh well, there are people in the world who simply because I'm me."
(43:32): Well, I don't know what it is. Maybe you have thoughts on this. Not only related to identity, we've already touched on some of this. All the ways that we feel confident in ourselves doesn't matter who we are, it doesn't matter what we're talking about in the world, if you are confident, happy walking down the street without looking, like prey to someone else's anger and issues, why is it that people attack confidence? Why is it that we attack people who feel good being who they are? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Beck Cerón (44:04): I just get sad. I mean, I just become really sad when that happens. I feel like, I don't know 100% why they do it, but I really feel like it was a taught thing. Maybe it's just where they're from. Maybe it's politics. Maybe it's what they were taught, what was right and what was wrong. Maybe they even had these feelings of wanting to express themselves a little differently but got repressed for it immediately or maybe they were bullied.
There's so many different things. I've, in my head in the past, wondered it would just be so easy to just not be queer or trans. I'm at risk of probably getting stabbed, wouldn't that be enough to make someone be like, "Oh nevermind, I don't want to do that." This is how it's not a choice. And so I kind of went off, that took me off on this whole thing, but I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell you. There's just so many different things that could cause someone to be like that.
Adam Williams (45:09): I think it's all the factors that you mentioned there and probably a ton more, right?
Beck Cerón (45:14): Probably. Yeah.
Adam Williams (45:15): I think what it comes down to though is that it has far less to do with the person being attacked than the one who is trying to enforce or reinforce their concepts of what the rules are or maybe the rules as they were applied to them. And like you said, they might have felt repressed in being who they are.
And so if they can't be confident in who they are, again, regardless of what that is, that might just mean wearing the clothes you want to wear or liking the music you want to without feeling judged by whatever your coworkers or your family, whatever.
Beck Cerón (45:48): Anything.
Adam Williams (45:50): We all need therapy. You mentioned therapy, we all need it. And that would help I think nationwide, if we're going to invest some federal funds on something of use, maybe therapy needs to be somewhere up the list at this point.
Beck Cerón (46:04): Yeah, that's been proven, for sure. Finding where the funds are more useful.
Adam Williams (46:11): Okay. You talked about when we started this conversation because it was tying to the part one of our conversation that you got sober, you had had experience with addiction as well in your life. So we're saying sober, clean, and there's correlation with identity because we had touched on that again at the end of that last conversation.
So I'd for us to segue through that in whatever you'd like to share there. What was that connection do you think of using and abusing alcohol and drugs? To what extent do you feel like that was connected to identity and how you were feeling about yourself or how you were accepted or not in the world? And then ultimately being sober, seeing yourself clearly loving yourself, coming out and identifying as queer and trans. And I know that's a whole lot in that question. I hope I didn't lose you.
Beck Cerón (47:10): Not at all. I'm definitely seeing it just in the very end of all of that, now that I get to be sober and express who I am and be who I am, I have this ability to want to help people, whereas I did beforehand, I was always really good at giving advice and being a caretaker and wanting to help others. I just feel like now, I just have a lot of better advice.
But it's helpful to know that whatever advice you're giving others in helping them, you resonate with. Because anyone can just say everything will be okay, but if you're not okay, how can you put off that energy and make that genuine, that advice genuine. And so, I think now I really, really want to help people because where I did have that urge before, I'm now helping myself and obtaining these tools that I feel more confident in helping others with a more genuine attitude, I guess.
(48:24): And I've said this before, like a broken record, but whatever I have to offer someone struggling, I know they can't go backwards from, whether they stay where they're at or they move forward, that's the hope. But I'm pretty confident in that. And I'm trying not to doubt that, where in the past I would doubt that like, am I really helping this person? What if what I say is not good or this and that? There's a lot of what ifs and now it's like I know it's going to be okay and that I'm confident.
Adam Williams (49:03): I think so much comes from the lived experience and when we have spent time reflecting on that, digging into it, trying to understand it, find its place in our lives and grow from it, but you have a lot to offer people in that way, more so I think than if it was just a textbook thing, "Well, I've read this book on this once, let me fix you."
Well, that doesn't go as far as, "Okay, I have empathy because I've been there. I know what you're feeling. I get it and I'm going to be a good listener for this. I'm not going to try to give you the answers, I know how to help you walk with what you're experiencing." That's a night and day difference, I think, what you have to offer.
(49:44): And what we are talking about here is that you actually are making a career shift. You had mentioned Woods earlier, you were a distiller for around a 10 year career as a distiller of whiskey and gin and so on. And you now are transitioning in a career change to helping people professionally who are recovering from addiction to drugs, alcohol and whatnot. Do you want to maybe elaborate on some of that?
Beck Cerón (50:09): It's ironic, I guess someone would say. I always thought it was funny before I realized that I could make helping people like a career. I just did so, of course, as a friend, as a person, but I was still distilling at the time and people would be like, "Well, that's odd that you're a sober distiller." And so that kind of became a popular thing in my world, the sober distiller and people found it ironic and it was funny.
Adam Williams (50:43): Well, and you had a mocktail bartending business too, we should mention.
Beck Cerón (50:46): Yes.
Adam Williams (50:48): Include that in there, because what I learned recently from you is that these things are very connected, that you would give out your phone number on the back of those business cards for your mocktail bartending business so that people, even total strangers, could reach out to you when they had questions around recovery or whatever they needed to reach out and have that connection with you for.
Beck Cerón (51:11): Yeah. For me, when I put my phone number on that card, it wasn't to get more events, because my time even was kind of constricted, it was all depending, it was more so people could call me and I would just say, "Reach out to that number, even if you just want to chat for five minutes."
And that's like my thing that I say at my popup events. And sure enough, multiple people have called me, a few people and of course I won't mention names or anything, but say they were having a moment and they just needed five minutes.
I can remember one person, I just went for a walk around the park and I just spoke to him about maybe not picking up that whiskey bottle and hopefully not going in too deep or even just talking to somebody that might have been already using and just needed someone to talk to.
(52:02): And I've been there, I've been in that position and all I can say is, "Hey, just from a non-professional standpoint, I totally understand where you're coming from. This is what I did." And/or sometimes they'll just talk to me and they'll talk about random things and it's just nice knowing that I did that for them.
And at first, I was a little nervous, but then I realize I'm just talking to someone as if when I needed someone to talk to, that's all I ever needed as well, just someone to answer and just be willing to just listen. That goes a long way.
(52:41): Initially, before starting the mocktail popup bar, I'm in recovery and I'm utilizing tools to help me stay sober and clearheaded. And I feel like at the time I needed something to hold me accountable, and not only did I feel like Salida lacked the term sober in general besides AA or NA, and this could have been in my own perception as a distiller and working downtown for so many years, I just felt like Salida was highly libated in the alcohol scene.
(53:20): And so I felt like, "Well, shit, if anyone's going to start a non-alcoholic thing, then I guess I'll have to be the one to do it." So I did it not thinking not much would come from it, but even just having the term sober bar out there, people reached out. They were grateful for it.
And so, it's starting to gain some momentum, which I'm grateful for. Even just sharing syrup with some of the coffee shops so they can make their drinks and just to promote it like, "You can get this sober syrup here at this location." It just gives people a sense of community like they're not alone.
And it is something we're seeing coming up, the sober scene is coming out and all that. No, it's really nice because I'm using it as a tool for my sobriety. So me helping others is like helping me.
Adam Williams (54:22): I look at the podcast we're doing here, this Looking Upstream as a similar tool for me as a way to connect with people, as a way to practice. It's sort of an aspirational thing for me to act in ways that are the compassionate listener that I want to be, the one who engages with humanity in the way that I want it to be, because I don't walk around every day feeling that way about everything I see and hear. So I think it's a very positive step and a practice really in life, a life practice that you're taking these steps in your own recovery and to help others doing that.
(55:01): I want to wrap up with this question. I hope it's not too big of a question because, of course, again, we could just keep talking here, but I wonder who you see in the mirror now, so far, going through all these steps and this evolution of who you are and coming to this place that is sober and where you love yourself, and you mentioned being more clear minded. Who do you see when you look in the mirror? What do you feel?
Beck Cerón (55:25): We all have imperfections, of course. We're just these malleable little humans that are speckles of dust in our galaxy. I mean, I've come a long way as a person myself, and I don't know what tomorrow holds, I don't know where I'll be in my journey, who will be around me.
When I look in the mirror, I just know I trust the person that's in front of me now, because in the past I didn't, and I don't know why, but I just didn't. And now I do. And so, where I would get really anxious of the future and the possibilities of all these things, maybe even being dissatisfied with how I looked, I don't feel that anymore. I mean, I don't know.
I can actually goof off and say that I look pretty good some days and that's all that matters, there's no certain way to look it. I really think confidence is what makes you look good. I don't know. It's hard to explain.
Adam Williams (56:41): We all need that.
Beck Cerón (56:41): Yeah.
Adam Williams (56:43): No, I think that's fantastic, and to look in the mirror, man, I love how you put that, to trust that person and where you're going with whatever's ahead.
Beck, I really love that we got a chance to sit down for a second conversation. Thank you for sharing about all of this. I mean, you're a tremendous person. I'm so glad to do this.
Beck Cerón (57:03): Oh, well, right back at you. I can't think of anybody else that could hold a podcast like this other than you. So yeah, you're inspirational, for sure.
Adam Williams (57:14): Thank you.
[Transition music, guitar and horns]
Adam Williams (57:21): All right. That was my second of two conversations with Beck Cerón. If what they shared here today resonated with you, you can email comments to Lisa Martin, one of our producers at email@example.com.
We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or whatever platform you use with that functionality. We also invite you to share the Looking Upstream podcast with others on your social media pages and by word of mouth. Help us to grow the good, be part of the light the world needs. Once again, I'm your host, Adam Williams. Jon Pray is engineer and producer.
(57:49): Thank you to KHEN Radio where we recorded today's conversation in Salida, Colorado. Heather Gorby for graphic and web design. Lisa Martin, producer and community advocacy coordinator for the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Initiative. Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and Becky Gray, director of the Chaffee Housing Authority.
(58:05): The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing and is supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. You can learn more about the Looking Upstream podcast and related storytelling initiatives at wearechaffee.org and on Instagram and Facebook @WeAreChaffee.
Lastly, thank you for listening and until next time, as we say it, we are Chaffee. Be human, share stories.