As a part of CLPR Occassional Talks, CLPR hosted TransRights Activist Jessica Lynn on 27th September 2017. The talk was focused on Transgender Rights and Family Law, through the lens of Jessica’s own journey. Jessica lost her complete parental rights to her youngest son due to her gender transition in 2011 and has dedicated her life to creating an awareness on Transgender rights and issues. Jessica spoke to us prior to the talk, addressing her work and motivation, as well as her experiences in India. We have produced the same as a podcast.
It is also accessible on SoundCloud on the following link : https://soundcloud.com/clprpodcast/clpr-monthly-talks-transgender-rights-and-family-law-jessica-lynns-journey
The transcript is as follows:
Aashima: Hi, my name is Aashima and I’m a Research Consultant at the Centre for Law and Policy Research. Today’s podcast is being recorded on the 27th September 2017. For today’s podcast, we’re doing an interview with Jessica Lynn who is a famous TransRight activist and advocate, as well as an Educator and Public Speaker. She has been committed to increasing transgender awareness in the community for many years now. As a parent, she has been fighting to see her youngest son after a Texas Court removed her parental rights of her then 12 year old boy due to her gender transition. She currently works as the president of Your True Gender, a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to educating the community on transgender issues. Hi Jessica, welcome to Centre for Law and Policy Research.
Jessica: Thank you for having me. Really excited to be here.
Aashima: So I just have a few questions. You’ve been travelling across India and you’ve been doing talks in colleges and universities. What do you feel are the biggest challenges usually faced by the Transgender community when it comes to family rights?
Jessica: Discrimination. People do not understand it and so they say it’s a choice and so a lot of kids get kicked out of the house if they come out trans, non-binary, queer, somewhere in that shade of grey and people kick them out, and so these kids are homeless. This is very common here in India is what I’m hearing. This happens a great deal in the United States, and there’s just major-major discrimination against people like ourselves. So what we need to do is educate the people that we’re just normal, everyday people; and I find that the very best way to make the movement a better way for the transgender community.
Aashima: If I ask specifically with relation to family law, like marriage, parental custody, adopting etc, what do think there are the biggest challenges, and how do you feel we can change the law to start accommodating the Transgender identity much more than it does right now?
Jessica: We’re not looking for anything extra. We’re looking for equality. In my case, I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, two experts stated that I was a better parent, and yet a judge removed all my parental rights because I transitioned. You find it in the United States, that a lot of parents that go through transition issues have huge battles upon their hands fighting their exes, their other spouses, their ex spouse, you know, about custody, and visitation and just to see their child and the one parent usually turns the child against the other parent, and it’s very very common. And then you have now children that are coming out as transgender and in the United States you have parents saying ‘no, I don’t want my child transitioning’ and the other parent saying yes, so you have court battles going on and on about that. So it’s a very tricky thing. What we really need to do is to just teach people that we want to be treated equal. And that’s my goal, is as you said, and I tend to hit the colleges and the universities, and I do it around the globe and I hit as many as I can because you guys are the twenty’s-twenty-five year olds. You’re going to be a parent one day, you’re going to be teacher, you’re going to be an attorney, and you’re going to have clientale, and you’re going to have a child that comes to you and says ‘I don’t fit in that shade, I fit somewhere in that shade in the middle’, right? And you’re not going to kick them out, you’re going to raise that child to see who that child is, if he wants to be a girl, or if she wants to be a boy, or if they want to fit somewhere in the non-binary category, you’re learning and accepting them. And this is what I think is by hitting these key people, is the way we’re going to change the future. It’s not going to happen overnight. Our country, we’ve passed major laws and our new administration has come and removed them all. So laws aren’t always the greatest thing, but what we can do is to just educate. Laws are important but people remove laws just like what’s happening with us. But if we can educate the people, the future parents, the future teachers, the future lawyers, and the future Supreme Court justices, we’re going to change the world, inside out, and we’re going to do it properly, so there will be no more setback. That’s my goal.
Aashima: That’s great! So in light of your own experience in India, what would you say- how do you feel the people are- are they receptive, are they aware of transgender rights issues?
Jessica: I mean, it’s a really weird situation here. It’s because what you have is that the trans community is kicked out, and you have, and I cannot pronounce the name, but basically a cult that holds these transgender people in, so they don’t work, they’re beggars or they’re street workers, and prostitutes, and that’s the only people that they have. So what we need to do is to integrate, so that the people, we can get them regular jobs and so that they don’t have to go out there and work on the streets, and they can go out there and become an attorney, and become a doctor, and become a school teacher, and become a crossing guard, whatever it is. Just because they happen to be part of the transgender community, doesn’t mean that they can’t do it. Some of the most intelligent people in the world happen to be a part of the transgender community. So it will open up. And that’s why I said that the very best thing to do is by doing it this way. Forgive me, I forgot what your question was.
Aashima: Generally, do you feel people are aware?
Jessica: Yes, I do. In the colleges and universities that I’ve been with, and it’s usually the older people that are the problem. But in the colleges and universities, I’ve spoken to numerous law schools here in India, I think my trip I would have been here twenty days, and I’ve done twenty different campuses, from Calcutta, to Delhi, to Hyderabad, all over your country. And these are the top law schools of your country and these students are completely receptive. I’ve never met a student yet that has said ‘you know what, I’m going to kick my trans child’ or ‘I don’t accept the kids’. So it is changing, because you guys are the future. But the conversation needs to continue. When I leave here, I just happen to be one voice coming in from the United States. I’m attracting attention cause I’m an American transgender woman. But next week, you bring in another transgender woman, the following week you bring in a Transgender man, you continue the conversation and you continue the fight. And the fight is educating the world- to equalise us, to make us be just like everybody else, if that makes sense to you.
Aashima: It does, that’s also sort of what my last question is going to be. What message would you want to give to the audiences who can’t attend the talk today but are listening to this podcast?
Jessica: Is learn acceptance, reach out, learn, talk, communicate is the biggest thing. Don’t be afraid to ask if you know somebody that happens to be part of the transgender community. Talk to them. Ask how they want to be called. Learn from them. Explore it. Don’t just say, ‘oh, it’s a choice’, cause it’s not a choice. Nobody goes through this, that kind of pain their whole life, you’ll see with my presentation here, nobody does that to be different. It just, it doesn’t happen. We don’t want to be outcasts, we want to be part of the normal everyday. I want to sing, I want to dance and be loved. I want to live a normal everyday life. And that’s what I want the rest of the world to do. I want us to be all equal, exact equal, not above not superior, just equal and have equal rights and just to be treated and loved like everybody else. That’s my goal.
Aashima: That’s great! Thank you so much for being here with us today. To our audience, thanks for listening. Do follow us on Facebook at Centre for Law and Policy Research for more such talks and interviews and updates.