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Justice for all: CO transgender rights activists want their community included in fight for equality

Posted at 8:41 AM, Sep 16, 2020

DENVER — As nationwide social justice movements continue to demand justice for marginalized communities, a group of local Colorado activists say the transgender community has been left out of the national conversation.

“We have been marginalized and pushed to the side,” said Rev. Nicole Garcia, the pastor for mission development at Westview Presbyterian Church in Boulder,

Denver7 sat down with Garcia, Sable Schultz, the manager of transgender services at the Center on Colfax, and Star Graham, a leader of transgender focus groups.

All three identify as transgender women and they each shared their personal experiences, as well as their experiences with activism, in Colorado.

Watch the full 43-minute interview with the trio below.

Transgender rights: Colorado activists share their stories

According to Garcia, despite Colorado’s progressive policies, not all residents accept the transgender community.

The largest Presbyterian in Boulder seceded from the governing bodies of all Presbyterian churches because they did not want to allow gay or lesbian pastors to be ordained, Garcia said.

For Graham, the struggle for equality within the faith community and community at-large is even greater for LGBTQIA+ women of color.

“Transgender women of color have a hard time here getting started, they don't get jobs right away,” Graham said.

Graham said transgender women of color have always been at the forefront of the push for LGBTQIA+ rights.

Schultz said activists continue the fight Marsha P. Johnson and Syvlia Rivera started. Both Johnson and Rivera were both outspoken gay rights advocates and prominent figures during the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

“Even today, we see trans women of color as leaders and activists when it comes to speaking out against police violence and police harassment,” Schultz said.

But Schultz said brutality doesn't just come at the hands of police.

Since the start of 2020, the Human Rights Campaign has tracked 26 murders of transgender women and 19 were women of color.

Many perpetrators have tried to justify their actions saying women “passed” or appeared to be women who were assigned the sex “female” at birth.

Graham said for some, there’s an expectation to immediately disclose gender identities.

“I’m not trying to disrespect or fool you, I’m just being myself," Graham said. "But if we get to know each other and we start talking, then I disclose that."

Garcia, Graham and Schultz are grateful for progress made when it comes to transgender rights, and they just want everyone to know, they’re fighting for the right to be themselves.

“I believe all women are beautiful,” Graham said. “We’re not trying to take anyone’s place or trying to be like anyone, we’re just being ourselves and we just want to be accepted wholly,” said Graham.

All three activists hope transgender women become a larger part of the current conversation surrounding social justice.