Time Off on Purpose
Transgender Justin Adkins takes a thoughtful approach
Photo by Matt Petricone
As assistant director of the Davis Center at Williams College, Justin Adkins tackles many social issues, with a focus on gender sexuality. To that end, he spends time in the community, directing his energy to young people as he passes along a message of tolerance. Adkins is known for his programs at high schools, particularly Mount Greylock, where he talks to students about LGBT issues. His goal is to inspire respect, reduce bullying, and provide safe, public spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
As a transgender man, Adkins says his days off sometimes merge with his workdays. He lives an intentional life, where everything he does is considered carefully for its impact on the world around him. Adkins also must consider his own safety and legal protection, especially in the realm of public accommodations, which the state of Massachusetts does not provide to transgender people.
“What that means is that while I am protected in employment against discrimination, I can be kicked out of a hospital, medical office, hotel, restaurant, campground,” Adkins explains. “I love living in the Northeast, where there is more understanding about trans-people than most places, but I actually think about what hospitals are nearby and if they will treat me respectfully.”
Twelve jurisdictions in Massachusetts, none of them in the Berkshires, offer public-accommodation protection to transgender people. While this is something Adkins takes into consideration, he doesn’t allow it to stop him from enjoying life in the Berkshires. “I really love living here and love being part of this community,” he says.
What does a day off look like for Adkins? He spends the morning in his house in Williamstown, with wakeup time fueled by Assembly Coffee, roasted at 814 East St. in Pittsfield and delivered to his door by Dalton-based Berkshire Organics, as well as scrambled eggs provided by his backyard chickens. He also likes to take time to stock new books in his Free Little Library (facebook.com/KropotkinMemorialLibrary) located in front of his house and part of the wider Little Free Library movement (littlefreelibrary.org). He also makes time to write to pen-pals incarcerated in Texas through Blackandpink.org before heading out for the day.
Adkins likes to take his motorcycle over to the Deerfield River in Williamstown to do some fly fishing. His preference is to bypass catch-and-release areas so he can keep what he hooks. “I’m horrible at fishing,” he admits. “So, as much as I love it, I rarely catch anything.”
Adkins practices a Japanese fishing style called tenkara, which doesn’t use a reel and sports other modifications specifically for small waterways in Japanese mountains. Adkins says the stripped-down design and action appeals to his Buddhist practice, which has helped him simplify many areas in his life. It also helps him stand out at the Deerfield. “All the guys are, like, what the hell are you doing? You left half your rod at home. It’s fun.”
To meet Adkins is to get to know pretty quickly that beer is one of his biggest passions. He makes his own at home and loves to support local brews from the tri-state region. One of his favorite things to do is to bike over to the Beer Diviner Tap Room & Market in Stephentown, N.Y., where he enjoys one of the innovative brews. He visits with owner and brewer Jonathan Post, whose experiences in West Africa have shaped his ideas of brewing and community-building. “Just as much as I love the beer, I am even more keen on Jonathan’s reasoning for brewing,” Adkins explains.
If it’s a hot day, Adkins opts for a hike with his dog, Subcomandante Marcos, a lab mix, at Broad Brook Trail on White Oaks Road in Pownal, Vermont. Just beyond the Williamstown/Vermont border, the hike features a running brook and tree coverage along the trail that keeps it cool in the summer.
Adkins enjoys stopping into Salon 290 on Cole Avenue in Williamstown for a grooming session with his friend, Jennifer Lemieux. Then it’s on to another beer-related activity. Adkins’s current favorite local brewery is Wandering Star, and he likes to pick up growlers of his favorite, Mild At Heart, either from the brewery at 11 Gifford St. in Pittsfield or the Spirit Shop, 280 Cole Ave. in Williamstown.
For a bite to eat, Adkins likes the Red Herring, 46 Spring Street in Williamstown for a grass-fed burger sourced from Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, some Sheffield-based Big Elm brew on tap, and a motorcycle chat with owner Ned Smith. “They have the best burgers in town, and nobody realizes that,” Adkins proclaims. “The food is phenomenal.”
Adkins enjoys going to Images Cinema, 50 Spring St., Williamstown, to catch a movie or special event, especially when his own Davis Center Social Change Film Series is being featured. The series is intended to spread enlightenment on issues and activism through movies he’s seen. For Adkins, every choice he makes, all parts of his life, are designed to support values and causes that are important to him. “Everything’s very political to me,” he explains. “My beer and my milk and my life all have politics behind them.”