‘We will still be here, through what’s coming’

When transgender people’s backs are to the wall, ‘we band together, we fight as hard as we can, and we live through’

BRATTLEBORO — Around the time I transitioned, I started a business. It sells to transgender customers, mostly - people like me. We've shipped to every state in this country, now, and we send more to small towns than big cities by far.

People send us letters and emails, saying: Hey, I didn't think anyone cared about what I needed, but this is what I needed. Or: I'm all alone out here in my small town, but I'm trying to get up the courage to go meet people. Or, last month: “I have been trying for years to feel like myself, and I'm hoping this will help.

I've learned a lot doing this. But there's one truth I'm somehow always surprised by, one fact this work keeps driving home: we are everywhere.

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We are in every town. I would be shocked if you could find a neighborhood in this country without a trans person in it. There are that many of us.

The official count is 1.4 million; that's the number The New York Times likes to quote.

But that number doesn't count the kid who wrote to us and said, “I haven't told my parents, but I'm sure.”

That number doesn't count the person in our inbox saying, “Nobody else knows yet, but now you do.”

That number doesn't count the guy I met in August who told me he couldn't get health care because he was undocumented; and it doesn't count any of the people who have been hiding for years, for fear of exactly the human-rights abuses we are facing now.

And it doesn't count me.

I came out in 2012, and the last census was in 2010. I am out in every channel and every way I can be, through my work and at home and to all my family, even the Bible-belters. Everyone who knows me knows this. And I'm still not in the official count.

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There are so many of us - more than anyone seems to think. We've been here, all along, in every small town and every back road. We've living all across the country for all this time. And we will still be here, through what's coming.

We will be here after the election is over and the latest government-issued public referendum on our humanity is over and done with.

We will still be here in a year, when even more of us have been kicked out of our failing health-care system and we're forced to turn to one another for care.

And we will be here in five years - who knows what the world will look like in five years! But I know that we will live to see it.

Because that's what we do.

The elders I've learned from - experienced older transgender people I've been honored to meet and know - have taught me that when our backs are to the wall, we band together, we fight as hard as we can, and we live through.

It's hard. It's hard to come out - to ourselves and each other, much less the rest of the world. It's hard to show up, day after day.

It's hard to keep going knowing what's against us.

And it's hard to build community, to reach out and join together and protect one another. It is real and hard work to find where we fit, to make spaces and collectives that we can all fit into.

And it's not fair that it should be so hard for us.

* * *

That's why I am so proud of everyone who showed up at Pliny Park for the Rally to Support Trans Justice on Oct. 25. I'm proud of us for putting in the work, for helping one another, and asking for help.

I hope that everyone who was there knows that you can and should be proud of doing this very good, very hard, thing.

I am proud to be alive in these times. Nothing worth doing comes easy.

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