There are only 700,000 transgender identified people in the US versus around 8 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual people according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Here is Danielle King’s story in her words:
Before I began to transition in 2003, no one was really talking about gender. Being transgender was still associated with drag queens on the “Jerry Springer” show or with prostitutes. That was it.
We certainly didn’t discuss it in my Catholic household in Camden, N.J. It took me until after I graduated from college at 22 to learn about and express my gender identity.
During the first five years of my transition, I had to educate my family. I would wage these personal wars with them, constantly telling them, “It is unacceptable to use inappropriate gender pronouns with me, to not refer to me as Danielle.” After all, my middle name has always been Danielle! (My father contended that it was misspelled, but my mother told the real truth—how she’d carried me with the hopes of having a girl. But upon learning that I was born male, she made it my middle name.)
Lost and Found
Eventually, I found a support system on the street, in gay clubs and in the ballroom scene. Folks I met there would say, “Yes, you can be who you are, but maybe you want to consider prosthetics or silicone injections to complete the look.” It was common knowledge that many of them would resort to stealing in order to finance the beauty they’d obtained.
I would also meet these very attractive black transgender women who were prostituting themselves. I didn’t engage in it myself, but I would hang out with them on the street corner to learn from them and to develop closer relationships with my peers.
I’m not trying to create a grim picture; this is just the way that they knew how to survive. Only out of fear did I not choose these options. It wasn’t because I had more self-worth than them.
Since then, I have seen many of my peers die because they lacked healthy, legal support systems that allowed them to grow into their womanhood. That’s the greatest motivator for me. It’s why I started the National Aurora Campaign, a nonprofit that links transgender people of color with one another so that we live longer, healthier lives. It’s been a slow process—definitely a labor of love. But one day it will create a network and sisterhood for black transgender women the way the Deltas or the Alpha Kappa Alphas do.”