This week, individuals and organizations around the country are participating in Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues these communities face.

“When I started transitioning 14 years ago, I had this fantasy that I would start taking hormones and in a few years I would blend in and no one would know I was transgender,” activist Laverne Cox told the Associated Press. “I knew a lot of transfolk like that, who presented this as the goal of transition. When I realized I was not blending in effortlessly... I had to begin to own this transgender thing. When I encounter people they can usually tell I'm transgender, and if I don't own it I'm going to go around being shameful about it all the time. It's a reality of my life, it's a reality of my existence, and it's something I've come to believe is beautiful about me.”

Cox was one of the many trans-people profiled in the I AM: Trans People Speak, a campaign created by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and sponsored by GLAAD to raise awareness about the diversity of transgender communities. It aims to lift the voices of transgender individuals, as well as their families, friends and allies.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

"The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost," said Transgender Day of Remembrance Founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith. "With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice."

In South Florida, Compass, the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Palm Beach County, is sponsoring a National Transgender Day of Remembrance program hosted by activist/author/performer Lady Dane Edidi. The lady is known as the “Jazz Priestess of Mother Africa.” Suggested donation is $5 and the program begins at 6 p.m., Nov. 20 at 201 North Dixie Hwy. in Lake Worth.

On Monday, November 17 from 7-9 p.m., the City of Wilton Manors, Pride Center and Genesis Health Institute present the 2014 Trans Equality Awards Ceremony at Richardson Historic Park and Nature Center, 1397 Wilton Drive.

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County, the County Commission is scheduled to consider adding gender identity and expression to its existing human rights ordinance.

At the Miami-Dade County Public Safety and Animal Services Committee Meeting, Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the Equality Florida Institute, spoke in favor of amending the ordinance to add protections for gender identity and expression.

Pollitzer said already 18 states and 10 counties in Florida have protections in place for gender identity and expression. He stated the policies are “good diversity affirming policies that measure people by the quality of their work and welcome a diverse community.”

The committee voted in favor of the amendment, sending a revised human rights ordinance to the County Commission for a vote at its Dec. 16 meeting.


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