Jake Ballinger is used to living in the shadow.
Although he transitioned as a female to male transgender nine years ago, it’s only been in the last three months that he’s publicly lived his true identity.
“The reason that I was staying stealthy was for the safety of my family, and I clung to it like it was the Holy Grail,” Ballinger said. “It hurt me, it hurt my relationships with friends, it hurt my family. It took me losing these things to realize there needed to be a change in my life.”
As an organizer of Fort Worth’s Transgender Day of Visibility, Ballinger wants more people to feel free to be who they are.
The Day of Visibility is held each year on March 31 to celebrate transgender people around the globe and their courage to live openly and authentically, while also raising awareness around the discrimination they face.
Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior do not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth, according to the
“Sometimes being seen can be uncomfortable and awkward,” Ballinger said.
Normalizing how people view transgenders in the world is Ballinger’s biggest objective; he wants the community to understand that transgender people are human beings that deserve the same rights non-transgender people have.
“The whole basis is not just to be visible to cis-genders,” Ballinger said, “but to help all of our brothers and sisters understand that we need to be normalized and visible.”
The event will be held at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth and will include a moderated panel of representatives of the female to male (FTM), male to female (MTF), non-binary/gender-fluid and significant others, family, friends
Each panelist will answer four questions in a five-minute time span, leaving the remaining 15-30 minutes for audience questions.
“It feeds my soul knowing that what we are doing can help other trans individuals be true to who they are, so the ones who are just discovering who they are can see they are not alone and that there are people just like them out there willing to help them,” co-organizer Cason Esquivel said.
Following the panel discussion, there will be refreshments and an opportunity to meet the panelists. Representatives from Trans-Cendence International, Inc., Coalition for Aging LGBT, PFLAG and AARP will table the event and offer LGBTQ+ resources and information.
“The first thing we have to do is teach people,” Ballinger said. “Once people have an understanding, then you have to become visible and try to get all of these other people visible, which is terrifying and difficult, but we have to start somewhere.”
Making its debut at the tabling event is Ballinger and Esquivel’s ‘Umbrella’ program: providing a resource directory for transgendered people to call or text 24/7.
They hope to have a physical location within the next year that will provide medical, legal, physical defense, mental health and clothing assistance for anyone who falls under the ‘T’ umbrella in LGBTQ+.
“Sometimes you just need someone to listen, and we can do that,” Ballinger said.
The event will be held at 5 p.m. on March 31. Doors will open at 4:15, and Ballinger