LA LGBT Center’s Resistance Squad Volunteer Jen Rivers
This spring through the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Resistance Squad, I had the opportunity as an LGBT ally to help uplift the stories of trans and gender non-conforming youth who are overrepresented and underserved in the foster care system. We traveled to Sacramento and visited district offices across California, sharing our stories with legislators in support of AB 2119. I realized how sharing our personal stories can make real change when, on September 14, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2119, a landmark bill ensuring the right to access gender affirming care for all foster youth in California.
What makes the Resistance Squad’s approach to advocacy so impactful is its premise that we each have our own unique, authentic stories that, when shared, can help create transformative change. I found that sharing my story, as someone whose own life experience helped me see the importance of allyship, was an opportunity to reach legislators in a new way.
When the day came, I shared that I remembered what it felt like to not be emotionally supported when my thoughts and understanding of gender identity surfaced in my own life. Because of a medical condition found in adolescence, my body did not match my gender identity. It was a confusing, lonely time. Because I wasn’t able to explore my gender identity in healthy, nonjudgmental, and constructive ways, I struggled with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. “This is why I advocate for AB 2119”, I said. “It is my belief that everyone, including foster youth, should have access to gender affirming care.”
After the meeting, a staff member approached me and said, “Thank you for sharing your story.” I knew that together, we had made a difference. My Resistance Squad colleague Katrina Jagelski reminds me of just how important sharing that story and connecting with one another is whenever we do an action. As she put it, these actions are about “coming together, seeing each other, and being present for each other.”
I find that every time I share my story and find a way to connect it to where change and understanding are needed, I heal a little bit more. The Sacramento experience reminded me of how transforming the shame and isolation I had felt into greater connection and understanding can help both others and myself. I’m thankful to the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Resistance Squad for giving me this opportunity.
If you are inspired to lend your heart and story to help the fight for trans rights, please join our phone bank on Sunday, October 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. We need to make sure Massachusetts’ voters stand to uphold current trans protection laws and vote “YES on 3” in November! You can RSVP to protect trans rights with the Resistance Squad at lalgbtcenter.org/protect