Just last month, President Trump's administration rolled back federal protections that allowed transgender students to use gender-appropriate bathrooms. And though it's easy to view this as a discouraging step backward, not all hope is lost — especially if you ask YouTube sensation and activist Gigi Gorgeous. I spoke to Gigi about the Transgender Day of Visibility, and she's promoting a message of love and acceptance, as well as one of perseverance. Her confidence and compassion is exactly what the world needs right now.
"First of all, it's very awful. It's horrible what happened," Gigi says, of the recent bathroom ruling. "And I think it's really important to know that everyone needs to feel like they are worth it and valued. I can't imagine being in school when this is happening, and I think it's also really important to know that this is not the end. If we all stick together as a community, I think love will conquer all."
Making sure that everyone feels worthy and valued is what Friday, March 31 — the International Transgender Day of Visibility — is all about. It’s a day "dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments and victories of transgender & gender non-conforming people while raising awareness of the work that is still needed to save trans lives," according to TDOV.org. To Gigi, this also marks an opportunity to give credit where credit is due. She believes it's an "important day" to spotlight trans individuals, who "have done a great job and deserve some recognition.”
The activist plans to spend the day sharing stories on social media about other standout people in the trans community. Additionally, she'll be speaking with young people at SOMArts in San Francisco. Of the holiday, Gigi says, "It makes me really proud to be a trans person, and I really hope everybody gets involved and makes a really big deal, because I think it deserves to be."
For those who wish to offer their support on the holiday, being an ally is easier than you may think, according to Gigi. Regarding the issue of what cis individuals can do to support the trans community, Gigi is surprisingly straightforward: "I would say on the day-to-day basis, have people in the LGBT community's backs on social media and within your own community. Because sometimes all people need is a friend." As for how to effectively take action, Gigi suggests looking to organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, two causes she champions. On their websites, both offer plenty of resources to help fight back.
Another great resource for information and understanding is Gigi's own documentary, This Is Everything, which is now streaming on YouTube Red & Google Play. "I think it really does educate in a way through storytelling," she says. Teaming up with award-winning director Barbara Kopple, Gigi shares her journey, which she deems "a really real, raw look at a transgender person's life [and] their struggles" — although she does make sure to mention that she's been blessed with a supportive family and friends along the way.
The documentary premiered earlier this year at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and even just the emotional two-minute trailer is enough to spark chills.
"I think it's just honestly a story about love and acceptance and understanding for our community," she says of the film. "And I just hope that it gets seen by the people that need to see it most, or maybe need their minds changed about the trans community."
"This is not the end. If we all stick together as a community, I think love will conquer all."
And here's the thing: While she radiates positivity throughout our phone call, Gigi doesn't strike me as naive, nor is her life all rainbows and sunshine. The internet star made headlines last August for being detained in a Dubai airport for hours, claiming in subsequent interviews that it was because she's transgender. (Bustle reached out to the airport for comment, but has not received a response at the time of publication.)
With experiences like this behind her, Gigi acknowledges that she's had to build a tough skin, especially on YouTube, where every compliment is balanced out by an even harsher critique. Though she admits it's easy to get caught up in the mean comments, she has ways of dealing with it.
"I kind of just try to shoo away the negativity with the positivity, because with the haters comes so much love," she says.
Unfortunately, YouTube comments aren't even the worst of the troubles facing the trans community. According to GLAAD.org, trans people experience unemployment at double the rate of the population. Meanwhile, the organization also notes that transgender people, especially transgender women of color, are "disproportionately" affected by hate violence. In 2017 alone, there have been at least eight transgender people killed, as reported in an ongoing list on GLAAD's website. All eight of those victims were transgender women of color, and, as the site points out, these brutal attacks are often underreported.
Devastated watching the news right now. My heart breaks but it is also with EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of you trans students out there❤— Gigi (@TheGigiGorgeous) February 23, 2017
But despite such negatives, Gigi's attitude focuses on the potential of the future, especially those young people who may be struggling to be true to themselves in a world that isn't always the most accepting.
"I respect you and your time that it takes you to identify as who you really are, or come out of the closet. I know it's very, very difficult," the 24-year-old says, speaking to those young members of the trans community. "But I always like to say, it's not about getting to the finish line, it's about the journey that comes with it. So just count your blessings and surround yourself with people who really love you and care about you."
While Gigi is using the Transgender Day of Visibility to give back and shift the spotlight, she's also deserving of a shout out herself. Her optimism and determination are an unstoppable combination for good, on March 31 and always.