Today is GLAAD Spirit Day, which is dedicated to speaking out against the bullying of LGBTQ youth. Ross answered our questions about her experience coming out as transgender, her dream movie role and the specific employment challenges transgender people face.
The Lily: What is your advice to young people who encounter difficulties when they come out to their family, as you did?
Angelica Ross: Family will eventually come around. They will. What is most important is your character in this moment of sharing truth. Can you be open and honest even if it means losing some form of temporary privilege or approval? Can you face your fears and show others what courage looks like? If you are having a sense of needing to “come out” or “invite in” others to your life, know that ultimately this is a calling for you to awaken to yourself and show yourself and the world what you’re truly made of.
TL: What experiences led you to start TransTech? What unique employment challenges do transgender people face that makes TransTech’s work so important?
AR: I just found that in general in both the nonprofit industry as well as the adult industry that trans women were being exploited and taken advantage of. Through my own experience of navigating street life to where I am now, I discovered technology could make me a MacGyver, where I could be intuitive and innovative in creating my own way out. THIS is what I wanted to offer others in my community, a way to become their own heroes and make their own way.
TL: What’s the most memorable interaction you’ve had in your work with TransTech?
AR: There are just a lot of moments of working directly with my community that people don’t get to see. Super challenging moments where I have to give constructive feedback to someone who has had to defend herself on the streets and in prison her whole life that she only saw what I was saying as attack. I had to find a way to get through to her as her fist was balled up as if she were going to hit me. And then seeing her loosen her grip and hearing her say, “Thank you Miss Ross, no one has ever talked to me like that before. I can tell you care.” This is why it’s so important that trans leaders are supported, because they are the ones who can most help the trans community.
TL: What do you think Hollywood is doing right and wrong in its representation of transgender people?
AR: The biggest steps I’ve seen in the right direction have been seeing trans writers in the writing rooms. This is probably the most crucial component to creating authentic storytelling especially when you need a perspective that brings its own nuances around identity and gender which don’t have to be specific to just trans characters.
TL: How did your experience in the military shape the work you do today?
AR: I feel like I have an insider’s perspective on how our country works or rather doesn’t work for everyone who lives in it. My experience in the military at 18 years old made it clear to me that I would have to make my own rules as I go.
TL: Who are your role models?
AR: Oprah, Daisaku Ikeda, Janet Mock, Cheryl Dunye, Maya Angelou, Bozoma Saint John, Michelle and Barack Obama, Patrisse Cullors, Laverne Cox, Raquel Wilis and pretty much every black woman making magic happen.
TL: What is your dream role to play in a movie or TV show?
AR: My dream role is to be in Marvel’s Black Panther movies. I already know there are about to be prequels, sequels and spinoffs. So that’s what I’m working on manifesting. But overall, I really want to play an action hero.
TL: In the current political climate, what, if any, additional needs are you trying to fulfill for the people who come to TransTech?
AR: The most important need I feel like we are able to fill is providing a community of folks from varying identities who are dealing with or have dealt with and overcome similar struggles. We are clear on that fact that everyone is responsible for doing their own work, but you don’t have to work alone if you don’t want to.
TL: Why is Spirit Day, and others like it, so important?
AR: Spirit Day is one of those days that reminds us of something we all have regardless of our age, race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, or any other classifier. We all have a spirit, an essence and life force that both influences and is influenced by its environment. It is my hope that we create a world where no one is afraid to show their spirit.