A week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Creating Change 2014, organized by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Houston, Texas. Although this was my second time attending this conference, my excitement was surprisingly higher than last year’s, thanks to this year’s keynote speaker being Laverne Cox. I have become a huge fan of Cox the moment I saw her on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out big time). Ever since, I started following her on social media and kept up with all of her appearances on TV and in other media outlets. The qualities I admire the most about Cox are her high level of intelligence, exceptional eloquence and fierce poise. I was so lucky to listen to her live during Creating Change’s opening plenary where she delivered a speech that was out of this world. She did not leave a single issue facing the transgender community without mentioning it, especially when it comes to transgender women of color, whom she represents so well. I especially loved the point she raised, saying, “The conversation about trans people in mainstream media has centered on transition and surgery.” Cox explained that limiting our trans conversations to transition and surgery objectifies trans women and does not leave us room to discuss the myriad of pressing issues that face the trans community today. This is exactly what happened on CNN with Piers Morgan a few days ago when he interviewed Janet Mock, who is another incredible trans activist. Instead of focusing on Mock’s newly released memoire “Redefining Realness,” Morgan bombarded her with questions about her physical transition and romance life. The next day, Mock came to his show again to explain how his show attempted to sensationalize her story instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. In her speech at Creating Change, Laverne Cox talked in length about the many injustices trans people, especially trans women of color, face nowadays, including violence, discrimination in the workplace and lack of healthcare access. In Cox’s words, “Healthcare for trans people is a necessity. It is not elective, it is not cosmetic, it is life-saving… But we are more than our bodies.” I remember the entire audience standing up and clapping after she articulated these powerful words.
I truly loved how this year’s Creating Change gave more space for the conference attendees to discuss the issues facing transgender people and learn more about this marginalized community. I personally attended the screening of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which is a documentary film about Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. The film is very touching and eye opening to the serious struggles of trans women of color. I also attended a workshop entitled “Transgender People Unite Against Hate and Violence” in which Bamby was one of the panelists. The panel was very informative about the various forms of violence that transgender people experience, not only on the streets and in the workplace, but also at home and from the police. This workshop made me realize that there is not enough data available to us in order to reflect trans people’s struggles, thus making trans activism especially hard. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “of the 25 documented anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2012, 53.8% of the victims were transgender women. [Moreover], transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation, 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence, and transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police.” The reality is very sad for trans people, especially trans women of color. But I am so happy that Creating Changed highlighted this community’s struggles and made room for us to share solutions and success stories. There is a lot more we can do, but visibility is a great step in the right direction.