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West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board Seeks to Educate and Foster Understanding

Transgender Advisory Board Chair, Karina Samala
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The city of West Hollywood is the first in the world to have its own Transgender Advisory Board that operates independently and separate from the gay and lesbian board. As gay and lesbian people become more accepted in mainstream America, those in the transgender community fight for the most basic of rights, like being able to use the public restroom of the gender with which they identify.

  Transgeder Day of Remembrance

As a way of honoring those in the community who have lost their lives, the Transgender Advisory Board unveiled the Transgender Memorial Plaque in November 2009. The plaque is the first of its kind in the world and on each Transgender Day of Remembrance, a national holiday that honors those who have fallen victim to transgender hate crimes, members of the community will gather at the plaque to read the names of people who died that year and to recognize those still with us.

Samala obtained an education and became financially stable before coming out, a privilege shared by few others in her community. Because of this, her honesty, and kind heart, many young people in the transgender community flock to her and call her “Mother Karina,” a new patron saint for a new generation of transgender youth.

“It’s so important to mentor others in the community,” Samala said. “You have to guide them on the right path because many of them have had their families turn their backs on them. It’s not uncommon for parents to tell their transgender children that they’d rather see them dead than the way they are. I struggled with non-acceptance in my 20’s and I know how it is, so I try to always make myself available to young people. They know they can reach me day or night and I’ll be there to do what I can.”

David Escobedo, Staff Liaison to the Transgender Advisory Board, believes that one of the biggest challenges the board faces is education, but more specifically, the education of the public. According to Escobedo, despite being a progressive community, West Hollywood still has some work to do.

One could argue that in a city as diverse and tolerant as West Hollywood, a Transgender Advisory Board isn’t really needed and would be better suited in a small town where citizens struggle to accept different lifestyles. On the contrary, Escobedo believes that it is because of West Hollywood’s reputation as a leader in diversity that the Advisory Board’s influence can stretch beyond the city’s borders.

“Not only is this city diverse and progressive internally, but our voice has the power to affect change externally,” Escobedo said. “We hope that other cities follow our example, creating a voice for the transgender community nationally and globally.”


Contributor: Anniboop