A Forward from CEO Fran Dunaway: At TomboyX we honor our differences and believe in a #HumanAgenda to make the world more inclusive, accepting, and affirming place. Our hearts are broken by increasing violence towards and death of our siblings within the trans community. In 2018, there were 369 transgender or gender diverse people killed globally. In 2019, that number fell slightly to 331 people killed with 30 in the US alone. And these are just the ones that are reported. And yet, the bravery of people like Rose and Dawn, goes undaunted and comes from a place of awe inspiring strength. We all have a lot to learn about love and acceptance. We just have to be open to it.
We are honored to be able to feature this conversation between Rose and Dawn.
ROSE: @RosalynneMontoya My name is Rosalynne Montoya. Most of my friends call me Rose. I'm 24 now and I'm a Hispanic trans, nonbinary woman. And I’m a makeup artist. I sometimes claim I am an advocate, I feel like simply being a marginalized person, and living my honest life is advocacy because it's revolutionary to be ourselves in a world that thinks we don't exist and shouldn't.
This conversation is to further the discussion around Trans Day of Remembrance, which started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a black transgender woman who was killed in 1998. This year is the 20th annual TDOR. It’s up to us to remember our siblings, since their killers, law enforcement, and media often seek to erase their existence.
DAWN: @DawnMariee Hi. I'm Dawn Marie. I am 24 years old. I grew up in Pasadena, California. I identify as a trans woman, she/her pronouns. When people try and confuse me as a cis woman, I do like to correct that because I am a YouTuber, and I would say I lean more towards the activist side of things because I do stand up for our rights, and I talk a lot about the issues that we deal with on the daily and the things that we come face-to-face with.
ROSE: The first question that I wanted to talk about is why is advocacy important for you or for both of us, and how did each of us begin advocating for the trans community?
DAWN: Advocacy is important because I feel like there's still a lot of the world who are still within that grey area of knowing who we are. I've seen so many people comment under my videos saying, "Thank you so much. I had no idea what this was or that this was even a thing." So there's still so many grey areas out there, and I feel like it's my job to let everyone know, "Hey, we're here. We deserve the same rights." Because every day there are so many people losing their jobs. Little things like being kicked out of a bar, a restaurant.
And so I feel like that's why I started advocating and why this is important for me…. because I feel like people need to know about us. Because that's where fear comes from, the lack of knowledge. And the more they know about us, the less they'll be scared because they know that we're human.
ROSE: I started on YouTube also, funnily enough.
I had to admit to myself I was trans when Leelah Alcorn put her suicide note on Tumblr, and I read it, and I started sobbing. It was Christmas break. I was at home in Idaho, and I just couldn't handle it. It hit me in the face. And so that's kind of where I started. And my advocacy kind of branched off when I came out as gay in a sermon on YouTube. I dissected the Bible and different versions of the Bible and spoke about like, "This is what it actually says. It doesn't say anything that you can't be LGBTQ. It simply says love first, and love is the most important thing. So let's focus on that." And it went viral, and it kind of started my advocacy.
ROSE: For time's sake, our second question is, how have you seen things change for the trans or POC community since you've started advocating for the community?
DAWN: So how I've seen things change is more people are expressing themselves freely. More people are coming out and being confident with who they are and how they're expressing themselves. They are going for more jobs. They feel more confident to be like, "Hey, I'm trans. I don't need to pretend to be cis. I love who I am." And people are doing things like going out into public and going for modeling or going to audition for commercials.
ROSE: I so agree. I feel like glass ceilings are being shattered left and right this year. We have so many firsts this year. There's a ton to celebrate for the trans community as well this year. If it weren't for people like Janet Mock or Laverne Cox or Carmen Carrera, I would not be where I'm at today. They helped me feel confident and feel beautiful and see a future for myself. And you're right. Having more visibility and more trans celebrities, it changes things. It's a lot of reassurance.
And I feel like, also, the government is finally talking about us. Obama was the first president to ever say the word transgender. And, sure, the man in office currently is not speaking positively about our community. But he is talking about our community. So people can't deny that we exist anymore. We are here. We are real.
ROSE: All right. Let's go to the next question. This is kind of a heated question, but I wanted to ask how you feel about the societal pressure to pass.
It’s heated in the trans community for sure, but I wanted to bring it up because it's almost Trans Day of Remembrance, and we're talking about our sisters being murdered. I learned very quickly at the beginning of my transition that if I wear a full face of makeup and if I try harder to dress femininely, when I got hair extensions, when I passed, I was safer in public. I've been chased. I've been harassed and yelled at. I've been cornered and touched inappropriately in public on the bus. Working and living in downtown Seattle was difficult when I was transitioning. But when I passed more as a woman, I gained so much more respect. And it was easier to simply exist.
My thoughts have definitely kind of changed about passing. Sure, I do pass out of makeup and with my hair longer now better than I did at the beginning of my transition. But, at the same time, I really wish that society would just stop caring because we're all human. It doesn't matter what you look like. We should all be able to exist in society. We should be able to use the restroom. We should be able to walk down a street, go to work, and feel like our lives aren't at stake. That's not our reality for everyone today.
DAWN: Totally. I felt like in the beginning of my transition I always had to compare myself. And that was a very unhealthy state of mind because I was like, "Ugh, I'm not valid unless my breasts are bigger, or I'm not valid unless my hips are wider, or I'm not valid unless my hair is longer."
And I find that a lot of trans women are doing that with me now, currently where I am in my transition. And I try my best to let it be known, "Hey, we all have our journey." And, also, I do understand that it's pressure from society but also from men. They’re holding us up to a higher standard than cis women on a daily because of our past and what we started as.
[L]ike you were saying Rose, that people get more opportunity if they're more passable. And it sucks so badly because it should not be that way. I just feel like the pressure to be passable, it needs to go. Because like you said, not everyone wants to be passable.
ROSE: That’s true
DAWN: If I want to be passable, that's up to me, not according to a man or the trans community or anyone else
ROSE: Yes. I love that so much. Womanhood looks different for every woman, cis or not.
But the last question is another one that might be difficult to answer in a short amount of time, but let's do our best. What do you feel still needs to change for the LGB community - I want to kind of separate that - and then also for the trans community?
I think something blatantly obvious to answer these two questions is, I want the lesbian, gay, bi, and pan communities to be more accepting and understanding of the trans community. I also want the entire queer community using that as an umbrella term to be more accepting and understanding of people of color within the community and of those trans sections of intersectional identities because it's people of color and transfeminine people who are being murdered at alarming rates. And so, I want more acceptance and more initiative taken from the community to understand what it's like to be us and, more particularly, to be a black trans woman, not myself, but that identity because that's who needs more understanding right now.
And so the real issue is we need to be more loving and accepting of each other. We need to listen to each other. This week and every day of the year, we need to focus on black trans women and people of color and listen to their voices, listen to what they have to say because it's them who are being murdered, and it's them who have the solutions as to how to treat themselves.
DAWN: I totally agree with you.
We need to find a common ground, and we all need to talk about it. We need to understand that there are different views, different opinions, different thought processes on things and just go on with it and let all live because everyone's different. No one's story is the same. And so we can't judge someone for having a different view about something because then what does that say about us? And that just goes on to say that there's still people out there with internalized homophobia and transphobia. And some people, if they grew up in a family that doesn't really accept them, and now they're not really living with that family anymore or being disowned by them, they could have that internalized homophobia or racism or whatever it may be. And it really reflects on their behavior towards the community, and I think that needs to have another light shined upon it, so yeah. A lot of those things need to be worked on.
DAWN: I just want to say I'm proud to be me. And I wouldn't have it any other way, even if I could choose to be born different. I really love the journey, and I wouldn't change it. And so for all the people out there, and for whoever's listening, just know that you don't have to change who you are. Just be you unapologetically. Don't ever let anyone change you. The journey's beautiful.
ROSE: Yes. I so agree. You are valid, and you are beautiful in your transness, and your body is perfect. Our bodies are simply like a vessel that carry us through this world so we can experience it and nothing more. Screw the expectations. Throw them in the trash. Screw the patriarchy. Be yourself. If something makes you happy, and you're not hurting anyone, do it.