By David-Elijah Nahmod, March 2016 Web Exclusive.
The past few years have become, as Time Magazine called it, a “transgender tipping point.” Trans actress Laverne Cox received an Emmy nomination for her work in the acclaimed series “Orange is the New Black,” Scott Turner Schofield became the first trans actor to play a trans character on a daytime soap opera (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) and, more recently, actor Eddie Redmayne has been receiving serious Oscar buzz for his portrayal of Lili Elbe, the first transgender woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery, in the acclaimed biopic The Danish Girl.
While the name Kylar W. Broadus may not be as well known to the general public, this professor, attorney and activist has is making his contributions to the “transgender tipping point.” The Advocate recognized Broadus as one of “25 Legal Advocates Fighting For Trans Rights,” OUT magazine named him one of their OUT100 in 2013 and The G List Society recognized him among “the top 100 OUTstanding Personalities of Color in the LGBTQ community” last year.
Broadus, senior public policy counsel at the National LGBTQ Tash Force and director of the organization’s Transgender Civil Rights Project, has also been recognized by President Barack Obama when he was invited to the stage while the President signed an executive order protecting LGBTQ workers.
“To have a President who believes in equality for all is people amazing,” Broadus told Echo. “He’s the first and only President to say the word transgender.”
Broadus added that it was “an honor” to be recognized for the work that he’s done.
Additionally, Broads was the first openly trans individual to testify before the U.S. Senate, speaking in support of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (EDNA).
“That was awesome,” he recalled. “I needed to make this issue reflective of society as a whole – I had to tell everyone’s story through my story.”
Broadus’ story includes years of emotional anguish as he lived in a female body that he knew wasn’t his.
“I thought I was crazy because there was no one like me,” he said.
That changed when he came across the story of Billy Tipton [1914-1989], a jazz musician who achieved success during the Big Band Era. Assigned female at birth, Tipton lived and worked as a man for most of his life. His band recorded a number of albums for Tops Records and Tipton was the in-house musician at Tin Pan Alley in Spokane, Wash. Tipton also toured extensively.
Broadus noted the importance of role models for trans and LGBTQ youth – he sees himself as a role model for today’s newly out trans kids.
“When I made the decision to transition and come out I knew I could be killed,” he said. “There were no rights and I was easy prey on the streets, but you can’t live as something you’re not.”
In 2010 Broadus expanded his platform when he founded The Trans People of Color Coalition. The organization’s mission statement, as stated on its website is: “Trans people of color was created as a response to people of color [POC] that felt unheard and underrepresented in the trans equality movement. TPOCC became an effort to organize trans people of color to fill the void of representation of POC voices included in making key decisions that impact the trans community at large.”
“I kept waiting for other groups that would hopefully form,” Broadus explained, as he spoke of his reasons for starting the organization. “No matter where they were, in large cities or small towns, trans people of color felt that no one was representing their needs.”
Broadus noted that Black History Month is a time that means a lot to him as an African American man who is working toward full equality for everyone.
“One thing that comes to mind during Black History Month is Dr. King’s quote, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,'” he said. “So we can’t stand for injustice to occur in the trans community. We have to stand up to violence, particularly since trans women of color are disproportionately impacted by violence.”
While Broadus applauds the emergence of transgender celebrities, he said he doesn’t want people to lose sight of the bigger picture.
“It’s great that we’re visible, but a lot of people are still homeless and jobless,” he said. “We need to dig down, focus on the prize and work collectively.”
Broadus urges cisgender (non-trans) people to open their hearts to his community.
“We’re not out to hurt anyone,” he points out. “We just want to be ourselves.”