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  • Writer's pictureDarian

Atlanta trans activist Tracee McDaniel is still on the front line for equality

Tracee McDaniel was a Grand Marshal at the 2015 Atlanta Pride Parade

For over 20 years, Tracee McDaniel has been a permanent fixture in trans activism in Atlanta. With a historic appointment by former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to the Atlanta Citizens Review Board—making her the first trans person to occupy a seat on the Board—McDaniels is now serving her second term on the LGBTQ Advisory Board under Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms while maintaining her role as Founder and Executive Director of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Incorporated—an advocacy, consulting, and social services referral organization, specifically designed to empower the trans and gender non-conforming community.

McDaniel says she was aware of her trans identity as a child growing up in Sumter, South Carolina, but didn’t have the language to identify how she felt inside—her emergence as a self-assured and empowered trans woman and activist was anything but certain. Realizing early in her development that there was a difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, McDaniel says she was clear the gay label did not fit.

“Although I didn't know what trans was, I knew I wasn't gay or homosexual,” said McDaniel. “So as I was growing up and I got older, I always knew that I was attracted to boys. It was a challenge between my mother and I—my gender identity. And so she did the best she could. She didn't know. She didn't have the knowledge or the understanding. She was just fearful for me. She knew how society would be.”

McDaniel tells The Reckoning that her mother played a significant role in shaping the woman she would become, often playing multiple roles as parent, loyal supporter, fierce protector, and unknowingly, a source of pain.

“She couldn't understand why I was different. Why I wasn't like my brother and my uncles,” said McDaniel. “And she used to force me to read these Bible verses, Leviticus — condemnation to hell and homosexuality. She tried to scare me straight. But when I read those scriptures, I was like, well, that has nothing to do with me because I'm not this person. I'm not homosexual or gay.”

McDaniel, who says she was always effeminate as a child, realized that her difference was defined as transgender. She knew she could never grow into the fullness of who she was in Sumter, so she took off for Myrtle Beach after high school graduation for a summer job that would mark the beginning of her transition and her first taste of freedom.

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