Dear Straight People,
In light of Trans Awareness Month happening this November, we need to talk about the T in LGBT!
As a feminist and a member of the LGBT community, it is my obligation to proudly support those fighting for the movement of transgender rights globally. Transphobia is rampant and trans individuals are constantly suffering and struggling because of it.
From being verbally bullied to facing physical violence, many of them live their day-to-day lives in perpetual fear. The transgender community also aren’t legally protected from discrimination in many aspects of their lives. One notorious example being the enforcement of the “bathroom bill”, which is a bill that basically allows transgenders to only use public restrooms based on their assigned sex at birth.
So in honour of all the activists of the trans community, here are 8 activists that we should all look up to, learn from, and acknowledge the strength and dedication that they possess in fighting for the trans community!
1. Janet Mock
An American transgender activist and the author of the New York Times bestseller Redefining Realness, Janet Mock serves as a voice of the transgender community in both the publishing and broadcasting industry.
Apart from contributing writings about her experiences as a transgender woman to magazines and websites such as Marie Claire, Elle, Huffington Post, and The Advocate, Jane also actively appears on various TV programs and talk shows to discuss transgender issues.
In 2011, Janet submitted a video to the “It Gets Better” project, an online nonprofit aimed at preventing suicide among LGBT teens. In the video which has already accumulated over 100,000 views, Janet shares the heartwarming story of her experiences as a transgender woman as well as a message of encouragement for struggling LGBT youths.
2. Vanessa Ho from Singapore
Trans sex workers are lucky to have someone as fierce as Vanessa on their side. As the Program Director of Project X since 2011, Vanessa doesn’t just campaign for transgender sex workers. She’s bent on getting fair treatment and ending discrimination against all sex workers in Singapore.
Since taking over the helm of Project X, Vanessa has not only provided social and legal support to sex workers in Singapore, she has also conducted numerous outreach programs to challenge the stigma associated with sex work.
3. Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings started her activist journey at the incredibly young age of 6!
While most other 6-year olds were busy mucking about in the playground, 6-year old Jazz Jennings was busy appearing on numerous chat shows to talk about her growing up experiences as a transgender person. In 2007, Jazz and her parents founded TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation to help other transgender teens.
A popular YouTuber with almost 300,000 subscribers, Jazz uses her social media influence to shine the spotlight on transgender issues.
In 2015, Jazz made the move to television when she had her own reality TV series called I Am Jazz premier on TLC TV. The reality show focuses on the daily lives of Jazz and her family and the challenges they face.
And just when you think that this teenager can’t possibly get any more impressive, she published her own memoir earlier this year titled Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen!
With all of the accomplishments that she has achieved despite her young age, it’s no wonder Jazz was named as one of The 25 Most Influential Teens of the year by TIME Magazine!
Towards the end of 2014, Christopher Khor inadvertently turned himself into a public figure when he came out publicly as a trans man in a Sunday Times interview.
That story went viral. And Christopher used his newfound fame to shine the spotlight on a very marginalised group in Singapore; the trans men community. Currently in the midst of producing a documentary chronicling the transition of several trans men, you can find out more about his upcoming groundbreaking project here.
5. Nisha Ayub
As the first openly transgender woman to be awarded with the International Women of Courage Award in 2016, Nisha Ayub is a well-known activist from Malaysia.
In an effort to raise awareness on trans rights and defend those discriminated against under Sharia Law in Malaysia, Nisha co-founded the non-government organisations SEED Foundation and Justice for Sisters.
For her incredible contributions to the trans community, April 5 was officially declared to be Nisha Ayub Day in San Diego by the mayor, Kevin L Faulconer.
Due to job discrimination, sex work seems like the only viable way to eke out a living for many transgender women in Singapore. Like many of her peers, Sherry too was once a sex worker.
But after a chance encounter with Vanessa Ho of Project X in 2014, Sherry joined Project X first as its Youth Programme Coordinator before progressing on to becoming their writer and researcher.
Since then, Sherry has reached out to educate numerous trans sex workers during Project X’s outreach and community events.
You can read more about Sherry’s life story here.
7. Lavern Cox
If you are a fan of the hit tv series ‘Orange Is The New Black’, then you’ll know who Lavern Cox is.
Lavern Cox first rose to fame as transgender inmate Sophia Burset on the popular Netflix series and made history when she became the first openly transgender to garner a Primetime Emmy award nomination for her performance.
Deemed as a trailblazer for the transgender community by fans and LGBT activists alike, Lavern has prominently shined the spotlight on issues faced by the trans community. She often uses her social media platforms to speak up on trans rights and in 2014, Lavern became the first transgender person to grace the cover of Time magazine!
With her fearless activism, Lavern had opened up a conversation about the transgender community that will hopefully continue to grow.
Alexander Teh hasn’t even turned 21 yet, but he’s already making a positive impact on the world.
As a transgender male himself, the struggles that he faced due to his gender identity and sexuality spurred him on to help others in his shoes. Alexander joined The Purple Alliance two years ago as a volunteer, and went on to start a casual support group for trans people called Trans* it!
You can read his coming out story here.
It may be 2016, but the fight for trans rights still has a long way to go.
According to statistics, the average lifespan of a transgender person is about 30 to 35 years old! Just this year alone, there has been 19 reported murders of transgenders in the United States, with a majority of them being black transgender women. And recently, a trans activist in Turkey named Hande Kader was raped and burnt prompting hundreds of protestors to take the streets to call for an end to hate crimes directed towards LGBT individuals in their country.
So as you can see, the fight for trans rights is not an easy one. But I’m glad that we have inspiring activists like the ones I’ve highlighted above as part of the fight.
Written by Dylan Ray – A bisexual Malaysian who loves Beyonce and is admittedly a bad feminist.
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