To most, I am Trey C. Phillips. To many of my family members, I am Sasha Phillips. I am an 18-year-old transgender male, born and raised in the African American community. A community, I must add, that doesn't take a lot of LGBTQIA+ issues to heart or even consider them to be issues. Despite this, not only do many LGBTQIA+ community folk exist and thrive within the black community, our gender identities are huge parts of many of our identities. There is this stigma that being queer takes away from our blackness or makes the African American community look bad. There have also been times where I have been asked, "Aren't there enough issues that you are having already? Why would you want to add being transgender on top of that?" At first, I was honestly appalled, but when I gathered my thoughts, I realized that this issue was bigger than me. Being a person of color has not only showed me how difficult it is to be young and trans, but also how hard it is to undergo this journey of mine and continue my transition on top of trying to squeeze out family support.
For many people of color, we depend on family for support in all areas, especially when it comes down to our identities. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted for who they are no matter what, but sometimes being "different" isn't always seen as a good thing. I am transgender, an African American and I come from a semi-religious background on both sides of my family. When I came out as trans, it was really not at all accepted. I was told that it was a sin, that I was going through a phase and that I didn't know what I wanted or what I was talking about. All of that was honestly painful to hear, but it was also expected. I have learned that sometimes family won't always be supportive and that having people by your side who do support you is very important.
When I came out as transgender, it was difficult, but I had my best friend and a lot of my other friends by my side. I also had my brothers on the Bro7herhood YouTube channel and many others by my side. I was constantly told by other people, however, that I would be ruining my life or that I was already “beautiful” the way I was, so why would I change that? Being transgender isn't something that you just choose to be, however — it's who you are, just like you don't get to choose the color of your skin when you come out of the womb.
Being transgender and being a part of the African American community, based off of my own experience, hasn't been easy. For me, it all began with family and not everyone being accepting of things that are different than what they are used to. A lot of my transgender brothers and sisters that come from different family backgrounds have different levels of support, but overall, it's not all unicorns and rainbows. Now, believe me, I am not asking for sympathy, but I am asking that we take a closer look at this problem. Support systems are important and when we don't have them, life can be very difficult. In times like these, especially with the political climate we have today, we must be wary. Don't forget to say, "I love you," to friends and family and maybe throw in a, "You matter," or, "You are valid." You never know — it can honestly change a person's life. As humans, we all must stand together and support each other because we are literally all we have. Educating more people on transgender issues, for starters, would be a really big help and relief.
Lead Image Credit: Lubunya via Wikimedia Commons