Seranine Elliot knows that right now, Americans across the country are learning more about transgender people than ever before. With major news networks, media outlets, and even television shows delicately and often very effectively telling the stories of transgender people and the challenges they face, the struggles trans people often face are increasingly well documented.
Seranine is excited to be a part of this movement to increase public understanding and education of transgender lives. That’s why she is an active blogger and social media user who spends time each day sharing her personal story and showcasing her day-to-day life. Seranine is a transgender woman – meaning she was designated male at birth but long knew herself to be female.
It’s hard to overstate the impact of this personal narrative. A wide majority of Americans report that, to their knowledge, they have never met a transgender person – and so, naturally, complex and real understandings of who transgender people are can be hard to come by. Clearly, this education is vital – even where Seranine lives in Washington State.
This spring and summer, opponents of LGBT equality are mounting a campaign to repeal non-discrimination protections for transgender people that have been in place for 10 years. If they are able to force through their campaign, the protections would be placed on the ballot in Washington this fall, and the rights of a very small minority in the state will be put to a vote.
“It feels sad, this ballot initiative,” Seranine said. “It’s based on people just not understanding. It also is just a very reactionary measure, intent on denying transgender people their identities. These opponents may not understand that according to the Standards of Care for transgender people, before we can even apply for surgery, we must live full time in the newly adopted gender role for at least a year before even applying. That includes going to all of the places where women go, and ensuring that this is congruent with your gender. I don’t know what the effect would be if trans people were legislated out of the bathroom.”
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Seranine has worked several jobs over the course of her life – from several years in the United States Army to working in technology to working at a temp agency.
“That’s why I’m really focused on this. I say, ‘Here’s my life. Do you think I’m worth hurting in this way?'” – Seranine Elliot
But in recent years, she has found her true passion: Performance, and speaking out for what she believes in. She has performed her own original music, modeled in runway shows and photo shoots, acted on screen, delivered speeches, and opened her life to people on the Internet, happy to help increase acceptance and insight into transgender Americans.
“I think being transgender has given me unique skills,” she said. “I have a lot of experience dealing with people who decide they don’t like me before they even know me, and so I’m good at speaking in front of crowds or one-on-one.”
She uncovered her love for performance while studying sound engineering in Seattle. “While I was in school for that, I had my gender revelation,” she said. “I figured, ‘What am I doing here? What am I doing studying how to be behind the scenes running the soundboard?’ I realized I wanted to be in front of the microphones, in front of the camera. The big difference was a shift in attitude, from ‘I guess I’ll do audio engineering because I need a job’ – just very negative – to something really positive, feeling little joys that I had never experienced before.”
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Seranine is standing with Washington Won’t Discriminate, the campaign to educate Washingtonians about transgender lives and encourage them to reject opponents’ attempts to roll back protections for the community.
“One of my favorite ways to help people understand is to ask people, ‘What gender are you?’ And then I say, ‘Now imagine that everyone is telling you that’s actually not your gender. How would that feel?’ It makes people stop and think.”
Online, Seranine presents images of the person she is, day to day.
I’m all dolled up to go to a celebratory dinner for the completion of work on CLASSIFIED. (It’s another project I participated in under NDA.) If I can talk about it tonight, I will! #Seattle #Washington #transgender #veteran #musician #model #actress #trans #girl #girlslikeus #transisbeautiful #thisiswhattranslookslike #selfie #nofilter #ootd #outfit #outfitoftheday
“This is my life all day, every day,” she said. “It’s not about specifically developing lessons to educate people, but it’s more about living my life and drawing a lesson from that. I want people to see, ‘Oh, she’s trying to find work, and that can be challenging,’ or, ‘Her cats are adorable!’ or, ‘Her heart’s been broken, too, I know what that feels like,’ or, ‘Hey, I play that video game!’ That way, people can connect and identify, without getting hung up on this one thing that’s different.”
“Once people get to know someone who is a member of an out group, they come to better understand,” Seranine continued. “Once people have to interact with you as a person, that’s where the change really happens. That’s why I’m really focused on this. I say, ‘Here’s my life. Do you think I’m worth hurting in this way?'”