More to celebrate at Trans Pride

As the so­cial spotlight on trans­gen­der is­sues bright­ens, an­nual L.A. event draws more at­ten­dees than ever.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Matt Hamil­ton matt.hamil­ton @latimes.com

Neil Massey, an 18-yearold trans­gen­der man, stood proudly be­fore his first work of art to ever be dis­played in a gallery: a por­trait of Pope Joan.

“It’s the story of be­ing who you are and go­ing af­ter your dreams,” said Massey, stand­ing at the art ex­hibit Satur­day at Trans Pride Los An­ge­les as he re­counted the fa­ble of the 9th cen­tury woman who dis­guised her­self as a man and as­cended cler­i­cal ranks to be­come pope.

The tale of the gen­der­bend­ing pon­tiff— whose ac­tual ex­is­tence has never been ver­i­fied — res­onated for Massey. The Downey na­tive leaned on his Catholic faith when he was kicked out of his par­ents’ home last year and had to re­build a new life in a home­less shel­ter. “I was raised that God wants ev­ery­one to be straight. But I wanted to be happy for who I am, and I did that by com­ing out,” said Massey, adding that now, in the shel­ter, he has started hor­mone ther­apy to be­gin his tran­si­tion. “God has no gen­der. We just put him as a man be­cause we feel more com­fort­able that­way.”

Massey was among more than 1,000 peo­ple ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in the cel­e­bra­tion of trans­gen­der pride at the Los An­ge­les LGBT Cen­ter’s theatre and meet­ing com­plex lo­cated off High­land Av­enue in Hol­ly­wood.

The two-day fes­ti­val, now in its 17th year, has long served as a haven for the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to celebrate their re­silience and share the strug­gles en­coun­tered on the path of gen­der iden­tity.

This year, the mood was more buoy­ant than ever, at­ten­dees said, as the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity has seen ris­ing vis­i­bil­ity: Ama­zon’s se­ries “Trans­par­ent” gained crit­i­cal ac­claim with its tale of a re­tired fa­ther, played by Jeffrey Tam­bor, com­ing out as a trans­gen­der woman. Trans­gen­der ac­tress Laverne Cox was nom­i­nated for an Emmy for her role on Net­flix’s “Or­ange is the New Black.”

“Peo­ple are learn­ing the nar­ra­tive ofwhat it means to be trans— I’m thrilled,” said or­ga­nizer Gina Bigham, 49. The ris­ing pro­file of the trans com­mu­nity — long at the back of the bus in the wider LGBT world— meant more at­ten­dees than ever, she said. “I think we’re go­ing to out grow this space.”

The trans­gen­der com­mu­nity re­cently gained one of its most fa­mous mem­bers: Cait­lyn Jen­ner, who graced the cover of Van­ity Fair in a satin corset to de­clare her cho­sen name.

“When Cait­lyn came out on the cover, a bunch of us made our own cov­ers,” said Faith Bryan, a 61-year-old trans­gen­der woman from Long Beach. Sit­ting un­der the palm trees in the court­yard of the LGBT Cen­ter, where health or­ga­ni­za­tions and non prof­its had set up in­for­ma­tion booths, Bryan whipped out her phone and tapped her lac­quered fin­ger­nails on the screen.

“I couldn’t have done this 40 years ago,” said Bryan, hold­ing up her por­trait, of a smil­ing woman with red lip­stick and a black blouse. Be­fore com­ing out as a trans­gen­der woman about three years ago, Bryan was a mar­ried fa­ther who worked as a pro­fes­sor and sports jour­nal­ist. Her weight bal­looned to 450 pounds as she fought the urge to dress as a woman. “All my life I told peo­ple I was a les­bian trapped in a man’s body. Peo­ple laughed, but it was true,” said Bryan, who now works as an ac­tivist.

Yet the joy of the fes­ti­val — which in­cluded dis­cus­sions by Sandy Stone and Kate Born­stein — was tem­pered by the aware­ness that trans­gen­der peo­ple face myr­iad chal­lenges in daily life, such as ob­tain­ing healthcare and find­ing jobs.

“We’re still see­ing peo­ple who are be­ing ha­rassed at their apart­ment build­ings or who lose their job be­cause of dis­crim­i­na­tion,” said Mariana Mar­ro­quin, 34, who helps trans­gen­der peo­ple ob­tain le­gal ser­vices at the LGBT Cen­ter.

Un­told num­bers of trans­gen­der peo­ple re­main in the shad­ows. They’re afraid to come to a day­time cel­e­bra­tion out of fear that they might be hit or ha­rassed, Mar­ro­quin said, speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence. Mar­ro­quin fled Gu­atemala af­ter she was tar­geted in a hate crime; she was granted po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in the U.S. Once in L.A., she landed a job and learned of sup­port groups for peo­ple with ques­tions about their gen­der iden­tity.

Sport­ing glasses and pur­ple hair, Mar­ro­quin picked at a cup of gelato as she re­flected back on her first group ses­sion: “I didn’t know the word ‘trans­gen­der,’” she said, “and I hadn’t known there were peo­ple like me.”

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