Transgender Pride highlights trans voices and celebrates real beauty, by KhrystyAna

Pride, 50 years later

50 years ago Pride was not a celebration. It was a revolution. And a protest. A bunch of homosexuals, lesbians, trans, queer and other “outsiders” from society in Stonewall Inn decided to fight for their right to love, to exist, to kiss, to marry, to be themselves without fear. These people did not know what visibility or awareness was. These people put their lives at risk. Some of them were killed and the ones who survived are the heroes who helped us to be ourselves today.

Today we celebrate Pride and we do not forget! These people are us. We are the new LGBTQI+ community and, even though we still don’t have the same rights as the rest of the world, we are here to show that our community is stronger than ever! Please be your real you and show love to people around you! Don’t close your eyes. Accept and embrace.

It is important to always keep in mind that during the riots of 1969 in Stonewall Inn there were trans women of colour at the very forefront. If it was not for these trans women we would not be celebrating Pride today. However, even today trans women of colour are still today vulnerable in the LGBTQ+ community and their trans rights are at stake.

We invited KhrystyAna, the self-love advocate and activist to write this editorial as a big “thank you” tribute to the Trans Pride photoshoot she created to celebrate trans women and raise visibility and awareness! KhrystyAna teamed up with with photographer Amanda Picotte and stylist Guvanch. Thirteen trans women, including Steele, posed for photos wearing high fashion pieces in pink, blue, and white to represent the Trans Pride Flag.

My name is Khrystyana, a self-love advocate and an activist residing here in NYC. Where 50 years ago an event took place that changed  the experience of living as queer in the world as we know it.

I’ve been deeply affected by the tragic events that trans communities have been experiencing. Now more than ever, I want to highlight the voices of trans women.

This is Pride month; a month we would not have without trans women of colour.  Fifty years ago, trans women of colour were instrumental in starting the queer pride movement with the Stonewall Riots. The progress that the LGBTQIA+ community has made since then can be traced back to the work of those women, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Yet, despite half a century of progress, trans rights still fall behind those of others in the LGBTQIA+ community, with trans women of colour remaining the most vulnerable members of the queer community.

To all my cis straight siblings, who don’t yet fully compassionately understand what pride means to us. You are loved and and any of your attempts to understand us is a step towards a loving safe world we all seek to enjoy. Pride is still the very march for the right to exist, to breath the air you do, to work and to get get hired at places you do. Pride is a march evolved, because we celebrate the small victories, the growing understanding of identities, sexualities, genders. We celebrate every parent who embraced their gay son who occasionally wears cute red lipstick; we celebrate every boss who promoted a lesbian woman to run their office; every director who hired a trans woman to play a girl, that she is.. we see every one of you and all your attempts are appreciated.. We thank you for asking our pronouns when you don’t know and we thank you for speaking up for us,when it’s unsafe for us to speak up ourselves. Pride might look colourful and festive, but there is still a dark side to being queer.And the fight to exist is not  over. Let’s build that safe futre together!

On Saturday, June 15 2019, 13 beautiful, powerful trans women showed up for this project, which is centred on education and unity through diversity.

I asked the women the following questions to help cis people better understand the past (particularly the sacrifices made for us to have Pride as we know it), the present (including what obstacles trans women face today), and their ideas for a better, more inclusive and empathetic future.

Questions asked and answered are listed below:

Who has inspired you as a trans person?

What is it like to live as a trans woman in 2019, 50 years after the Stonewall Riots?

Can you share some of the difficulties you’ve encountered due to being trans?

What do you think cisgender people need to know about the realities of being a trans woman?

What can cisgender people do to help support trans people?

Attached are Portraits of 13 women . The portraits feature primarily pink, white and blue colours that symbolise Trans Flag (hence blue/white skies as the backdrop), natural makeup, and high fashion pieces from current showrooms. The elegant and elevated aesthetic is purposeful, aiming to provide needed representation that is not objectified. 

Angelica Torres

https://www.instagram.com/angelicactorres

My name is Angelica Torres Xtravaganza, daughter of the late and great Hector Xtravaganza. My experience as a trans woman in 2019 is vastly different than my experience a decade ago. While I have what we call “cis passing privilege” now, that was not always the case. I experienced transphobic harassment and abuse from family members, school mates and even complete strangers on the street. Despite now being able to walk down the street and not be called a “man” or a “faggot”, I still deal with being discriminated against as a trans woman when I disclose my trans status to people…especially cisgender heterosexual men that express a romantic interest in me. In terms of love, dating and relationships living as a trans woman can often be a very lonely life. What I long for more than anything is for cisgender people, whether heterosexual or gay or lesbian, to allow themselves to let go of their biases towards transgender people and for them to realize that we simply are human beings trying to exist in a world that viciously continues to deride, attack and murder us for living authentically as ourselves. I wish with all my heart that more cisgender folks would lend their allyship, love and support to us in a time that still feels as though we as trans people are at war with the entire world because of our gender identity. I look to my trans elders and pioneers like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy who fought tirelessly with their lives to achieve the rights that our entire LGBTQIA+ community benefit from today in order to remain strong through these difficult times.

Jari Jones

https://instagram.com/iamjarijones

Who has inspired you as a trans person?

I think my community has inspired me, especially black trans women. Whether successful or extremely marginalized both give me something to work toward to, inspiring me to reach closer to my dreams and inspiring me to get people to their as well!! Inspiration can look like taking care of each other.

What is it like to live as a trans woman in 2019, 50 years after the Stonewall Riots?

I don’t think we gave had a big change, I think people are becoming more knowledge of what happened and what’s happening. I do believe we are living more visible which is a blessing and a curse. On one hand we are integrating someone into main street society which humanises us, which allows people to be more compassionate which translates into resources but on the other hand people are seeking us out, looking hard for us, to harm us.

Can you share some of the difficulties you’ve encountered due to being trans?

Everyday bring on another challenge with safety, with consent, with medical care, with housing , as a trans person it never stops. The system, the society we live in , was not built with us in mind , so everyday is a day going against the grain just to survive. As a black trans woman , who happens to be very successful in media , I too still have to fight for bare minimum resources across the boards.

What do you think cisgender people need to know about the realities of being a trans woman?

I think cis gender people need to know that trans women , especially black trans women , are under attack. We are being killed at ever growing rates and it isn’t because of us. The idea that we are full of trickery and deceit , that being the reason we are being murdered is not only foolish but it’s a lie.

What can cisgender people do to help support trans people?

Cis people need to no longer be surface allies. Saying you love trans people or march for trans people is no longer enough. You need to be willing to get hit for a trans person , you need to be willing to shield their bodies , you need to pay trans people, you need to not be an ally but a warrior. Trans people are all over community , love , respect and protect them.

Seana Steele

https://instagram.com/seanasteele

Who has inspired you as a trans person?

Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Laverne Cox, Tracey “Africa” Norman, Janet Mock, Caroline “Tulla” Cossey, Andrea Pejic, and many other trans women have inspired me to live with authenticity and demand respect from a world that so often ignores or shuns us.

What is it like to live as a trans woman in 2019, 50 years after the Stonewall riots?

I think some things are better. There is definitely a lot of awareness and the younger generation is a lot more open-minded, but still we see trans women of color being murdered; so far in 2019, 10 black trans women have been murdered and this has to stop!

Can you share some of the difficulties you’ve encountered due to being trans?

Overall, I acknowledge that I have privilege as a cis-passing white trans woman, but I still have lost family and supposed friends after deciding to transition. Dating has also been really challenging, between dealing with fetishization and rejection under the guise of wanting children that cis women unable to conceive would never have to face.

What do you think cisgender people need to know about the realities of being a trans woman?

Ultimately, that we are people. We deserve the same things you do – love, happiness, health, and most importantly safety. Trans women are women and our rights are simply human rights.

What can cisgender people do to help support trans people?

Listen to our stories and stand up for us by showing support among family and friends.  Help put a stop to transphobia by calling people out on their remarks and actions instead of being complicit through silence.


Nicki Vrotsos

https://instagram.com/nickivrotsos

Being a part of this community is something I consider a blessing though it may not always be the easiest or safest experience. It’s impossible for me to not be at peace in the presence of their beauty, power, courage and tenacity—it’s inspiring. Inspiration comes to me from every facet of my community. Firstly, the trans* woman of color who so courageously came before my generation and made it possible for myself and my sisters to exist—Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson to name two icons who deserve nothing more than to be in the history books. Secondly the sisters around me, whom I’ve both met and haven’t met, living soundly and fearlessly in their truth are a constant source of inspiration. If we can not be inspired by ourselves how are we able to then inspire others?

A harsh reality though is trans* woman, specifically trans* woman of colour, are brutalized daily and it’s become too common seeing the faces of those taken far too early throughout social media and on various news outlets. However victim blaming is often a common theme with the trans* community—victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. Trans* persons are faced with violence and assault every day and we are told that rallying together will allow us to eventually be safe in our surroundings because there’s strength and numbers right? If only.

So I’m not talking to my community right now; my beautiful, brave, innocent, intelligent, honest, curious, colourful, powerful community. I’m talking to those who don’t belong with us. Ally’s are people who join in with our voices to make what we are saying that much louder. How can one love a trans* person but not be an ally for them? Simple. Masculinity and character are questioned whenever a trans* person is claimed by their cis counterparts. So if you know a trans* person, look up to a trans* person, make love to a trans* person…speak up. Your voices are the ones we need the most. When those who love us only want to love us in private, the love was never really there at all. Speak up for us so that we can live to thank you


Alexandra Collie

https://instagram.com/alexandlc

I’m inspired by the women who have to fight to be visible, seen as human beings. I’m inspired by my mother, actresses, sex workers, store clerks — we all have a story that deserves to be heard, and, especially for trans women, those stories can be a hell of a ride. And sometimes, they can be terrifyingly relatable…have you ever thought about suicide? And maybe then you’ll be seen as who you truly are in your next life?

While our lives are beautiful journeys of self creation, they can be scary. Scary because of cis people, scary because of the expectations forced into us. But powerful because we fight to support each other — to be recognized as the beautiful souls we are.

And how can we all make the lives of trans people promising? Donate to organizations that support trans youth, stand up for us when we’re hurt. We are unity, we are love, we are strength, and we are trans.

Mojo Disco

https://instagram.com/mojodisco

As a black trans woman I am most inspired by Octavia St. Laurent. May she be pleased with every breath and step I take.

Loving this life can be scary. My black trans sisters are being murdered on average 2-3 times a month. I’m grieving but still finding a way to keep living.

Transphobia has been the greatest difficulty I’ve face in this journey. Navigating friends and family and having to do the constant labor of educating the ignorant has become tiresome.

I would like cisgender people to understand that trans folk have always been here. There is no agenda. We are just choosing to no longer hide in the shadows of society.

Cis people need to leverage their privilege and donate monies to trans organizations and folk who are trans. They also need to educate themselves about what being transgender is really about and i highly recommend starting at knowing the difference between sex, sexuality, and gender.


Daria Dee

https://instagram.com/itsmedaria

The biggest difficulty I have encountered as a trans woman is my journey to learn to love myself. With so much hatred from not only the rest of the world but even our own community, it is difficult to not give up. However, time and time again, I remind myself that who I am is NOT a hindrance — it is a blessing. Being trans has taught me so much about how to relax and simply be a human being who not only loves myself but everyone around me. This life has given me patience, love and an all around thirst to know more about the world around me and the people within it. To all of the trans women and men who have paved the way before me… I say thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself and to continue paving the way for future trans people who can eventually evolve into a life of peace.

Alana Jessica

https://instagram.com/itsalanajessica

Who has inspired you as a trans person?

I learned the power of my trans family on the streets of New York. As I was coming of age, seeing confident, beautiful trans women living their truth so freely inspired me to step up to the plate. And on a daily basis, seeing my trans sisters of color thriving despite being the most targeted demographic fills me with the pride and passion to make this world a better place. Girls like Jari Jones, Shea Diamond, and the cast of POSE are doing the Lord’s work!

What is it like to live as a trans woman in 2019, 50 years after Stonewall?

The increase in visibility recently has been an excellent starting place to kick off the conversation on what trans women need from society. There are changes being made now that are helping us a lot, but it is pivotal to remember that we are still dealing with the bigotry and hatred that inspired the Riots half a century ago. The average life expectancy for a trans woman of color in 2019 is 35 years. 35! Every week it feels like we wake up to the news of another trans woman’s murder. Now is the time to take inspiration from Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and rise up!

Can you share some of the difficulties you’ve encountered due to being trans?

One of my biggest issues as a trans woman is people’s assumptions about my identity, and the abandonment of boundaries that come with such assumptions. We are treated like public property — free to be commented on and disrespected at every turn, just because of who we are. People also assume that we are all CHASING womanhood, that we all hope to one day be women. No! Today we are women. Yesterday we were, and you bet we will be tomorrow. The assumption that all we are is our gender identity is incredibly thin minded and robs others of seeing the beauty & complexity of who we are as human beings; and the only way to fix these issues is education!

What do you think cisgender people need to know about the realities of being a trans woman?

Trans people largely do not suffer because of the gravity of our identities. We suffer at the hands of cisgender people’s mistreatment of us. It is crucial that cis people treat us like human beings. This means not only showing up for us when we need you, but having the agency to use your privilege to create environments that allow us to flourish. We are not just models— we are librarians, politicians, military personnel, sex workers, waitresses, businesspeople and more, and all of us are worthy of inclusivity, equality, and respect in each of these spaces.

What can cisgender people to do to help support trans people?

Allyship is not just about stepping up when needed, it’s about already being someone that trans people can turn to. Five trans women have been reported killed just in Pride Month alone. We need to know that yours is a space designed to make us feel protected, celebrated, and safe. For examples of allyship on social media done right, see @briygilgeous, @therealsvetlana, and of course, @khrystyana, but keep in mind that what makes these ladies exceptional is not just their work on your Instagram feed, but in real life.

Shay Neary

https://instagram.com/watchshayslay

Who has inspired you as a trans person?

I’m gonna have to say Sweetie, drag icon, becoming close with her really altered my idea of what it meant to be transgender. She shifted my ideals of the characterization of womanhood, to learning to begin to love the person, underneath all the garb and get up. Before then I’d only known, other trans sex workers that really shaped my identity as a transwoman growing up.

What is it like to live as a trans woman in 2019, 50 years after the Stonewall Riots?

I find solace in the idea that I can live within my identity and truth, more freely that my fellow sisters had opportunity to do so, but there is always work to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity my platform presents, to give a voice to margins far and wide.

Can you share some of the difficulties you’ve encountered due to being trans?

As long as there is the demise of difference by society, we will always encounter issues, where being trans is problematic. For me personally, sharing those difficulties, won’t change that narrative, however finding what we have in common can change both our worlds.

What do you think cisgender people need to know about the realities of being a trans woman?

I think cis people need to realise, that gender isn’t that difficult of a construct to tear apart, because it is so easy to create. The more fluid out culture becomes, the more safe it becomes. I’m not asking cis people to change their gender, I’m simply asking them to not judge mine. Because gender is built on such fragile foundations. Find what brings you comfortability, and run with it! For you it may be jeans, for me it’s a floral dress.

What can cisgender people do to help support trans people?

EDUCATE YOURSELF! You live in a time, where you can find information while speaking into a piece of technology, that tells you the answers! HOW CONVENIENT! If you don’t know, ASK. If you don’t understand, STUDY! If you don’t grasp a theory, HAVE A DISCUSSION. You cannot learn otherwise. Ignorance is an excuse, in which one chooses dirt over water, while complaining they’re thirsty. Drink up!

https://instagram.com/watchshayslay

Daniella Carter

https://instagram.com/daniella.carter

Who has inspired you as a trans person?

I’m inspired by every single transperson who is courageous enough to dare to be themselves, in a world that often times tries to push them into the shadows of society.

What is it like to live as a trans woman in 2019, 50 years after the Stonewall Riots?

As a 25 year old trans woman of color, I can only imagine some of the things my peer sisters went through 50 years ago today. However things are far, far from perfect even now. Progressive cities such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, just to name a few, can seem like safe havens to a young trans person, who may be growing up in far more dangerous and harshly judgmental area of this country. But, even here in NYC, I’ve run into violence and discrimination. However, there is hope – in slowly growing networks of LGBTQIA+ social and governmental organizations helping to create outlets for young transpeople to reach out, and in both friendly Media and institutions of learning slowly educating people to make them more culturally aware of our situation. Compared to fifty years ago, it seems as if things may be getting better for our community, but it still feels like a crawl at times, when I wish it was more of a sprint.

Can you share some of the difficulties you’ve encountered due to being trans?

When it comes to discrimination, my problem, as a trans woman of colour are three fold: By being African-American; by being a woman; by being Trans. Each one of these things comes with its own burden, but when combined increases the chance of both discrimination and acts of violence. I’ve suffered sexual assault numerous times, without help from a deaf justice system that wasn’t attuned to the plight of a trans woman of colour.

What do you think cisgender people need to know about the realities of being a trans woman?

I want cisgender people to know that trans women shouldn’t be persecuted or deserve to feel hate and derision. We’re not trying to impersonate anyone, we’re just trying to be the people we know we were born to be. We just want to love, and be loved, just as everyone else does.

What can cisgender people do to help support trans people?

Even if you can’t completely understand us, at least respect us and treat us the same as all other human beings.

Jazmine Shepard

https://instagram.com/jazmineshepard

I came out as a transgender woman at age 16. I saw Laverne Cox for the first time, and started to learn what transgender was, and she was a huge part of my decision to come out. Now that I live in New York, I’m fortunate enough to be able to surround myself with other queer and trans people, and create a support system that helps. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of bias against trans people in all communities, and trans rights fall far behind those of others in the lgbt+ community. If you’re not transgender,use your privilege to speak up and have a voice for those who can’t. When you see discrimination or violence against trans people, use your voice to amplify ours. We need you.

Garnet Rubio

https://instagram.com/garnetrubio

The biggest difficulty I have encountered as a trans woman is my journey to learn to love myself. With so much hatred from not only the rest of the world but even our own community, it is difficult to not give up. However, time and time again, I remind myself that who I am is NOT a hindrance — it is a blessing. Being trans has taught me so much about how to relax and simply be a human being who not only loves myself but everyone around me. This life has given me patience, love and an all around thirst to know more about the world around me and the people within it. To all of the trans women and men who have paved the way before me… I say thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself and to continue paving the way for future trans people who can eventually evolve into a life of peace.

This trans Pride movement is part of TheRealCatwalk that is coming back to London on August 31 and everyone is welcome to join!


#therealcatwalk

Khrystyana – www.instagram.com/khrystyana

Only queer people were involved in this project.

All photographs are By Amanda Picotte https://instagram.com/amandapicotte

Clothes by : TOMBOYX https://instagram.com/tomboyx, Flying Solo Showroom https://instagram.com/flyingsolonyc, Dreems Showroom https://instagram.com/dreems.nyc
Makeup Pacifica Beauty https://instagram.com/pacificabeauty
Inspired by muse Seana Steele https://instagram.com/seanasteele

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