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(A cop out. And nod to all the times you said “I don’t know” when I asked you what was wrong.)

The fact of the matter she said. Like facts matter. You can say Please do the dishes but what I hear is The labor you perform is insufficient/You are insufficient/You are too much not enough. She wrapped hands too small for their great strength around the barrel of a needle, made incisions in the cloth left behind at crime scenes, looked deep at the source of hurt so she could turn her back on her own. The fact of the matter hung between. A long forgotten murmurance. A shadow highlighting obstruction. Say things too often and they lose their meaning. The fact of the matter. The matter. The fact. The matter of fact. The matter of fact way she dissected us. Laid the body on a metal slab. Went through the motions. Fingers sure and palms unsweaty as they ran over the upset messy tangle of organs and infected tissue. Say things too often and they lose their meaning. Or take on new ones. Like I love you. Like please do the dishes. Like forever. Like goodbye.

 


[Header image found here.]

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Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th is a day set aside to remember those who have been lost to in acts of violence against transgender people.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started on November 28th, 1998, when Rita Hester was murdered. Her murder, which has yet to be solved, galvanized the community to start a web project titled “Remembering Our Dead,” which then spun out to become the Day of Remembrance that we observe today.

The transgender community is effected by anti-LGBT violence disproportionately when compared to the rest of the LGBT community. A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that 72% of victims of anti-LGBT homicide were trans women, while 67% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were trans women of color. So far this year we have lost 30 members of the trans community to unspeakable acts of violence. Please take a moment to learn their names, if you do not already know them. Hold them in your heart today.

Trans people are also more likely to be subjected to police violence than other members of the community at large. According to the survey conducted by NCAVP, transgender people of color are 6 times more likely to experience physical violence at the hands of police when compared to white cisgendered people. The trans community generally are 7 times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting to the police when compared with cisgendered people.

Added to that sobering number, the trans community also faces staggering numbers regarding suicide rates. According to the Williams Insitute, 46% of trans men reported having attempted suicide. The numbers for trans women are not much better at 42%. The rate of suicide attempts among the LGB community is half that. And the rate among the overall population outside of the LGBT community is a mere 4.6%. Those numbers are deeply skewed and also deeply frightening.

Not only do trans people face violence when it comes to heterosexuals who may be transphobic, the fact of the matter is that trans people are frequently overlooked and underrepresented within the LGB community as well. One of the latest and possibly best examples I can give you of this is the recent Stonewall film debacle. But Stonewall isn’t the only example of this issue. Trans erasure and trans silencing and even transphobia are rampant within the LGB community.

The trans community faces a disproportionate level of violence and hardship within the LGBT community, and they get so little support

For my part, I am at a loss when it comes to days like today. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people to walk through their lives so maligned by the people around them. Grappling with a trans identity in a society that is so hetero- and cis-normative must be difficult enough, without that added fear.

I think the worst thing has to be the sense of betrayal when faced with transphobia and transmisogyny in the LGB community. I get that no community is perfect, but the fact that I’ve had to shut down repugnant phobic remarks within my community has shocked me. The fact that there is so little recognition or acceptance of trans issues is so disheartening.

To my trans friends and anyone reading this who I may not know: I see you. I will do my best to be an ally to you in every way that I can. And if you are struggling, know that you are valued. That you are seen and cared for by the people around you. Please reach out if you are suffering. Please stay.

To my fellow cis people: Do your best today and every day to be open to what trans people are saying to you. Learn to be called out with dignity. Learn to open yourself to experiences that differ from your own. If you have anything to spare, please consider donating time or money to trans organizations and communities in your area.

Cis is not a slur.

Hello, my lovelies, come sit at my feet and let me impart unto you some wisdom.

Cis is not a slur. I say this as a cis person. And a gay person. And a woman. It’s not.

A slur is defined as the following:

slur

See right there where it says that it is likely to insult them or damage their reputation? That’s what a slur is. Now, being insulted is a pretty broad thing. I can be insulted by the way that someone looks at me. But the key to any good insult, when it is a verbal insult, which is when words like cis get used, is in what, exactly, you are being insulted for.

When someone spits the word cis at you in a conversation, what they are likely expressing is their ire at your privilege. And, while that might sting, it doesn’t do much more than sting. Cis, after all, is a term meant to define a group of people who conform with the norm regarding gender expression and physical appearance.

cis

But cis is not a slur in the same way that cracker is not a slur. Having it flung at you can get you upset. But, at it’s root, it’s just a mean word. It is devoid of any threat to your person or reputation. It is neutered.

Now the second part of the definition of slur as a noun is where the real action is. A slur is something that can damage a person’s reputation. In order to demonstrate how this can be done, I’m going to use the gay community as an example. In order to avoid shitty language, I’m going to make up a slur for gay people that doesn’t exist for the purposes of this example. Our new made up slur is “floof.”

When someone uses a word like floof as a slur against a gay person, the moment in which that word is used becomes pregnant with all kinds of possibilities and meanings for the person being targeted:

  1. They may be beaten up or sexually assaulted.
  2. They may be outed to someone who can make their lives difficult, as being gay is not a protected status under hate crime legislation everywhere (yet). They can be evicted from their homes or lose their jobs.
  3. In addition to imminent threats that are brought to bear upon the person having this word flung at them, the word carries with it centuries of oppression enacted upon they gay community. Demeaning words such as floof do not exist in a vacuum. They have been used intentionally for a long time and they carry a history of oppression.

When you hurl a slur at someone, you are effecting their reputation. When that slur is a word directed at someone’s sexuality, that can do serious damage to them internally, over time, as well as externally and immediately.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot make a slur out of a word that expresses a group’s privilege. Slurs are designed to punch down. When they are used by a member of a privileged group against a member of a less privileged group, they do serious damage. When they are directed from one member of an oppressed group to another, they are being owned by that group. Which is why I can call myself a dyke or why white people can’t use the “n” word. And when they are used by a member of an oppressed group against a privileged group, they are virtually devoid of any impact.

Something to think about when you hear the word cis being used in a derogatory fashion is where that comes from. It comes, more often than not, from a place of anger and pain. That anger is the anger of a community of people who are constantly overlooked and undervalued by people who pass unharassed through society. Who don’t have to deal with uncomfortable questions being asked by strangers about their genitals in public places. Who can go into bathrooms without being asked if they’re lost. Who don’t face very specific forms of gendered violence in their everyday lives.

So while it may suck to have someone fling a mean word at you from time to time, cis isn’t a slur. And honestly? Cis people should consider themselves lucky that it isn’t. Because having to endure the types of hadrship that non-cisgendered people have endured in order to make the words used against them a slur? That doesn’t sound like fun to me.

TL;DR Being cisgendered is a privilege. Acting like you are being persecuted by being identified as what you are is ridiculous.


Featured image taken from Shutterstock.

Schrodinger’s Homophobes

I bar tended a fabulous Hallowedding this weekend. I do not know the couple well, but the love that mutual friends have for them endeared me to them immediately. Listening to their vows was so touching. And seeing the massive outpouring of love that their friends and family have for them was deeply moving.

Sitting in that room, handing out drinks and celebrating along with a room full of people gathered to celebrate the love of two people, I started to think about what my own wedding would look like. Who would be there. And who wouldn’t.

When I came out to my family a few years ago, it was really strange. Mostly my sexuality has been such an open thing to everyone I was not related to for so long. The idea of copping to a thing that so many people already knew was super strange.

Now that I’m OUT, I look around at the people I have known for years and wonder if they give a shit. I mostly don’t care. But one thing that I do care about is who I will invite to the day when I commit myself to someone for the rest of my life.

I have always wanted to do the whole wedding thing. I wanna have a big ass sleepover and wear a gorgeous dress and have all my friends around me and say nice stuff to my partner and hug and kiss everyone I love and also eat all the cupcakes.

These are my goals. They are simple goals, but they are mine.

And one thing that I 100% want for my wedding is no drama of any kind. I really don’t have dramatic friends, so I’m not all that worried on that front. And on the whole, my family is not a dramatic one. But the addition of gayness makes people behave in unexpected ways.

That said, since I have come out I have been looking at my family in a new light, trying to decide which of them might go all hetero-mad and say something or do something shitty at a gay wedding.

The shitty part is that I have virtually nothing to report at this point. Other than the two people who disowned their daughter for being married to a woman, there aren’t any glaring “I’M A HOMOPHOBE” signs on any of my family members’ heads.

And that frightens me. It frightens me because I don’t want to exclude people because they are from a generation that seems to have more trouble with LGBTQ people. But I also don’t want a flashbang of homophobia to go off in the middle of my wedding because I don’t want to deal with that shit.

I mean, it’s not like I can make my RSVPs look like this:

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That would just be too much. I’ll just have to keep my ears peeled and hope that anyone with shitty feelings about me marrying another woman decides to do the right thing and just check “Regretfully Decline” on my inevitable RSVP.

Honestly, I would worry about their safety if they didn’t make that choice and made any kind of scene. I have very protective friends. Keep that in mind if you read this, undercover familial homophobes. Assholery at my future nuptials will be severely policed.


Featured image found here: http://phys.org/news/2014-02-peeking-physicists-quantum-particles.html

National Coming Out Day: I’m late as usual

In middle school, I fell in love with my straight best friend. As so many lesbians are wont to do, it seems. Identifying it as love or sexual attraction was something I didn’t do until later, but the way that I hung on her every word, the way that I pined after her for years, how I mourned when she passed from my life, all of that was the beginning of me coming into myself. A process that would take far longer than I expected.

Like so many people, coming out for me was more gradual than the stereotypical and somewhat fictive egress from the social closet. I spent years questioning my sexuality. Years in and out of shitty relationships. Settling for less than I deserved. Struggling with the “bi” label and trying to figure out why my relationships with women always felt like fantasies, too easy to possibly be true. While my relationships with men were always a struggle. A struggle that I associated with realness and authenticity in a way that was incredibly damaging. So, you know, thanks for that, romantic comedies.

Oddly, coming out to myself was the hardest part. I remember sitting in bed with Frankie, early on in our relationship. I had this sick feeling in my stomach as I turned to her and said:

“I’ve been having this really ugly thought.”

“What thought is that?” she asked, not giving away at all the fact that she already knew the thing I was going to tell her.

“What if I’m just… gay?”

The impact of that question was like a physical blow. Frankie let me eat a lot of ice cream to console myself. And she did not let on that she already knew for a whole hour after my initial statement. Because she’s sweet like that. The implications it had for every relationship I had entered into before her were staggering. I felt like I should apologize to every man I had dated from age fifteen to twenty-nine for being totally gay and not really present at all during those relationships. For playing house with them.

The coming out process isn’t as simple as acknowledging it to yourself, of course. The coming out process is ongoing and public as well as privately played out. It’s not as if we all get slapped with a rainbow sign when we admit who we are to ourselves. It’s not that simple. I still come out once or twice a week because, as a queer femme person, people never expect me to have a female partner. The ongoing and repetitive outing of myself can be frustrating. But it can also be surprising and comforting, to see how positively people react. How excited they are for us to be together. Support and love can be found in the strangest places.

Coming out to my friends has always been as simple as showing up in a place with a girl. Or talking about girlfriends. Coming out to strangers is similarly easy. Coming out to family was harder. Way harder.

I think it can be hardest for family because they set ideas and expectations up about you from a very early age. They imagine a life for you, build an image of you in their heads that it can be hard to deviate from. Although, to my brother’s credit, he knew about my dawning queerness from the moment I fell in love with Liz in middle school. And he never once gave me grief about it.

I told my mom pretty early on that I was queer. When I experimented with polyamory, she knew about that too. But I don’t think my sexuality became real for her until I moved in with Frankie and brought her around at holidays. And even then, it didn’t really hit until we got the right to marry in Pennsylvania and she and my dad had to grapple with the reality of that legal shift.

The initial fallout was hard. We’ve gotten past it, though. And even that has happened in small steps. Little gestures and statements that move us past the hurt and betrayal of that first explosive fight that ended in me cutting off contact with them for several months.

So that’s it! That’s my coming out story. Such as it is. It’s strange and involved and a little convoluted. It was hard to write about because the narrative is so much bigger than one of stepping out from the shadows. I’m still working through all the baggage I’m carrying around from having not known myself for so many years. I suspect that process will go on for quite some time. But I’m happier now than I have ever been, all things considered. Reconciling with who I really am has been such a worthwhile process. And it will continue to be. That much I am sure of. Because hidden in the depths that I’m revealing is a sensation of caring for myself that is new and gentle and worth all of the strife and upset that it took to get me to this place.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone!

 

Radical Issues: An Interlude

This morning I read Rebecca Solnit’s “letter to my dismal allies on the US left.” So much in it resonated deeply with me. In it, she said:

Maybe it’s part of our country’s puritan heritage, of demonstrating one’s own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies and corruptions in the system…

When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

So often I feel like we spend so much time as feminists and activists pointing out the nudity of our leaders and the systems that they put in place that we cannot enjoy our victories even for a moment.

A prime example for me came in the form of the SCOTUS decision on Friday regarding marriage equality in the US. You have to have known that it happened. The internet has been awash in rainbows ever since.

Anyway, about halfway through my day on Friday I noticed a vocal minority starting to talk about how there is a lot more work to do and how we need to turn our eyes to the future.

They’re not wrong.

But I couldn’t help the frustration that welled up in me. Can’t we just have ONE DAY? I thought. Can’t we just celebrate this culmination of so much blood, sweat and tears and then think about the rest of What Must Be Done tomorrow?

One of my biggest issues with being involved in social justice as a feminist is this constant nitpicking at everything that happens. I know that there are larger issues at stake. I know that we are not done fighting. I know that things are getting better in small increments that appear big when they suddenly have a cover story in the New York Times.

But sometimes I just want to celebrate without delving into the minutia of complications that suck the joy right out of a victory. Sometimes I just want to say “Hey, isn’t it great that SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality?” and have people respond with “Yes” rather than “Yes, but…”

I’m not an idiot. I don’t live with my head in the sand. I recognize the irony of Facebook plastering everyone’s profile pictures with rainbows while still not allowing trans folks to use their actual names on their profiles. I’m aware that the right to get married to my girlfriend does not mean that, in certain states, we can’t still be fired or evicted based on our relationship.

I know that. I know all of that and more. But it’s fucking exhausting to be reminded of it even at the height of something wonderful happening.

As Solnit said:

There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t – and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope and generous hearts.

We all want to live in a perfect world. We want to see things change for the better. But I think that being constantly on edge and constantly picking at people about the problems is not necessarily as healthy for ourselves or our causes as we would like it to be. When we are delivered a solid win like the one we had on Friday, I think it’s OK to let go and celebrate the victory for the moment and set the inevitable problems aside to analyze later.

Lesbian Impostor Syndrome

Let me tell you a story.

When I was 13 I was in love. I did that young lesbian thing where I fell for my straight best friend. The first few weeks of 7th grade I followed her around the field where we had recess like a lost puppy. When she finally caved and decided to be friends with me, I was over the moon.

I loved everything about her. Her long blond hair, her taste in books and movies. We watched The Breakfast Club one night in my parents living room after everyone had gone to sleep, sitting close to it with the volume turned down because it was a movie we had heard was dirty. I laid across her bed in her room and listened to her play Pachelbel’s Canon on her flute.

Sometime in the midst of high school, we stopped being best friends. She started hanging out with a different crowd. I didn’t identify what I had with her as full-on “pangs of despised love” until my senior year.

In the interim, I fell head over heels for a girl the year ahead of me. She looked like Delirium from Sandman. Or Tori Amos. I memorized her poetry and read it back to her in the lunch room on one knee. We visited cemeteries like the goth wandering children that we were. We kissed one day under a gas lantern because she told me that was the ideal way to start a romance.

We dated briefly. They figured out that they were trans during our time together. I spoiled the relationship in my confusion in dealing with the totally new concept and how it related to me and to this person that I loved. That is something that I deeply regret.

Throughout this entire period, I had boyfriends who were far more serious on paper than my relationships with these women. I was an emotional chameleon. I poured myself into the molds they had for me. The perfect girlfriend. Compromising. Understanding. Patient.

My relationships always ended the same way. One big fight during which all of my bitterness at having been The Thing They Wanted but not Who I Was would come flooding to the surface.

After the breakup, I would head out on a bender that would usually end with me in a different stupid relationship. It would usually middle out with me in the arms of some beautiful girl, though. I would feel comforted and safe. But also like an impostor. My relationships with women always felt like oases in the desert. Beautiful and cool and uncomplicated.

But I worried that they were just escapism. I associated relationships with the strife inherent in making myself seem like something that I wasn’t.

After my last relationship with a man, I was so lost that I couldn’t even begin to enter into another one. I stayed single for a while.

Then I started dating Frankie.

One night, in the middle of summer, not long after we started dating, I had an ugly thought.

I’m so happy. This feels so right. Holy shit… have I always been gay?

Frankie was super nice about the fact that she’d already figured that out. She gave me ice cream. And I settled in for the process of figuring out how exactly to be myself with this new information.

It turns out, it wasn’t that different from what I was doing before.

It turns out, the only real difference was that my life was more healthy and functional than it had ever been.

I spent the majority of my life up until two years ago feeling like some kind of impostor. Like I was doing something wrong by feeling comfortable and safe with the women in my life.

Impostor syndrome is a real thing. Amanda Palmer calls it the Fraud Police. The idea being that someone at some point is going to jump out of the shadows, flash some kind of badge at you, and drag you off to Fraud Jail. You will, thereafter, stand accused of Not Knowing What You’re Doing. And there will be Consequences.

Impostor syndrome is dangerous. It’s the sound of your own voice in your head telling you lies.

You aren’t really [insert thing that you are]. 

You’re fooling yourself. You’re fooling everyone.

One day everyone is going to see you for what you really are. And then they’ll humiliate you.

The tragic thing about impostor syndrome is that it is so often the people who are the most qualified or genuine who feel as though they are somehow pulling the wool over the eyes of those around them. There are so many people out there who are 100% assured that they are The Best when they are really The Worst. I wish those people had crippling self-doubt hammered into them by their own brains. They deserve it.

So listen, qualified and brilliant and genuine readers, because I’m going to tell you something.

The Fraud Police do not exist.

You, my friend, are qualified. You are worthy of the distinctions heaped upon you. You are worthy of your career and your position in life. You are probably even worthy of more than you tell yourself you can achieve.

Fuck the fraud police. You’re awesome. And so am I.

I’m also suuuuuuuuper gay. Thanks for keeping me from that discovery for 14 years, Fraud Police. You badge-flashing imaginary pains in the ass.


Featured image from the lovely people over at Chaos Life.

Feelings: Philly Pride and Anniversaries

This weekend is Pride in Philadelphia. This year Pride is special because Philadelphia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the picketing of Independence Hall in 1965. Gay rights groups gathered on July 4th of that year to demand legislation securing the rights of LGBTQ Americans. They would gather to protest on the steps of Independence Hall every year on that date for four years. 50 years later, the lives of LGBTQ people in this country have changed dramatically. From being able to legally marry in 37 states across the country to gender reassignment surgery being covered under the ACA and other forms of insurance, the landscape being navigated by LGBTQ people in this country is vastly different compared to the way it was in 1965.

This Sunday is also another kind of anniversary. Two years ago, a few months before Sugar Moms closed, Frankie took me there one night and asked me to be hers. It was one of the happiest moments I can remember. Since then, I have learned and grown so much as a person, just from knowing her and loving her. I feel so grateful every day to have her in my life. She is so brilliant and funny and genuine and sweet. I am so proud to be with her.

As far as Philly Pride is concerned… I have mixed feelings about it going back a ways. I have avoided going to Pride in the past. I’ve never been the sort of person who really wants to party in the streets, for one. And for another, for years I was pretty sure that I was fooling myself one way or another about who I was and what I wanted. So, not feeling a lot of pride myself, it was hard for me to join the throngs flooding the streets as anything other than a bystander. An ally. And even that never felt right.

Coming up on Pride this year, I feel an immense amount of relief at being who I am and how my life has shaped up after my coming out to my family (which was the Final Goddamn Frontier of Gayitude for me). I’m happier with myself. I’m more creative. I’m honestly… proud. I’m proud to be living my life out loud and out in the open. I’m proud of the things I have done and been exposed to that I never would have even tried before a few years ago.

I can finally say, after all this time, that I feel genuine pride for who I am as a person and where I am in my life. I am so grateful to the people in my life for being so loving and supportive of me. And to the people who came before me who tore a path through the world so that I could walk my path in relative ease and safety. I am so grateful. I am so proud.

Trans Lives Matter: Caitlyn Jenner & Representation in Media

Ever since the announcement of their womanhood, there has been speculation as to when “Bruce” Jenner would change their pronoun and name to feminine ones. We all knew it was coming, but we had no way of predicting when.

Well! It finally happened. On June 1st, Caitlyn Jenner tweeted for the first time. And then Jenner set a world record for the fastest time to 1 million followers in just 4 hours.

Caitlyn’s announcement was accompanied by photos of her on the cover of Vanity Fair. Fittingly, the announcement coincided with the year anniversary of Laverne Cox’s featured position on the cover of TIME magazine alongside the headline “The Transgender Tipping Point.”

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More than anything else, I am thrilled to see Caitlyn living her life as her genuine, authentic self. There is nothing more freeing than living your life without shame. I am also delighted to see yet another glamorous woman kicking ass and taking names in her 60s. I cannot get enough of gorgeous older ladies being fabulous. Between Jessica Lange, Caitlyn, and shows like Grace & Frankie, I really hope this is getting to be a trend.

In the brief time since revealing herself in her new identity, Caitlyn has caught some serious criticism as a trans person for a couple of reasons. The first has been her position as a fairly prominent and wealthy person undergoing transition. She is in a very privileged spot in that she has access to stylists, personal trainers, and medical treatments that have undoubtedly made her movement into the sphere of womanhood comparatively easier than the journeys taken by many other trans people.

On the issue of her privilege I am not prepared to judge Caitlyn. Yet. And I say “yet” because I am waiting to see what she decides to do with her new position as a visible and wealthy trans woman. There is so much work that needs to be done in the trans community. In her open letter to Caitlyn Jenner, Kai Cheng Thom says:

I want to know how you feel about all of these things: the ties that bind and the differences between us. And most of all, I want to know what you plan to do about them. You’ve said that you want to hear the stories of other trans women and use your platform to “make things better.” I want so badly for this to mean more than just “raising awareness” through glamour photos and reality television – it’s true that trans people have been experiencing unprecedented visibility in recent years, but visibility alone will not save us. My community organizer’s mind goes wild just imagining all of the social programs I could run with a fraction of the money at your disposal.

With that said, if Caitlyn takes her considerable money and influence and applies it to working in communities and making a difference in trans lives, I will applaud her unreservedly. If, however, Caitlyn takes her new, privileged self out into the world of tawdry reality television and thinks that the mere presence of her in the public eye is going to stop the considerable violence and hardship that trans women (and particularly trans women of color) face every day? That will be a different story altogether. And I admit to being unsure as to which way she will go.

Aside from being privileged in the means by which she has transitioned, Jenner has also been criticized for her connection to the dreaded Kardashians and their publicity stunt mentality. Let me say two things on that score. First of all, you have to be seriously out of touch with reality if you even thought for a second that Caitlyn’s transition was some kind of publicity stunt. And secondly, I think that her use of the letter “C” in a name that could easily be spelled with a “K” was rather telling, don’t you?

It is true that what is surrounding Jenner at this point could not be called anything less than a media circus. But I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. I think that her transition as a person living a prominent and public life was going to generate a lot of buzz to begin with. And I think that having someone so prominently transition is going to make a difference in the lives of trans youth, because representation matters.

On that note I want to get a little personal. I lived a large portion of my life confused and uncomfortable with who I was as a person. I thought I was straight… Or maybe bisexual? I had no one in my life upon whose example I could model myself as a gay woman. I cannot begin to express how valuable it would have been for me to see alternative sexualities and genders represented in the media. Caitlyn would have been a huge deal to me. Just seeing that there were other ways to live your life might have meant that I found my way to myself far earlier and spared myself a lot of pain.

More than just allowing young people to see that there are other ways to live than as cisgendered heterosexuals, I believe the prominent representation of LGBTQ people can save lives. Suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are notably higher than those of the general population. According to The Trevor Project, “nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.” Having people like Jenner out there in the world for trans youth to look up to means a lot. And I think that, as the years roll on and we as a community gain more and more trans role models, The Trevor Project and groups like them will have better and better news for us.

Despite the jury being out on whether Caitlyn will utilize her privileged position as a trans person in a positive way, having her transition in the public eye is, as Rachel Maddow put it, “absolutely history in the finest, living sense.” I think considering Caitlyn’s journey as “living history” is an important distinction. Because this is not the end of the story of trans rights. This isn’t the beginning, either, it is just a very important moment. A chapter that will stand out when we look back at it. But there is still so much work to be done.