November can be a strange month for me. Please allow me to explain. You see for me there’s a lot going on this month. First and foremost, it is Transgender Awareness Month, and then there’s Transgender Awareness Week, which culminates in the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). In addition to all of this, I also celebrate a birthday this month, and it all makes for such a swirl of conflicting emotions – especially this year.
It is a time to celebrate trans and gender-diverse people from all walks of life for simply standing up and saying to the world (and in many cases, their parents) this is the REAL me. But at the same time, we also acknowledge those who have paid the ultimate price for living their lives authentically.
The statistics are indeed sobering. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring report, which tracks murders reported in the media each year, 320 (!) trans and gender-diverse people were killed between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023. An overwhelming majority of those (94%) were trans women or trans-feminine people, and most were people of color. The numbers speak for themselves, but in truth, one death is far too many.
Lives ended prematurely. Voices silenced. Dreams shattered. Brilliant and beautiful rays of light snuffed out forever.
They were never recognized as the human beings they are: a daughter, a son, a brother, a sister, a friend – a loved one to someone . . . somewhere. They were threads in the fabric of their communities, and they had hope for a better life.
Yes, we celebrate, but we also mourn, and we honor those who are no longer here to join in the celebration.
And all of this is happening at a time when there is so much noise in the air. Misinformation and disinformation fueled by hate and fear abound, and they are creating a level of interference that is making it difficult for the REAL stories about the transgender community to shine and break through the clutter.
So, what do we do as a community?
The answer to that came to me courtesy of the absolutely divine and fabulous Billy Porter who I happened to catch speaking to Seth Meyers on Late Night With Seth Meyers a few weeks back. I honestly have long since forgotten what question of Seth’s he was responding to, but his answer hit me right between the eyes,
“. . . you stand in the fullness of your authenticity.”
Stop for just a moment and let those words wash over you. For me, they elicit feelings of pride, courage, strength, forthrightness, and love. Yes, Love. Love for who you know – or better put – have always known, your authentic self to be. To be fully centered in your own sense of self. To say to the world around you, “Yes, this IS who I am.”
It is from this foundation that all of us in the trans and gender-diverse community – and our beloved allies – must continue to tell our stories. For as I have said a zillion times before, there is immense power in our stories. All our stories. From all walks of life. All ages, races, creeds, and colors. Because our human family is everywhere. It remains our most powerful tool in combating the hate, bigotry, and outright lies being spewed into the atmosphere by those who seek nothing less than our total eradication. Those who somehow fear our uniqueness, that refuse to acknowledge our shared humanity.
So as this month and week of Transgender Awareness draws to a close, let us not forget to love one another, honor those who are no longer with us, and remain steadfast in our struggle for a more just and graceful world.
Being aware of who we are is only the beginning. Standing in the fullness of your authenticity and sharing your truth with the world is what changes hearts and minds.
As this Pride Month comes to a close, I’d like to take a moment to remind all of you that consider yourselves an ally that doing so is an active undertaking. I, and all of my trans and nonbinary siblings are our authentic selves 24×7, 365 days a year – not just for the month of June!
The reality is, that it is the same for you. Being an ally is a daily commitment to social justice and reinforcing the right that we all live our lives authentically and without fear. Especially now, when the forces that seek nothing less to eradicate us from existence are attempting – and some would say, succeeding – in bending the narrative to their wishes through a torrent of mis- and dis-information. But try as they might, the one thing they will never have is our stories. As I reflect on this past Pride month, and all that I have participated in and seen celebrated, I always come back to this simple fact: there is immense power in our stories. Our stories can move mountains, change hearts, and change minds. It is, and will always be our superpower. They define our histories, our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. They are OUR narrative.
But the simple truth is we cannot do this alone. If we are honest with ourselves, we never could. Because at the beginning of the movement and at various points throughout it, we were denied access to the spaces where we could tell our stories. I hasten to add that in many state legislatures today we are still being denied that fundamental human right.
It is for this reason and countless others, that we need our allies.
You amplify and elevate our stories. You help shape the narrative. You stand in solidarity with us when the clouds of hate, prejudice, and fear darken the path to our authentic selves. In so many ways, you are the light that illuminates the path forward when perhaps we are unable to see where our next step will lead us.
So I ask you: Are you an ally with a capital “A”, or are you an ally with a small “a?” “Capital A” allies live their values actively and openly every day, and they confront “teaching moments” that inevitably arise when it is clear that others are attacking my right, and the right of my trans and nonbinary siblings, to live as we are. “Small a” allies remain silent. They put away their Pride flags and change their rainbow Zoom backgrounds the moment the calendar flips to July. Lest we forget that silence condones, and in the final analysis, is a “small a” ally really an ally at all? One simply cannot consider themselves an ally and then disappear in the moments when we need them the most.
Now I realize that not everyone possesses the mettle, or can find it in their nature, to be a vocal, bullhorn-blaring, sign-waving ally. But the good news is being an ally is not a one-size-fits-all deal. To be sure, Capital A allies come in all shapes and sizes and in multiple varieties. So, as we move into the hazy days of summer and further away from a Pride Month filled with celebrations, protests, marches, and parades, I ask you to please create a moment of contemplation and discernment to examine your own values, your own belief system, and your own sense of grace. It is my hope that you emerge from that reflection ready and willing to be an ally – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
I speak often about how the warm embrace of my #cisgender female colleagues greatly aided me after I came out in my workplace, and how, as I continued to live into my authentic self at work, I found myself living at the intersection of gender equity and gender inequality. Reading this piece made me realize how much transwomen share the same space in the battle that is the women’s rights movement. As Ria so aptly points out, “Not only is there no conflict between demanding rights for women and for all transgender people, advances in #trans #rights hold a specific promise for women’s liberation. . . Defending trans people is not only a moral duty for the #feminist #movement; it is central to it.” Thank you for standing in #solidarity with my #community, my sister!