Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance — a day dedicated to honoring and remembering the lives lost to anti-transgender violence and discrimination. Transgender Day of Remembrance was created in 1999 by advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith, in honor of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was killed in 1998.
Remembering fallen trans people is difficult for me, as it brings me back to the many friends I’ve lost due to the violence they’ve encountered just for being themselves. On the other hand, it makes me appreciate that I am still standing strong as a transgender woman, especially after going through so many hardships and abuse to get to where I am today, a successful and fearless real estate agent.
I can’t help but also remember my own journey during this day of remembrance. Being transgender was never a choice; I knew I was a girl from the time I was three years old. It wasn’t until I was constantly reminded I was a “boy” that I would start to notice I was different.
Growing up in the 1980s, there were no transgender icons or role models for me to look up to, so I truly felt alone in my journey. I would be bullied constantly, which would make me cry myself to sleep each night because people wouldn’t accept me for me. Once I hit 10 years old, I finally decided to embrace who I am. I was going to be a girl no matter what; no one could stop me.
Fearlessness is truly what brought me out of those dark times. The new attitude is what eventually made me decide to drop out of school when I was 14. I’d had enough of teachers and staff telling me that I couldn’t express myself with feminine clothing and makeup, so I simply set myself free of that environment. This was a big step in enforcing my identity as a woman.
I’ve been happy ever since I took that leap of faith, but I still faced instances of discrimination as I got older. After many years of struggling to find the right job that would accept me for being trans, I decided to take matters into my own hands and become a real estate agent. Now, I choose to ignore any negativity directed toward me and only focus on the positive. I will always choose my own happiness.
Despite a lack of transgender representation growing up, I always had great insight into what it means to be transgender. Being trans doesn’t just necessarily mean someone is born in the “wrong” body; it means so much more than that and can be a different experience for other trans people.
Being trans is no more of a choice than it is for anyone else to be who they are. Non-LGBTQ+ people get to decide who they are, and how they want to present themselves to the world, so trans people should be afforded that same luxury.
The first step to better understanding transgender people and being supportive is not to be afraid of us. Realize that trans people are just like everyone else. We are unapologetically ourselves. Recognizing us for who we are and not our appearance or sexuality can help trans people feel more comfortable when working with us as clients.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story and hopefully open everyone’s hearts to what transgender people want most: To be treated as a person first, just like everyone else.
Jamie Zapata is a Realtor and LGBTQ+ advocate based in San Antonio, Texas, where she specializes in serving the needs of a diverse client base. After experiencing a lifetime of challenges, Jamie found success as the first out and proud transgender Realtor in her local area. She often speaks publicly to raise awareness for trans and LGBT equality. Jamie has been awarded and recognized nationally for her work in the community. Connect with her on Facebook.