QUEER VOICES

13 Transgender Pioneers Reflect On The State Of Queer Politics Today

“The work isn’t done until it’s done."

Over the past ten months, Huffington Post Queer Voices has presented an ongoing project called “Voices of Liberation.” Throughout the course of this enterprise, we spoke with 13 significant and historic transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to share their stories and discuss their continuous struggles to achieve liberation for all marginalized people.

In a time when conversations surrounding transgender identity are taking shape at an increasing rate in mainstream culture, the images and stories of trans people being broadcast to the public often don’t reflect the nuances of the vast spectrum of trans experiences.

As a result, HuffPost felt that a platform was needed to elevate the voices that don’t receive television or media attention and discuss their stories, work and the future of the movement.

From teenage transgender icon Jazz Jennings to adult film star and educator Buck Angel to Stonewall Rioter and legend Miss Major, these 13 people have all played their part in shaping the foundation that led to what TIME magazine declared in 2014 to be the mainstream “Transgender Tipping Point.” As we move forward as queer, trans and gender-nonconforming people into an increasingly hostile political climate, we’ve gathered the thoughts of these 13 individuals together in one place to reflect on the current state of queer politics and life, and how we should go about engaging in the fight for the liberation of all marginalized groups of people as our movement continues to evolve.

  • CeCe McDonald
    “The work isn’t done until it’s done. A lot of people just gave up after gay marriage and so many things th
    THE OPPORTUNITY AGENDA/FLICKR
    “The work isn’t done until it’s done. A lot of people just gave up after gay marriage and so many things that they fought for that trans women were a part of, and once they had their victory trans women didn’t seem to matter anymore. And so I’m just saying that I’m not going to continue to support movements that are not supporting trans women because people are, again, co-opting our movement, tokenizing our movements, fantasizing and glamorizing our movements, white-washing our movements, gay-washing our movements and we, as trans women and trans women of color, need to take back our legacies. We need to take back our right to be who we are and not have people taking away our struggles and our transcestors struggles. My legacy is all of our legacies.” -- CeCe McDonald 
  • Kate Bornstein
    "Now we have to take responsibility for, OK wait a minute. If gender is a binary and that binary is false, might other b
    Santiago Felipe
    "Now we have to take responsibility for, OK wait a minute. If gender is a binary and that binary is false, might other binaries be as false and we go – oh what about transgender and cisgender as a binary? What about queer and straight as a binary? OK, how about this one, what about Democrat and Republican as a binary? We are, as a socially progressive people, becoming more compassionate. And in order to articulate that compassion, it becomes necessary to break down what was before a monotholic idea into its more component parts. We’ve done this – it’s obvious in the LGBTQIA etc movement, it started out as the Gay Rights movement. And then lesbians demanded recognition and it became the GL or LG. And then bisexuals demanded and it became LGB. And then after a long, long fight of adding the T – which really fucked everything up because before that it was all about sexuality – T rightly made it about sexuality and gender because the two are separate but overlapping spheres of regulation. Gender and sexuality have a whole lot to do with each other and we belong in a civil rights movement together." --Kate Bornstein
  • Laura Jane Grace
    "I think the focus should be on representing yourself and if you’re a good representation of yourself, you’ll be
    Ryan Russel
    "I think the focus should be on representing yourself and if you’re a good representation of yourself, you’ll be a good representation of 'the trans community.' I’m not sure about a term like 'unified trans community,' as that’s starting to sound like a league of superheroes, but I am in for the costumes if there are any. The point is that there is so much diversity in the trans community — and that needs to be represented publicly. Trans people are not cliches and there is no one way to 'do trans right' — just as much as there is no one way to 'be a real man' or to 'be real woman.'" --Laura Jane Grace
  • Buck Angel
    "Visibility creates change! This is my new favorite thing to say. So, yes, there is more trans women visibility and I think t
    Dusti Cunningham
    "Visibility creates change! This is my new favorite thing to say. So, yes, there is more trans women visibility and I think that is because, historically, the women have been out longer and so their visibility started way before us. The other thing is — in my experience — trans men tend to transition and just want to be seen as men and not necessarily be out as trans. But with this bigger movement of GNC people and such I think we will start to see more visibility in the coming years." --Buck Angel
  • Calpernia Addams
    "Many of us wanted this opportunity to join society with as little friction as possible, but I think it has also led to some
    Jose Guzman
    "Many of us wanted this opportunity to join society with as little friction as possible, but I think it has also led to some younger trans people lacking a sense of history, and of compassion for people who built their identities in very different times. To me, worse than lacking a sense of history is lacking a sense of humor. I see a great humorlessness, selfishness and a lack of empathy taking center stage sometimes and it honestly makes me ask myself, 'What the hell was it all for? This?' Thankfully, there are more shining lights of wisdom, leadership and talent emerging in the trans community to push back against the ahistorical and selfish voices. I still have high hopes." --Calpernia Addams
  • Ts Madison
    "Technology has placed queer people in a realm where we should’ve been twenty years ago. It has placed our voices,
    Courtesy of Ts Madison
    "Technology has placed queer people in a realm where we should’ve been twenty years ago. It has placed our voices, it has placed our appearances, it has placed our experiences in an arena where nobody was looking it at it before. No one was paying it any attention until social media came around and then they saw all of these silent voices that were out there speaking out and not getting any television play, didn’t get any write-ups in the newspapers — the only thing you saw on TV [before social media] was a man in drag being murdered. Or you saw in the newspaper a homosexual beaten and killed. You didn’t see that we actually lived lives outside of danger." --Ts Madison
  • Amos Mac
    "I feel like the mainstream 'sees' a small handful of public trans figures, but that doesn’t mean the various trans com
    M Sharkey
    "I feel like the mainstream 'sees' a small handful of public trans figures, but that doesn’t mean the various trans communities that exist in the world are being seen on a larger scale. While the US government is trying to criminalize trans bodies for existing, while violence against trans women of color is on the rise, I think the question should be, 'How do we view where the rest of society is right now and where it is going?' not where the trans community is going. The trans community is here. We’ve been here. We’re just waiting for rest of society to catch up." --Amos Mac
  • Candis Cayne
    "Everybody transitions differently. All of the girls on ['I Am Cait'] had vast differences in their transition and the same t
    CHARLES SYKES/INVISION/AP
    "Everybody transitions differently. All of the girls on ['I Am Cait'] had vast differences in their transition and the same thing goes for Caitlyn. I think that we’ve all had to struggle in different ways to live our lives the way we were meant to live them. Do I agree with Caitlyn’s political views? No. But at the end of the day we are friends, which should transcend political differences." --Candis Cayne
  • Tiq Milan
    "I would still like to see more trans folks behind the camera as opposed to always being in front of it — being able to
    Courtesy of Tiq Milan
    "I would still like to see more trans folks behind the camera as opposed to always being in front of it — being able to control our narratives ourselves. I think we’re in a good place but there is always room for improvement — it definitely should be more diverse, there’s definitely not enough trans people of color in mainstream media at all. There’s not enough people of color in mainstream media period so obviously we’re feeling that. And there’s not enough visibility around the trans-masculine experience. I think I’m one of the only trans men of color that is as visible as I am and there are so many more of us with such compelling stories that can still take up just as much space. So I would like to see that but I think we’re on the right path — we really area. People might disagree with that but I think so (laughs)." --Tiq Milan
  • Caroline Cossey
    "It’s absolutely great to see people are finally beginning to embrace transgender models today. Each and every one of u
    CAROLINE COSSEY/PLAYBOY
    "It’s absolutely great to see people are finally beginning to embrace transgender models today. Each and every one of us is wonderfully unique and we should always be proud of it. I’m proud that I did my part in helping advance transgender visibility, awareness and acceptance. As painful as it was to endure what I did in my life, it’s all worth it when you hear you’ve saved lives or helped people find direction in theirs." --Caroline Cossey
  • Andrea James
    "The trans community entered a decadent phase of activism in 2014. We got bloated, lazy and we took our eyes off what mattere
    COURTESY OF ANDREA JAMES
    "The trans community entered a decadent phase of activism in 2014. We got bloated, lazy and we took our eyes off what mattered. In 1999 we came together to do something about the epidemic of anti-trans violence, which evolved into the Transgender Day of Remembrance. In 2003 we joined together to fight the academic exploitation of trans people. The community has devolved from presenting a unified front into balkanized petty fiefdoms. We’ve always had internecine squabbles, but trolls were always a fringe element, and we’d never really had an issue with opportunists until recently. Those distractions and errors meant we were caught flat-footed on the inevitable backlash that came in the form of 'bathroom bills.' I worry that the mainstream currently thinks the 'trans community' is Caitlyn Jenner and her entourage, when most of the community is a lot more like the women on 'Transcendent,' a show on which I’m a consulting producer. They are dealing with serious challenges around healthcare, housing, employment, and personal safety. I’ve been pleased to see other unscripted shows chipping away at how we’re viewed by the mainstream, and now more scripted shows are in development." --Andrea James
  • Jazz Jennings
    "If your family isn’t supportive then create your own family; find an adult, peer, or anyone really who will accept you
    Courtesy of Jazz Jennings
    "If your family isn’t supportive then create your own family; find an adult, peer, or anyone really who will accept you for who you are and allow you to live your life truthfully. I definitely feel like it’s so hard for many transgender youth out there and if sharing my story can aid them through difficult times then I am going to continue with my advocacy." --Jazz Jennings
  • Miss Major
    "One of the things I think about after my demise or however this goes is that the community realizes we have to work with one
    COURTESY OF MAJOR!
    "One of the things I think about after my demise or however this goes is that the community realizes we have to work with one another. We have to deal with this society and the people that hate us because all of us have to make it. We all have to survive. So we have to work with the people who believe in you and educate the people that don’t. Everybody isn’t going to be in our corner ― they might hear the information or hear our stories and go, 'yeah, you brought that on yourself.' Ok, fine, you’re entitled to think what you need to think. And I’m entitled to live my life the way I have to live it. It’s not a choice. I didn’t wake up one Wednesday morning and, go I think today I want to be a woman [laughs]. No honey. And I’m doing my best to live it as comfortably and safely as human possible and help other people in this situation realize that we don’t have to be down on ourselves just because everyone else is. You know, you hear you’re a slug or you’re worthless for years and years and years, you start to believe that! And I want people to realize you can hear all the shit that you want to from them, but look at you and see who you are and we don’t have to believe that. Love yourself and love the people with you. You don’t have to watch everybody, but love them and give them the space that they need. That doesn’t mean hugging and smooching on them and holding them close – it means caring about what their existence is, helping as needed but leaving the room and the ability to grow or not grow, expand or not, on their own as they choose. Because I can’t tell you what’s good for you – you have to tell you that." --Miss Major

The Huffington Post would like to thank everyone who lent their voice to this series. Check out each individual feature from “Voices of Liberation” here.

CONVERSATIONS