This Friday, GAPIMNY members will join Trans Day of Action in NYC from 2-5 PM at Pier 45. Let us know if you are coming by emailing [email protected]. In this interview, we speak with Ryan Shen, GAPIMNY’s first transgender Co-Chair, to talk about his journey and why GAPIMNY continues to support Trans Day of Action.
Could you share with us a bit about who you are and your journey as a transgender man?
I’m Ryan Shen, I am co-chair of GAPIMNY. I’m also trans. As a transgender man, one of my greatest challenges is to have conviction in my gender identity. It’s challenging because society has denied the validity of transgender as an identity, society has many social expectations of men, and there’s a lot of talk about what’s in a man’s pants as the defining feature of his masculinity.
Another challenge is that I’m Asian American and my immigrant parents have imposed a lot of traditional family values and expectations on me. I have been struggling to have conversations with my parents because of my strained relationship with them and my limited fluency in Chinese, but I really want to resolve some of my conflicts with them. But not having the words to talk about being trans has been hard.
Where have you found resiliency and joy?
When I started my transition, at times I have felt that even my friends tested my conviction. Since then, I only hold close those who support me even when I am wavering through self-doubt — like my girlfriend who has challenged others very fiercely when they suggest that trans men are confused butches. I also look up to Laverne Cox and Janet Mock as “possibility models”.
What are some of the most pressing issues impacting people who are transgender today?
The trans community has been traumatized over and over by the loss of trans folks, especially trans women, to hate violence. The NYC Anti-Violence Project has alarming statistics about the number of trans women we have lost. And when the story makes it into the news, if it makes the news, the wrong name and gender are used to talk about the victim. Additionally, if trans people survive, they have to go through the legal system. We know that the legal system is biased against both transgender folks and people of color — more willing to criminalize or treating them more harshly — as we’ve heard in the case of CeCe McDonald.
This lack of respect for the lives of trans people also impact everything from access to education, employment, health care, restrooms and other public facilities.
Why should folks, particularly those who are cisgender, support Trans Day of Action?
Trans Day of Action is an opportunity to come together to demand that society change the treatment of the trans people of color community in a way that will impact community member’s lives.
To me, my friends, family members, and community members from groups like GAPIMNY who come out to support Trans Day of Action are saying to me, “I got your back.”