Jenna Rapues is a transgender activist who works on issues of public health, HIV prevention, class identity, and immigration. Born in Santa Mesa, Philippines in 1973, her family immigrated to the US for new opportunities in 1980, but were limited in their ability to pursue those opportunities until they were granted amnesty in 1986. Growing up, Jenna began to develop an awareness of her gender and sexual identity. She went to UC Santa Cruz for college, during which she had ‘most liberating “aha” moment [of her] life.’ While at UC Santa Cruz, she was involved in student organizations focused on identity, and founded Queers of Color, now one of the largest student organizations on campus. Her first job was at the Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center (LYRIC). There she met drag queens who worked on HIV efforts in the community. One of them, Jealous Jiggets, was vital in her journey of self-acceptance, giving her “that moment of support that I think was really instrumental with me coming to terms with being okay with me.” Today, Jenna works in public health. She speaks about her experiences growing up in a working-class household and on issues of intersectionality.
At the end of the day it’s about the intersectionalities, the way we understand things — I’m not just trans, I’m a person of color, I’m an immigrant. But, how do I come to terms with those intersectionalities to address to our multiple identities and where we come from and at the same time celebrate people or support people who are going through these things.
I think because I’m kind of — well, 40 is kind of old. Excuse me…40 in the transgender spectrum of age — maybe a little older. But in terms of me having been around and having experienced things over time, and having had the privilege to reflect on all those experiences — I’ve come to the point, or come to the acceptance that it gets better over time.