Over 100 people gathered in a small brick house on March 31, a sight that to those walking by might appear more out of norm than to the individuals within. March 31 marks the International Transgender Day of Visibility, and Spokane’s celebration at the Women’s Club seemed fitting for the occasion.
This holiday is fairly new, as it just started nine years ago; yet it’s goal of creating a vibrant and inclusive place has existed within the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Tabitha Wolf, a board member from Spokane Trans people, said that the Women’s Club on this day acts as a space for the uninitiated to learn and look into the essence of another human being.
Typically, pride celebrations are full of music, costumes and ephemeral joy; however, the mood among the audience differed from these. All understood the gravity of their situation and held on to every word about resources for them that were provided. The atmosphere was serious and solemn, yet audience members seemed comfortable.
The event started with a video of the TED talk “What it Feels Like to be Transgender” performed by poet Lee Mokobe, a TED Fellow. Mokobe, a member of the transgender community, said that “no one ever thinks of us as human because we are more ghost than flesh” and “our bodies become lessons of sin way before we learn how to love them.” As audience members heard these words, I felt them inhale, sensing that Mokobe’s words were truer than I could comprehend.
The event did have some moments of levity, as chuckles were shared during the viewing of the Trans Literacy Project video “Trans 101” in which gender is broken down: “Gender is between your ears, sex is between your legs.”
These two videos acted as educational precursors to speakers who are on numerous committees throughout Spokane.
Nicole Bishop, vice chair for the Spokane Human Rights Commission, said, “There’s no place on feminism for transphobia.” Half of the applicants for the Spokane Human Rights Commission are part of the trans community, and there are only two spots available, solidifying that one of the new members will be LGBTQ+.
After audience members were informed of resources around Spokane, a panel of three transgender community members took the stage to share their experiences. Specifics varied but all shared similar struggles.
“I had this routine of looking at myself in the mirror every day and saying, ‘You’re a woman, it’s fine you’re a woman,’ ” Jac Archer, vice chair of the Spokane County Democrats, said. “Then somebody told me that if you have to spend a couple minutes every day telling yourself you’re a woman, it’s probably not true.”
After realizing their identity, Archer took control of it by becoming a diversity advocate and activist.
“If I don’t walk out the door and no one else stops me, I stop me,” Archer said.
Out of all three members on the panel, Maeve Griffith’s story hit the hardest due to coming out the most recently and making the change after raising a family with three sons.
“I thought if I had a masculine job, it would go away; if I got married, it would go away; if I had kids; it would go away. And it didn’t go away,” Griffith said. “I never realized that people get up in the morning and just go live their lives. I always had a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and assumed the worst possible scenario.”
Unlike many, Griffith was met with acceptance within her family and at work, where she is a Captain at Spokane Fire Station 3.
“Good Friday of last year, I came out at my job, and I like to fight and I thought I was in for a fight,” Griffith said. “It’s really hard to fight people when they’re hugging you so tight.”
The third member of the panel, Dr. Clark, faced discrimination as a child and as an adult, losing his job as a physician three times.
“I knew who I was, that was never the question; but I realized in elementary school, other people didn’t know who I was,” Clark said. “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to say, ‘Screw you, I’m a man.’ ”
Situations that called his identity into question only secured it further, making Clark confident in the individual he is today.
“I’m strong as fuck now,” said Clark. “There’s nothing that can protect you from somebody’s hate and their ignorance. It’s vast and it reaches every corner and we need to change that.”
Nicole Glidden is a news editor. Follow her on Twitter @nglidden16.