Column: Welcome to The New America

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Rebecca Juro

A few years ago, the column you’re reading now probably wouldn’t have existed. Finding a transgender journalist working in commercial media was only slightly easier than locating the proverbial needle in a very large haystack, and columns like this one, written by a trans woman about topics and issues that impact transgender people, were only slightly less difficult to track down than Shakespeare’s First Folio.

The speed at which we are progressing is nothing short of stunning, and most progress has happened within the last year or so. A year ago, hardly anyone outside of the trans and allied community had heard of Laverne Cox or Janet Mock. Today, Cox is the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy, and Mock is a contributing editor for Marie Claire and bestselling author.

But the change isn’t only in the increase in well-known trans celebrities. A year ago, like many of my fellow trans journalists, I was a blogger contributing to sites like the Huffington Post and The Bilerico Project. Today I’m a freelance journalist with the intent and, hopefully, the ability to make this work as an actual career. What was a dream just a few short months ago is now an attainable goal.

A large portion of the credit for the increased acceptance of trans people and issues should be attributed to print and online editors and publishers, as well as radio and television producers. These are the people who keep their ears to the ground, keeping track of the latest trends and capitalizing on them to engage and increase their audiences. They’ve witnessed what Time Magazine called the “Transgender Tipping Point,” and they’re opening the doors for people like me to walk through.

This column is evidence of the trend. In future editions of the column, I’ll bring you personal stories, thoughts on political issues and topics of interest to trans people, allies and even those who just want a better idea of what this whole transgender thing is about.

If you’ve been around a while, it’s probably no secret to you that this cultural shift didn’t happen overnight, even though, for many, it probably seems like it did. It’s a lot like a newly famous musician who’s now selling out arena concerts. It may seem like the star just recently popped out of nowhere, but, in most cases, that newfound popularity is the result of years of work, of playing for small audiences and sleeping on friends’ couches.

Before “Orange Is The New Black” became a hit, making Cox a star, Cox worked in a drag restaurant in Manhattan called Lucky Cheng’s. Before Mock was a bestselling author, she was a staff editor for and a trans activist. A year ago, neither of these ladies had the media profiles they do today, even though, both were working professionally in their chosen fields.

It’s arguable that as both Cox and Mock have risen in notoriety and achieved new heights of personal success, trans media makers like myself have benefited immensely as the doors these women kicked open have stayed open.

Where once a trans person could feel extraordinarily lucky to score even a little paid work as a journalist and media maker, LGBT and mainstream media are now seeking out trans voices to introduce to their audiences. The positive and long-awaited results are obvious for all to see.

Trans people have arrived in popular American culture at last, and now that we’re here, in your newspapers and magazines and on your televisions and radios, what happens next? That’s one of the questions I’ll be exploring in future editions of this column. I hope you’ll join me.

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