I am transgender and recently I read that a $1.35M grant was awarded to study how to include transgender people in the military. Meanwhile, CeCe McDonald is in prison and…
Nearly half of all anti-LGBT murder victims are transgender women, 41% of African American transgender people are homeless, nearly 40% of all homeless youth are transgender, homeless transgender people kill themselves 62% more than other homeless people, transgender people are forced to identify as the wrong gender in jails, shelters, and in treatment programs which results in the likelihood of us experiencing violence, discrimination, the refusal of services, and incorrect medical treatment, and the National Coalition for the Homeless reports that, “Transgender individuals are often turned away from shelters and in some cases signs have been posted barring their entrance.” … So how about grant programs to fund how to include transgender people in every aspect of mainstream life: the church, schools, the workforce, everywhere…not just the military!?!
We are told we must support ourselves but we aren’t given the same access to the employment and educational opportunities that will help us support ourselves…and when we are, we face issues of safety and discrimination. We are told that our community isn’t viable or sustainable for potential investors, so we have to build our own infrastructure. There are so many of us that just want to thrive but when we’re constantly turned down for housing and gainful employment, ostracized by family and friends, rejected by some members of our own ‘queer’ community (Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people) who tell us we’re traitors or troublemakers, and overlooked by most religious institutions and social service agencies, what do we do and how do we live? When the legal name and gender marker on identification records, academic transcripts, and birth documents oppose our physical appearances, how do we protect ourselves from discrimination?
It’s not as easy to change these documents if you’re unable to hire a lawyer or become savvy enough to learn the legal system and represent yourself to schedule hearings, file appeals, and make petitions. Now no, obviously every trans person doesn’t struggle the same and there are many successful trans people, but for those of us who started off struggling, don’t have community connections because we are in isolated towns or cities, or who, like me, lost everything in the process of transitioning (aligning body with mind), life is lived in survival mode.
We have gifts, talents, and abilities that we want to share with the world. We have dreams of building and creating things. We want a chance; an opportunity. We want to feel safe in the world. We want to use public bathrooms and dressing rooms. Our youth who get thrown out on the streets want more than a life of draining the resources of friends/family/support people or couch surfing as they hope and dream for a better life where they can support themselves. I’ve overcome a lot in my life–childhood abuse and trauma, homelessness, self-harm and poverty. Today, I am able to walk in the world as my truest self, I am whole, and I am finally free! I am filled with complete JOY! I travel all over the United States inspiring transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and our allies.
My message to every trans and gender non-conforming person reading this is: “God is love and you were made in the image of perfect Love. There is space for you in this world. There is space at your church, in your desired career, in your family, on sports teams…and it is time to take your space. Show up! In large numbers or in small…your presence is valued and necessary. So what they stare or ask questions, answer them. Look them in the eyes proudly with your beautiful, handsome, artsy, brilliant, capable, transgendered self. Claim your space. Rearrange the seating to make room at the table. Correct people when they use the wrong pronouns. Hang up your own sign on the bathroom door. Tell them who you are and who you are not. Be bold. No one is going to understand something that they cannot see, cannot hear, and cannot know.
Tell your story…and leave your bitterness, anger, and resentment for their privilege and ignorance at home. It is up to us to make this world ours…or at least opened to us. We must become visible because the longer we hide, the more we will continue to see our brothers and sisters who cannot be invisible sacrificed. We get angry every Trans Day of Remembrance as the names are called and the death toll increases, and we leave in fear returning to our underground spaces hoping we don’t join next year’s list. But until they know us, see us, and until we are so visible that they can no longer ignore us or hate us or kill us they will continue to say that we don’t belong, that we aren’t viable, that we aren’t sustainable. We must rise and sustain ourselves.
Leadership development is the only thing that will empower and equip transgender folks. We must pull ourselves up, educate allies, and build relationships with people who are different than us while the rest of the world figures out how to be kind and inclusive. Here are the organizations that have empowered me as I continue to transition and shift my life forward:
- Black Transmen Inc.: blacktransmen.org/
- OutFront Minnesota: www.outfront.org/
- The Brown Boi Project: www.brownboiproject.org/
- The Minnesota Transgender Health Coaliton: www.mntranshealth.org/
- The Center for Progressive Renewal: www.progressiverenewal.org
- The United Church of Christ: www.ucc.org
We cannot wait on an invitation; there isn’t one coming. We must rise and stand together. If there is injustice in your towns, courts, clinics, schools, churches…stop hating them for what they cannot do for us. It is our responsibility to create our own space, to make ourselves known. It is time for US to rise. We can no longer remain hidden. Join the trans movement with folks like Carter Brown, Alexis Martinez, Kylar Broadus, Masen Davis, Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, and Monica Roberts as we live this life of visibility, advocacy, empowerment, and justice.
As a community, we have been controlled by fear for too long. Fear is false evidence appearing real and its only consequences are death and destruction. The opposite of fear is faith. Faith brings justice and power. It is time to live by faith…even if you are afraid. You can live with fear and not in fear or from it. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen. It is now time to give them evidence; it is time to now be seen. They do not know our need or our numbers or our potential until WE show them! Let us rise…let us LIVE free!”
Rev. Lawrence T. Richardson is the Founding Pastor of Shift UCC (an out of the box ministry for out of the box people), founder & CEO of Stand-To-Urimate (a transgender supplies company), and writer who enjoys nature, traveling, food, Jesus, and dreaming. Check him out on the Web www.LTRichardson.com and Twitter: @Larry2_0.
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