Five Questions: Lauren McNamara

IN FEBRUARY, THE SAN FRANCISCO PRIDE BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTED CHELSEA MANNING AN HONORARY GRAND MARSHAL FOR THE 2014 PARADE. EAST COAST WRITER AND VLOGGER LAUREN MCNAMARA WAS DESIGNATED MANNING’S REPRESENTATIVE FOR THIS YEAR’S PARADE.

You told me this is your first time visiting San Francisco. What are you most looking forward to while you’re here?

I’ve always been fascinated by the architecture and historical sites of San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge, the Castro, and Pier 39. We’re even staying in Hotel Vertigo, which was featured in a Hitchcock film. But most of all, I’m excited to see so much of our community gathered together in celebration, and I’m hoping to connect with plenty of people I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to meet. And, of course, I’m incredibly proud to be representing Chelsea.

Chelsea Manning reached out to you online, a total stranger, and you chose to befriend her and played an important role in helping her find herself. What motivated you to play this role?

When Chelsea and I first talked, it was years before I had any sense that I might be trans, and I certainly didn’t think that I would end up helping her in such a significant way. We just shared common interests, and enjoyed talking with each other. What I’ve learned is that sometimes, just being open and visible as part of the community can inspire others to see the possibilities in their own lives. You don’t have to be perfect – just be there. I’m glad that I was there when Chelsea sought a listening ear.

What can people do to support Chelsea today?

Chelsea was willing to sacrifice 35 years of her life to reveal uncomfortable truths to us about overseas military and diplomatic actions. She’s called for further declassification of military operations and greater press freedom for embedded reporters, and we can honor her by supporting these causes. You can also donate to Chelsea’s legal defense fund, petition for her to receive a presidential pardon, contact the White House to voice your support for her, or write her a personal letter.

The Trans March is on Friday, June 29. Do you plan on attending?

While I won’t be able to make it to the Trans March on Friday due to scheduling and obligations, I’m certainly looking forward to meeting other trans people at Pride. Orlando, Florida, where I live, has a somewhat less active trans community than San Francisco, and I think being around a community with such direction and energy would be an incredible and liberating experience.

It’s been a phenomenal year for the Transgender Community. What direction do you see the Transgender Civil Rights Movement heading?

Basic awareness is a driver of progress, and the growing visibility of trans people nationwide – including Chelsea – is changing society’s perceptions of what it means to be trans. As more of us come out and speak out, people will increasingly see us as simply their everyday friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. From there, the necessity of fundamental rights, protections, and respect for the trans community in every area of life becomes obvious. As each of us tells our story, we draw closer and closer to that moment.

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