“I Want to Wake Up”
A Speech to the National Press Club
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
The upcoming combination of MLK Day and Obama’s inauguration made me think about this speech, originally given at the National Press Club in May 2007. Hope you’ll forgive the re-tweet (sic) but these words mean a lot to me. The text is © 2007 Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Thank you. Look at you all. It’s very cool to see all of you
gathered in one spot, all these trans people and their allies.
There are a lot of things I don’t know, but I know this:
Tomorrow is going to be a great day.
One night recently, my children and my partner and I
were talking about the usual stuff at dinner—about whether
bloodhounds drool too much, about who would win, The
Incredible Hulk, or Abraham Lincoln? At one point we even
fell into the classic discussion of what makes the best
superpower? While I argued for super-speed, my children
tried to make the case for Time-Travel, and Flying, and
something they called Super-stickiness, which might be the
thing that enables Spiderman to climb walls, or which might
be something else entirely.
My son Sean was doing a book report on Martin Luther
King at the time. And in the midst of our conversation,
Sean suddenly looked up at Grace and me and said, “Why
did Martin Luther King say he wanted to dream?”
And we said, well, it’s good to dream.
My son said he understood that. But why, he asked, didn’t
Martin Luther King want to wake up? And step out into a
world where those dreams are at last coming true?
As I think about all of us—transgendered Americans in this
room and across the country, I can’t help but think that my
son is right. While our dreams give us courage and hope, it
is also surely time that we all wake up, and enjoy our rights
as American citizens, in a country that respects our diversity,
our courage, and our strength.
And so I say to you:
I want to wake up in a country where transgendered people
are seen as human, where our curiously gendered lives are
seen as one more variation in the rich tapestry of experience,
as something not to be shocked by, but as something to be
celebrated, and honored, and understood.
I want to wake up in a country where Americans
understand that transgender people come in all shapes and
sizes and embodiments, where to be a cross dresser or a
transsexual or a drag queen or trans man or genderqueer is
seen as simply another way of being human, a person
endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights, and
that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of
I want to wake up tomorrow.
I want to wake up in a country where coming out as
transgender is not seen as the end of the world, but as a
beginning, where the lives of people such as ourselves are
celebrated, where we are seen as precious, vital parts of a
democracy, where we have the right to earn a living without
fear of being fired for what we are, where we have the right
to get married to the people we love, where the President of
the United States will reach out and shake our hands and
say that he is proud of everything we bring to the American
experience. I want to wake up.
I want to wake up in a country where qualified,
hardworking Americans will never be denied job
opportunities because of the sexual orientation or their
gender identity or expression, a country where every
individual will have a fundamental right under Federal Law,
to be protected from discrimination. I want to wake up in a
country in which the thirty-three states at present where a
person can be fired because of her sexuality have to change
their laws. I want to wake up in a country in which the forty-
two states in which a person can be fired because of her
gender identity have to change their laws. I want to wake
up in a country in which men and women are judged not by
what they are wearing, or whom they love, but by the
content of their characters. I want to wake up.
I want to wake up to a county in which crimes against
transgender people will never be excused by anybody, ever,
for any reason.
Tomorrow morning, when you open your eyes, you will
wake up into a country which is changing, one human face
at a time. And in so doing, you will also answer for my
family another one of those questions we ask around the
dinner table, namely, who is the best superhero?
Wolverine? Spiderman?? Thomas Jefferson? And what
exactly does it mean, in the end, to be a hero?
If you ask me, the best superheroes are the transgender
people in this room and all across America. In your grace,
your courage, in your unquenchable desire to make this a
better country, you are all heroes.
It is an honor to be here with you all, fighting this fight.
With all our super powers tomorrow—super love, super
compassion, and yes, even a little bit of super-stickiness–I
know that in the morning, we are all going to wake up to a
better country, and to a better future.
Tomorrow is going to be a great day.