Defiance: Living Your Life as an Openly Transgender Person is a Revolutionary Act

remembrancePhoto: David Meehan

Being transgender is revolutionary in of itself

By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—

How can I tell you, brothers, sisters, zisters, and my many trans siblings, that just living your lives is a revolutionary act? Going to the store to buy milk, holding hands in the street with your lovers, riding the bus to work, casually sipping a beer at the neighborhood bar are acts of protest. All of these things, normal and mundane as they may be for you and me, they are revolutionary acts that upset the cisgender, binary-oriented status quo.

To be clear, you don’t even have to be non-binary in any way to challenge the binary. I know for myself that as a binary-female I constantly have to fight to fit within the binary, or rather, to be accepted as fitting within it. I know who I am, and how I identify. It’s getting others, cisgender people, to accept that, which is the revolutionary act. It’s not altering my own life to fit their discomfort that is revolutionary.

For trans people, even something so universal and biologically unavoidable as having to use a public restroom is treated as a provocation. We do not have to form cells, or distribute pamphlets, or stand on corners giving fiery speeches to be revolutionaries. All we have to do is continue breathing. Leave the house, live our lives. These are revolutionary acts.

And, it doesn’t matter if you’re not someone like me who actively participates in intentional activism. You don’t have to be the most visible person in the room, the loudest, or the most outspoken. You can be quiet as a church mouse, an introvert who just wants to go to work, play a board game with friends, or sip a latte while reading a book at a local café. If you are trans on top of these things, you are just as much a revolutionary as I am. In this topsy-turvy, cis-centric world, even these simple things are activist acts.

Every day, we are beaten, murdered, discriminated against, marginalized, taunted, teased, and dismissed. We may have more allies now than ever, but the society we live in is still overwhelmingly hostile towards our very existence.

Most people would not even blink if we all suddenly went back into the closet and disappeared. Given a choice, they would rather not have to deal with us at all.

Yet by our very lives, our visibility in our communities, our simple existence, we force the public at large to deal with us, to think about us. When we walk down the street, we take up space in their world. When we wait in line in front of them at the supermarket, we confront their assumed supremacy. When we offer our opinions in a meeting, we refuse to be silenced.

If we dare to stand up for each other and support each other, we are accused of creating a politicized atmosphere. If we refuse to be sidelined, we are called troublemakers. If we love who we want, identify our sexualities, there are those who call us rapists and infiltrators.

To drive home that point, I am telling you that even to other revolutionaries in this cis-centric society, we often represent a step too far. Those others who live on the margins, those who proudly love others of the same sex, who have faced discrimination and marginalization themselves, even to many of them we are revolutionaries and provocateurs. If you are trans, going to the gay bar, or the all-women’s music festival, or the private dungeon, these things are revolutionary. Even, somehow, within circles of folks who may already think of themselves as revolutionary.

But despite all this, we live our lives. We work, pay our bills, celebrate holidays, attend church, get married and divorced, run for office, and join the army.

And if you are trans, know that I love you. No matter your personal politics, your age or occupation, whether we would be great friends if we met in person, or oil and water incompatible, you are my comrade on the front lines and I’ve got your back.

If no other voice tells you today that you are worthwhile and amazing, let mine be that voice for you. Know that you are seen, recognized, and celebrated simply for being yourself. You don’t have to march on Washington or be a guest on the local news. You are leading the charge of the revolution just by continuing to breathe. You are breaking down the barricades by simply living your lives.

You are a revolutionary. We are revolutionaries. Long live the trans revolution.


*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at:

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