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Where It Begins
Posted on July 20, 2016

LA Launch

Speakers from the LA launch: Rabbi Becky Silverstein, Isa Noyola, [Partipant], Shear Avery, Maria Roman, Pat Manuel, Rick Zbur, Kris Hayashi

Transform California, which was co-founded by Equality California and The Transgender Law Center along with over two dozen other groups, officially this year with a series of events around the state. Transform California is a campaign working to make California a state where transgender and gender nonconforming people can live safely, happily and free from discrimination. This project emerged in a climate where transgender and gender nonconforming people face disproportionate rates of violence and harassment, and where lawmakers around the country have advanced proposals that single out transgender people for discrimination under the law. Transform California raises awareness through public education and outreach by lifting up the stories of amazing transgender and gender nonconforming Californians and their friends, families, and allies.

On April 18, Transform California made a splash with a rally on the steps of the LA City Hall. Speakers included legislators like Mayor Eric Garcetti alongside community leaders like Kris Hayashi of the Transgender Law Center and Rick Zbur of Equality California. Mayor Garcetti said, “Trans people should have the freedom to live their lives, to dream, and to plan for the future without worrying about their safety or basic rights. I am proud to add my voice to the broad coalition supporting Transform California…”

Shear Avery is an amazing multiracial and gender nonconforming leader who spoke at our Los Angeles launch event. Throughout their time at school, they encountered bullied and harassed for their identity. “I endured emotional, verbal, and physical harassment and bullying in 13 schools. In my sophomore year of high school, it escalated to the point that my grades suffered tremendously and I could no longer attend school safely.” For Shear, the campaign is an opportunity to remind people that educators, family, and other students can be allies; harassment and bullying does not have to be the norm for trans and gender nonconforming students.

The mayor and attendees took the opportunity to sign Transform California’s pledge to learn more and be an ally of the transgender and gender nonconforming community.

The momentum continued in San Francisco and San Jose with speakers daring to share personal experiences with crowds of supportive friends,family, and strangers. Driving all events is the fact that trans issues are human issues. For Dexter Fan, a young transgender man, his transition was also struggle with fear of isolation from family and friends. Acceptance of his identity, also meant finding love and understanding from his mother, his friends, and being happy with who he is.

 Michelle Honda Phillips, the mother of a transgender girl, found that Transform California presents the chance to shift attitudes so that other families can be drawn closer through transitions instead missing out a crucial experience in their children’s lives. “We don’t want other families to have to figure things out on their own and to have to lose years of seeing their incredible child for their true self.”

Speaking in San Francisco, Pau Laugarde shared his challenges when he transitioned from female to male. “Coming from a conservative, Catholic and Mexican family, I didn’t even know what being transgender meant until I was older. I was raised in Orange, a place where there is very little visibility and representation for the LGBTQ community.” Pau’s challenges are shared by many others in the transgender community. “We know that those of us who do often face insurmountable challenges due to discrimination, harassment and economic insecurity. We are more likely to suffer from depression and nearly half have attempted suicide.” Pau’s words draw attention to the severity of these issues which demands increased education and visibility to prevent lost or damaged lives.

But Pau’s story is equally one of positivity and growth. “This journey for my family was challenging but, together we have persevered and have grown closer to each other. It’s a transition process that we are all part of. My family realized that they didn’t lose a daughter – they still had their same child, and they’re proud of me.”

Transform California is planning upcoming launches in more locations like San Diego and the Central Valley where it will continue raising up the voices of people like Michelle, Dexter, and Pau, and so many others, for a kinder, safer California.


Dexter Fan speaks at the San Jose Launch of Transform California (photo: Drago Renteria)



Michelle Honda Phillips at the San Jose Launch of Transform California (photo: Drago Renteria)



Pau Laugarde at the San Francisco launch (Photo: Drago Renteria)

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