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VIDEO: Community members to gather for Transgender Day of Empowerment

SAN DIEGO – Community members will gather tonight at The San Diego LGBT Community Center for the ninth Transgender Day of Empowerment, an event organized each year to celebrate the transgender community and its accomplishments.

The free event, which begins at 6 pm, will include a series of speakers, followed by community awards, entertainment and refreshments. This year’s celebration will explore “Then and Now,” taking a look at what it was like to be transgender 20 years ago, as opposed to someone who coming out today.

“We are bringing the older and the younger perspective together,” said Connor Maddocks, facilities manager at The Center and one of the event’s organizers.

Maddocks said that he expects everyone who attends the event to walk away feeling inspired, lifted up and empowered, with a greater understanding of the diverse and courageous transgender community.

Tracie O’Brien, founder of the event, continues to help organize Transgender Day of Empowerment each year. She said the program was created to give a voice and a face to the transgender community, which is often overlooked.

“We got together just to be an empowered community because we’re often the silent ‘T’ in LGBT,” O’Brien told SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.

“The transgender community is unlike the other part of our community because we live a stealth existence. We come together to network, exchange numbers, exchange information … and then we go back and live our authentic lives.”

Maddocks agreed, saying that the event is very important to some members of the transgender community.

“For the transgender community, I think it’s foremost a night to gather together with old friends and to meet new friends,” Maddocks said. “It’s a night of hope for our future and a celebration of our victories, both small and large. For me, it’s a night to say we are here, we matter, and look at the amazing things we do.”

To celebrate those accomplishments organizers will present awards to individuals who have fought for and supported the rights and inclusion of the transgender community. This year’s honorees will be announced at tonight’s celebration.

Maddocks encourages everyone, including non-transgender individuals, to attend the program.

“We want the non-transgender community to get to know who we are and the wonderful things we do,” Maddocks said. “Fostering a relationship with allies is always a good thing for everyone. The entire LGBT community supports each other and works together, so we should celebrate each other as well.”

Nothing that there is sometimes a disconnect between the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities with the transgender community, Maddocks said that he wants members of the LGB communities to know that his community supports them.

“We want to not only get to know you, but for you to know us as well,” Maddocks said. “This community is such a wonderful mix of so many kinds of people that we do ourselves a disservice when all the parts never get to know each other.”

Maddocks said that the transgender community’s struggle for equality is a “human fight,” just as it is for the LGB community.

“It is about civil rights, dignity and respect,” Maddocks said. “We all want to be treated as human beings equal to everyone else under the law and in society, free from hate and violence. We need the support of all our allies to keep progress moving forward. We are really in this together.”

Maddocks all said that people should be more aware of how much alike the transgender community is with others.

“Being transgender is about our gender identity and whether we identify as male or female or none of the above,” he said. “But, like everyone else, we also have a sexual orientation and many members of the transgender community are gay or lesbian or bisexual and therefore actually belong to both groups.”

The details

Transgender Day of Empowerment begins at 6 pm tonight in the auditorium of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, 3909 Centre St. in Hillcrest.

For more information call (619) 692-2077.

Scenes from last year's Transgender Day of Empowerment