Just last month I was fortunate enough to meet and spend some time with two key persons responsible for the creation and success of the hit series “Transparent.” As a Board member of PFLAG National, we honored the series’ creator, Jill Soloway, at the Straight for Equality gala held at the Marriott Marquis in midtown Manhattan. In her remarks, Jill spoke poignantly about the impetus for the series, which involved her father’s own transition.
Now in its sixth year, PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality Gala honors and celebrates some of the most powerful straight allies who are generating life-changing change through their work. The awards each year focus on areas key to moving equality forward, including the workplace, faith communities, entertainment, literature, sports, education, and more.
The highlight of every year those who support and are associated with the LGBT Community Center (“the Center”) of New York is the Center Dinner event. This year’s event was held on April 2 at Cipriani on Wall Street, and among the honorees that evening, Jeffrey Tambor of the hit Amazon series Transparent was honored with the evening’s Trailblazer Award. He was presented by long-time LGBT ally and fellow cast member, Judith Light.
It was definitely a personal highlight for me, as the only transgender individual on the Center’s Board, to have had the chance to meet and briefly chat with Jeffrey at the event. In his acceptance speech he spoke poignantly about the transgender community and acknowledged the contributions of the trans individuals in the room – all of whom he did not necessarily know.
I will forever remember how he reacted to me when I told him that so many parts of Maura’s (the trans character he plays on the show) transition mirrored mine. He simply looked at me with empathy and understanding and kept repeating, “I know, I know” – because I truly believe that in living into Maura and learning about the transgender and gender non-conforming community – he truly does.
Over the course of a mere two weeks, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to add my voice on the Huffington Post website: as a new blogger in their “Gay Voices” section, and as a guest panelist on “Huff Post Live.”
For the former, I was asked by my colleagues at PFLAG to write a piece about what the importance of trans allies means to me, especially as it pertained to my decision to come out at work a few years ago. Today, as it was then for me, the importance of allies – those individuals that advocate for and support members of a community other than their own – cannot be overstated. You can read the entire blog by clicking here.
The producers of Huff Post Live asked me to share, once again, my experiences raising my son in a segment about being a parent who also happens to be trans. The episode, which included other trans parents, provided a rich array of experiences that I hope you find engaging and informative.
PFLAG National is the nation’s largest organization uniting families, allies, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ). PFLAG is doing wonderful work, a good portion of which has to do with educating the community about, and providing support to, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals through its network of over 350 chapters across the United States.
As the only transgender identified member of the the National Board, I am truly honored to be a part of a collective of passionate and committed individuals, and am looking forward to adding my voice to the initiatives PFLAG has underway with regard to the development of allies for the transgender community, and bringing a greater level of understanding to the issues facing transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
Click Here, to read the full press release.
Where to begin? Over the course of a mere three days in this lovely city I experienced the warm embrace and graciousness of an LGBT community that has redefined the term “togetherness.” Without exception, every person I met at every event I spoke at, every reception I attended, every media appearance or interview – and yes – even at the drag shows – made me feel so welcomed and included. From the very first time I was approached to participate by the Capital Pride committee to be a part of this year’s events oh-so many months ago, I have said it is truly an honor to contribute to the amazing undertaking that is Capital Pride.
To Jennifer and the entire staff at the U.S. Embassy, I thank you for your sponsorship and I am profoundly appreciative of all your efforts in shaping what was an incredible 72 hours.
To Brodie, Stephanie, Andrea, Giselle, Dixie, Hannah, Rob, Alex and everyone at Capital Pride, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your tireless efforts and your commitment to the LGBT community of Ottawa and beyond. You have so much to be proud of.
To Sophia, Janne, Amanda, Linda and everyone at Gender Mosaic, what you have created and nurtured over the years is truly inspiring to me. Many transgender organizations in the United States and around the world can learn from your model of togetherness, unconditional acceptance and commitment to the creation of community for each one of its members. I am proud to be your sister.
All of you have successfully shaped – and continue to shape – the narrative for transgender and LGBT rights not only in Ottawa and Ontario, but across all of Canada. As an activist, I am energized by your commitment to equality and human rights for all. I consider it a privilege to have been given the opportunity to contribute to this narrative in my own way. Please know that as I leave Ottawa I will take a little piece of each one of you along with me. I leave a different person than the one that arrived. I am deeply touched by your outpouring of love and support. You have enriched my soul. For that I am eternally grateful.
As someone at the Human Rights Vigil said to me afterward, “this is not goodbye,” and indeed it is not for I know in my heart that our paths will cross again.
Thank you, Merci beaucoup, God Bless . . . and Happy Pride!
Your honorary Ottawan,
As the month of June – Pride Month – comes to a close, I feel compelled to pause and reflect for a few moments on where the transgender community finds itself at this moment in its history. The setting for this missive is the beach at Asbury Park, New Jersey where I am taking a break from the blur of activities, events and speaking engagements that come along for the ride when the calendar turns to June. The warm sun and comfortable breeze make for a delightful afternoon where I can be alone with my thoughts. I am a part of a diverse mix of beachgoers on this day: gay, straight, families, young, and old peacefully coexist in a swirl of laughter, animated conversations, Frisbee and volleyball. That’s why I love coming here. I feel like I am part of a family of sorts. The new season, my favorite – summer, has arrived and everything in the world is in perfect alignment.
Ah, if it were only that simple! Depending on your particular point of view, you might agree with that perspective, or vehemently disagree with it. Put in the context of the equal rights of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, the world seems anything but perfect. While I will acknowledge with deep appreciation the recent strides the community has made: the pending executive order that provides protections for transgender workers with regard to contractors doing business with the federal government, Medicare providing coverage for transition-related healthcare and the Time magazine cover that featured the image of Laverne Cox along with the title “The Transgender Tipping Point – America’s next civil rights frontier.” Well, I’d say that we are making quite a splash – and good for us!
While I am genuinely thrilled by these developments – and how can one not feel just a bit giddy about the “air cover” that the Time coverage provides, I must cop to a more than mild sense of concern about what still must happen for transgender and gender non-conforming people to have a level playing field from which to live their lives. Vast differences remain between my community and the rest of society when it comes to housing, employment and healthcare. You may have seen the numbers, they are frightening, frankly, but what’s more frightening is there are many outside of our community that do not know. You can argue the point that they do not know because they choose not to hear. I have a different perspective: they do not know because they have yet to be reached by us.
That is why I do what I do. It begins with a very simple premise: Education. During this Pride Month I have seen first-hand what the power of education and simply telling your story can have on an audience. It’s about connecting with people on a very human level. It’s about changing hearts and changing minds. What I don’t know is what preconceived notions existed within each person as they enter the room to hear me speak. What I do know is that they left the auditorium with a much different view of what a transgender person is all about. About how human we are, and that we are, in so many respects, no different than they are. Yes, we have our own set of unique challenges, but we are no less human because of them.
How do I know this? Did I suddenly become telepathic? Not at all. I know this because they told me. They told me with their voices when they came to speak with me after I finished my program, and for others they told me with their eyes, their expressions and their smiles as I spoke. Education. It forms a foundation of Understanding. That, in turn, sows the seeds of Acceptance.
It’s about time a wider and brighter national spotlight has been cast on our community. For us to have our voices heard we must step out of the shadows and share our stories. They are so amazingly powerful. But before that can happen we must “own” who we are – individually and collectively. As I was once told by someone a long time ago, “you cannot expect others to accept you, without first accepting yourself.” The conversation must be broadened. The narrative must expand. Tipping point? I’ll buy that, but in my humble opinion it is up to the transgender and gender non-conforming communities to up our game and continue to advocate for what we intrinsically know are ours: our civil – and human – rights. We control our own destiny, we can shape our future, we possess the power to tip the scales in our favor by the power of our Authenticity.