LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – For the first time in U.S. history, a trans woman will likely become the first transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. Activists in Lexington say it sends a message of hope and unity.
“There is a power in trans visibility,” Meghan Buell said.
“10 years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to dream this would be possible,” JoAnne Bland said.
Buell and Bland are both trans women and say President Joe Biden’s pick of Dr. Rachel Levine, a trans woman, for Assistant Secretary of Health is an historic moment.
“It’s just an opportunity to see a trans being recognized for their abilities and not just because they’re a trans person,” Bland said.
“It’s just a beacon of hope for trans people and seeing that trans visibility at the highest level,” Buell said.
Buell says she transitioned nearly 12 years ago. She’s since opened a non-profit, TREES (Transgender Resource, Education & Enrichment Services) in Lexington and Indiana aimed at educating small, rural towns on the trans experience.
“That in itself sets a foundation for trans people who enter those communities to feel safer and have a better chance of an enriched experience,” Buell said.
Though Bland now holds many titles and has broken several glass ceilings, that’s something she could have used growing up in Hardin County in the 50’s.
“I knew that I was different when I was 5 years old out in rural Kentucky where there was no understanding,” Bland said. “I had no understanding of why I felt the way I did.”
That conflict led Bland to hold off on her transition until she was 65 years old, and she doesn’t want others going through the same thing.
Though both women acknowledge the historic nature of Levine’s nomination, they hope it leads to a broader discussion.
“Hope that this will move forward and trans people will just become the regular people on the street – nothing spectacular about us,” Buell said.
“We want life – want to enjoy life just like everyone else,” Bland said.