Two Decades of TDOE

Dear Pride Family,

In 2024, the fight for trans liberation feels omnipresent, especially for those of us who identify as transgender and/or nonbinary. In the past few years alone, we’ve witnessed a disturbing surge in anti-trans legislation across the country. Records for the number of anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures have been shattered year after year, with 2024 poised to continue this troubling trend. School boards have taken up the mantle, too, with harmful anti-trans policies, even here in San Diego County. This fight goes beyond policy and statehouses; the insidious rhetoric and fear-mongering campaigns that seek to erase trans and nonbinary existence from the public sphere have taken center stage, and are having truly devastating real-life impacts, as in the recent case of Nex Benedict, a trans non-binary Oklahoma teenager that died in February after being bullied and beaten. These are not abstract debates, these are matters of life and death.

And, to be clear, these are not new fights. As my friend and colleague David Vance noted during our Midday Edition panel on KPBS this week, the The echoes of past discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community are unmistakable. Similar fear tactics that were once wielded against gay men and lesbians are now being repurposed to target trans and nonbinary individuals. The specter of “but the children!,” once used to target gay men and lesbians, is once again invoked to justify denying trans and nonbinary youth access to gender-affirming healthcare, attacking their social support systems, banning books, and implementing discriminatory and harmful policies in schools. 

But Transgender Day of Empowerment is not just about the adversity facing our community. This is about trans liberation and the data-informed and history-backed proof that we will get to freedom. We have fought very similar fights before, and we have won. We stand on the right side of history, bolstered by the courage of those who came before us and the determination of those who stand alongside us.

Two decades ago, Tracie Jada O’Brien founded Transgender Day of Empowerment here in San Diego as a beacon of hope and solidarity, bringing together trans elders and young people in a shared celebration of community. The scholarships awarded in Tracie’s name at the event symbolize not just financial support but a commitment to nurturing the future leaders of our community – this year’s 23 scholarships add to the grand total of 247 scholarships totaling $123,500.

As we celebrate Trans Day of Visibility and Trans Day of Empowerment, it’s important to focus not just on the hate we’re fighting against, but on the liberation and world we’re fighting for. Trans joy, brilliance, excellence, beauty, survival, thriving, the ability to be our whole selves and the safety to explore all the possibilities that our lives might hold – that is the future that we all deserve, and that is the reality that we are working toward, together. 

We trans and nonbinary folks are resilient, yes – our elders like Tracie shine as examples of that every day. And we know that a safer and more free world is possible. It is also true that it is beyond exhausting to feel like our existence is called into question nearly every day, it is terrifying that increased visibility can also mean increased danger, and it is hard to keep fighting for the ability to be our whole selves. We can’t do this entirely on our own; we need our cisgender families, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to join us as we dream and create the safer future that we all deserve.

With Pride,

Jen LaBarbera(they/them/)
Interim Co-Executive Director

A version of this piece was published in the Union-Tribune on Thursday, April 4.


About San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride raises funds primarily through festival ticket and beverage sales, and through sponsorships, and exhibitor fees. These funds support San Diego Pride’s community philanthropy which has distributed more than $2.5 million in advancement of its mission to foster pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.