Post submitted by Laya Monarez, HRC Membership Events & Operations Coordinator

Laya I am Cait Last night on I Am Cait, you may have noticed a few HRC staffers on screen. I was one of them. I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to meet with Caitlyn Jenner on behalf of HRC, and to share one of my stories with her.

Mine is not an easy story to tell -- I’ve experienced both sexual and physical violence  -- but for too many in the transgender community, particularly women of color, it is a story far too common.

Transgender women of color endure higher levels of poverty, employment discrimination and homelessness than others within the LGBT community. And that puts us at increased risk for fatal violence.

After I came out as transgender, I was ostracized by my family. Even with a college degree, I faced financial struggle and experienced homelessness.  Job interview after interview ended in disappointment. Weeks turned into months, months into a year and finally a deep feeling of worthlessness set in. I had assumed that, with a degree,  finding work would be easy. But it’s not --in fact, quite the opposite--while transgender discrimination exists, and while it remains difficult to find help.

When I met with Caitlyn, we spoke frankly about how I, in desperation, turned to sex work in order to survive. I told her about a “date” gone terribly wrong. The client wanted me to perform oral sex on him in his car without paying. I refused and asked him to let me out.  

In response, he reached for a large knife and started stabbing me while increasing the speed of the car. In that moment, I knew that to escape with my life, I would need to either fight him or jump out of the car. So, in a split second decision, I jumped out of the car, moving at more than 50 mph.

I rolled several times, shredding most of my clothes and a lot of my flesh on the pavement. Though covered in blood, I was thankful to be alive--but then I saw the driver suddenly turn the car around and speed toward me. I took off up a hill, narrowly escaping with my life.

I never reported the incident to police because I didn’t want those involved in my life to know I was involved in sex work. Out of fear, I didn’t even go to the hospital.  

Over the years, I’ve been robbed at gunpoint, raped three times, and nearly beaten to death.  And, like many transgender people, especially those without the resources to pay for expensive transition surgeries, I’m also routinely the target of ugly insults while just running errands, or shopping--just trying to live my life.

Even as we are seeing an increase in transgender visibility through a range of inspiring national media stories, including Caitlyn Jenner’s, the levels of violence and harassment transgender people face – particularly transgender women and transgender women of color – constitute a national crisis. Just a little over a week ago, the community mourned the eleventh brutal murder of a transgender woman of color, K.C. Haggard, this year.

I was proud to sit down with Caitlyn to share my story in hopes that it may elevate the visibility of our community. It is my hope that with the help of advocates like her, we can build a safer world for the transgender community.

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