I have always believed that “where there is room in the heart there is room in the home.” So I opened up my little bungalow in order to share it with those in need—many of them fleeing the wrath of family members.
Until I was in my seventies, my fierce desire to become who I really was could only be acted part of the time. While I wanted to live openly as a woman when I was 40, I learned that I could not do so without divorcing the love of my life. When she passed away in 2008, I felt alone in the world and had to face the realization that I had to rely on myself—my whole, true self.
Following this slow process of maturity, I learned to lean heavily on the transgender community as a source of guidance. Initially, I joined a local group to discuss common struggles. Soon they became a family that I could explore simple joys of the world—such as a trip visiting Mt. St. Helens.
There is goodness and light within the transgender community in spite of some horrific realities facing our marginalized population. Poverty and homelessness is especially prevalent in the transgender community with 19% of us having been homeless at some time.
Thankfully, although we face many challenges there is one thing that makes being transgender in Washington a little easier: For more than 11 years, Washington laws have ensured fair and equal treatment for transgender people like me.
“Transgender people face enough challenges already. I see this firsthand as I support transgender people in need through the program I run at my home. The last thing we need is a rollback of the protections we’ve come to rely on over the last 11 years. That’s just not the Washington way. That’s not who we are.”
Unfortunately, some people are trying chip away at these protections.Opponents of equality have introduced an initiative, I-1552, that would put the repeal of these much-needed protections on the ballot this November. They tried the same thing last year and weren’t able to get enough signatures, but this year they’re starting earlier, and I really fear they might succeed.
For me, this is downright scary. Transgender people face enough challenges already. I see this firsthand as I support transgender people in need through the program I run at my home. The last thing we need is a rollback of the protections we’ve come to rely on over the last 11 years. That’s just not the Washington way. That’s not who we are.
“With hardships shared, we not only get by, but thrive, and are in constant awe of the support we receive from outsiders. The ability to give back to a community that has helped me so much feels good—there’s something contagious about it.”
Trans women have stayed in my home for days, months, and sometimes years, with as many as 10 people bunking down in a house built for two.
It is important to note that we are not a drop-in center or a crash pad, but a launching pad for personal transformation. Through a “Fairy Godmother” program, generated by my very first housemate, we go thrift store shopping to secure new wardrobes. With hardships shared, we not only get by, but thrive, and are in constant awe of the support we receive from outsiders. The ability to give back to a community that has helped me so much feels good—there’s something contagious about it.
While the love and kindness that we are surrounded by is inspiring, it has been an especially hard year. Between the politicians that have demonized us nationally, and organizations that are working nonstop to restrict our rights here in Washington, there is a lot of misinformation being tossed around. However, our home serves as a reminder that sisterhood is stronger than the abuse and prejudice that a harsh uncomprehending world can throw at us.
The bonds that unite us are strong because of the struggles we face together. As we look ahead, it is important to lean into that support so that we can continue to live our lives as who we truly are.
And now in Washington, we know that the most important thing we can do to support each other is to speak out against I-1552—and urge our neighbors, family, friends and coworkers to speak out too. We can’t let this harmful initiative roll back much-needed protections for people like me and people that I love. Right now a campaign is ramping up urging fair-minded Washingtonians to decline to sign I-1552. You can learn more and sign up by clicking here.