As a transgender man working in social justice in the nation’s capital, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen knows visibility is more important now than ever.
“There’s a stereotype that trans people always knew they were trans since they were kids. That’s true for some of our community, but not everyone. Personally, I always knew that something didn’t fit, that something was off, but I didn’t know what, and the lack of visibility is a big part of that,” Heng-Lehtinen told HRC. “It took me meeting other trans masculine people to realize that’s who I was. Once I learned about transmasculinity, I immediately understood why I had been struggling for so long. That’s the power of visibility. We all need to see ourselves in the world around us.”
Heng-Lehtinen, the deputy executive director at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the increased visibility of transgender people in the media “blows his mind.”
“When I was growing up, not only were there very few trans people on TV, but those few trans people were portrayed disrespectfully…I never dreamed we would see so many positive, complex portrayals of our community,” he said. “This progress is a testament to the power of activism. I’d like to see this continue. The best stories are inspired by the diversity of real life. There are still a ton of powerful trans stories out there waiting to be brought to life for audiences around the world.”
Allies could help raise those powerful stories by ensuring that all social justice issues are intersectional with transgender issues and that transgender people have a seat at the table.