Ever since the release of trans activist Reyna Ortiz's book, T: Stands for Truth: In search of the Queen, last fall, her life has been a whirlwind of new experiences. Ortizwho was born in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood and raised in Cicero, Illinoishas been advocating for the trans community since she was a teenager.
"There have been so many great things that have happened since the release of my book," said Ortiz. "The one thing that stands out the most is the acknowledgement of my experiences. The majority of people have no idea the life lived by a trans person, especially a trans woman of color. So it is really great when I see people coming to an understanding of not only the complications but the beauty as well."
One of the things Ortiz has done in recent months is start her own publishing company, Trans Fusions Publishing.
"I learned so much about the process of publishing when my book was being put together," said Ortiz. "Having my own company has given me the ability to publish other stories of trans identified people. I am working with other trans people who are willing to share their stories, artwork, poetry or anything else they find important about their experiences. If they are willing to do the work, so am I."
Ortiz explained that it is time to document trans history through personal stories from wide variety of people in the trans community. She said there are only a small number of positive influences that that trans community has to hold onto because most of the community's history "has been swept under the rug, dismissed or straight up stolen."
Not only has Ortiz published a book, but she is also Chicago House's Trans Life Center's TransSafe coordinator and the Task Force Prevention and Community Services' trans resource navigator and drop-in manager.
Ortiz explained that her position running Chicago House's Trans Life Center "with staff who are equally dedicated is community-building at its finest. Finding trans-identified people all throughout the city and being able to connect them to a space that you know is going to handle business is refreshing. Connecting a participant to housing, legal, medical and employment in a simplistic way can be life-changing. Trust is important within our community. Participants need to trust you in order to be able to do this work successfully."
When Ortiz is not working at Chicago House she can be found at Task Force Prevention and Community Services or what the youth call "The Vogue School" helping young people at the drop-in space which is "one of my favorite places to be and so much fun."
"The energy of the youth and their love for Vogue is glorious," said Ortiz. "These young people know that they can come to me with an issue and I will try my absolute best to help them work through it. I connect youth to medical appointments, housing resources, employment services and the newly created free legal clinic. Working with trans/gender nonconforming youth is the most fulfilling part of my work. We learn so much from each other and they give me such a different perspective on life. I am so proud of their courage, strength, resourcefulness and resilience."
In terms of Ortiz's journey since high school, she noted that this year will mark 20 years since graduation. Since that time, Ortiz explained that she has learned "lots of life lessons including learning from my mistakes." She noted that everyone's life should be in transition "spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually to keep evolving, learning and for self-growth" and that is how she has navigated her entire adult life.
Over the past two plus decades, Ortiz was also named her high school's prom queen, featured on NPR's StoryCorps and co-founded Trans Women in Real Life.
Ortiz will also be reading from her book at Chicago House's annual Spring Brunch & Fashion Show ( which has the theme "Revive! Rally on the Runway" )at her favorite library, the Harold Washington Library. She said guests should expect "great energy and a festive time."
"I am so excited for the future of my community," said Ortiz. "The trans community is reclaiming itself and taking responsibility for ourselves. We have lots of work to be done and we also understand that it is time to move forward. My story, our story is about perseverance."
To purchase tickets for the Sunday, May 6 Chicago House event ( 12:00-3:30 p.m. ), visit www.chicagohouse.org/buy-tickets/. To read more about Ortiz, visit www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Trans-leader-Reyna-Ortiz-on-new-book-being-prom-queen/60911.html .