How Janet Mock & 'The Trans List' Stars Are Continuing The Fight For Equality In Trump's America
"I was hoping that tonight would be a celebration of this film and of the future of trans rights," The Trans List director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders tells Bustle at the movie's New York City premiere. Less than two weeks after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, subjects and supporters of the documentary turned out for a screening at the Paley Center For Media. The Trans List premieres on HBO on Dec. 5 and features interviews with a diverse lineup of transgender activists. The tone of the evening was still positive, but definitely muted. Greenfield-Sanders joined his interviewees in disappointment over Trump's win, especially as it pertains to the empowerment and well-being of transgender people. "I think it’s going to be more difficult," Greenfield-Sanders says. "I think we’re in a space now out there that’s full of hate, full of marginalization. I think it’ll be a harder fight."
Prolific TV presenter and author Janet Mock conducted the interviews for The Trans List and is also a producer. She coped with election results by practicing self-care and then sending her efforts out into the community. "The first thing I did was center myself and center my own feelings," Mock says. "But beyond that, I made sure all the organizations — all the grassroots trans organizations for and by trans folk — I ensured that I upped my donations and reached out to them to make sure they have the resources they need, and I tried to follow their lead."
Trans Latin@ Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo plans to rise to the occasion of a new and most likely less welcoming political and public climate for transgender people. "The way that I and many of us in the community are dealing with this is really thinking about how we are going to step up," Salcedo declares. "We know that challenges are coming our way." In Los Angeles, Salcedo and her colleagues are already responding to the emotional and physical needs of the community at the new Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness.
Trans People of Color Coalition founder Kylar Broadus agrees. "You have to make lemonade out of lemons," he says. "We have to gather ourselves and we have to do a lot of education. We’re going to be fighting an uphill battle." Broadus was the first transgender person to testify in front of the Senate and has been consulted by President Obama regarding discrimination and trans rights. He offers his time and expertise to the president elect as well. "I’d be happy to have a face-to-face with Mr. Trump to have these discussions," he says.
"To be quite frank, I wasn’t surprised," Army veteran and activist Shane Ortega says of the election results. "I’m a brown guy and I’m a trans person in America. But I think the reality is that the American public was quite surprised, and that obviously shows that we have to start using empathy." Ortega hopes this outcome has woken people up to the experience of marginalized groups and plans to combat complacency by continuing to organize coordinated protests across the country.
Famed civil rights attorney and staunch Clinton supporter Gloria Allred came out to support The Trans List too. "I always say, 'first we cry and then we fight,'" Allred tells Bustle. "And we are all fighting. And it is going to be a very challenging four years — hopefully not eight — for everyone who cares about women’s rights, transgender rights, lesbian and gay rights, and we are going to have to be more vigilante than ever." Allred encourages her fellow allies to stand up for those rights wherever they're being threatened and pledges to do the same. "We’re going to be fighting in the courts and in the streets. And in the court of public opinion," she promises.
"This is the worst ever our country has ever been," says transgender activist and adult performer Buck Angel. "I’m really scared. It’s worse than people are even speaking about." But Angel finds hope in the increased awareness and acceptance he sees of transgender children. In The Trans List, Angel talks about being suicidal as a young person who felt like he was living in the wrong body. "I met a little boy who used to be a little girl, who got an award," he says. "I saw myself. I saw myself at 11. That changed everything for me. He’s gonna grow up to be a normal kid."
Transgender teen Nicole Maines calls it "honor to be able to speak out for the younger generation." And despite the steps backward a Trump presidency seems to represent, she's impressed by the way supporters of all ages respond to hate, especially online. "What I’ve noticed in the last few years is that if a negative comment or post does pop up, it is met with so much positive pushback," Maines says. "I think that’s one of the most powerful thing about social media. You’ll see people come out of nowhere. They drop down from the ceiling, like, 'I got you.'"
The Trans List is a striking, emotional, and essential piece of documentary filmmaking that has even more resonance in the reality its subjects and director hoped would never come to pass.