‘The FilAm community accepted, loved and respected me regardless of who, what I am’

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Speaking before advocates and allies at the  Transgender Day of Remembrance event

Speaking before advocates and allies at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event

By Chelle Lhuillier

The Center’s Gender Identity Project Organizing Committee, LGBT rights and equality advocates, friends, and allies, fellow speakers, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
A few weeks ago, I was reading an online news article and these struck my attention. ” Two years ago, I got jumped. Four months ago I got stabbed. Two months later, I got shot, a transgender victim said in a news report.”

Every attack, every murder, the whole purpose is to keep us silent, to keep us from transitioning, a reaction coming from a transgender woman said in an interview. Despite tremendous progress in advancing LGBTQ rights, the sad
reality is in many places here in the United States and all over the world, transgender people continue to face violence and discrimination on a daily basis. Many lives were lost and each year the list grows even longer and unabated.

Today, we commemorate them and honor the dignity they truly deserve.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, transgender advocate and founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance, has said in her message and I quote, “The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for rights, and the right to Simply Exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people, sometimes in the most brutal ways possible, it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for
justice.” Unquote.

Transgender Day of Remembrance reminded me of how I endured the challenges of being a trans woman, the stereotyping, discrimination and looks from people. Those difficult moments became a source of inspiration, motivation and strength to persevere, keep my head up and show them that I’m worthy of respect.

For years I was quietly advocating transgender empowerment until this summer when I was crowned Miss LGBT Philippines-USA. Finally I came out publicly to continue my work of advocacy, and little by little I gained acceptance and recognition because of my high visibility in the mainstream Filipino-American social and charitable community. Despite the challenging times and dangers faced by many trans women, I am thankful to the Filipino-American social and charitable community in which I was accepted, loved and respected regardless of who I am and what I am.

It is on this community that I have found a platform to make a difference as a trans woman and continue inspiring others through transgender empowerment. This year, I participated at the 2014 Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City making history and a groundbreaking first. I proudly marched and joined the Philippine contingent to the New York City Pride Parade with Bayan USA and Gabriela USA. Since then I found the strength to further my advocacy and eventually became a voice of the marginalized transgender community.

Recently I joined a rally in front of the Philippine Consulate to call for justice for a slain Filipino transgender in the Philippines. How many transgender people will have the courage to go out of their comfort
zone and stop hiding in the closet to fight for their rights? Only a few.

We can only create a huge impact and raise public awareness by increasing our visibility. We can only address violence, discrimination and hate crimes if we have the laws to protect us.

We should call the attention of our legislators for the passage of GENDA so that every transgender person will be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state. The fight is not yet over, we must continue to educate ourselves, do not give ignorance a place, for being educated will enable us to know our basic human rights, defend ourselves from people who may take advantage of us and more importantly this will keep us safe and away from hostile environment.

It is my wish and prayer that I will be able to further my advocacy and that transgender people will be able to enjoy more stable, safer and comfortable lives free from discrimination, hatred and violence.

On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign of Greater New York, a pleasant evening to each and every one.

Chelle Lhuillier, an LGBTQ rights advocate, is a member of the Diversity Committee’s Transgender Engagement Team of the Human Rights Campaign Greater New York Steering Committee. The current Miss LGBT Philippines-USA delivered this speech during the HRC’s celebration of Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 at The LGBT Center on W. 13th Street.

Chelle was the first Miss LGBT Philippines-USA

Chelle, the first Miss LGBT Philippines-USA, graces a float during the Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue.

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