Kylar Broadus, senior policy counsel and director of the Transgender Civil Rights Project, was the keynote speaker of “Unapologetically Confident: Transgender Awareness Week at Emerson College,” on November 3.
Broadus, a Missouri native who captivated the audience in the Bright Family Screening Room of the Paramount Center with his comical speaking tone, discussed his life and experiences in the transgender community. Among his many accomplishments is founding the Trans People of Color Coalition, the only national civil rights organization dedicated to the needs of trans people of color.
Broadus began by acknowledging he wasn’t as attractive as last year’s keynote speaker: actor Laverne Cox of Orange Is the New Black.
“Last year, you guys had my good friend Laverne come and she packed the house because she has a TV show. I don’t have a TV show,” Broadus said. “I’ve done quite a bit of work and I think I’m funnier than she is, and we can hash that out later.”
“If you haven’t guessed, I’m trans,” Broadus continued. “Trans is kind of trendy and cool now but it definitely wasn’t when I came out. When I was young, I knew I was not a girl, and I wondered why everybody spoke to me and said those words. I’ve known ever since I could speak that I was not a girl.”
Transgender advocate Kylar Broadus speaks to Emerson students at the Bright Family Screening Room on November 5. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)
Broadus talked at length about how his family dealt with his exploration of gender identity.
“When my mother would leave for work, she would lay these girly outfits for me, and when she left, I would change the outfits,” Broadus said. “I would go on truck rides with [my father] and everyone would say, ‘Oh, you brought your son,’ and he would say, ‘Yup,’ and just keep it moving. He never batted an eye.”
After talking about his childhood, he discussed a much harder part of his life: Living in an adult world and working as a lawyer when there were no transgender rights.
“I was out and proud because if you’re not out, people have power over you,” Broadus said. “After that, I had a lot of outpouring of love.”
Broadus said his coming out helped many other transgender people come out and approach him for support.
In his professional life, Broadus said he was once fired from a job because of his transgender status, and was unable to find a lawyer to help him file a lawsuit against his former employer.
“As a lawyer, knowing I couldn’t get a lawyer was terrifying,” he said. “I found out there were no laws to protect me. That’s why I got into this business.”
Several other events are taking place in the coming days as part of Transgender Awareness Week. Details can be found on the Events Calendar of emerson.edu.
Broadus’s speech was organized by Emerson’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and was co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Career Services, Student Life and the Dean of Students, EAGLE, EBONI, and Human Resources.
Another co-sponsor was the Athletics Department, which led to it being chosen as the recipient of the NCAA Division III Diversity Spotlight Award, which recognizes and promotes outstanding diversity-related projects, programming, and initiatives that are occurring within Division III.