My Speech for #TransMarchLA
I was invited to speak at the first ever Trans March in Los Angeles on Friday, November 2nd, by my dear friend David-Simon Dayan. David would be photographing the speakers for Out Magazine, which was an added bonus to this already amazing opportunity. The march, which I at 25 years old would have no idea how to even start putting together, was put on by Hamilton High School students Arnie and J, who are both 15 years old and sophomores in high school, Hanna who’s 20, and Marcus who is 21.
This was my first speaking engagement in LA (and second ever, the first being a panel at Columbia University my senior year of college.) Needless to say, I was very excited and I initially was going to share a much more political speech that I had already been working on with my cousin in college for her speech class, but went with the following instead.
I had some friends film my speech, but due to delays, by the time I spoke it was dark out, I was using a megaphone instead of the mic, and I could hardly see my paper; so, I thought it best to do my speech justice by publishing it here, just in time for voting day tomorrow...
“I’m Corey Rae and I was born transgender. I have always felt feminine but couldn’t wrap my head around why those around me were telling me I was otherwise. From birth, my mom sensed that there was something different about me. When I was two, I asked her for a Cinderella dress, was playing with her old Barbie dolls, and I wanted more. She allowed me to express myself freely and stood up to anyone who thought my natural desires were wrong; and that included my teachers, her friends, and at first, our family. She allowed my brother and I to grow into ourselves naturally. My brother grew to be a cisgendered male, and I stayed on my path of femininity. I woke up every morning and dressed a body I didn’t identify with. The only thing that kept me going was the fantasy world of if I were to have been born a girl.
I found the term transgender and the sentence ‘trapped in the wrong body’ in a People Magazine in 2006, when I was 12. I saw those words and it hit me, I’m transgender, I’m trapped in the wrong body. I read the article over and over for two weeks, and then shared it with my mom asking her if this female-to-male teen was just trying to cover up for being a lesbian. She assured me that transgender was very real, and knowing I’d always have her love, I told her that I wanted to be a girl a few days later. For the next three years my mom looked for the right books, doctors, therapists, anyone and anything that could help, but at the time, the little information available all pointed to cross-dressing or being transsexual. I started my transition at 15, a junior in high school, a few days after Halloween in 2009. My mom soon after found a therapist who took me under her wing, I was put on hormone blockers, and by May I was crowned the world's first openly transgender Prom Queen. That night I knew I could accomplish anything if I wanted it badly enough, I could manifested my destiny; and that goes for everyone.
I started hormone therapy in the winter of senior year, and in 2011 went off to college stealth, meaning I did not disclose to anyone the fact that I once presented as male. I went five years living that double life. Transgender was not being discussed in the mainstream media like it is today. Caitlyn Jenner hadn’t come out, Instagram had just been picking up steam, and it wasn't safe for me to be myself at college. I wanted so badly to be treated like my other girl friends, I mean why shouldn’t I have been? I had a somewhat normal college life; going to parties, making out with guys, but all the while was preparing for gender affirmation surgery. My non-vagina was the only thing holding me back, my life was at a standstill, and I felt I could not move forward without it. I prayed every night from 5th grade to wake up with a vagina, and the day after my 19th birthday, I did. After a summer of recovery, and finally losing my virginity, I went back to school a sophomore ready to make up for lost time, and I did that too.
I crafted my minor in the sociology of gender and sexuality while studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam; where I learned for the first time about the history of transgender people, the gender spectrum, and the fact, that trans people have always been around, and will continue to be around until the day we deem gender intiself to be over.
After the shooting in Orlando two years later, I knew I needed to help move us forward. I created and launched my site, with the first blog post titled, “Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself,” telling my story to the world. I shared it to Facebook, and the next day I was featured on Yahoo. Overnight, I became an activist for a community I hadn’t yet fully identified with.
Since, I've been learning to own my gender, blog about my experiences, and write monthly advice columns for transgender women around the world, and I've never felt prouder. I’m what happens when your parents and community loves you unconditionally; and that’s how it should be for everyone. Every person deserves the opportunity to feel loved, feel safe, and be supported.
There are 1.4 MILLION trans identifying individuals, and that number is rapidly increasing as the masses become more educated. We are still in the beginning stages of this movement, which has happened much quicker than I ever anticipated. I truly did not think it would pick up such momentum until I was well into my 40s or 50s, and I’m 25 right now. I thought I would live the rest of my life not ever being my true self. We here are all proof that if we stay strong and keep fighting and building one another up, instead of tearing one another down, anything is possible. We will not be silenced, we will not disappear, and if anything, we are only becoming more visible.
I don’t feel the need to hide anymore or pretend I’m a normal cis woman, and maybe transgender is becoming the new normal, but one day I hope we all realize there is a colorful spectrum of gender and sexuality as a whole; so we can then focus on making our world a cleaner and kinder place to live in.
To my fellow transgender community, I am here for you, we are all here for you. Family and home life may not be your safest space, but there is always going to be someone to help you in your hardest of times, and I know that’s true because I’m here. But look around at the incredible people here today. To anyone who is struggling, know that you are loved, supported, and valued.
Our social climate is slowly getting to where we need it to be, but it takes time. I know it sounds cliche but when life is pulling you back I believe it’s getting ready to shoot you forward. Right now we are being pulled back, but if only those ignorant enough to believe we can be erased could see that we are preparing to shatter barriers, and shine brighter than we even in the community could dream of.
I want to leave you with this; transgender people, contrary to popular belief, are not trapped in the wrong body. We are a gender that got ostracized, and we are making our come back. We happen to be much like the butterfly. We live our lives inherently knowing there’s more than meets the eye, we find a safe haven, we grow, we transition, and we come out the other end more beautiful than before, ready to flutter around the world showcasing our strength. So get ready to show yours.
The energy surrounding this event is hard to describe to anyone who hadn’t been there. As I arrived to Pershing Square with David, we were greeted by the young volunteers who were wise and mature beyond their years. They had put together a decompression/self-care area with mental health professionals for anyone who needed it, had lawyers for legal observation/de-escalation, and a police intervention team along with a safety team equipped with first aid kits. There was also translators for Spanish, Mandarin, and ASL speaking individuals. Needless to say, I was impressed.
I was then introduced to the other speakers, one of which was transgender actress and activist Cassandra James. She and I instantly hit it off and before I spoke she made me feel so comfortable, holding my hand and giving me words of encouragement. I rarely get the chance to connect with other trans women and I soaked up every minute of being able to do so. Another speaker was my fabulous friend Jacob Tobia, who’s a genderqueer activist, writer, producer, and host; who’s comedic quick wit added a special depth to the event.
After the speeches ended and we started to march, my two trans-male friends, Jordan and Charles, joined in. As we walked the mile to City Hall I took in every moment; very much so feeling a part of history in the making. We all marched and chanted in unison, me literally dancing to the beat of the drum. Lost in the incredible vibrations coming from us all I realized something; I was marching along with my two guy friends, who just so happened to be trans, and it made me feel at home. I never thought I would do something like this, but the march was everything I never knew I needed; to really feel part of this community and this movement, finally.
Once we got to City Hall we chanted more and people gave impromptu yet incredibly inspiring speeches. For probably the third time that night I started to cry without a care in the world. Normally, if I were to be on the steps of City Hall with tears streaming down my face people would think I was insane, but there, in that moment, it was inherent, and there was absolute zero embarrassment crying in front of others in public. I am so grateful to have been able to speak and march for my community, and to have taken part in what I am sure will go down in history and learned by future students. I poured my heart into this speech and I hope anyone who comes across it will find something that resonates with them, inspires them, and if nothing else, gets them to get out and VOTE!!!