Standing room only at ‘Transgender Day of Empowerment’Around the City Thursday, April 11th, 2013
The community gathered April 5 at The Center to celebrate the 10th annual Transgender Day of Empowerment, “An evening of celebration, education, and entertainment.” The auditorium was filled with a diverse standing room only audience including many families and youth.
Connor Maddocks was the emcee and welcomed special guests, sponsors, keynote speakers and elected officials.
Tracie O’Brien and Paola Coots also welcomed guests before introducing City Council President Todd Gloria.
O’Brien gave a brief history of the Day of Empowerment, her brainchild, and spoke about the need to create a safe life-affirming space where transgender people could build relationships with each other and the larger LGBT community. O’Brien told the audience, “Things are changing, and the world is getting better.”
Todd Gloria spoke about how San Diego is a better place because of the contributions of transgender citizens, and acknowledged everybody contributes to the city’s “rich cultural diversity.” Gloria said that “too often the T in LGBT is silent and overlooked,” and that “what we do here today blazes a trail for our youth and makes it easier for them to contribute to society.”
Gloria was followed by the first keynote speaker, T. J. Seguine, a self-identified trans-male. Seguine spoke about his sometimes difficult path from young girl living in poverty, to butch lesbian in the Navy, to meeting his wife Sophia, to transitioning from female to male. Seguine spoke about the supporters and allies who stood up for him along the way. He told the audience, “Life is too short to waste your time worrying. Whatever your dream, go out there and make it happen.”
O’Brien then introduced the first musical guest, a shy 16-year-old with long beautiful hair, Sammirah Floresvillar. She began softly, but quickly found her voice and filled the hall with a voice that was pure and sweet. The audience responded with a standing ovation.
Maria Roman, a trans-female, was the second keynote speaker. The star of Showtime’s original program Wild Things, told the audience, “You have to stand up and speak for yourself, because nobody else is going to do it for you.” Roman stressed the importance of transgender people sharing their stories because doing so affects change. Roman said, “Things are moving in the right direction, and transgender people have made strong gains in California, but the fight goes on. We must speak up for those who will follow us.”
Awards were then presented. The Community Service Award, which acknowledges the individual who has made a significant impact to further the well-being or positive visibility of the transgender community, was given to Liat Wexler. The Satin Styles Youth Award, which recognizes a transgender youth under age 20 who serves as an exceptional role model to other youth through resilience in the face of significant obstacles, or service to the community, was presented to Loryn Pacheco. Chelli Mohamed was given the Ally Award in recognition for her demonstration of commitment to the San Diego transgender community through donations of time, money or space, or consistent advocacy of equality for transgender people.
Mohamed said, “Silence hurts all of us. Always speak up.”
Scott Duane then introduced the Visible Bodies presentation, an exhibition of photographs portraying trans-gendered men and women, including short narratives in the subject’s own words. Four of the participants representing the range of diversity, from trans-male, to trans-female, to gender-queer, also spoke to the audience. Many of the photographs were displayed in the auditorium, but the full showing will be at Art of Pride in May.
Vicki Estrada then sang an original song, “Empower Me,” which had the crowd singing along on the chorus. Estrada sang about how “hatred is turning to dust” and one day “the laws will be fair and just.”
Tracie O’Brien closed the program by thanking everybody who participated or attended, and invited attendees to join in the reception and help themselves to food and beverages.
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