Welcome Bruce Jenner

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Mara Keisling is the founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

As a transgender person and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, I know that transgender people as a whole are necessarily resilient. And we saw that too in Bruce Jenner tonight.

Coming out as transgender is probably easier than it ever has been, but it is still really hard. And it can still be shamefully unsafe.

We hear a lot about this being a kind of golden age for transgender people or, as Time magazine called it, a transgender tipping point. Much of America must be wondering why there are now seemingly constant stories about transgender this and transgender that.

Indeed, this year, our televisions have been aglow with transgender visibility -- award shows and talk shows and Transparent and Orange is the New Black. The actress and remarkable social justice advocate Laverne Cox is tearing up popular culture being named one of Time magazine's 100 most Influential People (she is) and one of People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful (no doubt!). And now this month, Bruce Jenner seems ubiquitous, doing what he says he has trained for his whole life.

Celebrities like Elton John, Melissa Harris Perry, Michael Stipe, Barack Obama, Miley Cyrus, and Jeffrey Tambor have spoken up with us as well, modeling how others can stand with us and make it safer and easier to be transgender.

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Meanwhile in the world of most transgender people, 2015 has been utterly traumatic for our community. The year started with a dramatic spike in the number of transgender people reported murdered, with seven in January alone. That's correct, these human beings -- mostly low income transgender women of color -- were killed for being who they are.

Concurrently, we have also seen a terrifying cascade of transgender suicides -- mostly young people, all unable to see past the disrespect, discrimination and violence of being transgender in 2015 America. Transgender children and teens are asking themselves unthinkable questions. If I tell people who I am, will my schoolmates ever talk to me again? Will I be beat up for being who I am? Will I ever be able to have a career or a family? Will my parents throw me out on the street? But they are coming out younger and younger because they see that things are getting better and they hope things will be okay.

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And now, those who are losing the anti-gay marriage battle are targeting transgender people, engaging in fear mongering around restrooms and locker rooms. This year so far, we have seen 20 pieces of legislation in nine states aimed exactly at calling us out as unworthy of participating in society, telling us we can't use the public restrooms we have been using without incident for years, telling us we don't belong and aren't welcome. Legislation has even been introduced in several states offering thousands of dollars in bounty money to students who turn in their transgender classmates for using the restrooms at school.

Our opposition may try to dehumanize us, but we will win these battles. We are resilient. And we are fiercely protective of our transgender children.

For me, someone who is almost Jenner's age, I know where my resilience comes from. I knew about my transgender secret starting at age three, but had to keep it inside for another 37 years, outrunning it all by my young self, unable to share who I was with family, friends or anyone. I was waiting for my real life to begin and I knew that I alone had to do what I had to do. Even as a child, I was very strong and very lonely. Without the completely supportive family and friends I had, I don't know that even my strength could have carried me through.

Being transgender is different for everyone. Some of us are fortunate and privileged in many ways, while some folks never have fairness on their side. Nonetheless, as a lot of my friends have said, every one of us loses something. Some lose everything.

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I know transgender people who transition from female to male and have had their own children forcibly removed from their lives. I have known scores of transgender people who have become homeless. Too often people are arrested for what we call "walking while trans" -- when police assume a transgender woman out in public is engaged in sex work. Trans people sucked into the criminal justice system are forced to endure extreme sexual and physical assault. And so many people, especially those who come out young or come out in communities that are already economically marginalized in the U.S., never have any chance to complete their education or get into the traditional workforce.

But transgender people who come out gain so much, even when we lose other things. Contrary to narratives of transgender people being somehow inherently fraudulent, when we come out, we become completely honest about who we really are. And we get to stop trying to outrun this thing most of us first saw chasing us as young children. I now understand that it was chasing me to give me an amazing gift. I understand that the thing chasing me, that so much of society sees as a monster, was really just me. And I have received an amazing gift by no longer running from myself, by becoming myself.

So, hello Bruce Jenner. Welcome. You can stop running now. Transgender people are here to stay and I'm glad you'll be with us. Let's push this tipping point over together. Let's do it for all of the trans kids that come after us. Keep up your resilience and know that you are making the world a better place. And be careful out there.

Editor's note: Mara Keisling is the founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

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