Abby Jensen is on the city of Tucson's GLBT commission, a board that advises officials on issues that affect the LGBT community. Jensen is also a volunteer with the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, one of the groups partnering with the UA for the eighth annual Trans Awareness Week. Jensen, a lawyer, will be part of the "Ask an Attorney Anything" event, where attendees may have questions about name changes, discrimination and marriage issues answered. The week kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 20, with a candlelight vigil and procession to observe International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Other events include a lecture, "Celebrating Trans Lives," by keynote speaker Mara Keisling on Friday, Nov. 22, and a forum with U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva on Tuesday, Nov. 26, about how the Affordable Care Act can benefit the trans community. For more information on Trans Awareness Week, visit tucsontransawarenessweek.org.
What is the biggest misconception that people have about the trans community?
That we are not who we say we are, that we are somehow deceiving people. The drive for, the motivation for, transition is to live as our authentic selves. Instead of living the lie that, for instance, I am a man, the truth is that I am the woman that I am today.
What was the most challenging aspect of coming out as a trans individual?
That people could not, in fact, accept the truth about who I know myself to be. That other people would take it upon themselves to determine who I am, despite what I know.
What's it like to participate in the "Ask an Attorney Anything" event?
I've been an attorney for over 30 years. The last five or six years, when I became able to use my legal skills to help the trans community, that's when I first began to enjoy and be happy that I am an attorney. I am always grateful to be able to share that knowledge with people because its very empowering to know that there are solutions to the problems that we face.
Which events in Trans Awareness Week are you most excited about?
The most important event ... is the observance of the international trans remembrance day. It's very sad that one of the defining aspects of our community is that we are subject to such horrific violence. The remembrance event is a sacred event; it's very important to remember these victims. The other thing I am excited for is Mara Keisling, this year's keynote speaker. She's the founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Especially with the advent of the Obama administration, the NCTE has been at the forefront for advocating for trans people and has really done a lot to make our lives easier. Also, the Affordable Care Act forum with Raul Grijalva. That's an event that I don't think has occurred anywhere else in the country. They will talk about how the Affordable Care Act presents a lot of opportunities for the trans community to obtain better access to health care. Access to health care is one of the biggest challenges (for the trans community).
What is the most important thing you hope that people will take with them from this week?
Two things: One is that I hope people will accept that we are who we say we are, and (two) that they will also come to see that trans people want the same thing that everyone else does—a life of peace, respect and happiness. It's also important to recognize that Tucson has been on the forefront of protections for trans people. Tucson was one of the first cities in the country that passed an ordinance that protected the LGBT community, even before San Francisco.