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Opinion: I'm a transgender woman. I shouldn't have to prove it is OK for me to be who I am.

San Diego Union Tribune logo San Diego Union Tribune 1/29/2021 Pamuela Halliwell
a woman holding a sign posing for the camera: Pamuela Halliwell is a transgender licensed therapist at the LGBT Community Center. (Pamuela Halliwell) © (Pamuela Halliwell) Pamuela Halliwell is a transgender licensed therapist at the LGBT Community Center. (Pamuela Halliwell)

Halliwell is a licensed therapist at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, she lives in San Diego. The author's pronouns are she/her/hers.

My name is Pamuela Halliwell, and I am a Black woman. I am more than a woman, I am also a transgender woman. I am a woman who wears many hats and does many things. I am therapist at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, which has proudly served the transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming community for decades. I am secretary of the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, which last year proudly started San Diego’s first Emergency Fund for the Black Transgender Community. I am also a member of the Gender Phluid Collective, a program that primarily serves to support BIPOC LGBTQ communities.

I am frustrated with having to fight for my right to be able to peacefully live my life as I am. I am disheartened by having to prove over and over again that it is OK for me to be who I am. I am outraged by attacks by the former administration that tried to remove my rights to live and be free, whatever freedom is deemed as, and seeing members of my community, my trans community, my Black community, being attacked, shot, killed and left for dead with little to no justice.

As a Black transgender woman, in some ways you are sooner faced with your own mortality than your ability to breathe life into your dreams and cultivate a garden of possibilities. I grew tired of the former administration attempting to deny the existence of my gender, having the audacity to question my authenticity as a transgender person, as if strangers can know me better than I can ever know myself, questioning my sanity and my reality. I am appalled and sincerely disappointed that government officials threw ignorant, disrespectful erroneous assaults on both the transgender veterans and active-duty troops who place their lives on the line to serve a country that still isn’t sure if it wants to protect them.

I am incensed by government attempts to limit and prevent access to medically necessary health care, which can be the difference between life and death on many fronts. This is made alarmingly clear by each and every Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we are reminded that it is disproportionately Black and POC (people of color) transgender women who are being killed year after year. The San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Project TRANS held the 18th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. Do you know how many transgender women were killed? Do you know how many of them were Black women or POC?

It is not true that American Black transgender women have an average lifespan of 35, as is sometimes said without the data to back it up. Even so, Black transgender women are proof that we undoubtedly are still being targeted. I want the brutal murders, the hate, the transphobia and the senseless killings to stop. I want transgender women, Black transgender women, Black women, to live. I want us to be able to dream. I want us to be free to foster the dreams that we have set forth and be able to watch them grow to fruition. I want to live to be able to reach motherhood without the fear that one day I will leave my house and not come back.

Our current administration has taken big steps to affirming and protecting trans identities by nominating Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, as assistant health secretary, and overturning the transgender military ban. There is more that we need to do.

Is it too much to ask to be seen, to be seen as the woman I am, to not have to fight for my right and ability to live and be who I am with the same rights that you have?

I am tired, but make no mistake, I am not giving up and I will continue to fight. For many of us have lived, will live and continue to live to do incredible things, seeing our garden of possibilities blossom and bloom bearing fruits. Although the battles are rough, we must continue to celebrate our victories and allow them to rejuvenate us through giving us the power we need to press on. We must take solace in each other and uplift the voices that cannot be heard.

For everyone we have lost, we have the ability to allow them to speak through each of us who stand up against hate. If you are part of the LGBTQ community, then this is also your fight because we are a family. As a beacon of hope, resources are here for you to allow your inner light, when dim, to shine through. We must all be allowed to live free, freedom to dream and freedom to be. Don’t ever give up.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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