This is a short speech I gave to help kick off the Trans Awareness Week programming at the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center in November of 2016, where I had the honor of introducing the amazing Tiq Milan.
As we open our Trans Awareness Week programming, we find ourselves a community standing at a precipice. Indeed, the wider world is more aware of the existence of transgender people than it ever has been. We have made tremendous gains in visibility in just a few short years, moving from quiet obscurity to a focus of the national political discourse.
Unfortunately, that kind of visibility has also placed us firmly in the crosshairs of the right-wing machine of hate that has whipped our neighbors into a panic over something as simple as using a restroom. It’s made us the enemy of a new presidential administration that is hell-bent on promoting a culture of hate and destroying the small amount of political progress we’ve clawed for ourselves and our young people under President Obama. It’s also placed trans women of color more literally in crosshairs, with 2016 standing as the most deadly year yet for the campaign of violence against our black trans sisters.
With that in mind, I believe it’s time for a shift in goals for Trans awareness work. We can no longer afford to simply work for the wider world to know that we exist. We need the LGBTQ community to be aware that we’re still struggling, and we’re still at risk, and that the fight didn’t end with marriage equality. We need people to be aware that we’re not predators, not perverts, and not broken or sick.
We need people to be aware that we face horrifying levels of harassment, discrimination, poverty, and violence.
We need people to be aware that we are a community of breath-taking diversity, both of body and of spirit. We are creators, writers, artists, innovators, activists, lifesavers, caretakers, teachers, students, laborers, and we are friends, lovers, parents, siblings, and families. We need people to be aware that we are beautiful as we are, both inside and out.
More than anything, We need people to be aware that we’re actually living, breathing human beings deserving of respect, care, concern, and love as much as any other person. And just an importantly, we need other trans people to know all those things too.