To celebrate Stonewall 50 and WorldPride in NYC, we gathered a group of remarkable people with their own Stonewall stories to tell. Read them all in our blog, and say hello when you see them at Stonewall.
Growing up in Harlem, New York, Devin-Norelle knew from an early age that ze didn’t identify as a girl, “per se.” Instead, “throughout my young adulthood I knew that I wasn’t just a boy or just a girl, I was something in between, something that maybe didn’t exist yet, at least within our language.” As a teenager, Devin-Norelle confided zeir feelings to a close friend, who felt the same way. However, when zeir friend said that they wanted to transition to become a boy, Devin-Norelle replied, “I know I want to transition, but I’m not sure ‘boy’ is what suits me. I’m just not sure what to call it yet.”
While many of Devin-Norelle’s coming out stories are positive, the decision to come out as trans or non-binary is not an easy one. Trans people of color, especially trans women of color, face a disproportionate level of violence from their communities. Trans people are also hugely impacted by homelessness– 1 in 5 trans people have been discriminated against while seeking housing, and 1 in 10 have been evicted based on their gender. Even things as seemingly simple as pronoun use are a struggle, as everywhere from news outlets to lifestyle blogs often misuse them at best or, more often, relegate them to a punchline.
Since coming out and later transitioning, Devin-Norelle has secured zeir identity. “I identify as non-binary/androgynous, I use ze/zim [pronounced zee/zim] pronouns.” ze says. “What drives me day by day is knowing that trans people don’t have basic human rights, and that’s something I fight for.”
Devin-Norelle is uniquely visible as the assistant editor and writer for Out Magazine, but ze also uses social media and Instagram as platforms for direct action and support. “I raise money over social media, I sell shirts that say ‘Trans Is Beautiful,’ I send people money for things like rent, surgery, testosterone, estrogen, whatever they need…It’s a lot of grassroots stuff.”
IT’S NOT TO SAY THAT THERE ISN’T VIOLENCE OR DANGER WITH EXPOSURE
Social media provided a wealth of information and support for Devin-Norelle along the way. “When I grew up, we didn’t use computers in school. But in high school and college, there was MySpace and LiveJournal…Jesus Christ, I’m old,” zey laugh. “I was exposed to gay culture going to school in the Village, but the Internet is where I found my community.”
Devin-Norelle found that community in person at The Stonewall Inn and the pier nearby, among other spots in the neighborhood. “I remember turning 21 and being like, finally, I can go to the Stonewall!” Ze remembers. However, it’s not just for the bar: “I think for queer women particularly, places like the Stonewall are some of the last safe spaces, so people are coming more frequently. These places are disappearing, and need our support.” Outside the walls of these safe places, there is still a lot of learning and acceptance needed to overcome the ignorance that makes trans and queer lives dangerous. Devin-Norelle believes one of the most powerful agents of change for this struggle is representation.
“There’s such a significant part of this country that hasn’t been exposed to trans people. I see trans people all over my feed, but it’s because I sought them out.” Ze says. For others outside of the community, “somehow a trans person pops up on their TV, and it’s something new for them to think about. And once they’ve humanized that person, it’s like, ‘…so why doesn’t that person have rights?’ or see them and go, ‘oh, this is a trans person, that’s normal.’” Devin-Norelle points to the show Pose as a positive example. “We’re getting to see the little histories of trans women from the 80s, in a way that doesn’t dehumanize them, or seem like aliens from outer space, or anything.” As shows like Pose become more popular and more widely viewed, Devin-Norelle believes that the trans movement can begin to take the next crucial steps towards equality.
“It’s not to say that there isn’t violence or danger with exposure,” zey say, “but I think it’s an important step that we can take first, before we move on to anything else.