Since the press release and BuzzFeed article did not include the introductions contained in the PDF, many may not have seen the opening statement below, which addresses some of the questions that have come up since. Though there is much I would now add, this is what was published:
What you are looking at is a flawed beginning.
All of us involved recognize. All of us involved believe that this is still worth doing.
Those two statements are a touchstone we return to again and again, and only those who agree with those two points will find much of value here.
If you recognize that this project is incomplete—and yet still has much to offer—then we trust you will find our endeavor an awe-inspiring collection of one hundred amazing people doing meaningful work.
Not the only hundred. Not the hundred you agree with. But one hundred that reveal a cross section of trans people active in the United States that reflect the breadth and depth of the work being done by and for the community.
Because the list itself is a form of activism, an effort to change the narrative around trans people, an opportunity for people in the community to learn more about others within it, a way of expanding the pool of people that the media can go to for input, because this is our first attempt at what will be an annual initiative, because this emerged from the community and is ultimately accountable to it, because of all these reasons and many more, we want to be transparent about flaws we’ve come across and address them directly.
We would like to share the following shortcoming and critiques, and our responses.
● This is nothing but a popularity contest.
○ The list is not ranked. Our intention is not to value some trans people over others, but rather to give a sampling of 100 hundred trans people whose peers believe their work merits attention.
○ We received over 500 nominations representing over 360 individuals. The number of times someone was nominated had no bearing on their selection. A curatorial team of seventeen people, representing a wide range of age, race, and gender identity, researched, debated, and voted on each and every person.
○ Most of the people on the list humbly accepted their selection, but asked that the focus remain on the work they’re doing. Conversely, many of our personal friends did not make the list, but nonetheless expressed their support and enthusiasm for the chance to learn about so many others in the community.
○ One of our founding and guiding principles was that we wanted to use the list to highlight people who aren’t normally recognized and populations that are often underrepresented.
○ Some of the more well-known trans people aren’t on the list. That’s not to diminish the power of visibility, but only an indication of the ethos of this particular list.
● You don’t have to be an activist to be valuable to the community.
○ Though we originally sought to recognize activism specifically, not every person on this list would identify as such. Direct engagement with the community will always be the foundation of the Trans 100, but we acknowledge that engagement can manifest in a variety of ways. This year’s list includes an actor, a musician, and a video game designer. Future lists may include comedians and porn stars. I for one hope so.
● It should be about the work, not about the person.
○ Our deliberations always focused on the work being done, and the bios and links are meant to offer an overview of the diversity of efforts, centers, groups, and websites available to our community. Nonetheless, it is people doing the work, and we believe that these individuals deserve to be seen. Further, we’d like the media to focus more on transgender adults who are living visibly and working to improve the lives of those in the community. We hope this list will bring precisely such people to the media’s attention, particularly people of color.
● So-and-so isn’t on the list!
○ Many, many worthwhile people aren’t on this list, and for a variety of reasons.
○ We’ve been overwhelmed by the attention this project has garnered in the few weeks leading up to publication, but the call for nominations was less widely known. As the word spread, we learned about many more people we would have loved to honor, and intend to do so in future iterations.
○ We couldn’t reach everyone who was selected. There are some amazing people whom we wanted among the 100, but simply couldn’t contact in time. We did not want to publish anyone’s name without their consent—CeCe McDonald is a good example of such a case. Again, we hope to do better next year.
○ Some people didn’t want to be on the list. One person didn’t feel that being trans was central to their identity or work, while another person replied with their thanks, and told us that they had made a vow that their work would never be about them. And we respect that.
○ We had only 100 spots! There’s simply not enough room to recognize everyone, but each year will further expand our community. When we first announced our intentions, we had several people tell us that we wouldn’t be able to find 100 visible trans activists. I’m thrilled that our challenge instead turned out to be an embarrassment of riches.
● So-and-so shouldn’t be on the list!
○ While Toni and I stand by every person selected, very few people selected had the unanimous consent of the entire curatorial committee. Among the list are people whose inclusion raised strong objections by some of the curators. Some of the persons on the list would not have been chosen by Toni or I—we think that’s important. Speaking out entails risk, and virtually no position can be publicly articulated without angering or alienating someone. In a community as diverse as ours, healthy discourse must accommodate a range of often conflicting and incompatible perspectives, as well as personal differences.
● Since this person isn’t on the list—or because that person is on the list—it’s useless.
○ We understand such a reaction. As two emotionally volatile individuals, we too have often found ourselves wanting to dismiss some movie, book, television show, website, or news story because of one or two problematic characters, actors, scenes, or lines. But our hope is that even if you might find a few objectionable choices, you may consider the other ninety-some people worth learning about.
● I’ve never even heard of so-and-so!
○ Well, now you have.
● It’s too America-centric.
○ We thought long and hard about whether to include some of the many wonderful activists from around the world. In the end, we felt that it would be presumptuous of us to do so. Rather, we’re hoping that we can develop a model and share our resources to collaborate or support similar efforts in other countries in future years, and that we can all exist under this Trans 100 umbrella. We tried to err on the side of starting small and focused, while allowing for future growth. Toni also wrote on this issue here.
● You’ve emphasized race too much.
○ I stand with Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler in saying that “centering race in transgender advocacy is key to equality for all.” It’s particularly important for white people to initiate these conversations, and to ask themselves how they’re helping to ensure that everyone has access to the spaces and resources they have access to. Toni herself is a woman of multiple racial identities, and because of such, cannot separate them from her transness in the way her work is done.
● There are too many people from major cities/Chicago/Arizona.
○ Major cities are going to be disproportionately recognized. There are more trans people in large urban areas, more services for trans people there, and therefore more trans workers to be recognized. This is not to devalue the work being done in smaller communities and rural areas, which is often even more challenging. We hope that the publicity the list garners in its inaugural year will help further penetrate the call for nominations in subsequent years and yield a still-greater variety of geographic representation. One of the many lessons we learned is that we need to increase the amount of time for the nominations, which we will do next year.
○ Chicago had by and far more nominations than any other area, even New York City. This is partly because Chicago has a large and well- organized trans community. It is also partly because I’m based in Chicago, so the call for nominations had more attention there than anywhere else. While there are more selections from Chicago than any other area, there are also more worthy nominees who did not make the list from Chicago than anywhere else.
● What about allies?
○ I’ve only recently accepted that we are simply too small a community to effectively bring about all the changes required for our survival and advancement. We do need the help of allies, but we must first build up our community and achieve the unity to understand and prioritize what we need help with. It is our responsibility to set our agenda. No matter how well intentioned, no one can tell our stories better than we can.
● What aren’t the curators public?
○ This was the source of extensive internal debate, but our consensus was that anonymity would allow the attention to remain on the 100 honored.
● Who the heck are you to do this?
○ We’ve often asked that ourselves! We’ve included short bios for Toni and me at the end of the list.
As an inaugural project, Toni and I made the process up as we went along, learning from feedback and our mistakes. We made a promise to ourselves to acknowledge and personally address every critique came across, and we’ve found the community to be a tremendous source of insights and suggestions. We will remain in touch with you, and we will keep you updated. Our concern has only ever been—and will always only be—how to make this project an act of service.
Co-Director, The Trans 100