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Transgender Day of Visibility 2018: reflections and messages of hope

hand holding a transgender flag

As we honor Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st, we are delighted to highlight the work being done to uplift trans people, thanks to these courageous leaders:

LaLa Zannell, Pronouns: Goddess/Queen/Sister/Beloved  

East Coast Leadership of Trans Women of Color Collective

headshot of LaLa

Tell us a little about yourself and your work toward trans visibility?  

I am a gifted public speaker and speechwriter who speaks out on issues related to the disproportionate violence that Trans and gender non-conforming people of color face. I spoke at the White House for the first Women’s History Month briefing to include trans women and the last Trans women of color briefing under the Obama administration and testified at the first historic Congressional Forum on violence against transgender people.

What, in your experiences, have been some of the biggest accomplishments for the trans community?  

All the amazing and powerful shift of trans visibility that has been going on over the last couple of years, How social media has helped us connect with each other on so many level to organize and advocate for each other. All the newest political wins for trans folks and the more I see coming in the future. And always our power of our resistance.

Where do we (racial justice & social justice movements) still have a lot of work to do?

There have been small strides but we have so much deeper to go. We need to fully invest in the leadership of trans women of color and allowing them to be paid and lead this work. We need to change the narrative of how we talk about the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people in more humanizing ways, especially in their deaths. We have to go beyond policy changes and focus on person to person and community changes, building a culture of understanding.  

On Transgender Day of Visibility, what is one word, or one message, you want others to hear?

This one has always spoke to me, from the Executive Director of TWOCC Lourdes Ashley Hunter, “Every breath a trans woman of color takes is an act of revolution.”

 

Jay Maddock, Pronouns: He/Him

Executive Director of OutFront Kalamazoo

headshot of Jay

Tell us a little about yourself and your work toward trans visibility.

My name is Jay and I am the Executive Director of OutFront Kalamazoo, the LGBTQ community center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I am also an out and proud trans man and the writer behind the In Transit blog. First and foremost I have chosen to live out and loud as a trans man because I have the privilege to do so and think that with that privilege comes a responsibility. I write about my life and my personal experiences as a trans man, whether that be about dating, traveling, doctor appointments, and other mundane life experiences. My hope is that through humor and sharing my lived experience that more people understand who trans people really are: we're your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

In my role as Executive Director, I work to create safer spaces and safer communities so that someday it isn't risky for trans people to be visible. And I think that's important to recognize--today, in 2018, it is risky, sometimes even life-threatening, to be a visible trans person, especially for trans women of color. So we all have a responsibility to dismantle transphobia and racism and sexism, because trans lives matter. 

What, in your experiences, have been some of the biggest accomplishments for the trans community?

This has been a really volatile year for trans people and trans rights. I think the biggest accomplishment for the trans community is and has been our continued persistence. The trans community has been vehemently attacked by legislators, employers, and actual physical assaults, and yet here we still are, and here we will still be until our humanity is recognized and respected. Our resiliency is our biggest strength and our biggest accomplishment.

Where do we (racial justice & social justice movements) still have a lot of work to do?

I think we all need to do lots of work around language and words. I often hear well-intended allies in social justice work stutter or pause when talking about trans issues. And that is because we are not comfortable and/or confident enough in HOW to talk about trans people or trans rights. And if we want to be the best advocates we can be, we have to know HOW to talk about the issues. So, I think that's one of the first steps, practicing and getting comfortable with language and the right words to use about any justice issue. Certainly there is a lot more work to do, but that's the first step.

On Transgender Day of Visibility, what is one word, or one message, you want others to hear?

I want to speak directly to young trans and gender nonconforming people and say, "You are bold and beautiful and a force to be reckoned with because you are made of a magic--and unfortunately some people don't understand your magic. Their lack of understanding or acceptance doesn't take away your magic, though."

And to cisgender people everywhere: When you talk about trans people, trans people are listening. Trans youth (whether they are out or not) are hearing how you talk about trans people, and it is directly impacting how they see themselves in this world and how they think the world sees them.

 

Rev. Mykal O. Slack, Pronouns: He/Him/His

Community Minister for Worship & Spiritual Care Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism 

headshot of Mykal

Tell us a little about yourself and your work toward trans visibility.

I am a Black queer Southerner who managed to get clear about my trans identity while I was in seminary. I've always known, but wasn't really able to say yes to myself until after I'd said yes to an understanding of faith whose foundation is unconditional love and a desire for truth. So I'm a Universalist pastor who's gotten to do beautiful ministry in Quaker, Christian, and Unitarian Universalist communities, primarily around congregational engagement and radical welcome of folks of all genders and sexualities. I currently serve as a worship and spiritual care minister, and I'm on the visioning team for an emerging spiritual community in Durham, NC called The Clearing. At the core of ministry for me is cultivating spiritual spaces that honor all of who we are, especially spaces that center and celebrate POC, queer and trans lives and leadership. And the best part is that I get to do all of this and be a husband to a wonderful human, a daddy to an incredible toddler, and a member of a community that loves and cares deeply for me and my family.

What, in your experiences, have been some of the biggest accomplishments for the trans community?

One of the most amazing accomplishments I have found are the many opportunities that have been developed for trans youth to come together with their families to support and learn from one another. I'm thinking of the Philly Trans Health Conference and other such gatherings. These are healing events for our folks, and it's especially nice to know how accessible they can be in terms of cost. Here in North Carolina, trans communities have been finding spaces and place to connect and care for one another in ways that highlight our brilliance and resilience, especially in the aftermath of laws like HB2 being passed.

Where do we (racial justice & social justice movements) still have a lot of work to do?

Too many LGBTQ organizations don't respect or put at the center the brilliance of trans people. And too many individuals and organizations, more broadly, have no understanding of what doing movement work at the intersections actually means. And if they do understand it, they're not willing to do what it takes to ensure that the complexities of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and income level are taken into account when doing their work.

On Transgender Day of Visibility, what is one word, or one message, you want others to hear?

You are powerful... settle into that power - the power that liberates, not the power that oppresses - with all of your ability and available senses. Your witness will save lives.

 

Learn more about Transgender Day of Visibility at http://tdov.org/

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