Left to right: Isa Noyola, Jovana Luna, Alexandra Rodriguez

Left to right: Isa Noyola, Jovana Luna, Alexandra Rodriguez

As I start in this new role as Director of Programs at Transgender Law Center, I am filled with gratitude and reflective on what brought me to this place and point in my journey. It has not been an easy path, but it has been filled with mentors and guiding lights steering me to where I am today. When I first started this work I was searching for myself and others to reflect and imagine possibilities of what this journey could be.

It wasn’t until I met and worked closely with Alexandra Rodriguez, a translatina woman from Mexico City, that I finally understood what was possible in my life and in this work of social justice organizing. She was a powerful community leader in San Francisco who reflected a grounded and inspirational model of leadership – and before her I had no notion of what exactly translatina leadership could look like. She forged a path that allowed me to witness and experience a possibility model for myself in this work.

Now, many years later, I find myself immersed in this work towards transgender liberation and rights. These last several decades have seen a tremendous groundswell of powerful transgender women of color who have spoken our truth to power in the face of the urgent crisis and reality of daily violence. Most of the powerful TWOC leadership that has emerged in the last 20 years has been in direct response to the marginalization and unconscious neglect of our transgender community. Many TWOC have decided to engage in this grassroots mobilization not because it was a career choice, but because it was survival.

We have come into this work out of frustration and anger because our communities have been forgotten and erased. We have had to push our way forward in the sea of political debate and rhetoric around our lives. Many of us have learned quickly that the nonprofit world will not always do the work to intentionally support transgender women leaders. Many of us have chosen this path of nonprofit leadership because we keep seeing our sisters dying and discriminated against in the systems supposed to protect them.

As I think about my new role as Director of Programs at TLC and the exciting new opportunities it brings, I also think about the great loss of leadership and talent our community has suffered. In my new role, I think about how to honor and pick up the torch that has been violently taken away from my sisters. I think about the many migration stories of survival by my translatina immigrant sisters. I can clearly hear my trans sisters inside detention ask me: what does their future hold outside of the state’s total control?

These voices fill my consciousness and heart as I work towards the road ahead and our vision of transgender liberation. I look forward to one day passing on the torch that was handed to me.

Isa Noyola is Director of Programs at Transgender Law Center