Thomas Hudson’s story went viral a few weeks ago, back when everyday activities like getting coffee before work, going to the gym and shopping for groceries were ordinary events.
On February 25, Hudson, who identifies as non-binary, stood up to a disrespectful customer at a local grocery store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The customer made rude comments about Thomas’ outfit.
“Today while grocery shopping someone was brave enough to ask me … ‘Why are you wearing that you’re confusing folks. Do you want to be a boy or a girl?,’” Hudson wrote on Facebook.
The story has received over 23,000 shares and nearly 300 comments supporting Hudson and other members of the LGBTQ+ community who stand up for equality when confronted with blatant discrmination.
It’s a pattern that has become all too familiar for Hudson who works as a Youth Engagement Coordinator. After being placed in foster care at the age of 9, Hudson aged out of the system at 18 and vowed to dedicate his life to protect vulnerable youths. Hudson’s advocacy work and volunteerism led to an internship with the office of Congresswoman Karen Bass and then a role with the Biden Foundation as a LGBTQ+ Policy Associate.
As the community and allies celebrate International Transgended Day of Visibility on March 31, Hudson spoke with BET.com about the Facebook post going viral and a passion for living a completely unbothered, non-binary Black life.
BET.com: What has the response been like after your post went viral?
Thomas Hudson: Since my post went viral it has been a sensational wave of validation and encouragement. As I wrote about it on Facebook, I wasn't upset or even surprised by the encounter. As a Black, nonbinary person, encounters such as these are all too familiar. The response after sharing is what took me by surprise. Metro UK reached out to me for an interview less than a week after my post, which has now been shared by some of my favorite advocates like Alok Vaid-Menon and Rosario Dawson. All because I stood in my truth. I’ve appreciated the love and I am hopeful that people will continue to be inspired by my advocacy and daily adventures.
BET.com: It’s hard enough to navigate the world as a non-binary or trans Black person when you’re an adult, but Zaya Wade is trying to live in her truth as a teen. What are your thoughts on Zaya’s journey and the way the Wade family has handled her transition?
Thomas Hudson: The Wade family has set a very powerful example of what it means to affirm and accept your child despite your own lack of understanding. In a recent video Dwyane and Gabrielle shared that their first priority was ensuring that Zaya felt supported and loved by her community. They even shared that it took them time to learn and make the changes that were necessary.
Children so often are made to believe who they are is a negative thing. They are thrown out of their home and forced to survive before ever having a chance to thrive. I hope that other families will see this and learn that making changes like this are not easy, comfortable, nor do they happen overnight. I hope that young Black transgender and gender nonconforming children read Zaya’s story and continue to be inspired to live their most authenitc lives.
BET.com: You shouted out Beyoncé in your FB Post and encouraged her to send you an Ivy Park box of goodies. What would you do if you actually heard from Bey?
Thomas Hudson: Well, the first thing I would do is have a slight panic attack because if I get a box that means Beyoncé knows who I am or is familiar with my story which would mean the world to me. Anyone who knows me, knows that Beyoncé is number one for me. Her music, her story, the motivation, the artistry, it's all pure perfection. Beyoncé is a legend and everyday I am so thankful that she is still with us. I would link up with a photographer ASAP and live my fantasy in each of the outfits with “Homecoming” blasting in the background.
BET.com: Can you tell us more about advocacy work that you do?
Thomas Hudson: I currently serve as the Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation in Pittsburgh, PA. We offer a variety of services and support to our communities as well as expert training for organizations to improve their capacity to serve LGBTQ+ clients and staff. I have the honor of helping LGBTQ+ youth access resources, feel empowered to ask for the things they need, and make sure their voices are always centered in decision affecting their well being.
When I am not at the foundation, I work as a freelance speaker and strategist. I have partnered with many national organizations such as Lambda Legal, LGBTQ+ Task Force, and Center for the study of Social Policy. Over the years I have learned there is power in speaking my truth.
There is power in being openly queer and unapologetic. I love connecting with people in a way that is authentic, inspiring, and empowering. I intend to use this gift to provide more visibility about the trans experience and to help people be more affirming of their children and folks within the community.
For more on Thomas Hudson and their advocacy work, visit thomashhudson.com
Photos courtesy of Paula Lopez and Devon Rowland Photography.