Right now, a revolution is spreading across America and around the world. It is fought on the streets and in our homes. We see it on our television screens and see it as we scroll through the Internet. It is a revolution of existence and visibility.
I couldn’t agree more with a statement made by Laverne Cox, star of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black. “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”
For my entire life I wanted to hide who I was – even after I transitioned. I wanted to go stealth. For anyone new that came into my life, I wanted to hide my past. I was embarrassed. I hated that person I had to live as.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to move on after transitioning. In the world we live in, one that doesn't understand what it means to be transgender or one that is hostile to even the idea of someone being transgender, explaining your past is not always easy to do. It has been full of gut wrenching emotions at times for me.
But forgetting my past life was not the path that was set out for me. I was basically forced into a position of visibility. I made a public transition and due to events in my life, I had no choice but to be honest with the truth about who I am. Could I live the rest of my life with out the majority of people I come into contacted with ever knowing my past, ever knowing that I did my best to live as a male for the first part of my life – with out a doubt. But now I choose not to live that life.
The evolution of my transition and the life that has found me being an advocate for the transgender community was not one I would have thought possible. But the place I found myself in is that I am part of the revolution. I am trans and I am visible.
Though not to the extent that is experienced by many of my sisters and brothers, I have been on the receiving end of ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Even worse is what is happening to others in the community – especially to trans women of color. We have lost way too many at the hand of ignorance, hate and violence.
How do we change this? How do we bring a revolution to our society? We need more trans men and women standing up and being visible in all aspects of our society, from the media to our Federal Government.
We have seen ignorance towards the trans community played out on our television through people like Katie Couric, Piers Morgan and Wendy Williams. They call themselves allies, yet are clueless to what it means to be transgender. I praise Ms. Cox, Janet Mock, Christana Kahrl and many other transgender individuals for being a visible beacon for our community in the media, answering the difficult questions and facing the ignorance and veiled bigotry.
I know that there are men and women who are diligently working on behave of the trans community on the federal level, but from what I have seen and from where I stand, our own Federal Government has and continues to fail the transgender community. Last year, I wrote an open letter to President Obama urging him to push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The response, which you can see here page one and page two, eloquently skirts that issue and shines the light on what has been done for the LGB portion of the community. The White House response fails to address any trans issue.
It rightfully praises the repeal the horrible policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, yet transgender men and women can not openly serve this country in the military. Based on the military regulations, being transgender disqualifies a person from serving because the military considers this a mental health condition.
Another government fail is The Affordable Care Act. It was passed with out any mention of trans health issues including genital surgery.
Just this week, 149 members of the House of Representatives and 48 Senators have signed a letter urging the President to sign an executive order banning discrimination of the LGBT community by federal contractors. As much as this is a sign of progress on the Hill, it still is far from enough. The passage of ENDA would protect all Americans from discrimination, not just those who work for federal contractors. Too many Americans face hiding who they are due to harassment, discrimination and even termination for the mere fact they are gay or transgender.
We can not let this continue. The ignorance, and the prejudice and discrimination that is produced from it, must stop. It will require more trans men and women allowing themselves to be visible. Chloie Jonsson is another good example of someone standing up to right the wrong against her and the community. Instead of slinking into the shadows when she was denied the opportunity to compete in the CrossFit Games, she stood up for who she is and because of her lawsuit, she is helping educate society on a whole about what it means to be transgender.
I can’t say if I will ever be one that will speak to the politicians or voice my views on some talk show, but I am honored and humbled to be included in this years cast of Listen to Your Mother as an openly transgender woman. The chance to be visible and to share just a part of my story is unbelievable and means more to me than anyone can truly fathom. This opportunity gives me hope for what the future holds for my community.
Revolution is defined by Merriam-Webster as “activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation or a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something”.
A fundamental change is coming . . . .
And . . . .
I am part of the revolution.
If you are in the Chicago area on May 4th and want tickets to Listen to Your Mother, you can find it here.
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