Oprah said speak your truth. So here’s mine.

America is omitting transgender people from this current cultural conversation and it's ironic.

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Photo: Paul Drinkwater, NBC, via USA Today

When Oprah accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award last night at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, she made history. She is the first black woman to be acknowledged for this achievement. 

And the part of me that is such a tremendous fan of her is thrilled. Who deserves this recognition more than Oprah and all she’s achieved and accomplished? 

Well, quite a few, actually. Transgender people who bravely share our stories to help inspire and encourage all humans to be themselves and break gender norm barriers and live more boldly are being omitted from this current conversation and not acknowledged for our contribution to the cultural change and it’s incredibly ironic.

As I listened intently and soaked up every word of Oprah’s speech of dazzling oratory genius, I also watched the camera pan around the room, landing on face after face of her transfixed peers. Her many cisgender peers. Because Hollywood is still exclusively employing cisgender people to play the very, very few roles featuring transgender characters. And transgender people, in general, are rare among the sea of faces that mainstream media shows as beautiful and valid. And transgender people, in general, are not being explicitly named or acknowledged for our contribution in the current cultural conversation and it’s ironic.

Despite all we’ve done and are doing to transcend boundaries around sexuality, transgender people are not being named or acknowledged for the ways in which we’ve brought our culture forward to this tipping point of transcending long-standing gender identity norms of roles and behavior. We’ve been busting our butts to liberate everyone from behaviors that bind us all, but we aren’t hearing ourselves named in this current cultural conversation.

So when Oprah inspired people with these words, “what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” I couldn’t help but feel called to share mine.

Here’s my truth: the profound irony of this profound cultural shift is difficult to sit with. Despite my deep awareness of how things go, that human behavioral change is so slow, it’s breaking my heart as I watch from standing outside of it all, where trans* people like me find ourselves. It’s challenging to practice yet even more patience while I watch cisgender people working so very hard to break through cultural norms of identity and gender roles and behavior, while they leave their transgender peers, colleagues, and friends out of the conversation in the process.

It’s difficult to watch and witness but what feels even more difficult is summoning the courage to say something for fear of being the party pooper, the one who kills the vibe. I have tried to be a person who celebrates the good and doesn’t shine a light on what’s lacking. But in this instance, at this crucial time, it’s a truth that needs illumination.

Because for me, someone who walked in the world as cisgender for 34 years and trans* for just about 5, it’s like watching a wonderful party and celebration going on in the country club while I stand outside, my face pressed up against the glass of the windows, waving, waiting for someone to remember who’s missing. I’m waiting for these people who are so intent on facilitating long-needed change, to stop focusing on only changing it for themselves. I’m looking for them to acknowledge they forgot to send an important invitation.

That’s my truth about how this feels.

It feels ironic to be witnessing my fellow human peers celebrating words like inclusivity and diversity and demanding progress and not include us among them. We’re being included as an afterthought when a random woke cisgender person remembers to add us to the list. It doesn’t happen as frequently as it could, considering the lines we’ve crossed and continue to walk to help cis* folks feel more free in their own self-expression.

So, cis folks, whoever and wherever and however you are and have influence, my truth is a request. As a transgender person, I feel like we helped you get here and we’d like to be included and explicitly named among you in the celebration. 

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