In a collaboration featuring contributions from a pantheon of potent activists and creatives, acclaimed actress Laverne Cox narrates the struggle for trans rights that have spanned decades, and the nurturing and resilient community that has emerged from the fight.
The video is a combined project of the ACLU and Chase Strangio, an ACLU staff attorney, Zachary Drucker, an independent artist and producer, Molly Crabapple, author and artist, Kim Bookbinder, musician and filmmaker, Jim Batt, animator and filmmaker, and Cox, an Emmy nominee, Emmy-award winning producer, and LGBTQ+ advocate.
In his statement included in the TIME article releasing the video, Strangio comments: “Without accurate information about trans people, our lives and our rich histories, the impulse to push us out of public life will continue. But we continue to tell our vivid, vibrant and critical story of trans resistance. Time marches forward, and so do we.”
Trans rights have surged to the forefront of the discussion on LGBTQ+ rights in recent years, which has been attributed to the severe backlash following the Obergefell v. Hodges win for marriage equality manifesting in anti-LGBTQ+, discriminatory bathroom bills and “religious liberty” laws such as North Carolina’s notorious HB2 (and its replacement, HB 142) as well as Mississippi’s HB 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, which passed through an appeals court a month and a half ago.
This attention is long overdue, considering the extensive history of trans resistance outlined in the video and the rampant violence and discrimination committed against trans people every day. It is estimated that every 29 hours, a trans woman is killed internationally, and the average life expectancy of trans women of color is about 35 years.
In an LGBTQ+ Advocacy seminar presented by the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute, Strangio expressed the muddled feelings of joy upon achieving marriage equality in 2015 and the simultaneous frustration at the disproportionate allocation of resources in the fight for marriage equality that veered much-needed attention away from arguably the community’s most at-risk sub-group.
The denial of access to the same facilities as cisgender people, or attempts to pass bills that legalize anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination on the basis of religious liberty, all degrade at the “basic dignity of existing”, Strangio explained, signaling to trans people that they are not worthy to even coexist among others in daily life.
Furthermore, Strangio reinforced what this project encapsulated: the most significant changes have been the societal shifts that have taken place through “mobilization on the ground”, a growing intersectional consciousness of trans issues and rights that have been “the greatest victory outside of the courts”.
In concluding words from Cox, “We have always existed, and we will continue to fight until we are all safe and free.”