Transgender ‘America’s Got Talent’ Star: ‘I Will Not Be Marginalized. I Am Going to Fight. And This Time I’m Not Alone’

 
 

Nationally Headlining Comedienne Says 'Don’t Take Any Shit From Anyone' 

When I came out in 1999, most people had no idea what a transgender person was. I was in college at the time studying to be a teacher. I was very stealth and when I got my first teaching job in 2001, I went even deeper underground because back then, it was possible to fire someone for being trans. (It still happens all too frequently today.)

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To be honest, I was also still dealing with issues of shame and embarrassment and lived in dread and fear of being outed to my colleagues and most of all to my students. I knew no other people who were like me and for the most part, I lived a quiet, and at times, a very lonely life. Still, I never wavered regarding the decision I had made. Despite having lost my friends and children, I was at peace with myself for the first time in my life. 

Around 2003, I was feeling pretty good about my life. After a bumpy start, I grew to love teaching. And for the first time in 20+ years, regular salary was paying my bills and even bought a mobile home. It wasn’t much, but it was mine and I loved it. Most important, I was beginning to feel the old me fading away as my new confidence began to emerge. I even put a rainbow sticker in the window facing the street. In short, I was a proud member of the rainbow family and I didn’t care who knew it.

And then it happened.

One morning, as I was pulling out of my driveway, I noticed that my home had been streaked with pink spray paint. It was everywhere. And mine was the only house which had it. The message was clear and filled me with terror. We don’t like your kind here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPfTAyNftxE

I called the police, convinced that this act was vandalism bordering on a hate crime. Standing out there all alone, I felt like I was being watched by the person who had committed the act. And as scared as I was, I could also feel the anger rising inside of me as the officer calmly took my statement and tried to convince me that I was overreacting.

“What makes you think you were targeted?” he asked.

I couldn’t believe it. “Oh, maybe it was the sticker in my window. Or perhaps because pink was the color the Nazis used to single out gay people as they marched them off to the camps. Or crazier still, and this is just a theory mind you, it might be that mine was the only house on the block that was targeted. Pick one.”

What I expected was to have him investigate the incident. What I got was, “Well if they come back, call us.”

It was one of those moments when everything I had hoped for in my new life smashed into a million jagged shards. There would be no brave new world, no acceptance of me as a woman, and certainly no justice. I was alone.

angry_again.jpgI’m telling you this story because a lot has happened in the past 14 years. But the most profound change in me was that I got angry and to paraphrase Billy Joel, decided that I wasn’t going to take any shit from anybody, anymore. I began to speak up, speak out and in the process discovered the pride in who and what I was. And while I was able to relax a bit during the Obama years, I find myself angry again and like before, I’m not going to take shit from those who want to make me less because of their own fears, ignorance or prejudice. I will not be marginalized and I am going to fight; and this time I’m not alone. 

Make no mistake; there is plenty to be angry about. Recently we’ve seen Milo Yiannopoulos on Real Time with Bill Maher, the North Carolina, Missouri, and Texas bathroom bills, and Trump’s reversal of Obama's education guidelines crafted to help ensure the civil rights of trans students are protected, and the use of fatuous and harmful, baseless lies about us have become a danger to our entire community.

The political right is trying to send us back to the dark ages of our history. They are putting us in physical harm’s way. 2016 was the deadliest year on record for Trans folks, with 27 murders recorded and god only knows how many assaults. Our suicide attempt rate is still around 41% and I fear it is only going to get worse over the next 4 years.

Very soon, young Gavin Grimm’s day in the Supreme Court may determine the fate of the trans nation in this country. If he wins it will be a victory, of course. If he loses, the right may see it as a door opening for harsher regulations which will make our lives even harder than they already are.

not_going_away.jpgTrans people are not going away. We’ve been here since the beginning of recorded time. We are not an aberration, not a fad, not an abomination in God’s eyes. Some of us are people who if we could have chosen our life’s path would not have taken this one. But science….SCIENCE is bearing out what we’ve always known; that nature loves variety and we are as natural as our straight, gay or lesbian brothers and sisters.

This age of darkness will pass. In a generation or two, people will look back at this time and say, "What’s the big deal?" And that will be a good thing. But for now, RIGHT NOW, IT IS A BIG DEAL. What we do now will determine our fate in the future. Every day, more and more of us are finding the courage to reveal who we are to the world. Children like Gavin Grimm are already standing up and being counted. You may not understand us, but trust me when I say that we are just like you. We don’t want special treatment, only just and equal treatment. Stand up for yourselves, for us, and don’t take any shit from anyone. 

 

Guest author Julia Scotti is a nationally headlining comedienne and has been for 36 years. In 2016 she was a quarter finalist on NBC's America's Got Talent. In January 2017, she was named one of the Top 50 Successful Transgender Americans You Should Know by the LGBTQ Nation magazine.