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Speaker talks surviving, ‘journey to self-love’

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A gender, transgender, gender fluid or cis gender are all terms you might be familiar with.

Trace Lysette, a “Living out loud” transgender woman and TV actress, touched the hearts and minds of University at Albany students, as one of the keynote speakers of sexuality month. Lysette currently plays Shea on Amazon’s hit show “Transparent.”

Lysette deals with transphobia on a day-to-day basis.  “I still remember the day that I was called into human resources and told that I would not be allowed to use the women’s restrooms at Bloomingdale’s where I worked,” she reported.

In 2008, Lysette moved from Dayton, Ohio to New York City to pursue acting. She turned to the House and Ballroom scene to save up for her transition and began stripping for at least eight years to afford the street hormones she purchased at the time.

She refers to her transition as, “The journey to self-love…My truth and purpose set me free. All those years of trying to blend in when I was really meant to just stand out and be a voice.”

On Feb. 22 President Donald Trump’s administration revoked protections allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their chosen identity. This has especially become a topic of interest since the March 2016 bathroom bill in North Carolina essentially denied transgenders their freedom and safety in the restroom. The bill placed transgender rights in the center of the national spotlight. The bill stated that in public restrooms we are all to use the restrooms that correspond to the biological sex listed on our birth certificates. Lysette stands as a reminder that we are fighting for America’s transgender youth and their rights as minorities in an under-represented, marginalized community.

“While I passed as cis gendered most of the time I was not one hundred percent exempt from being clocked or scooped as we call it,” she shared, looking into the crowd. Why is it that those who identify as transgender and gender fluid are the likely victims of bullying and violence?

 “The thought that I could be cat-called and then if discovered as trans beaten to death, horrified me,” Lysette recalled. She referenced the death of a transwoman in Harlem who had been beaten and killed by a group of men after being cat-called and discovered as trans.

 Islan Nettles was a 21-year-old trans woman who was murdered in what was ruled as a hate crime. She was beaten to death by a group of men once they discovered her true identity.

 More and more, schools and other public facilities are accommodating those who identify as transgender from discrimination and harassment. Lysette described an inner power that got her through her rocky road and the encounters that would have proven a weaker spirit unworthy.

“Often times in the queer community, it might not be your biological family, but I think chosen family and friendships are where I always clung to get me through those dark times.”

As part of the #MeToo movement as well, Lysette is a survivor of many calibers. Standing tall in the face of discrimination and sexual assault, she speaks out against her former cast member Jeffrey Tambor and supports the justice of over sexualized women.

“I never got to go to college.” Lysette shared with the question-hungry crowd. “I never learned skills to get me through life that were beyond my best resource which ended up being my body. And for a lot of trans women, that’s the only resource that they have.”

For Lysette, it was all about survival.

A bigger issue still remains for the trans community. Whether gender identity should be federally protected as a civil right or not, Lysette simply stands on the side of equality.

“I had to somehow harness this lifetime battle of depression, identity, otherness and all of these things and I knew that my life had to be something bigger. Something bigger than dancing on dollars and just making enough money to pay my rent and whatever material things or surgeries that were not really fulfilling me. I knew my life had to be bigger than waiting for a man to accept me. I knew my life had to be bigger than a statistic.”

As an advocate for “TrevorLIVE,” a LGBTQ suicide hotline, she is doing just that.

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