By Charles Chan Massey, Co-founder and Executive Director, The Personal Stories Project
May 31, 2017
I had the pleasure of attending the 7th Annual LGBT Heritage Month kick-off event earlier today at the Los Angeles City Hall.
Community members Alexandra Billings, Michael Kearns, Sara Ramirez and Alexei Romanoff were honored, each giving powerful remarks to the audience.
Alexandra’s words, in particular, struck a chord with me so I’m sharing a portion of her remarks below.
“I’m a trans person of color. I’m an ex-sex worker and I ate out of the dumpsters of Burger King so I know what it is to have absolutely nothing. And now I’m on a TV show. It makes absolutely no sense and I only say that because I understand what gifts truly are. And how divine they are. How inspired they can be. And how truly humbled and grateful I am for the gifts that others have given me.
I stand here a trans person of color. I carry all of my brothers and sisters in the past with me so I don’t stand alone. There were many voices silenced in the 80s. The suicide rate for transgender youth is 62%. And when we kill ourselves, we throw ourselves off bridges, we hang ourselves in closets and we shoot ourselves in the head. We’re dying, ladies and gentlemen, and we need your help. We do not need you to speak for us. We need you to speak with us.
I’ve run into many people in my life who say ‘I don’t see color.’ I’ve seen that many times. They say ‘I don’t see race.’ Here’s what they mean – they see everyone as white. That’s what they mean. I have run across people who say ‘I don’t see transgender and I don’t see LGBT.’ If you don’t see my transness, you don’t see me. I’ve worked too hard and too long. It’s not a choice I made – my transness, just like my color, is not a choice I made. It was something I was born with and something I carry proudly.
I want to leave you with one last thought. This is a speech that’s easy for us to make, all of us, because we all agree with each other. There’s no one here in this room that’s thinking ‘oh my goodness, those people are wrong and should be sent to jail; those people should be marginalized.’ This is a safe place.
We’ve got to get out of this place and go to the unsafe place. We’ve got to gather ourselves together as a group. That’s revolution – when we can talk to those who don’t agree with us and who do want us dead and do want us marginalized – those are the people that are ill-informed, spiritually bankrupt. We have to help them the best way we can with education, with compassion, with kindness, and with a revolutionary spirit that bore the LGBT community from the beginning of time. We come from revolution. We don’t have to drum this up. This is who we are. It’s in ourselves.
It’s in our spirit. It’s in our molecules, it’s in our footsteps; it’s in how we paint, how we speak. You would not have art if it were not for the queer community, so we know how to do that. We can create revolution. Let’s change the world.”