Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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This Trans Model Is Tired of Seeing Her Sisters and Brothers Killed

Model image of Lauren Foster

Transgender Awareness Week is here. It's a time for celebration but also a time to gather friends and allies around us for support and love.

As activists, it is our duty to raise the visibility of trans and nonbinary people everywhere. For allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community to support us, we need to show up 365 days of the year. We don’t need to be small or quiet to be loved. I wake up and show up every day, knowing how fortunate I am. I had loving parents and a childhood that taught me that it was okay to be a woman, even though I was assigned male at birth. I never had to deny my own experience, which kept my soul alive and my self-awareness intact, allowing me to thrive. I was modeling internationally by the age of 19 and whatever challenges life threw at me, my everyday life as a model helped me deal.

I never take my good fortune for granted. If I can help by shining a light, by sharing my story, I will.

Raising our visibility is so important, especially now when trans women are being murdered in record-breaking numbers. One of my first memories of TAW was back in 2015 when a beautiful Miami woman Kristina Grant, also known as Kristina Gomez Reinwald, was the 7th of 21 trans persons to be murdered in 2015, according to the Human Rights Campaign. She was 46 years old. The savagery has only gotten worse, 2020 saw a total of 44 fatal incidents, making it the most violent year on record for trans and non-conforming people. It sickens me and makes me sad that in 2021, vicious brutality continues.

Activism is needed when injustice rocks our communities. We arranged a candlelit vigil for Kristina at the Torch of Friendship on Biscayne Boulevard. The media covered it, on three local news channels, but the Miami Police Department has yet to apprehend the suspect. Many allege it was her partner who ended her life. 

This year has already seen at least 45 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, according to HRC. It takes courage for many trans people just to walk out their front door every morning. Supporting another human’s inherent dignity should be automatic. It isn’t something we should have to ask for.

I’m so proud and honored to be director of LGBTQ and concierge services at UHealth Hospital and Clinics at the University of Miami. My role is to ensure that all patients are treated equally, regardless of gender identity and sexuality. I meet with transitioning individuals, offer advice, speak with loved ones and family members, and help them navigate through the University of Miami’s Gender Health Program. 

Kristina’s story reminds me every day to be grateful for the fortunate life I have enjoyed. It's important we honor all of the beautiful trans and nonbinary souls whose lives were taken away for simply being themselves.

Lauren Foster is a celebrated transgender model and actress, who first made international headlines in the 1980s when she appeared in the pages of Vogue.

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