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A Voice for Trans Equality

Trans activist Loren Perkins’ State Capitol speech goes viral.

Loren Perkins (courtesy)

Loren Perkins, a genderqueer transgender woman, recently made headlines after appearing at the Texas State Capitol in Austin to publicly speak against proposed anti-LGBTQ laws, including several that would prohibit drag performances across the state. At 39, the Austin-based activist is just getting started as she sounds the battle cry for equality.

“I don’t have a choice but to fight,” she says. “They are coming for us. I cry about it a lot, and I’m tired of crying, so that’s why I’m fighting.”

Perkins’ testimony in March went viral after footage emerged of an LGBTQ activist blocking the Texas Senate’s sergeant-at-arms from taking the mic away from Perkins during her speech. In her biting critiques of the Texas lawmakers, Perkins compared them to Nazis by bringing up the fact that the first books burned by the German fascist group in the 1930s and ’40s were those published by Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research, an organization that embraced transgender and queer people.

“I decided to speak because I wanted to stand in solidarity with my community,” Perkins continues. “I also wanted to show my kid what’s possible when people get together and believe in protecting each other.”

While Perkins may be new to this kind of spotlight, she has been fighting her entire life.

“I didn’t grow up in a very supportive household,” she says. “When I was young, my mom would find me asleep in her closet wearing her blouses and shoes. That behavior was discouraged. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that Tumblr introduced me to the concept of being nonbinary or genderqueer. I finally came out in my late thirties. The hardest part of this journey has been settling into an identity that society isn’t willing to make room for.”

Perkins believes the recent rollback of abortion access was the first step for lawmakers determined to dictate what people can do with their bodies, which directly impacts the trans community.

“Once the government can start making rules about what you are and are not allowed to do with your body, that does not bode well for anyone,” she emphasizes. “That erodes so many liberties and freedoms. It’s the tipping point. We have to be here and show up for trans people because that’s how we fight for ourselves, and that’s how we fight for the rest of us.”

Lawmakers see the trans community as a threat to the straight-white-male status quo they’ve created, which is why so many new bills are being introduced across the country, Perkins says. “They want to defend that status quo, and trans people are at the forefront of dismantling it. This system does not allow everyone to be free.”

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Earlier in April, Texas lawmakers got one step closer to banning puberty blockers and hormone therapies for transgender youth after the House Public Health Committee advanced Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 1686. The current versions of these bills, which will now have to go through the Calendars Committee before getting to the House floor, would require trans youth already receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy to be “weaned off the prescription drug over a period of time and in a manner that is safe and medically appropriate.”

It’s overwhelming and incredibly depressing to try and follow the hundreds of bills that are being proposed across the country, Perkins says.

“It is difficult to [know] which bills to pay attention to when there are so many. They are coming at us from so many different angles and so many possible ways. SB 14 and HB 1686 are rather insidious. Gender-affirming care can help with suicide rates. These surgeries can save lives, but lawmakers want to take that ability out of the hands of doctors and parents. These politicians are essentially saying they don’t care if trans kids die.”

Perkins adds that politicians need to focus on the bigger issues at hand and worry less about what drag queens are doing. “The recent rhetoric about drag performers is ironic, because priests and youth pastors do more damage to children than drag performers do.”

The country is in a dark place after recent abortion laws and anti-LGBTQ legislation, and Perkins believes people with hatred in their hearts aren’t fearful of speaking their minds anymore. 

“I don’t think we are regressing as a society,” she notes. “It’s more of an airing. People have finally been given permission to do what they want to do in their hearts and say what they want to say. Quite honestly, the lawmakers are just responding to this hatred.”

While it’s challenging to stay positive in these dark times, Perkins says she will continue to fight for the transgender community. “I want trans people to live to a ripe old age,” she says. “We deserve the same life as anyone else.”

Perkins calls on the larger cisgender community to start paying more attention to what is happening to LGBTQ rights, because nobody is truly free until everyone is free.

“I have bigger hopes for the cis community than I do for the trans community,” she concludes. “I hope they can see our plight and realize that our fight is their fight. Because, at the end of the day, I am just a regular person, just like anyone else. I am just your neighbor—your neighbor that’s being immediately impacted by these bills.”

Follow Loren Perkins on Twitter @lorenperkins_.

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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