December 4, 2015 12:31 pm
Updated: December 4, 2015 2:41 pm

The fight for trans rights: Character profiles

WATCH ABOVE: A preview for 16x9's "The Fight for Trans Rights"


We spoke with some amazing transgender people for our piece “The fight for trans rights” and wanted you to get to know them a little more. Below are some brief profiles of some of the people we met.

READ MORE: The fight for trans rights: a matter of life and death

Christine Newman

Age: 52

Job: Writer, advocate

How old were you when you realized you were transgender?

Fifteen. I pretty much figured out in my teens, came out to my mum at 16. She wasn’t surprised. She had already been gathering information. You know, looked at different options over the years. Things were different then.

There were a lot more gatekeepers, rules, things to get in the way. And it was a pretty horrific process back then too.

WATCH BELOW: Christine Newman talks about transitioning

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How old were you when you transitioned?

You get to this stage where I’m miserable like this. I’m playing a role that was assigned. It’s not who I am.

And … it’s like when are you gonna stop pretending and be who you were actually meant to be or be who you actually are?

So after having a minor heart attack on top of a panic attack, you know what? It’s time. And a friend said, “Well, it’s now or never. Get your sh** together and get moving.”

And so at 50 I started.

What does being a woman mean to you?

It’s more than just what you look like on the outside. It’s the way you think. It’s the way your emotions react to certain things. It’s how you deal with people. I explained it to somebody once. I said, “Look, I can think in two minds. I can think very male. I go very linear and very logical. Or I can think female and go on all the different tangents.”

I still arrive at the same place. I just have different paths to get there.

Have things gotten better over the years?

I think with the increased visibility now, people are starting to realize that we’re not throwaways. We’re people. We think. We matter … we’re starting to see trans people in jobs that we never saw before.


Evana Ortigoza

Age: 50

Job: Fife House

How old were you when you realized you were transgender?

I’ve always known.

How did your family react?

They kicked me out when I was 12. I was in a boarding school – in Spain, Barcelona – because they wanted me out of there. They wanted me out of the family – they wanted the freak out of there.
So my life was living with priests and nuns as a trans, of course.

Can you tell us about your relationship with your husband Mark? (Been together for 16 years):

When I met Mark, (he) didn’t know anything about LGBT or trans community. Nothing. I have to teach him a little by a little.

WATCH BELOW: Evana Ortigoza and her husband Mark talk about their relationship

I know I can go home and I can talk to him … We have something very good between us – we never go to bed angry. We never go to bed sad. We always talk. We always made sure before we finish that day we are OK to each other.

That is one of the reasons we are together. And of course the respect we have for each other, respect so much to each other. We have our space, too. I know he’s a guy. He has his own box. I have my own box too, you know. And we respect that.

Julisa Abad

Age: 31

Job: Community services, advocate, Detroit, Michigan

How old were you when you realized you were transgender?


Tell us about your work as an advocate.

We know that there’re millions of transgender people but unfortunately when you are young and adolescent and you don’t know any better, you can feel like you’re the only one. Nobody understands your struggle. They’re too scared to talk to somebody or again don’t know where to start. And unfortunately they just don’t know how to overcome the battle by themselves.

I want it to be one day where being transgender is so normal to where they know nothing about prostitution or the struggle of having to get hormones or the day-to-day struggle of where you’re gonna eat, where you’re gonna lay your head.

WATCH ABOVE: An extended interview with Julisa Abad

What is your “safe space” in Detroit?

Safest place I feel is church … because I have a really spiritual relationship with God, it’s just so much that I can get off my chest, look forward to, meditate, come up with new goals and ambitions and things that I want to fulfill and do. So honestly that’s where I feel most at peace and good.

To reach Julisa: @julisa_abad

Alex Abramovich

Age: 35

Job: PhD, Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

How old were you when you started to transition?


How can you tell if someone is trans?

You may think you know how someone identifies but … you don’t. You can’t know how people identify … you may look at someone and may just perceive what their gender identity may be, which may be quite different than the way someone feels. People can struggle for years before they come out as trans. Before they come to the self-realization that they are trans.

WATCH BELOW: CAMH’s Alex Abramovich talks about transphobia

Why is it so important to use the right pronouns?

We need to respect trans people so start with something very basic like respect people’s name and pronouns. If you’ve addressed a trans person with the wrong pronoun and you know the person corrects you, you need to say sorry and just apologize and don’t get defensive. And that just adds to this cycle.

I certainly went through that when I first came out as trans and having every space that I walk into every single day, people would use the wrong pronouns. And you know, at some point, you start to question whether there’s something actually wrong with you, right? If every single space that you walk into makes you feel like you don’t exist, like you’re invisible, then you actually start to believe that you shouldn’t exist, right?

Dr. Abramovich’s work:

16×9’s “The Fight for Trans Rights” airs Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015.

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