My speech would mark the first time a transgender person served as speaker in the ceremony’s 18-year history. While writing my speech, I harkened back to Amanda Simpson’s remarks about being the first openly trans presidential appointee.
“Being the first sucks,” Simpson told ABC News in 2010. “I’d rather not be the first but someone has to be first, or among the first … and I always win people over with who I am and what I can do.”
Yet the pressure to represent for trans people everywhere weighed heavily on me. But ultimately I had to speak my truth and share that truth with those around me. The one direction given to me by Vincent Vigil, director of USC’s LGBT Resource Center, was to offer the graduates a message of empowerment.
And so I thought about what empowered me to find, follow, and amplify my voice as a writer, as an advocate, as a woman who is living visibly. And that’s when it hit me: It’s always been about the girls, #girlslikeus.
I thought of CeCe McDonald and Paige Clay, two trans women of color, both 23 years old, both beautiful, and both creative. I “met” Paige a few weeks back when I came across a story of her murder in Chicago in April. I immediately thought, like so many trans women I personally know, that her tragic end could easily be mine.