Our Lady J is a staff writer on Amazon series “Transparent.” She is one of six scribes chosen by Jill Soloway, who wanted to teach TV style to trans writers.
What was life like growing up?
I come from a town of 200 people in southern central Pennsylvania. Most of the town is Mennonite and Amish. My family is a very conservative Christian family. So they didn’t really have the tools to support me when I came out as queer 20 years ago. I am very happy to say they support me now. They actually just joined (support group) PFLAG last month. Growing up not having (anyone) in the media to identify with, I did feel very lost, and that led to difficulty focusing in school; it led to being bullied at school, which definitely affected my self-esteem and my ambition and my drive. Trans discrimination infiltrates and permeates every aspect of our being from a very young age.
How is America doing?
In general, we’re not doing so well. We’re doing better, but I don’t want to incite laziness by saying that. I want to inspire action; 28% of trans women are infected with HIV, which is staggering. One out of every two people attempt suicide in the trans community, which is also staggering. One out of five of us experiences homelessness, and one out of five are denied housing. And unemployment is two times greater than in the general population. Once we get a job, 90% of trans people experience harassment on the job. And we’re still banned from serving in the military. I identify with many of these statistics. I am HIV positive, I have attempted suicide, I have been homeless, I have been harassed on the job, I have been unemployed because of my transness. I don’t really want to serve in the military, but I would love to have the right.
How do you feel about Caitlyn Jenner being the face of the trans community?
Our entire community is based on diversity. The thing I want to stress is that our movement can’t have one person be a voice for us. The more stories that are told, the better. And her story is one of many that needs to be heard.
How do we move forward?
More (entertainment) executives need to put stories into the hands of trans people. The important thing is to listen to trans people, to bring in trans people to your writers room, and not just take them to lunch, but employ them. And to give trans people the opportunity to represent themselves.