On Tumblr, trans advocate and author Janet Mock recently shared a photo of a JET magazine article, “Getting to Me: Brandi Ahzionae opens up about her life as a transgender woman.” It looks like the publication is going back to its progressive roots. And we’re loving it. ELIXHER got the chance to talk to Brandi Ahzionae about why she chose JET as her platform. If it’s still lingering on your grocery store magazine racks, be sure to pick up the April 29, 2013 issue (“Missing & Black” is the cover story).
ELIXHER: How were you approached about the piece?
BRANDI: I do work in D.C. to help build a community of positive transgender people. I started a group called DMV Trans Circulator that is directly responsible for spreading information with in the trans community. I am very pleased with this project because we have reached into the prisons and are able to support some of the most oppressed transgender people in this community. JET contacted me through a group that I was [affiliated] with called D.C.T.C. (DC Trans Coalition), which is a group of people that stand up and fight for transgender rights here in D.C.
ELIXHER: Why did you think it was important to tell your story and why in a publication like JET?
BRANDI: I thought it was important to tell my story because there are so many people today that are going through the very things that I had to go through, with no support. I think it’s very important for trans people who are on the right path in life and have survived some things to stand up and be role models for the coming generations of transgender teens. This is not an easy life and everyone needs support. When I was a kid, I had no idea how to name what was going on with me. And when I met trans people, they were drug addicts and sex workers. I thought that was normal, though it was the only way transgender women survived. I didn’t know how to figure it out and there was no one the I could see living a “normal” life…I want to change that. I want our transgender youth to grow up knowing that they can be whatever they want to be. I want them to know that just because you’re transgender does not limit you to a life of sex work and drugs.
ELIXHER: What do you want JET readers to get from the piece?
BRANDI: I want JET readers to be educated. I want people to know that when you try to change someone, it never works. I want people to understand us and our struggle more, so that they might be a little more sensitive to trans people around them. Furthermore, I want to be a voice to those who don’t have one and a role model for all who need one.
ELIXHER: What would you like to see or continue seeing in Black media outlets’ depiction of trans women?
BRANDI: I’d like to see Black trans women portrayed in a more positive light. I want the media to give us just as much of a right to be “normal” as anyone else. This is an opportunity to start a movement and gain some respect in the transgender community. The T in LGBT is excluded. We are a separate issue and people need to learn this.