My name is Lorelei Erisis. Maybe you’ve seen me marching in Boston Pride, shouting loudly for trans rights while wearing a glittery crown, Miss Trans New England sash, and Doc Marten boots.
In short (which I definitely am not), I’m an Out, Proud, and Loud Queer Trans Woman. I’m also a Second City trained improviser and a longtime activist and I’d love to share with you several things I’ve learned as a part of the LGBTQ+ movement.
1. Say “Yes!”
Saying “Yes!” is how I got where I am today and it’s something I learned from improv.
I say, “Yes!” whenever I reasonably can and sometimes when I reasonably can’t. Saying yes whenever somebody needed a speaker, a volunteer, or a helping hand took me from a passionate but unknown speaker at a rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton to the halls of the Massachusetts State House to being invited to The White House and a whole lot of places in between.
Next, but equally important, is listening—another thing I got from improv.
In an improv scene, if you’re actively listening, then you’ll be in the moment and ready to react, say yes, and take advantage of whatever your scene partner might offer. If your partner is doing the same, everyone will be at their best and most effective. The scene will grow and move forward organically.
Now substitute “LGBTQ+ movement” for “improv scene” and you have a vital key to my success.
3. Visibility is important
Visibility reminds people that we, the LGBTQ+ community, are here. I made a choice early in my transition that I would be as visible as possible, even if that meant being a little messy about it sometimes.
I like to look good—I like being made-up and I like dressing up. I make TV appearances, model, and have been in the press enough times that I gave up trying to keep track. But I also work as a waitress and I know that as effective as everything else is, my visibility as a diner waitress has its own enormous impact. It lets me meet all kinds of folks and it normalizes the experience of my trans identity.
I think it’s important for people to see me when I’m being a regular person. It helps trans people to know they can just be who they are. And for everyone else, it humanizes me and the identities I represent.
Visibility, both big and small, is one of the most important drivers of change I know.
4. Be kind
Sometimes it can be hard and other times it simply isn’t possible, but it’s still important. I try to be kind to everyone I meet because I’ve seen how it makes a difference and I can honestly say it’s the most effective tool in my kit.
Aside from it just being a decent way to live, I’ve turned adversaries into allies simply by being kind. I’ve made lifelong friends and brief acquaintances remember me positively years, and even decades, later.
5. Self-care is good activism
I generally try to focus on the more positive things about being trans and LGBTQ+ activism and identities. We’ve made a lot of progress and that’s worth celebrating. But trans and queer folks are still under attack.
As relatively lucky as I’ve been, my own life has had a lot of pain and hardships. I’ve faced discrimination and harassment. I know that as bad as it’s been for me, many others have it far worse. That’s why I fight. Why I speak and write and march. Why I’m visible.
It’s also why I try to remember to laugh and enjoy life whenever I can—why I make time to read, cook delicious food, watch a movie, and fall in love. Staying alive, and enjoying life, is the best activism I can do. Our most revolutionary act is simply being here and being ourselves.
Learn a few lessons from trans activist Lorelei Erisis’s experience in the LGBTQ movement and how you can apply them to your own work and life.