I was among 12 journalists nationwide selected in 2014 to participate in the “LifeLines: Stories from the Human Safety Net” series; a joint effort between the Journalism Center for Children and Families (JCCF) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The series was featured on a special website created by JCCF and NASW. The goal was to use honest, powerful narratives to tell stories about the ways in which social workers (and others) interact with children and families across the lifespan. I chose to focus on metropolitan Denver’s embattled transgender community.
Transgender woman of color India Butler’s epic life story took center stage in my resulting long-form feature that also shared the stories of dedicated social workers, counselors, interns, volunteers and advocates like Karen Scarpella, Helina Gebremichael, Jason Rathsack and Megan Collop at the Gender Identity Center of Colorado (GIC) and the amazing advocacy and policy work spearheaded by the LGBT Center of Colorado. Lynne Sprague, of the Colorado Anti Violence Program’s, efforts to help eradicate hate crimes, murders, brutality and assaults regularly waged on members of the LGBT community every day was also noteworthy, as well as Nevaeh Anderson’s work providing support and resources for the most challenged of the trans community, trans women of color at It Takes A Village.
Even I, the consummate professional journalist, had to cave into to my own humanity as I listened to the heartbreaking stories that included suicidal episodes, job loss, physical and emotional abuse and rejection from loved ones, all directly and indirectly related to their gender identity challenges. No matter where you stand on the issue, I hope that ultimately my words and the beautiful images captured by my talented photographer Jessica Studnick provided some enlightenment about and insight into the complex, complicated and often convoluted transgender world. This project merely reinforced for me that regardless of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or creed, we all just want love and to live in peace.