You lived in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. You gravitated towards urban areas, which have always been the safest options.[In cities,] we can be in public, but not be seen. It's a matter of, if we can't hide any longer—especially with this idiot running the country —we have to remain visible. They have to see us, they have to know that we're not going no-fucking-where, that we've been here ever since God made man and woman, and they have to get over it. I don't need their permission to exist, I exist in spite of them. I want you to train and teach and love on and create families within my community and gender non-conforming people, so that we can understand that we have a culture, we have a history, we have a reason to be here. We have a purpose. We're entitled to be loved, and seek happiness, and share that with the people that we care about. Blood isn't the only connection that we can have to one another. I want the younger members to understand that things haven't always been like this. I couldn’t go out in the daytime when I was younger and just do what I needed to do or walk safely through the streets. A lot of interesting things have happened over the years that have made it a little bit better. It's still not where it should be. We are still not accepted straight across the board—there are still hoops to go through. It's like, “Oh, if you put this on and you do this, then we’ll think about accepting you.” Bullshit! You accept me because of who I am and I'm breathing just like you are.
"We've got to revolt, and we’ve got to reclaim who the fuck we are and let these people realize, before they came along, we were honored and worshipped and appreciated and adored."
The rest of the world thinks that they can just beat us down and crush us, and we’re going to just snap in two. We won’t snap in two. One of the interesting things about all that crap that my friends and I went through as young people in the 60s: If any of that would have worked and had really made things better, Trump wouldn't be president in 2016. No, because people would be respectful and be caring and thinking about other people. We would work together. We would be a voice for change, a voice for positivity, a voice for good. Hate, viciousness, suspicion, and fear conjure up all these horrible things that shouldn't be happening. It shouldn't exist today. We've gone through too much shit to get here. I'm hoping it will make us more resilient, because [Trump] is so demonistic in his point of view. We can do it. There's a lot of us out there with good hearts, and people who are not us that genuinely care about us.We can do so many productive things with anger and really be propelled in the face of injustice. The base of your politic is love, which is such an incredible gift to our community and to the entire world. Our opposition is fueled by a combination of anger and hate, though.One of the things that my grandmother told me is: “Hate is like quicksand.” It's all-consuming. Once you get involved with that, it's going to suck you in and envelop you. We have to give people the room to be who they are, the courage to change and alter and grow. It’s kind of like plants: You gotta give it sun and water and let it develop as it needs to. Don't tie it down and make it grow the way you want. When I look at bonsai trees, they're so pretty to look at, but it's so hurtful to think of what we've done to them. We’ve done and stopped them from being what their full potential could be. I think of our community when I see them. Some of them adjust and look happy—they're pretty to look at. And some of them feel sad to me. I’ve even cried, child. It’s just like, Goddammit, Major, you big mush.
"We have to give people the room to be who they are, the courage to change and alter and grow."
The only way in my mind to get that to change is by working with the community—one on one, one on one, one on one—to create a sense of security within ourselves, belief in who we are, trust in our abilities to handle and be okay and open ourselves up to the other parts of the community. I mean, it's so ridiculous for girls on hormones to not want to have anything to do with girls not on hormones. Trans men who get their breasts taken off and don't want to deal with the trans men who haven't had breast reduction surgery. [There are] so many boxes that we wind up putting ourselves in, because straight people have been trying to stick us in one with all this terminology.When I grew up, we just thought we were sissies who liked to wear dresses, you know? We didn’t have “transgender.” That didn’t happen until the late 60s. Now, they want to ban the word! Some girls don’t want to be called “trannies.” Ooookay. “Don’t call me a ‘sheman.’” Well, bitch, she got titties and a dick. We don’t love ourselves first. We love what we feel we are before we start to appreciate who we are. You can't go forward until you start to realize where you came from. And so for me, I want to help the community get to that point of understanding so that it’s not so horrible to be a trans person, so we don't have to fight ourselves and fight everybody else. I want us to accept who we are, then move forward.
"The culture among us has become being overly protective of ourselves and not of people around us."
The interesting thing is, by the time I got to prison, and I was talking to Frank Smith [the inmate leader of the Attica prison uprising], I realized the stuff we were doing to try to keep the girls safe was good, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t have enough information about what harm was being done to us, and until you understand how oppression works, where it’s coming from, and what it means, it’s really hard to fight it because you didn’t understand what the fight is all about.In order to defeat something, you have to know what it is. He explained that to me, and he gave me books and things to read to bring me up to understanding how the society worked, how long it had been like this, and what little things that you can do in order to change it, so that you could make it better for the people coming up behind you. For me, it was important because there's going to be lots of other young girls coming up behind me who I don't want to go through this hurt and aggravation and sadness that I've had to go through in order to get here. He was so instrumental in making me aware of that and giving me the opportunity to learn and grow and look out for my community; to provide a sense of safety for them, a place to go and be safe and speak who you need to speak to, and use your mind. He was a very wonderful man.For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our NewsletterWho are the biggest teachers in your life?There are different ones, but when I was in the Jewel Box Review, there was a comedian there. She would just give me a little bits of advice on how to get along with the other girls in the show, what things to do to keep myself safe and out of harm's way. And you find that along this road of life that you have, there will be different people that pop up as your life needs them, and can give you little pieces of wisdom or advice that if you adhere to it, can make your next journey better, safer, and clearer. It's hard to see what's going on if you walking in the middle of a storm.There's been lots of them off and on. There's been girls that I've met who have since passed away who, just knowing them changed or made me a better person—from talking with them and sharing their existences. One of the interesting things, when I was doing a lot of what groups and stuff like that—in these meetings, one of the things that I found interesting to do within the community is getting the girls to explain where their names came from. What incident or what person helped them get the name that they have chosen to live by? That has the tendency to bring folks back to reality—to let go of the drama and the existence that they are clinging to for life, and relaxing for a moment, and sharing a moment of their lives that's personal and warm. That has the tendency to create bonds and friendships, because all of our paths are different, but all of our goals are the same.
"It's hard to see what's going on if you walking in the middle of a storm."