As I sit down to write this it’s two days before the annual observance that is the Transgender Day of Visibility, or as it is more commonly referred to: TDOV. I am angry and anxious all at the same time. Now mind you it’s not like I never felt like that when I’ve written blog posts or op-eds before, but here’s the thing – this year’s TDOV feels very different to me. Probably because it IS very different. And it’s really not all that hard to explain. It has everything to do with a heightened sense of importance that people, that society writ large, fully and completely understands the moment that the transgender community finds itself in.
We are under attack – from all sides.
With each passing day that another piece of utterly vile legislation is put forth in some Republican-led state legislature, the vice that my community is in as the political wedge issue du jour gets that much tighter. And as I recently stated to my dear friend Fabrice Houdart in our Five Questions piece, “Buckle up, my friend. They’re just warming up!” And that’s because they really are. Think about that for a moment. The 2024 presidential election cycle really hasn’t even cranked up yet, and we are already at nearly 400 anti-trans bills in some form of consideration in state legislatures throughout our country.
But understand this, please: the forces of hate, bigotry, and mis-information are shaping and driving a narrative that seeks only one goal: total eradication of transgender people. And this is not hyperbole – I only wish it were – this is the reality of our moment. It cannot be glossed over; it cannot be whitewashed. As if we needed yet another example, while I was in the middle of writing this, the news broke that the Kentucky state legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass a bill that is widely viewed as among the most extreme anti-transgender bills in the nation, banning transition care for trans youth and limiting the discussion of gender identity in schools.
So, here’s the thing. I am trans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I do not choose to be visible just on March 31st. I am visible EVERY DAY. I am visible because that is how I live my best, fullest life. The life that, quite frankly, I deserve to live – that EVERY transgender person deserves to live. I am visible for all my trans siblings that aren’t – yet. I speak up not to hear my own voice, but to give my voice to those in my community that have no voice. As I have said many times, when I first came out, it is because I gained the courage to do so by standing on the shoulders of those transgender individuals that came before me. The very least that I can do is set my shoulders so that those that are to come after me can use them to reach higher heights and greater achievements for themselves and for our community.
So now comes the time where I ask YOU, dear reader, what are you going to do? Right now, right at this inflection point that the transgender movement finds itself. The time to act is NOW. WE NEED YOU! AND for those of you employed in the corporate sector, WE NEED YOUR COMPANIES TOO!
The transgender community can no longer afford to have you and your workplace stand on the sidelines. Especially if you live and work in states where these beyond-harmful bills are being considered or have unfortunately become law. It’s time to get off the bench and get in the game and get involved. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It is time to make “good trouble” (bless you, John Lewis). And if you are at a loss as to where to begin, there are plenty of “how to be an ally” resources on the Interweb. Now is not the time for excuses, or “I’ll get to it later’s.”
The time for VISIBILITY is NOW! And not just today, but for every single day from here on out.
Well, look who showed up on page 79 of GOMagazine’s annual feature of their Pride edition, “Women We Love.” I am beyond thrilled to be included on this list with such an amazing group of women. Especially on this date, when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The work, and the struggle, continue. It indeed takes a village.
I can remember back to one of my first NYC Pride Marches after coming out, grabbing a copy of GO Magazine, and thinking “wouldn’t it be great to be on this list someday?” I love it when things come full circle like that. My heartfelt thanks to everyone at GO Magazine for including me in this incredible collective of voices for change in our world.
With Transgender Day of Visibility here once again, I find myself thinking a lot about the word vulnerability. At one of my most recent speaking engagements I challenged the audience with this question, “What is your relationship with vulnerability?” I’m willing to bet that for many of you reading this, that is something that you rarely think about – because why would you in the first place? You may find yourself in the fortunate position of being gainfully employed, with a roof over your head and food in the cupboard. So why would a concept like vulnerability ever enter your stream of consciousness? The simple answers to these questions are that you wouldn’t – probably never. And judging by the collective “Hmmmm” sound the audience made I doubt they had too.
The exact opposite, however, is true for far too many transgender people who choose to be visible in our society. By being visible as their authentic selves they risk being vilified by those who choose hate and fear over knowledge and allyship. And for transwomen of color, this can be particularly dangerous, leading to being victims of violence at alarming levels. Everywhere we turn it seems as though there is another anti-trans bill being rushed through conservative-led statehouses that seek nothing more than to eradicate the existence of transgender people of all ages.
But what choice is there? To remain silent and shuttered away never to be seen in public is simply not an option. Yes, we are different – and if you stop long enough to listen to the stories of our journeys to our authentic selves, trust me, you’ll be moved because they are powerful beyond measure.
But there’s another side to vulnerability that I’d like to bring to your attention. As we begin to change the narrative that seeks to position my entire community as a political wedge issue it is vitally important that we have ever-increasing numbers of allies by our side, standing in solidarity with our quest for equality and inclusion. And at the very core of allyship is education. I have learned over 17 years of talks and trainings that for learning to truly happen, one must allow themselves to be vulnerable. To say to yourself, or out loud, “I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to learn.” It is at that precise moment that the heart, the mind, and the soul open and allows teaching to take hold.
By being intentional about learning and allowing that experience to fuel our allyship is how we begin to move the needle on equality and inclusion for transgender individuals of all stripes and all ages. It can be a truly transformative experience – if you let it. And that’s something to consider not just on the Transgender Day of Visibility, but every day of the year.
Earlier this year, I was honored to be voted in as the first President of the Board of Directors for an organization that is near and dear to my heart – TransNewYork. Beginning at the conference in New York City that she organized back in 2019 that I had the privilege of speaking at, Executive Director Dr. Genn Herley and I have become good friends as well as collaborators on addressing the myriad needs of the transgender and gender expansive community. It is an honor for me to be working closely with a dedicated group of committed board directors that share my vision for a better world for trans and non-binary people.
The Mission Statement of the organization tells you all you need to know about why I have chosen to bring my energy and experience to its work:
TransNewYork’ mission is to educate, empower, and enhance the lives of Transgender, Gender Non-conforming and Non-binary Individuals globally through advocacy, community visibility, human and social services, advance knowledge, and lifelong learning development of self.
Please consider supporting TransNewYork, especially with a monthly sustaining donation and help us achieve our vision of being acknowledged as the organization of choice for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary communities in the City of New York, the surrounding Metropolitan area, and nationally. Thank You!
I’m Tired. I’m. So. Very. Tired . . .
Year after year, transgender individuals like me, their allies and advocates gather around the world to honor, and remember, once again, those in my community we have lost to senseless hate and violence in the past year. It is what has come to be known as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDOR, for short. It was created 22 years ago by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in Boston in 1998. And while it is the gracious, honorable and right thing to do – to recognize our dead – I am weary and yearn for the day when we won’t have any new names to read and candles to extinguish.
It has gone on for far too many years, and far too many lives. . .
A very wise person once said to me, “before you ever get to the answers, you must first get comfortable with the questions.” And I get that, but the nagging, unanswered questions continue to mount as each new murder is reported, or as is the case with many media accounts, misreported by not noting the victim’s preferred name, or worse yet not reported at all. But of all the unanswered questions about this utterly senseless loss of life, the one that stands above all others is: “Why?”
Sadly, my struggle for answers only creates more questions.
Why is it that the transgender community has been repeated hauled out to be publicly flogged in the town square to the delight of those who look to undermine, and yes, eradicate our right to fair treatment in all facets of our lives?