Be A Light From Which To See

This piece is adapted from a speech Erika Ervin gave as Grand Marshal at Cincinnati Pride on June 27, 2015.

If you're going to go crazy, do it beautifully. I see some of you doing it right now. Be safe tonight. Please celebrate smart. Remember that Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, queer, intersexed, 2-spirit, or giant ass-kicking Amazon, but our right to exist without persecution. WE Remember Stonewall. WE Remember Compton's Cafeteria. WE remember our dead. Our pride today spawned from that spark that says, "I'm not taking this anymore!"

I keep hearing my co-star Jyoti Amge's voice in my ears saying, "use your power." I can't get that out of my mind. She used her Cabbage-Patch Kung Fu on me. She has a black belt in cute. It was those baby soft eyes that made me do it, your honor.

I'm reminded that my personal identity is molded by my personal sense of agency. Transgender, for me, was one of many paths. It was not a destination. No one decides that for you. And although all my identification cards say female, I see myself clearly... as mud sometimes. My multiple identities are bountiful and beautiful. I'm a chess nerd. I'm a first edition Dungeons and Dragons-gaming, Comicon Cosplay-ing, system-hacking, adventure-seeking, superher-loving, Extreme fitness-MMA'ing, Star Wars and Star Trek-ing Jedi of Jurisprudence that realizes that people who are denied life's benefits don't have to play by the rules. That's Game Theory 101. So, get your geek on. Get your freak on! Get your sheek on! (Pst, Hey Marvel, I got your She Hulk right here, No CGI needed, just a LOT of green body paint and a patient makeup artist who hopefully moonlights as a masseur. Imagine: Amazon Eve vs. Arnold Schwartzenegger. It writes itself: "Come here, Mr. Puniverse.")

Prior to my transition, transgender people were excluded from civil liberties, healthcare, health insurance, safety and security. As Executive Director of the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters in 2007, I began to work with our allies and WE changed that by removing those exclusions out of all insurance contracts inCalifornia in 2012. That same year, the EEOC included transgender people in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Sex Discrimination. The Affordable Care Act prohibits that exclusion in all 50 States, even the red ones!

Now, someone must have stepped on the dragon's trail, because you all heard the news: As of yesterday, Boom! * Stands as Winged Victory * The U.S. Supreme Court has declared same sex marriage legal under the 14th Amendment. There's light from which to see!

The International Olympic Committee changed their policy on transgender athletes in 2010, allowing them to compete. Now, we have gold medalists and Guinness record holders amongst us. Hey Caitlyn, does a Guinness Book medal trump an Olympic gold medal? We're almost there. We still need an inclusive Employment Non-discrimination Act. (I'm still waiting for that UFC match between Fallon Fox and Rhonda Rousey. What do you think Joe Rogan, are you coachable?)

It's taken me awhile to admit you can't shine and hide at the same time. It doesn't work when you're this tall. Some accused me of hiding it -- tell me, how do you hide a 6'8" woman? Might work for short people. (I'm convinced Jyoti could hide in my bra!) I'm still learning. Still coachable. Still curious. Still writing. Still performing all over the world. Still crazy. Still ready with a smile and a hug. Still, self-acceptance is so very important. It's not a brand. Its a time to blossom. I'm no longer the ugly duckling, but a beautiful swan.

I'm proud to be a transgender woman, and so honored to grand marshal this Pride on this beautiful, glorious day, this giant victory for equality here in lovely Cincinnati in 2015!


I am not my surgeries. We've learned we are much more than that. Don't focus on what surgeries transgender people have, just know that it costs less to treat the condition than not to. The surgeries are too varied, too customized, too tailored to the individual, and some don't even need it.

My therapist, Roz, is one of the few people who knows how hard it was for me when I first started transitioning. There was the loss of my family, and as I transitioned, I went from working at a top-tier law firm as a paralegal to several low-end, low-wage survival jobs. I was working myself to death -- up to 124 hours a week. I was banking for my surgery and telling people I was saving up to buy a Ms. Pac-Man machine for my garage!

There are three types of people who come into you life: those that you keep as friends, those that teach you a lesson, and a third -- those that kick your ass. That's my therapist, Roz, a light from which to see. She was there to "apply assertive encouragement and coaching" or in the argot of modern therapy: give me a kick in the ass! Which I needed.


We, as human beings love to burn things (other than marijuana). We love to burn each other as well. We are the only animals that do. Our myopic gratification sees us slowly killing ourselves by burning up our planet. Our immoral intelligence justifies and gives us dominion over whom or what we deem lesser, unworthy. We also know that fire, rust and explosion are the same processes at different speeds. Just like bullets and baseball bat, bad words cause damage at different speeds. Hate speech is a form of burning; a form of violence. There is rage, so much rage, against the dying of the light!

I watched a lecture by the attorney Tony Serra, once. He didn't give us the usual screed from many of the legal courses on prudence and practicalities. He recited poetry by Dylan Thomas: "Do not go softly into that goodnight..." He really got into it, repeating -- "rage, rage against the dying of the light." Then he would pause for effect and then say, "Those lights are your civil rights."


A disproportionate number of transgender youth attempt suicide. Do the math, moms and dads! Do you want a dead son, or a living daughter?

Leelah Alcorn's final words need to be heard. "When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion, I finally understood who I was."

This is the 800-pound gorilla in the room you all seem to be missing! Leelah was happy. She learned what transgender meant online. 10 years prior, there wasn't much information, but it was there, after all the porn sites. Twenty years prior, if you were transgender, good luck. Only the luckiest found parental support. When I was 14, it was a living hell.

Leelah's note continues,

I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that I am wrong and God doesn't make mistakes.... if you're reading this, parents, please don't tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people, don't ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won't do anything but make them hate themself. That's exacting what it did to me.

Leelah Alcorn was 17 when she committed suicide.

I was 12, 18, 32 and 40 when I attempted it. I lived.

It makes you angry. That's normal. It makes you want to lash out at someone. Just know: WE ARE NOT AT WAR. THERE ARE NO FRONT LINES. NO BATTLEFIELD. NO ENEMY. NO ONE TO AIM AT--THIS ISN'T A WAR; THIS IS A RESCUE MISSION!

Ryan Murphy, our show runner, asked me once, "Is there room for forgiveness?" That was the tractor beam from sky kind of light. I answered Ryan after a short pause, through gritted teeth -- "yes," there is always room for compassion.


Congressman Ted Lieu, from my backyard in Redondo Beach, 33rd Congressional District, felt the rage, and announced The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. (T.F.P.A.) It's the first federal bill to stop so-called "conversion therapy" -- AKA brainwashing and "pray the gay away." Ted Lieu is a light from which to see! Let's support him.


Here's the easy part, guys. According to Osho, "The love story begins with compassion. Compassion is our greatest weapon in our arsenal of love." Become hope. Know that Dum Spiro Spero -- while I breath, I hope -- so stick around for the party. Know that it's never too late to shine. There is always another chance to get it right, moms and dads. Be the parent who loves their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender child NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS. Be there for them. Don't throw them away. Support their extraordinary identifies -- they're all beautiful. Let them shine!

Be the light of possibility that moves, touches and inspires others to take action that pierces the darkness. Use your power! A negative mind will not give you a positive life. Be a light from which to see.