Every June we celebrate Pride month here in the United States. In the UK it is observed in July, and many other countries also hold rallies, events, and celebrations commemorating how far we have progressed for LGBTQ plus rights globally, but also as a reminder that we still have work to do. When we think of the phrase The Story of Woman, we think of the often used phrase, “feminism must be intersectional”, meaning we must be mindful of the various intersections so many of us inhabit- gender, financial status, age, race, immigration status, and more in our pursuit for equality.
For us as a platform, and our founder Asha Dahya, feminism must include transgender women, and right now, we are at an inflection point in our global culture where speaking out for trans rights is an imperative. Although we’ve come a long way for trans rights, with data from 2021 recording 77 transgender, non-binary, intersex, and otherwise non cisgender officials serving in public elected positions across the US, 2023 is also a record year for anti-trans legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills, many of which target and attack transgender youth.
Much of the anti-trans rhetoric we see and hear today is driven by fear-mongering, misinformation, bigotry, or the need to score political points. Yet, we know that personal storytelling is a powerful way to break through that noise and bring humanity back into the conversation.
Which is exactly what Asha had the opportunity to do as a guest host on The Story of Woman podcast recently, for their #Changemaker series. Asha interviewed leading transgender activist and civil rights leader Cecilia Chung, known for her barrier-breaking work for LGBTQIA+ rights, HIV / AIDS awareness, health advocacy, and social justice.
An immigrant from Hong Kong, Cecilia has called San Francisco home since 1984. Cecilia has broken ground in a number of ways, including being the first transgender woman and first agent to be elected to the board of directors of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Celebration.
She’s the first transgender woman and first person living openly with HIV to chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, and an architect of the nation’s most ambitious, publicly funded program addressing economic justice within the transgender community. In 2004, as a founding producer of Trans March, she helped organize one of the world’s largest annual transgender events, which has since been replicated in cities across the US.
In 2005, she became the first deputy director of the Transgender Law Center, where she still works today. And in 2013, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV / AIDS, and served for eight years. In 2015, with the support of Transgender Law Center at Elton John AIDS Foundation, Cecilia launched Positively Trans, a national network of transgender people living with HIV that focuses on storytelling policy advocacy and leadership development.
Her impressive list of achievements contains even more than the mere highlights we’ve mentioned here, but the most important aspect of this podcast interview was the way she was willing to be open, candid and speak to an audience that will hopefully share the conversation far and wide, dismantling the hate and discrimination we are seeing a terrifying amount of online and IRL.
“We see a rise in HIV cases among LGBT youth and trans youth, and that’s really disturbing for us to see,” says Cecilia in the interview. “Here we are trying to strategize about how to end the epidemic, but on the other hand, we’re not ending the epidemic of intolerance and discrimination and hate.”
Trans rights are human rights, and as Asha says in her introduction, this is a crescendo moment in the story of woman.
You can listen to The Story of Woman wherever you get your podcasts. Follow the series on Instagram, TikTok, Youtube and Facebook. Head to The Story of Woman website to listen to more #Changemaker interviews, including Asha’s conversation with Black Lives Matter co-creator Alicia Garza, and the series opener featuring Hillary Clinton in conversation with Cherie Blair.
Listen to the full interview with Cecilia Chung below: