*Featured image credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com
They’re fierce, they’re beautiful, they’re outspoken and they’re not likely to be going anywhere any time soon. They’re transgender women, and they don’t really care who gets freaked out by their sexuality.
Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of transgender women who want to set things straight in the straight world about what it means to be born without an assigned sex.
Society today has a tendency to put labels on people, specifically, “boy” and “girl.” When someone doesn’t fit into either of those categories it creates confusion. Most find that confusion easier to ignore, rather than try and clear it up. They don’t see it as their problem. However, when there’s a problem in society, it’s everyone’s problem. We need to recognize it and assume accountability in order to prevent it from becoming harmful, as we have seen with the prevalence of violence and suicide in the transgender community.
That’s why it’s so important for transgender women to speak out; to remind people that they are here, they are queer, and they deserve respect.
In the past few years, we have heard so many voices of transgender women speaking their minds on everything from sexuality to celebrity, from makeup to politics, and they’ve more than proved they’re a force to be reckoned with. Here are what some of the most glorious results of some very misunderstood youths have to say.
For Laverne Cox, the personal is the political. Recently, the transgender beauty, recognized for her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black,” stole the spotlight at Northridge Center so she could lay down the law on being a transgender black woman in America.
Taking the stage like a sergeant preparing his troops for battle, Cox declared that, “If you are transgender in the US you are under attack.” She continued her motivational talk by revealing several (disturbing) statistics about the vulnerability of transgender people to extreme violence and suicide. Cox fiercely asserted that this was a clear result of society’s marginalization of the transgender community, in some cases reaching the point of dehumanization.
She continued with a furious hair flip segway into the famous Sojourner Truth “But Ain’t I A Woman” quote spoken at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Like Cox, Truth was often shamed by those who compared her to a man. Apparently, Cox shares more with Truth than a birthday.
Perhaps the most poignant moment in Cox’s performance was when she related an exchange that took place between herself and a cognitive therapist when Cox was in third grade. Cox was assigned to the therapist after wearing a dress to school. When asked if she knew the difference between a boy and a girl, Cox replied, “There is no difference.” Bless you, Laverne, hopefully someday more people will take your cue and realize there is not so much of a difference after all.
Caitlyn Jenner may be a little wishy-washy about her support of Donald Trump, but if there’s one thing she’s clear on, it’s her support of the transgender community. So maybe Jenner’s friendship with Donald Trump did not make her a shoo-in for a transgender advocate, but it far from put her out of the running. Says she, “I lived a fascinating life…I sincerely want to make a difference in my (the transgender) community.”
Although Jenner’s time spent “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” has made her one of the most high profile transgender women on the planet, some question whether her role in the first family of reality TV might distract from the seriousness of her role as a transgender advocate. However, Jenner believes that her celebrity will only benefit her cause and is using it to her advantage.
Jenner, fresh from a book tour for her memoir, “The Secrets of My Life,” is now taking time to focus on the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation for equality in the LGBT community. Her collaboration with MAC AIDs has provided $1.3 million to transgender organizations worldwide. We say, you go, Caitlyn. As long as your heart is in the right place, who cares who you voted for? After all, isn’t the transgender movement about acceptance? Keep keepin’ on Caitlyn, you have a community behind you.
“Will we be a nation where there’s only one way to love, one way to look, one way to live? Or will we a nation where everyone has the freedom to live openly and equally?” Hell, no to the first and Hell, yes to the second if Sarah MacBride has anything to do with it. On July 27. 2018, Human Rights Campaign national press secretary Sarah MacBride became the first transgender woman to address a major party convention and judging from the standing ovation she got, transgender women have come a long way in Washington.
Sarah MacBride is one of the first openly transgender women to work in the White House and her voice has been largely influential in determining the administration’s policy on transgender rights. The Delaware native served as state’s attorney general on two of Beau Biden’s campaigns. MacBride came out in 2012 after stepping down as student body president at American University. At the time she was terrified, sure she would be “a disappointment to the people who had invited me into their lives, their careers.”
However, now we know MacBride is far from a disappointment, to both the transgender and political community. After she posted the news of her coming out on Facebook, Beau Biden called her to assure her that, “(Hallie and I) are so proud of you. We love you and you’re still a part of the Biden family.”
And we’re proud of Sarah too and we’re thrilled to see her speaking her mind at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue proving that all men, women and everyone in between are created equal.
The feelings of frustration, the obstacles, the unfairness, and the self-doubt. These are all common themes in African American female literature. What makes Janet Mock’s story different? She can add transgender to that list.
After Mock’s memoir, “Redefining Realness” led to her rise in prominence in 2014, Mock has become a leading figure for transgender rights and visibility. Her follow-up book, in response to public demand “Surpassing Certainty,” tells the tale of Mock’s life before she came out publicly. Now with her new role as first black transgender television series writer of the FX show,” Pose,” Mock is again entering a new chapter of her life.
“Pose” centers on the ballroom drag culture in New York City in the late 1980s with an emphasis on people of color. Mock chose 1987 “because of the administration, which at the time wouldn’t even say the word “AIDS.” ( shout out to Ms. MacBride – we really have come a long way).
With a Golden Globe nom under her belt, Mock and the transgender community has a lot to look forward to.
When asked what her advice to transgender youth would be, Mock said, “We need you to make it here. We need to see you thrive. We want to see you tell your own story. We want to see you survive so you can sit here later on and offer that same oral history to young folks that share the experience that you went through.”
Conchita Wurst is next in line to give her worst when it comes to speaking out for the transgender community. The bearded drag persona of Austrian singer, Thomas Neuwirth, Conchita first came to attention when her song “Rise Like A Phoenix” won the Eurovision song contest.
Neuman talks about his experience growing up, citing that he began to think there was “something wrong” when he showed a propensity for wearing dresses in kindergarten – whether or not this had anything to do with the fact that Victoria Beckham was his fashion idol still remains an issue of debate.
However, if one thing is for sure, it is that Neuwirth has indeed “(Risen) Like A Phoenix” since then. After she was awarded her trophy for her Eurovision win, she held it proudly, with the rallying cry,” We are unity and we are unstoppable!” She later said that this was her message to all politicians who opposed LGBT rights, specifically Vladimir Putin who had implemented a law restricting LGBT rights as part of his administration (Boo!).
Following this, Neuwirth became an icon for Europe’s LGBT community, eventually lending her image to “Gay-friendly Vienna” on Facebook and becoming “ a serious figure of hope” for some LGBT people “living under the shadow of officially sanctioned intolerance” in Europe (The Week).
Wurst, who describes herself as “just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard” advises her fans to “be the best version of yourself rather than a bad copy of someone else.” “For me,” she says, “my dream came true. Society showed me that people want to move on and look to the future. We said something. We made a statement.” Not bad for a bearded lady in heels. As long as Conchita is living her dream, she’s keeping a lot of dreams alive for transgender women around the world.
Another figure lending a little “jazz” to the transgender community is Jazz Jennings. One of the only millennial LGBT rights activists (she was born in 2000), Jazz is an American You-Tube and television personality, spokesmodel and one of the youngest people to identify herself as transgender. She first came to public attention on a Barbara Walters in a 20/20 documentary on transgender children at the tender age of six.
Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender youth board of directors member, Christine Connelly, says it was Jazz’s sincerity and unusual ability to relate to the transgender youth, that made her an instant standout. “She was the first person who picked up the national spotlight and went on TV and was able to articulate her perspective with such innocence,” Connelly notes.
Her parents concur, saying Jazz was clear on being female as soon as she could speak, and now speak she does, in fact, she does a whole lot of it.
While Jazz is not busy making rubber mermaid tales to raise money for transgender children (Jazz is the founder of Purple Rainbow Tails), you can see her on You-Tube speaking out about her life as a transgender teenager in a series she calls, “I Am Jazz.” She also stars on a TLC reality show of the same name, focusing on life with her family, making her one of the youngest women to publicly represent the transgender community, which she does with a more than a touch of jazz. We’re looking forward to seeing a lot more of this remarkable girl in the future.
If there is one thing Chaz Bono inherited from mom, besides the cheekbones, it’s his outspokenness. If Cher was unapologetic about her unconventionality, Chaz is certainly unapologetic about his. The little girl that America watched grow up on the Sonny and Cher show announced her decision to become a “ he” much to the shock of the entertainment world, his mom included, and he spoke about it on Entertainment Tonight.
According to Bono, the hardest part of his transition was “finding the courage not to worry about what people think of me so much.” Now not only does it seem that he’s found it, but he’s also gotten pretty comfortable with it. When asked about the cosmetic surgery he recently underwent to have his breasts removed, Chaz reports that it was actually “a relief.” He’s also apparently thrilled by his peach fuzz. ” You know, my outsides are finally beginning to match my insides,” he says,” I feel more like myself than I ever have felt.”