Photos by Annie Flanagan
CHICAGO — Prized Brady-Davis’ sterile, fluorescent-lit office in the densest part of America’s third-biggest city is a far cry from the grassy backyard in Omaha where she started her story. After four hours of recounting their own lives one afternoon in late April, from her agitated infancy in Nebraska to becoming a nationally acknowledged organizer and orator, it started to feel a bit like a courthouse deposition. She paused for a moment, ripening hushed and wistful, before abruptly reemerging with the confident smiling of a theatre musician.
She gestured toward a made picture of her and her husband with former President Barack Obama, marveling at the surreality of her own life story.
“This is me, ” she said.
Brady-Davis, 33, is perhaps the most visible transgender girl of color in the atmosphere gesture today. She’s part of a new generation of environmentalists unmoored from the Patagonia-clad treehugger archetype and radicalized by global warming’s exacerbation of society’s worst prejudices. As once-disparate social movements are awakening to climate change’s ubiquity, Brady-Davis, a top press secretary for the Sierra Club, is depicting on her springs as a homosexual African American from a pious category in a deep-red, agricultural mood to build bridges over troubled and rising waters.
Her path from draw musician in Chicago to prominent LGBTQ activist to her central capacity at one of the country’s oldest and most influential environmental groups mirrors a nascent change in the climate crusade toward tricks long employed in civil rights battles. It likewise illustrates how much the effects of global warming on historically vulnerable parishes remain underappreciated.
“Whether it’s a woman’s right to choose what she does with their own bodies, a trans woman’s right to walk down the street without being murdered, or protecting clean-living water and breeze from pollutants, it’s all public health issues, ” Brady-Davis said. “To not have a more well-rounded view of justice is just perilous.”
Brady-Davis’ life was difficult from the start. She was born in 1985 in Omaha to a mother who suffered from mental health issues. Child service records memorandum determining her as a toddler toddling unsupervised in wall street and wandering into neighbors’ yards. At 6, her maternal grandfather, Andre Davis, and his second wife, Linda, borrowed her.
The family included five children — the grandparents’ two minors, plus Brady-Davis and her two siblings. Andre acted darkness as a hop and funk DJ and invested eras recording radio commercial-grades for craftsmen such as Brandy, Salt-N-Pepa and Da Brat. Linda, “whos working” a telemarketing occupation, was their primary caregiver.
The family attended a nondenominational faith, and the fiery, Pentecostal-style speeches in which accessed worshippers made a statement in tongues aroused Brady-Davis. The religion catered the community and organization she had always longed for. She led Sunday school grades, fixed craftsmanships and performed in puppet shows. More than anything, the music transfixed her, and she affiliated the choir.
Brady-Davis understood from an early age that something was different about her gender issues and sex identity. She cherished play games with dolls, and occasionally wore her sister’s high heels around the house. She longed to be a little girl — specific, a little white girl.
“I didn’t want to be a little black girl or a little black boy, ” she said. “I recognized early on that race was confined to economic privilege.”
As early as fourth position, the bullying began.
“People would say,’ Are you gay? Are you gay? ’” Brady-Davis recalled. “I didn’t even know what gay made. I did know my grandmother would say,’ Stop swishing.’ I didn’t know what that intended. I had no clue, but she was referring to how I moved my butt.”
Soon, the social pressures began mounting. She wanted to take up music, but her grandparents couldn’t afford to rent devices. Then, on Christmas Eve that year, her sister accused her grandfather of touching her inappropriately. He denied it, and while the allegations never was tantamount to legal accusations, the incident shattered her grandparents’ marriage and rocked the family forever. Brady-Davis’ grandfather left. Her older brother got into drugs and wound up in jail.
Brady-Davis says she was a “broken” child. “I looked all the men in my life, one by one, be sent off.”