A film star who plays a transgender female inmate and is a transgender female in real life.
A 14-year-old girl who started out life as a boy.
A poet who describes himself as “a fat hairy brown femme-trans-masculine queer bodied magic pony.”
This was the lineup for the annual Spirit Day Rally at the College of Charleston Thursday.
There were tears amid tales of pain and bullying, but mostly there was laughter, the release that comes from sharing stories among those who accept you for who you are.
The rally takes a stand against bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex youth. Laverne Cox, the transgender actress on “Orange Is the New Black,” was the keynote speaker.
“Shame has been such a big part of my life,” she told 400 or 500 people who filled most of the seats in Physicians Auditorium.
“Today I stand before you proud.”
She grew up in Mobile, Ala., and didn’t accept who she was until she moved to New York City.
“We know who we are,” she said. “I knew that I was a girl, but everyone else was telling me I was a boy.”
She said she still sometimes encounters hostility from men when walking down the street.
“Our lives are often in danger for simply being who we are,” she said. “I so often feel our oppressors are in a lot of pain.”
Cox warmly applauded the speakers who preceded her, and she broke into a big laugh when 22-year-old Devi Raheja was introduced.
Raheja, a Southerner of Indian ancestry, described himself as “a fat hairy brown femme-trans-masculine queer bodied magic pony,” and he spoke wearing a big, glittery homemade headpiece.
“My body does make others uncomfortable,” he told the crowd. “I am a woman, and I also am a man.”
Sera Guerry, 14, was born as Seth but started asking, when she was 3 years old, “Mommy, when is God going to make me a girl,” according to her mother, Amy Guerry of Moncks Corner.
Sera started dressing like a girl in the 5th grade, which is also when she started getting picked on.
“It’s not easy at all,” she said. “There’s a lot of bullying, and it sucks.”
But the biggest problem is trying to get the insurance company to pay for shots that prevent male adolescence, according to her mother.
Amy Garbati, director of Charleston Area Transgender Support, also spoke. She encouraged those struggling with identity to be themselves.
“That honesty will eventually disarm the bullies,” she said.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or follow him on twitter @dmunday.