Last year, I decided to stop refusing media requests to profile me as "The First Transgender Television Journalist in the U.S." and accepted a pitch from a journalist I knew and trusted. John Moore wrote a wonderful article for the Denver Post that I hoped would be the definitive piece on the subject and let me get back to work. While I never concealed my trans history that facet of my life began to generate attention as far back as the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Then in October 2010 two political interviews I broadcast turned up the heat by making my trans identity an issue. The tone of some journalists seemed to imply a criticism of these candidates for giving an interview to a "transgender journalist."
After the Denver Post article a national radio host whom I admire, Michelangelo Signorile invited me for what was intended to be the only follow up on the print article. He was also wonderful to me. Appearing on his SiriusXM show was actually fun. I didn't have any idea how much of an impact these interviews would have on my future.
My hope was that, by addressing questions raised about my past, I could move beyond initial curiosity and keep the focus on my work. Giving interviews about my trans identity wasn't an easy decision for me. That may surprise some who think that, because I work on-air, I must welcome attention. Finding the balance between public personality and family privacy isn't easy. It was also an opportunity to uphold my responsibility to LGBT youth who see my platform as proof they can reach out for larger opportunities. At least that is what I hoped would be the result. Was that naive?
The first impact professionally was an agent telling me he couldn't represent me now because he didn't know how to manage that attention. He felt news directors, producers and station managers would be wary of someone like me. To this day, I still haven't found a new agent. Colleagues, perhaps thinking we've come much further than we have, actually seem surprised that someone doesn't see my "trailblazer" status as a selling point. However many trans women know this situation all too well.
There has been some interest in me and my work since I gave the interviews, but not the kind I had hoped for. Each offer was for a docu-series or reality show focused on my trans identity, and using that 'struggle" for entertainment value. A week of meetings with L.A. producers quickly taught me what the industry saw as "my place" in the media landscape. Nothing personal, nothing about my skill as an interviewer; it is just how they think the audience will accept any trans woman.
The weekly primetime arts program I host, In Focus With Eden Lane, is now in the sixth season. Since the interviews discussing my trans identity, our show struggles to find sponsors. Several potential sponsors have had strong interest in the visibility our local PBS broadcast provides, only to withdraw soon after. Did someone Google my name and have second thoughts? Still, the station keeps our program on the air. Viewers have stayed with me. The community didn't seem to take much notice of the press attention on my trans identity, and, in fact, we return next month to the line-up of a public television station funded solely by viewers. Perhaps the public is more willing to accept a trans woman host than the industry imagines.
In recent months, a few reporting and producing positions sought my particular experience, but I didn't even garner an interview. It can be discouraging -- until I read letters from viewers who appreciate my work. Even more compelling are the emails and messages from LGBT kids and teens, and their parents. Some asking for advice, some happy for evidence that their future can be bigger than they thought.
I don't have the right to be discouraged, not when what I'm doing can reach so much further than I imagine. That was true of the women who came before me; they made room for me to follow. And it's true now for so many other women. When I witness the major breakthrough Laverne Cox has achieved, not only as an artist, but with the impact she has on social discussions where people never considered the lives of trans people before...I can't be discouraged. Janet Mock elevating the conversation about trans women with creativity and grace...she challenges me to remain steadfast in solidarity with the young women who are poised to join us. I can't be discouraged.
Amidst the progress and strength, there are horrible reminders of how dangerous it still is for many of us. Discrimination, violence, even murder threaten many trans people without much notice in their community. In metro Denver, Urban Peak reports that, on an average night, more than 900 young people are homeless and sleeping outside. 40 percent of homeless youth are kicked out by their parents because they are LGBT...and more than half of those young people are trans. I don't have the right to be discouraged.
While accepting the Courage Award, Janet Mock reminded me of a phrase from years past. She seized that opportunity to cite the murder of Eyricka Morgan and dedicated the moment to those who live and work with the "audacity to be seen."
Yes, there is so much more work to do for acceptance of transgender men and women in America, and being the first trans anything is though. I am privileged to have a platform and as I look around, I am renewed. I am challenged. I am grateful. Never Give Up.