Earlier this week, ahead of Transgender Day of Visibility, I had the honor of hosting the ACLU of Indiana’s first online “Ask Me Anything” session with Lo Ray and Michelle Young, two transgender Hoosiers who exemplify what our Transgender Education and Advocacy Program (TEAP) is all about.
Michelle, a young trans activist and aspiring model, talked about her journey from knowing she was trans as a child to living her true “authentic self.” Her advice for cisgender Hoosiers: “Being trans is something that is in our souls. Accept people for who they are.”
Lo, a non-binary transgender Social Work student and senior at IUPUI, shared their struggles of getting a health insurance company to approve their gender affirming surgery. “There are so many different ways to be trans and it’s beautiful,” Lo said. Finding an identity and a community “changed my life.”
Asked what policies needed to be changed at the state level, both emphasized the need for Indiana to pass a nondiscrimination law that would prevent transgender Hoosiers from being denied housing, fired from their jobs, or refused service because of who they are.
They answered questions about pronoun use, how to create supportive environments for trans students in school, and the need for police to receive more bias and sensitivity training. And they shared some of the organizations and resources available to transgender Hoosiers, their families, and allies like OutcareHealth, Indiana Youth Group, PFLAG, Gender Expansive Kids & Co, GenderNexus, and My Gender Workbook.
This is exactly why we created TEAP. Indiana is home to approximately 27,600 transgender people, and currently no state law protects them from discrimination. By providing training and programs that educate the public about the lives of transgender Hoosiers – and lifting up the voices of trans Hoosiers themselves – TEAP aims to make Indiana a more welcoming state.
The response has been overwhelming, in large part thanks to advocates like Lo and Michelle who have courageously shared their experiences and offered their wisdom and advice.
More than 2,000 people tuned in to this week’s “Ask Me Anything,” and we received dozens of thoughtful questions and comments – many of which we weren’t able to get to during the broadcast. Even more inspiring were the messages of love and support from people across the state – cheering on our trans advocates and pledging their support to their important cause.
At its core, the fight for transgender rights is simply about the right to be ourselves and live openly – free from discrimination.
Michelle said it best: “Being trans to me is really just following with what you feel in your heart, and knowing who you are. It’s something that you can’t change. It’s all about authenticity and being true to yourself.”