In the life of a transgender activist like Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, 10 years is a long time. When asked to envision where she'll be a decade from now, she struggles to contemplate the possibilities.
"Ten years ago, I was a largely closeted teenager and now I'm a D.C.-based full-time trans activist," the 28-year-old Rodríguez-Roldán says. "I constantly aim to be an agent of change, and in 10 years I want to still being doing that."
With strong activist roots—her father was a historian focused on the slave trade, her mother a veteran of leftist politics in Puerto Rico, where Victoria grew up and lived until she left for law school at the University of Maine—Rodríguez-Roldán says that being an "advocate for LGBTQ rights was not a possibility, or an idea, let alone a potential career choice. It was a literal given."
But it's not just her parents' influence that led her to her current work; in addition to coming out as a trans woman in her teens, Rodríguez-Roldán was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her mid-20s after struggling with depression. Now, she works on behalf of trans and gender-non-conforming (GNC) people in her role as Trans/GNC Justice Project and Disability Justice Project director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, where Rodríguez-Roldán focuses her advocacy and policy efforts on "the intersection between disability, mental health, and trans identity."
Her efforts center on engaging with policymakers throughout Congress and various government agencies to help promote policies that will benefit the trans community. Rodríguez-Roldán is especially proud of establishing a best-practice guide for employers and supervisors when it comes to their trans employees, a report published jointly by the task force and the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
Like many modern humans—particularly ones who work in D.C.—Rodríguez-Roldán's inbox and social-media accounts are constantly abuzz. However, she pays far more attention to them than most people do—with good reason: She commonly receives requests for help from trans youth, incarcerated trans people, and others who have been mistreated by the health-care, legal, or employment systems.
"As a rule, I always respond, I always try to help as much as I can," Rodríguez-Roldán says. "Sometimes that means being in [the office] late hearing folks out, answering questions, trying to find them resources, or putting them in touch with people who can help them more. The thread in common is that they are all injustices, one after another. Let me tell you, you do not get used to seeing them, and that's a good thing. You can't let your heart go numb."
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