My journey with gender has been a wild ride. While I’ve been able to sculpt an intimate relationship with myself and my body, the reality of my lack of access to health care, community, and basic needs was always evident.
I first told my mother I was not a boy after my freshman year of high school. We had already been homeless for two years, but she scraped the coins she could find to buy me my own CoverGirl makeup set. She taught me what she felt I needed to know as I ventured into womanhood; this included how to master a winged eyeliner tip, of course.
But the details of my gender weren’t so easily teachable. How am I supposed to walk to school and cross the street just in time to avoid bullies? How should I approach my teachers when they announce my dead name each morning? How do I tell the school nurse that walking across campus to the one single-stalled restroom is better than not having an option, but still not the best option?
My mom did not always have the answers to my questions, but she rooted a lesson in my mind that stuck: community is the safety we’re looking for when the world is unsafe itself.
When I was offered the position as the lead organizer for TRUTH, a collaborative project between GSA Network and Transgender Law Center, in 2015 I had just graduated high school and began my higher education career at a local community college. While I was nervous and felt undeserving of such a position, I knew that working along other young transgender people was going to be special. And it has been just that.
The sense of community between everyone who is involved with TRUTH is powerful. While we all hold different life experiences, the understanding that we share a distinct perspective of the world as trans people holds us together. That is not to say we agree on everything. Because we don’t. But our common goal to shift the media’s coverage of our community and the education of the public bonds our team and continues to propel our work forward.
I am proud of myself for working past the self-doubt. As a brown, transgender woman who experienced homelessness, poverty, and sexual violence, I know I am fortunate for the opportunities I’ve been given. I also know that it has been the Black and brown women (trans and cis) before me who’ve inspired the fire within my body that has kept me going.
This legacy of resilience, even as the nation feels like it is crumbling beneath our feet, is also what I think makes this opportunity so powerful.
Each young trans person who is part of TRUTH holds the power of generations before us and the potential of generations after us. I cannot wait to see where we go and I am excited to invite every young transgender and gender non-conforming person along for the ride.
Lead alongside us. Join TRUTH. Learn more today.