Make sure to check out my first post on terms and definitions so you know what I'm talking about!
Many roads of activism exist, between starting a city-wide petition, rallying, educating, rioting in the streets – you know. The basics. But I’ve recently begun to realize that, for LGBT individuals (and anyone else in an invisible minority), there is one imperative route of activism that is often overlooked: coming out. I, personally, am a trans* woman, so my coming out story of activism aligns with that identity.
I tend to argue that trans* people are the most visible population of any in the GLBT community, since expressing as our appropriate gender is part of our identity. Because of this, I didn’t have the luxury of appearing female to close friends first to test the waters. Instead, I went immediately into coming out, in the most literal sense, to everyone in eye-shot. Soon after, I elected to pledge to a sorority, Phi Theta Chi, and was soon accepted as a Sister. I took 40 hours of training to work at the Women’s Resource Center to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and I worked to convince my (traditionally Conservative) Mathematics department to reserve for me one of five spots available to the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Math.
In short, I began living as a woman; began living as I have always wanted to. At first pass, these may all seem like very personal achievements, but once we factor in how public my coming out is, we can better see how this counts as very progressive and potent activism. In my public coming out, I have shown to everyone who has seen me that trans* is a real identity (this ain’t your baby boy’s porno fantasy anymore). By being outspoken and thoughtful, I have shown people that being trans* is more than comic relief in a film. By joining my sorority and attending all-women’s conferences, I have given hope to other trans* people and shown them that acceptance is out there; shown them that they don’t need to be afraid to come out and that, when they do, they might have a chance at alleviating the dysphoria that rips their psyche apart by being forced to pretend that they’re a gender they don’t identify with.
I crave for my entire existence to be an inspiration to anyone who needs one, and have had my inspirational qualities affirmed by several people, from a quiet thanks in passing from a still-closeted trans* person to a sobbing appreciation from a cisgendered Sister who claims I have reignited hope in her life. No matter what laws pass (or fail to), and no matter what discrimination LGBT people face, my coming out, and the successes that I strive for with it, will always be a beacon to look to.
Coming out is one of the most potent forms of activism, and if your goal is to make a change in your community – exemplify yourself.