We realized over the last 20 years that what we’d really like to focus on is investigative torture. When they first get ahold of somebody, in order to get confessions out of them, to get evidence out of them, governments resort to torture. Most governments, the vast majority of them have rules against torture. They find them to be the cheapest and most available means of resolving criminal accusations — they can beat something out of somebody. In any event, the human rights element of everything that I’ve worked on has been the most important component of the work. [If] you donate your time and work towards something, then international human rights seems to be a pretty valid goal or ideal.
"They would like to pretend that we don’t exist."
What were they like?Most of them had female impersonator shows. There was usually a smattering of trans people in the audience. Some of the performers had friends who hung out at the clubs. There was a place I remember that had a show in the front room and a bar in the backroom, which is where the trans clientele were—pretty much straight clientele in the front room. It was very interesting. Trans folks were not just a subculture, but a sub-sub culture. Because it was a part of gay society, but it was the abandoned stepchild. Gay men didn’t like drag queens. They had their own prejudices towards them. [When] you find your way to enlightened people, both trans and not trans, it gives you hope because there are people that empathize, sympathize, and are willing to fight for your cause. Something I learned was an important component about the entire struggle is that we need to convince others that there’s justice in your cause and it is a righteous thing to stand with us.What did you think when you were in that room? Did you feel like you were disappearing into the wall, or what was the feeling in your body?
"Trans folks were not just a subculture, but a sub-sub culture. Because it was a part of gay society, but it was the abandoned stepchild."
There’s a legal paper in the community called the Daily Journalist—it’s a daily legal paper here. They wanted to do a profile on me as a lawyer. I said, “Listen, I got this one issue that’s going to overwhelm your profile.” They said, “That’s even better, we’ll make that a feature article.” So they put it on the front page of the daily legal paper.
"Every trans person should aspire to everything. "
Do you have any thoughts on disenfranchised people who don’t know where to put their energy, could be putting their energy?Every trans person should aspire to everything. Be the greatest lead singer in a band, be the best politician, be the greatest lawyer you can be. All those things are going to be available because people fought for us, people advocated for us, people opened doors and made space for us. And you’re gonna have to return that favor and pay it forward for the next generation. Nothing good happens without all of us doing it together. This is one movement that you have to get active in, not just for yourself, but for the world––for us to experience a measure of justice, equality, inclusion.