Transgender activist Angelica Ross danced onto the stage in the Freeman Auditorium to speak to students and advocate for transgender and racial rights as part of Penn State’s Pride Week.
Ross is a transgender businesswoman, actress and founding CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises. Co-sponsored by the LGBTQA Student Resource Center and the Center for Women Students, Ross gave a presentation titled “We Are Not Worthy” Wednesday night.
Ross has left a wake of accomplishments behind her. She is known as an actress for an Emmy-nominated web series titled “Her Story” that narrates the lives of two trans women.
Her company, TransTech Social Enterprises, serves to provide members of the LGBTQA community, namely the transgender community, with tools and experience to be successful economically and in their careers.
Ross has received substantial publicity from major media outlets, such as The Huffington Post, and she has made appearances with many celebrities. She guest-starred on the reality show “I am Cait,” and she has had several podcasts with fellow actress and trans advocate Laverne Cox. She even took to the stage with Hillary Clinton at a campaign event during the most recent presidential race.
Marlana Quaill said she frequents presentations similar to Ross’s and said Ross’s stood out to her and was “eye-opening and inspirational.” She liked Ross’s humor and outspoken personality. “Students should come to events like this more often,” Quaill (junior - psychology) said.
Transgender, gender-nonconforming and racial rights were the focal point of Ross’s presentation Wednesday. As both a trans woman and woman of color, the topics are dear to her and easy for her to be passionate about.
Alexis Scott (junior - women's studies), is President of Queer and Trans People of Color at Penn State, said she was glad to see such a “prominent trans woman of color who has done great things” at a university made up mostly of cis white students.
In order to pave her path to womanhood, Ross had turned to sex work to afford the costs of a gender transition.
Even with the hardships she bore, she referred to herself as privileged for having the opportunity to transition and for being as successful as she now is.
“I went through a lot of dirt, a lot of mud, a lot of murky water to get where I am now,” Ross said.
A 2011 survey found 41% of transgender or gender nonconforming people had attempted suicide.
When Ross was 16, she came out as gay to her mother.
“My mother told me, ‘Either you commit suicide, or I will.’”
She survived an attempted suicide that night.
Ross said the oppression that once drove her to attempt to end her life now empowers her.
She said she had been referred to as an “angry black woman” innumerable times.
“But, you know what, sometimes I have the right to be angry,” Ross said. “Yes, the world is transphobic, yes the world is racist” she said, but it allows her to realize her strength and power to stay centered.