In 2013, I got a place on Stonewall’s Young Leaders programme. On the final day of the programme the amazing Ruth Hunt gave us a speech about being authentic, but as she spoke I kept my head down and avoided eye contact with all the new friends I’d made because I was lying to them all and, more importantly, lying to myself.
I was transgender.
I decided to be authentic and “came out” a week or so later (thanks Ruth babes). I don’t like saying came out though, because really I always knew I was transgender - I just didn’t want to accept I was transgender.
It took me a long time to accept myself because before Caitlyn and before Laverne, the only time you’d hear about trans people would be when they were being exploited on Jerry Springer or when they were being murdered on the news. So I suppressed who I was because I knew the only thing harder than not being the real me- would bebeing the real me.
But then all of a sudden, Laverne was cast in Orange is the New Black (OITNB), writer and activist Paris Lees was voted number one on Independent’s Pink List, model and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Carmen Carrera was working it, writer Janet Mock’s autobiography became a New York bestseller, Andreja Pejic became the first trans supermodel and suddenly I realised I could be more than a Jerry Springer ‘freak-show’, more than a murder statistic. These trans women were beautiful, talented, intelligent, kind, funny and living their truth proudly for the world to see. This gave me hope, something to hold onto and I was finally able to accept myself.
This is why role models are so important. If it wasn’t for these women I wouldn’t be trans today… I probably wouldn’t even be here today. Seeing yourself reflected and represented positively in the media and in the world around you is so valuable; it’s affirming and empowering. That’s why we need an array of different trans role models, people of all races, creeds, ages, body types and genders.
Trans people in the media don’t only have the power to change the way the public see trans people, but also have the power to change the way trans people see themselves. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Carmen Carrera, Paris Lees - these women showed me I can be trans and beautiful, trans and successful and most importantly trans and happy. They showed me that being trans wouldn’t be the end of me. It would be the start of me.
Here’s to all the trans people living their truth authentically and visibly giving us something to hold onto, carving out a path for us, changing the world’s perceptions of us and more so changing our perceptions of ourselves.
Happy Trans Day of Visibility everyone!