SEATTLE -- Caitlyn Jenner becomes the most high-profile American to identify herself as a transgender. Now, transgender communities around the country are reacting.
“I think that that cover broke the Internet today,” says Shaun Knittel of Social Outreach Seattle.
Monday night, around Knittel`s dining room table, a conversation has begun.
“As a person that did not pay attention to the Kardashians and all of that stuff, I was just confused. I knew who Bruce Jenner was and I thought, ‘OK, but why is this such a big deal?’” says Knittel.
This, after the surprise early reveal of Jenner`s Vanity Fair cover photo took social media by storm. And who could understand Jenner`s story better than Mac McGregor.
“I want to feel comfortable walking in the world and be respected for who I am,” says McGregor.
Before transitioning at 40 years old, Mac was on the U.S. karate team and the highest-ranking female martial artist in the world. He also worked as a bodyguard to multiple celebrities.
But the fame, the spotlight, the glamor; that`s not the reality for most transgender people.
“As a low income trans-woman of color, my life is nothing like Caitlyn Jenner’s life,” says Tobi Hill-Meyer, a Trans Policy Consultant and Diversity Trainer.
Tobi hopes Jenner’s cover will not only spark conversation , but also be a chance to educate others about the daily struggles many transgender people experience every day.
“Whether that`s trying to find a doctor who can understand my medical needs, find an employer who isn`t going to discriminate me or create a harassing workplace, even just wanting to walk down the street without being profiled or harassed,” says Tobi.
“I try to be very strong. I try not to get offended so easily, but it doesn`t matter how strong you are or how you pretend to be strong. Sometimes it hurts. I may not tell my friends or family, but when I go home I think, man, that does hurt,” says local business owner Tanya Rachinee.
Rachinee hopes through talking openly and honestly, more compassion and understanding will follow.
“People need to know because if you keep it to yourself, you keep it hidden. Nobody would know and so you put yourself in a box,” says Rachinee.
And so here in Seattle, the conversation continues. The understanding is growing.
“To move to an area where diversity is not tolerated, it's celebrated, that`s the beauty of a place like Seattle,” says McGregor.
Maybe one day, we won`t need letters or labels to identify human beings. Maybe one day, just being will be enough.
For more information and support groups check out these websites http://sasgcc.org/links/transgender