* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
When Lili Ming was 18 years old, she began to transition to her true self. But she has not always been this self-assured. As a young woman, she often felt alone and without guidance.
“I had to learn everything by myself and it’s hard," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It’s nice to have help in that way – you feel lost as well, when you don’t know how to transition.”
So Lili decided to take a pro-active step, creating The Transparency Show, a web series that provides an informal platform for people to share trans life experiences, increase visibility, and answer questions and queries.
“The premise of the show was to normalise trans people,” she says. "We’re not what people assume. We’re not all freaks and escorts, we’re average people; we have normal jobs.
"We live among you," she laughs.
Transparency is a relatively new initiative, but Lili says she has big plans for the future. “We’ve still got loads more to do."
In the next episode, Lili and her co-founder Kenny aim to tackle the subject of dating, with plans for later programmes on how relationships with friends and family can be affected by the transitioning process.
“It’s hard," she says. "No matter how different you are when transitioning, you all go through the same kind of thing. It’s a big transition, you’re literally turning from one person to another.”
Lili explains that she hopes the series will not only to increase visibility for trans people, but will have an intersectional appeal to trans women of colour, like herself.
“When I was younger, I never saw anyone like me," she says. "It was kind of hard for me to find someone that looked like me that I could look up to. Now there is Laverne Cox, Munroe [Bergdorf], and others. There’s a few, but we need more. There’s loads of white, trans women, but there’s not a lot of black, Spanish, Asian, Indian trans women.
“That was my main aim – for a 13-year-old like me who doesn’t know what’s going on to see someone who’s had that journey.”
However, as much as Lili acknowledges the need for positive trans women of colour for young girls to look up to, Lili doesn’t see herself as a role model. “I hate that word!” she says.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a role model – I’m just a normal girl. But obviously being on the show has opened up more doors. I have had girls who have said – 'Oh I look up to you', and I never understood why. But I realise it’s because I’ve been a bit more confident. They see the show and see it’s attainable and that I’m happy and I’m living my life. They’ve reached out and said they would love to be on the show and know more, and it’s nice to help other girls.
"It makes my heart happy.”