Speaker Spotlight: Anneliese Singh
When Anneliese Singh looks at people, she doesn’t just see the surface role they fill, the gender or demographic “categories.” Instead, she sees what they’ve experienced: Stereotypes, judgments, biases and misunderstandings. But she also sees the resilience they’ve gained from facing those challenges.
She especially recognizes the resilience developed by those in the trans community, which has been an important factor in her life.
“I’ve never seen trans people as separate,” Singh says. “Growing up in New Orleans, the streets of the French Quarter are not ideal for queer folks, but I was surrounded by a trans community who helped me love and understand my own sexual orientation. Trans people have always been a part of my life.”
Singh, who is a co-founder at the Trans Resilience Project, believes that supporting transgender liberation also allows anyone to liberate themselves from negative experiences they’ve had with their own gender identities.
As a South Asian American Sikh, Singh herself experienced bullying and harassment. “My father was called a terrorist, and growing up in a multiracial family it was a very black and white dynamic,” Singh says. “I had to be resilient to bullying; people would say I wasn’t Indian enough, or white enough, and I didn’t belong or fit anywhere. My whole being went through a lot of messages about being the ‘other.’ ”
Singh says resilience was also a large part of her experience as a person of color, so when she started working with trans communities, it just made sense. While she has always had a supportive community around her, many others have not, and one of her goals is to help everyone be aware of how they can support their friends, neighbors and colleagues who may be struggling.
While recent topics like Caitlyn Jenner and transgender bathroom access have increased visibility for the trans community and brought the conversation to a different level, Singh says it’s also complicated the situation in some ways by creating additional opportunities for oppression, as well as more invasive questions from people who don’t realize they’re being intrusive.
“It’s created awareness, but you can’t stop there,” Singh says. “It’s about teaching people to be respectful of others’ dignity. It’s about creating a world where trans people experience liberation, and respect for their human dignity and inherent value … it’s not about being accepted or tolerated, but actually valued for who they are.”
Singh says she feels very hopeful because of the younger generations, and the worldwide connections that exist. “People in their 20s and 30s, they see the world changing more than in previous times, with social media especially. It’s powerful, where we are in the world now. People are starting conversations, not just about trans issues but about other types of repression as well, in their own privileged communities. I think that’s huge, in terms of the world that we’re about to see. … Right now is the really painful part, but I have so much hope for where we’re heading now that we’re finally talking about it.”
Singh wants to get people thinking about how they can be part of that movement in their day-to-day activities.
“It’s about having conversations and speaking up: When you hear negative conversations around the water cooler, speak up and let them know what your belief system really is,” Singh says. “You can do all sorts of things in five minutes a day or less, writing letters and posting on social media, following movement leaders and sharing, but the number one thing is just to speak up and say you value trans people.
“People experience a lot of fear over starting conversations, but they can really do this. When you speak out against trans phobia, it makes a difference. When you love and accept a trans person, it makes a difference. A small change really makes a big difference.”