By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
As I write this, I’ve just come home from my second Transgender Day or Remembrance (TDoR) observance of the weekend. It’s been an intense and emotional few days. Given this, as well as the intense nature of my column about TDoR last month, I thought I’d talk about something a bit more positive.
Thanksgiving is upon us and the year is drawing to a close, so it seemed a good time to remember some things for which I am thankful. This got me thinking about how, even though my own life is much more difficult than I sometimes let on, I have been helped out by so many wonderful people, and about how much I owe to the kindness of family, friends and my community.
You may be shocked to know this, but being an actor, an activist, and a writer are not especially lucrative professions, particularly if you add “…who is also a trans woman” to any of those. I’m not complaining; I love the work I do and feel lucky that I get to live the life I live. I get to meet amazing people and have incredible adventures. But frankly, very little of the work I do pays much of anything monetarily. The bulk of it is volunteer work. Sadly, being an outspoken 6’4” trans woman, even in a state with new employment protections, pretty much takes all of the old “pay the bills” kind of jobs I used to rely on off the table. [pullquote]Sadly, being an outspoken 6’4” trans woman, even in a state with new employment protections, pretty much takes all of the old “pay the bills” kind of jobs I used to rely on off the table.[/pullquote]
I make less money in a year than some people spend on their entertainment systems. Many other people in my situation would be homeless and hungry, and many are. I am sadly certain this situation is something that is not unique among trans people, even rather well known trans people. And yet, I have a roof over my head, food in the pantry, a fairly stylish wardrobe, and a number of aging laptops that I keep just close enough to functioning that I am able to get my work done. How can I complain?
The work I do pays little, yes. Still, I am thankful. The people I love and who love me make sure I have not just shelter, but a home. When I travel, there is always someone ready to put me up on their couch, feed me a meal, buy me a drink. If I can’t afford the bus, there are friends who give me rides, even sometimes loan me their car. If I’m feeling down, it’s only a matter of time before a random queer kid runs up to me excitedly in the street and hugs me, or I open my email to find a heartfelt message from a trans person telling me I helped them be brave enough to be themselves. There’s someone thanking me for giving them an answer they couldn’t find elsewhere, or for simply giving them community and friendship. Seriously, that sh*t is better than Prozac! [pullquote]I see our community coming together all the time to help each other out, to lift up those of us who have need. The very funny trans woman Tammy Twotone—my good friend and co-host of Tammy’s Twist at The Broadway Comedy Club in Manhattan (next show, Dec. 19)—recently got an opportunity to play a small part as a trans background character on the show “Glee.”[/pullquote]
Even with big things, there are people who help me out. Just this week, I finally began laser hair removal to get rid of my beard. I’ve been “full-time” now for several years, but I’ve still had to keep shaving my rather thick beard. I could never afford the treatment and only managed the expense of razors by not thinking too hard about how much I couldn’t afford them. But for my 40th birthday, an old friend started a crowdsourced fundraising campaign to help me get laser. Now, thanks to my friends and fans, I’m finally getting this crucial (for me) step in my transition started.
It’s not just me though. I see our community coming together all the time to help each other out, to lift up those of us who have need. The very funny trans woman Tammy Twotone—my good friend and co-host of Tammy’s Twist at The Broadway Comedy Club in Manhattan (next show, Dec. 19)—recently got an opportunity to play a small part as a trans background character on the show “Glee.” It was small, but it’s a step we need: trans people playing trans roles. In order to get all the way to Los Angeles, she needed help with airfare, so she asked the community. Within less than a week, this community made that happen.
Sure, the feuds and meltdowns get more reblogs on Tumblr. The bickering and the flame wars generate more tweets. But, if you look, there is a quieter community of amazing folks working to raise each other up and push us all forward.
The work to gain further acceptance and increase visibility for trans people is hard. It pays poorly and sometimes it can seem daunting, if not impossible. However, there are good people doing that work, and behind those folks, there are many, many others who are ready and willing to do what it takes to help us succeed.
They—you—are why we do this work, and why we absolutely will prevail. I could never do the work I do without the amazing support that all of you give. None of us could. For that, I thank you. I am humbled by your support and by the quiet strength and determined resolve of our community.
I love you all dearly.
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer, and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.