Trans is Beautiful

I wrote this speech for the March for Transgender Rights, which occurred last Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in Portland, Maine. I spoke from the steps of City Hall to a crowd of a few hundred supports.

As program director of EqualityMaine, I am honored to be here today for this important event. 
My name is Gia, and my pronouns are SHE HER HERS.

How about you?

Cool, thanks, I’ll do my best to remember, but forgive me if I mess up, that’s a lot of names and pronouns. But, I will work at, because know its important.

That wasn’t too difficult, was it? 
 Much of the work we do these days at EqualityMaine is to improve the climate for LGBTQ youth, we work with folks all across Maine, talking with them about how they can be more supportive of trans, gender non conforming, and gender queer youth, and the one thing we emphasis mostly urgently, is that a small gesture of understanding and the willingness to learn, can make all the difference in the world in someone’s life.

As many of you know, EqualityMaine has been providing education, building and empowering community members, and advocating for policies and laws that lift up and protect members of the LGBTQ community for 33 YEARS!!!

For those who don’t know our story, EqualityMaine was founded in the aftermath of a horrible event. You see, it was 1984, and Charlie Howard, a young adult from Bangor was walking down street with a friend. He ran into some other boys, and they started calling Charlie and his friend names, homophobic and transphobic slurs, words many of us have heard, and continue to hear, in hallways, in locker rooms, at the dinner table, on the street. 
 Unfortunately the name-calling got worse, and things became more violent, Charlie was picked up and thrown off the bridge, and was killed.

In the aftermath of this horrible event, a group of community members formed the MLGPA (Maine Lesbian, Gay Political Alliance) to begin to advocate for policy and laws to protect members of our community. That organization became EqualityMaine, and we continue the fight, in classrooms, at the statehouse, and in communities all across Maine, ensuring that every member of our community feels safe and welcome, and proud of who they are in every aspect of their lives and wherever they live, work, or visit. 
 At the same time of the Charlie Howard tragedy, I was a teenager, and lived in fear everyday, afraid of people finding out my secret. I had learned that my attraction to both boys and girls was wrong and unnatural, and that my desire to be a girl, to be feminine, was completely out of the question. 
 But my desires and feelings wouldn’t go away. So, I tried to show a little of myself in small ways, but, they were usually noticed, often quickly, and unfortunately violently. “Hey faggot, where do you think your going” I recall hearing, as my shirt was pulled up over my head and I being slammed repeatedly into the cold cinderblock wall, dangerously close to tumbling down the stairs on the way to the gym class in junior high.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I had learned to overcompensate, playing-up my more manly and masculine attributes. I thrived in sports and became a jock, a dude to fit in. I even became captain of my high school football team. Imagine that?

But even that didn’t protect me. I remember wearing a pink carnation on valentine’s day, but was called out immediately in front of hundreds of classmates in the cafeteria, “what are you wearing you sissy, take that off, what are you a girl” one of my “friends” said as he ripped the flower from my chest, tearing open my shirt in the process.

I began to hate myself, and was ready to give up. No one could possible understand me, I couldn’t take being teased and bullied forever, and my family and parents would be so embarrassed if I told them the truth. So, I began to believe I was better off dead.

I had numerous near death experiences, some conscious attempts to end my life, and others just not caring whether I lived or died, but I guess there were just enough moments of hope and joy along the way to keep me going.

So 7 years ago, nearly 25 after high school, exhausted from living two lives, harming and hating myself, binge drinking, starving myself, and hurting the people I loved, I began to embrace my authentic identity.

And with the encouragement and support of some incredible individuals and organizations like MaineTransNet, GLSEN, and EqualityMaine, I felt strong enough to step into the light as myself, a bisexual trans woman, and in doing so became one of the first trans teachers in the state and one of the first trans high school coaches in the country. 
 Trust me, I know I’m competitive, but I didn’t do it to be first, I just needed to be me. 
 What I didn’t know was that being visible as a trans person in this society is an act of defiance, challenging people’s deep held beliefs about gender and sex. 
 And while I thought my world would fall apart, and it nearly did, I realize now, that had many resources at my disposal, including a supportive family and a community by my side, and I found the strength to carry on. 
 On a side note, today’s my birthday. I’m 50!!!

It’s an incredible feeling, especially because I really didn’t think I’d live to see 20, but here I am.

So, I’d like to take this moment and share a message to all the young folks here today, especially the trans, queer, and gender nonconforming kids in the audience. I know people say horrible things about us; they assault us, ignore us, and even try to kill us. But I hope you know, you are beautiful, you deserve to be loved and to love, you don’t need to justify your existence to anyone, and you’re not alone. We’re hear for you, organizations like Outright, GLSEN, MaineTransnet, GLAD, ACLU, and EqualtyMaine, are working to ensure you are safe and feel proud of who you are. And I’m here for you.

So my birthday wish today is for you to have a lifetime of birthdays, and cakes, ice cream, parties, balloons, flowers, hugs and kisses, and vacations, walks, tears, smiles, and of course, as many baby animal videos as you need to get through the day.

You deserve the world, and the world deserves you. And not forget, being Trans is beautiful!!!!

Thank you!!!

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