Leadership in the Movement

Because trans rights affect the world at large and are not limited to any country or any group of people like the Civil Rights Movement was, it has set the tone for many individuals to represent the fight. The organization is led around constructive dialogue, consistent vision, and education as a resource for both trans people within the community and others outside of the community who may identify from a range of gender identities. Many of the leaders are more prominent than others, most of them from countries that encourage free speech. Leaders especially in those countries tend not only to have core/central messages, but also a sense of celebrity that comes with their image. This is because a key part of the message is trans visibility and awareness for trans rights. Actress Laverne Cox maintains two roles in her leadership: activist and representative. Her face and her actions, for many Americans who are not familiar with the trans community, are direct representations of trans people that shape the way others perceive the trans community. Her image is synonymous with her work.

Similarly, activist Leslie Feinberg was involved in creating literature, something that proved to reach out to a different audience. While Cox pursued media via television and the big screen, Feinberg pursued the literary world with her Stone Butch Blues (and other works). Neither of these women intended to create separate movements with central philosophies, as both had similar goals of education. Unlike MLK’s huge, individual role in leading non-violence in the Civil Rights Movement, trans activism has used many voices to lead. This is in part because of the nature of the movement: the movement is young and susceptible to change. The Civil Rights Movement affected black people in America, but the trans movement affected trans people everywhere. The language, the ideology, the goals and visions of the movement are constantly being reformed and remodeled to better fit a common end goal that could benefit all trans people across the world.

Personally, I believe that the most effective way to organize a movement is through figureheads and defined leaders. These leaders can become corrupt and their image may become damaged, but the sense of common identity that comes with idolizing one figure is essential to a fast-paced movement. There is no Chinese communism without Mao, there is no “I have a dream” without MLK’s voice claiming such an identity to “I,” and there will not be a central or realized end goal for the Trans movement without a figurehead who can encapsulate the importance of the movement in one identity.



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