Trans activist Lourdes Ashley Hunter knows how to put her convictions into action.
Upon moving to Washington three months ago and being introduced to many in the LGBT world here through her friend and colleague Ruby Corado, Hunter asked David Mariner, director of the D.C. Center (thedccenter.org), about trans representation on the Center board. Last week she became the first trans woman of color to sit on the board.
Although she’s excited to be involved there, she puts most of her energy into her work launching a national headquarters of the volunteer-led Trans Women of Color Collective (twocc.us), a group she and other activists in New York started in 2013.
The Detroit native is a speaker, educator and consultant on transgender issues. She lives in Adams Morgan and enjoys walking her dog, Cashmere, in the park and cooking for friends in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I never came out. I have always lived my life in my authentic truth. Coming out is a socially constructed narrative that really doesn’t apply to trans people. Not being out can be seen as an act of survival for trans folk. The average income of a trans person is less than 10k, 12 trans women of color were brutally murdered last year in this country. Being out can get you fired, denied housing, health care and many other opportunities in this country. Trans folk are usually “outed.” I prefer to use the framing of “inviting in” (I learned from Wade Davis). That way, I control my narrative.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
My LGBT heroes are every trans woman of color who has lost her life due to violence, hate and transphobia and every trans person who lives in their authentic truth in a society that says we don’t deserve breath. My sisters are brutally murdered for living in their truths. I honor their sacrifices.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’m not sure yet. I don’t hang out much. But I do love that there are so many restaurants and hookah bars in my neighborhood. Even though I have lived here three months, I travel most of the time and so I am still exploring.
Describe your dream wedding.
I don’t dream of getting married. I dream of days where there is no expectation to be married.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I live through an intersectional lens. All issues are LGBT issues. I am most passionate about dismantling structural oppression and violence as it manifests in every aspect of our lives.
What historical outcome would you change?
The creation of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade along with the invasion of my native lands by colonists.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement that has revolutionized the expansion of global social justice networks has been the most memorable moment for me.
On what do you insist?
Aside from honesty, loyalty and accountability, I insist on telling my own narrative.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
My last Tweet was, “There’s no other feeling like when mom call you just to say how she’s so proud not bc she’s mom but bc she’s invested in me and my works!”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Critique the hell out of it.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Life in abundance.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
I would encourage all of us to intentionally make time for self care. To LGB movement leaders, if your organization doesn’t center its work around the most disproportionately marginalized groups (black trans women, youth, seniors, undocumented folk and those who are disabled) then you are actively engaging in erasure, which is an act of violence.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
If it was part of some healing ritual I would be down.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
All stereotypes annoy me equally. If I had to chose the one I hear the most, when asking LGBT organizations why they don’t have trans women of color in leadership roles and on their boards, I usually hear that trans women of color cannot be found, that we do not show up, that we not qualified and cannot lead our movements. When in fact, we are more than qualified and have been leading our own movements for quite some time.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
All movies are LGBT. I don’t have a favorite movie but my favorite genre is science fiction.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The performance of gender. Can we just divorce gender roles already?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish that I knew that all my dreams and ambitions would come true.
It is critical that the narratives, lived experiences and leadership of trans women of color are visible in our nation’s capital. For far too long, decisions have been made for our lives without any regard to our leadership or our needs. We have been told that we cannot lead. We have been told that trans women of color never show up and speak for themselves. We have been told that there is no funding or that we are not qualified to lead our movements. I moved to the District not only because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived, but to also dispel these myths.