I’m proud to announce that Transgender Law Center (TLC) will present me with the 2014 Claire Skiffington Vanguard Award for my work in the transgender movement at SPARK, their annual event on October 2. I feel deeply honored to receive this recognition, especially at a time of great achievement for the organization and for the movement as a whole. I’m grateful that we have come to a moment in our history where we can celebrate many victories in access to health care, employment, education, and public accommodations.
This award is about so much more than me. I stand with the many unsung heroes who are doing phenomenal work in trans and gender nonconforming communities. I stand with my many siblings in trans communities of color who are coming into ourselves, working hard to reframe the negativity and push past the barriers that are placed upon us, who are caring for ourselves and our communities. I am in awe of the bravery and leadership of people like CeCe McDonald, who will be presented with the 2014 TLC Authentic Life Award. I am honored to stand with all of the fierce transgender warriors who are transforming our world.
When I started the Health Care Access Project at TLC in 2004, there was only one other trans person in the country with a Masters in Public Health who was doing work on trans access to care. Now there are many. When I was conducting street-based HIV education and crisis intervention on the streets of the Tenderloin in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, most HIV prevention providers steered clear of lower income, marginalized communities. Now there are many providers who are dedicated to working with this population. When I started support groups for transmasculine people of color, this work was not particularly valued, nor was an HIV prevention support program that I started for transmen who have sex with other men. I am very appreciative that we have arrived at a time in which many people are recognizing the need, and committing to genuinely understanding and working to address the multiple parameters that impact so many transgender lives.
As a trans person living in California, I feel profound gratitude for the work of TLC and its collaborative partners National Center for Lesbian Rights, GSA Network, ACLU, Equality California, Lambda Legal, National Center for Transgender Equality, The Task Force, and others. But the work is far from done. With every victory we experience a backlash—hateful articles and news stories, and far too many vicious, ignorant comments from the public. Hearts and minds don’t change simply because laws and policies have. With profound respect for everyone in the transgender movement, I look forward to continuing the conversation about who we are as trans people, as we work to change the legal and policy landscape, and actualize our dream of full equality.