In mid-March, my wife Mari and I had the privilege of making our first trip back to New York City since the pandemic for two events that provided watershed moments for me as a speaker, activist, and author. The first event was held at the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and was a combined promotional event for my book, Reflections From Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling: Finding My Authentic Self in Corporate America, and as the initial fundraiser for the organization that I am proud to serve as the Board President of, TransNewYork. The event filled the upstairs room at The Stonewall with friends, family, and supporters of the organization – and of me. It was beyond gratifying to have the chance to share a passage from my book, meet new people and sign copies of my book for those who have been touched in some way by my stories. It was a wonderful bonus that we were able to also us the occasion as a fundraiser for TransNewYork. It was an honor to share the stage with the organization’s Executive Director and good friend, Dr. Genn Herley, and my sincere thanks go out to all of our sponsors and friends that created a memorable evening indeed!
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?