In the nearly ten years since Jazz Jennings made her first YouTube video and was discovered by Barbara Walters, she has steadily become an important part of the transgender community. Not only the youth community, but the transgender community as a whole. Her book ”I Am Jazz” and followed by her popular reality show I Am Jazz on TLC have established her as a force to be reckoned with.
Jazz Jennings represents hope for the next generation of trans youth and is leading the way for education and acceptance. She has shown what is possible when you have the love and support of family and friends, and the drive and determination to make a difference in the world. She and her family also have established the Trans Kids Purple Rainbow Foundation.
The death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth, started a national conversation about the issues faced by trans youth. Alcorn left behind a suicide note detailing her parents’ refusal to accept her identity, saying “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Fix society. Please”
Leelah’s death would prove to be a turning point for Trans Lifeline, a crisis line by and for the trans community that was founded in November of 2014 by Greta Martela and her wife Nina Chaubal. As a transgender woman herself, Martela knew how badly it was needed. “When I came out I kind of assumed that something like Trans Lifeline would be there for me, and I was shocked to learn that there was just really not much.” Using $250 she raised from friends and open-source software she found online, Martela and Chaubal started the Trans Lifeline.
Trans Lifeline had only existed for a month at the time of Leelah’s death and received 300 calls in the days after the suicide note went viral, and Martela said the TLL is still in “emergency mode,” so operator training relies on a “two-hour crash course” so they can have as many people as possible working on the line.
Raising money has been a challenge. After Leelah’s death last year the TLL received a floof of online donations which enabled Martela to leave her job and work full time on the line. However, she estimated that TLL raises “about 25 percent of the money that we need on a monthly basis,” even as demand grows. In a little under a year, the hotline has logged over 20,000 calls from 5,500 people around the United States and Canada. To date, the TLL has trained 160 operators from across North America and has a waiting list of over 1,000 people who want to receive training.
Sadly the suicides continue, with an estimated 42% of trans people attempting suicide, which makes the Trans Lifeline so important to our community.
To donate to Trans Lifeline please visit their website at http://www.translifeline.org/
Trans Lifeline numbers:
U.S.: (877) 565-8860
Canada: (877) 330-6366
Lavern Cox is the face of the transgender community and a major reason why there is a feeling of hope for the future. She is the person who is a role model for our community, not only because of what she has accomplished but because of how she conducts herself and for being such a strong voice for our community, and in particular for trans women of color. She was a very deserving choice by Entertainment Weekly as Lady Liberty in their June issue. Her role in Orange Is The New Black and subsequent Emmy nomination, the first for a trans person, have propelled her into the national spotlight and a prominent role as spokesperson for the transgender community. Earlier this year she became the first trans person to have a wax figure at Madame Tussads, and even more impressive was her inclusion in People magazine’s Most Beautiful Women list and Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list.
Growing up in rural Alabama and dealing with severe bullying led her to attempt suicide several times. It is these struggles, which so many in the trans community identify with, that have led her to become one of the strongest voices within the trans community, not only in this country but around the world. She has become a symbol of hope and a leader in the in the fight for trans equality.
Caroline Cossey is an English model who rose to fame as Tula and made her onscreen debut as a Bond girl alongside Roger Moore in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, only to later outed as transgender by British tabloid News of the World. She later had to battle with the UK and European courts for her right to legally marry and to be legally recognized as a woman.
She posed nude for Playboy Magazine in 1981, before her transgender identity was revealed. But the publication had her back again for her own pictorial a decade later, after the details of her gender reassignment had been made public, making her the first transgender model ever to appear in the magazine. She wrote her first autobiography I Am a Woman in 1982, and in 1991 released My Story, her second autobiography. She is now married and lives near Atlanta
As transgender awareness has increased in recent years she has become more recognized for the important role she has played in pioneering transgender visibility, and more recently as a voice of reason against all the controversy surrounding Caitlyn Jenner.