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TransAmerica Demonstrates the Daily Struggles of Trans Lives

TransAmerica Demonstrates the Daily Struggles of Trans Lives

Fryer speaks with activist Tatianna Williams

NBC's Joe Fryer on why America needs to see this news special now.

It seems each day we are dealt another loss of our transgender brothers and sisters by a senseless act of violence. The only way to combat this is to fight for hate crime legislation and open up conversations, even within our own community, to build better understanding and support for the trans community. It's important for us to listen to truly understand what the transgender community is up against.

NBC reporter and producer and Morning News NOW host Joe Fryer is doing just that. As a commemoration during Pride Month, NBC News NOW and NBC Out will stream Transamerica, a special hosted by Fryer that will examine issues facing the transgender community in the U.S. The special will stream on NBC News NOW tonight, June 17, at 8 p.m.

Fryer will moderate in-depth panel conversations and one-on-one interviews with elected officials, parents of transgender children, influencers, celebrities and activists. Guests include Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims, Delaware State Senator and former National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign Sarah McBride, the first transgender teen to testify before the U.S. Senate, Stella Keating, Transinclusive Group co-founder and executive director Tatianna Williams, activist and former Out executive editor Raquel Willis, and star of FX's Pose, MJ Rodriguez.

Fryer's discussions with these, and other LGBTQ+ leaders, will focus on crimes against the transgender community, mental health challenges the community is facing, and conversations on the pressure, stigma, and fears they feel in their day-to-day lives.

I had the opportunity to catch-up with Fryer to talk about why this special is so important right now, and what it meant for him to put this all together.

"Obviously there's been so many stories in the news about all of the harmful legislation toward the transgender community that is popping up all over the country," Fryer said during a phone call this week. "Those stories, combined with all the mental health issues, and crimes and murders that are occurring, shows that this community needs our help and support, and more visibility is a way for people to better understand their struggles. I wanted to provide a space for open discussion."

I asked Fryer why it was important for him to not only host, but produce, Transamerica? "I think, to me, what was really important was to present and tell stories people really needed to hear. I personally needed to learn more about the transgender community and understand how these adverse laws are impacting them. I wanted to provide as many points of view as I could, to help other better understand the community as well."

What did Fryer learn as he prepared for this special? "Number one, the importance of listening. All of us need to do a better job of listening, and hearing what this community has to say. Also, it was important to learn about all of the mental health issues. There are higher rates of anxiety and suicide, and also how people are mentally affected by all of the negative politics. On the flip side, when trans people get the care that they need to improve, it just reaffirms why that care is so important."

Was there one moment that stood out for Fryer as he listened? "Well, everyone involved has something very important to say. I will say this, we talked to the four transgender youths and their families from Arkansas who have filed a lawsuit with the ACLU challenging an Arkansas law that prohibits health care professionals from providing, or even referring, transgender young people for medically necessary health care. When I asked the families for a show of hands if they would consider moving if the law wasn't struck down, they all four said they would. That's really a huge sacrifice to make, and really shows their strong level of love and support."

In addition to all the detrimental issues, Fryer was struck by the very positive tone of the younger people who participated in the program. "I asked them what brings them joy, and they were very clear about being who they really are, and the love, support and care they were being provided that makes them feel more positive. I thought it was really important for viewers to hear about these positive aspects."

To watch, tune in to NBC News NOW on Peacock, NBCUniversal's streaming service, as well as on The Roku Channel, YouTube TV, YouTube, Fubo, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi and NBC News' OTT apps on Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV on June 17 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.

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