I recently had the honor of being featured in “If You Could See Me Through My Eyes,” an exhibit at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale. The museum reached out to me at the Florida Out Coast Convention after I received an award for my activism earlier this year.
After I accepted the award, Robert Kesten, the museum’s executive director felt my story needed to be shared on another level. I truly had no idea what he had in store when he reached out asking for a few of my personal items that told my story — I just knew that each item would be accompanied with a piece of my story to tell it in full, showcasing how I got here and where I came from.
While I may have done this in smaller conversations, I had never truly taken stock of my journey. To say that we rarely stop and recognize all we have achieved and overcome is something I wonder if others may overlook in their lives as well.
The building of my story couldn’t be confined to five paragraphs any more than the history of Stonewall itself, but I tried my best as I combed through old photos, clothing and belongings to find objects that held not only memories but purpose for me. I realized that during my changes in life I had learned to let go a multitude of objects and hold dearly and tightly to my memories.
I had forgotten about so much I had done over the years. Even the earlier stages of my activism were lost to time in my mind but unlocked by this exercise of memory.
With those memories also came those I would rather leave behind. I had forgotten about my work in Pittsburgh with people being diagnosed with HIV, or my fights for equality on women’s rights. Defending women outside of Planned Parenthood along with children who were seeking assistance for LGBTQ+ purposes.
I didn’t realize that standing up for others regardless of your own situation was considered activism until now. Even as I sent these things off, I wasn’t sure how they would be featured in the museum and what would come of it.
When I was called to come and speak at the exhibit’s opening, I thought it was because of how well I spoke at the FLOCC event. I was surprised when I walked in with my partner, hand in hand, an experience I had never had in tandem with the event.
I was shocked to see the museum full of people — but before I could even make my way in, I saw myself on a wall. My heart could have split.
The emotions that ran through me seeing all my items on display with an amazing description about my life left me full of joy and in tears. All these people came to see and hear my story and wanted to know more about me. I couldn’t believe it.
I was able to meet another wonderful soul featured in the exhibit. A local icon and legend of South Florida, Rajee Narinesingh. This wonderful soul, while a bit older than me, told her amazing story. Though completely different in some ways we were the same in so many others. It is true that some of the most beaten and bruised individuals hold the most beautiful light and love within them.
When it was my turn to speak, I was given a rare chance to tell my truth. The thing I had wanted to do for so long. For the first time ever in a speaking capacity I was not limited or held back by this opportunity.
“Women of color have long been the backbone of the social justice movement and trans women of color are no exception,” the exhibit is described. “We just like to do it with a little more sparkle.” It let me stand in the sun and speak my truth. To tell my life story: the good, the bad and the beautiful.
They say you should always share your story because you never know who is listening. You never know what your words will do for someone else. That night I connected with so many people and the experience left me feeling valid in ways I had never expected.
I had hoped that I would have an impact on this world in more ways, and thanks to the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, I had that chance along with other fabulous trans women of color. We are featured and running in the exhibit until Dec. 1 and I cannot thank Robert, his board of directors and staff more for their warm welcome.
The exhibit is paired with a secondary exhibit that is featured on display throughout the entire museum called “Media Makes a Difference.” It depicts how media plays a part in how the world sees us and how we see ourselves. It displays articles, cover pages and headlines that date back to the 70s and details the our communities’ triumphs and struggles throughout history.
The museum is a fabulous place to attend and needs our support, so please give it if you can. We need more places that tell our stories, reveal our history and give voices to the unheard and unspoken.
Angelique Young is a transgender activist, entertainer and entrepreneur with a master’s in psychology. She maintains her business and more @DNCNDiva on Instagram. Learn more about the Stonewall National Museum & Archives at Stonewall-Museum.org.