Rachael Rose Luckey is a Transgender Activist and President Emeritus of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council, running for the L.A. City Council District 13. Once elected, she will become the first openly transgender person to be elect to the L.A. City Council. In this multi-part interview series, she speaks to Campaign Press Secretary Hollis Evans about her transition, political awakenings, the rich, poor, and houseless of CD13, and a future where City Hall commits to building equitable communities where citizens come before profit driven developments and a militarized police force.
Hollis Evans: You are the first openly transgender person to run for L.A. City Council. Tell me the beginning of your journey, when you first realized that you were not cisgender, but transgender? Take me through the process to where you are today.
Rachael Rose Luckey: The way the question is framed, does not lend itself to a linear timeline. What I mean by that is in the late 90s, I started cross dressing. The woman I was living with, we kind of got into a playful mood one night and it started with me wearing one of her skirts. That was kind of a trigger.
Hollis Evans: What age were you?
Rachael Rose Luckey: I'd say about 35 or 36-years-old. And that led to my being comfortable presenting as female. I don't remember the exact moment when I decided on the name Rachael Rose, but that was the name that felt right ever since.
Hollis Evans: Names are important among the transgender community?
Rachael Rose Luckey: Yes, very important. That name became who I really felt I was at that time. For a couple of years, before I moved to L.A. in 2001, I was cross dressing pretty much every chance I could get. And that involved going out to clubs, etc. When I was cross dressing in Washington, D.C., I was out, out and about, in public, especially at night, in the clubs, playing pool--the whole nine yards. I didn't know how my boss was going to react, even though he was a gay man.
Hollis Evans: Were you afraid to tell your employer?
Rachael Rose Luckey: Well, he was a gay man, and it was just the two of us in the office, but I did keep it from him. So, to answer your question, after I moved to L.A., and started my life all over again at the age of 38, I felt like I didn't need an extra complication in my life in a new city--that being Rachael Rose. And so, I put her in a closet.
Then, in 2013, I had just broken up with the person I was with. We weren't living together, but we had been together for about five years and we had just broken up. And I was rooting around in the back of my closet, and I came across the only item I had left over from when I was cross dressing. I had gotten rid of all that stuff, but I did come across a hippie skirt in the back of my closet. And so, I put the skirt on. My first thought was: “You know, how good it would feel if I shaved my legs?” And then my very next thought was: “You know what path you're going down, don't you?” Literally, that was my next thought. And I was okay with that.
Hollis Evans: Did you have any fears over transitioning fully?
Rachael Rose Luckey: No. That was at the age of 50. My next thought after that was, because my chest was very hairy, my next thought was: “You know how good it would feel if I shaved it all off?” Then, my very next thought was: “You know what road you're going down, right?” And, again, I was okay with that. And the road I was going down? I was going down the transition road.
When I was cross dressing back in Washington, D.C., I didn't know anything about transgender or gender identity, gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria. I didn't know anything about any of that. When I decided to actually transition, I started to do research online. I scheduled a doctor's appointment to get hormones. The doctor at the time would only take transgender patients on every other Tuesday, and I just happened to call on a Tuesday, so I had to wait two weeks. I Googled everything and anything, any question I had, plus the words “transgender” and/or “transsexual.” And, obviously, there's a lot of information out there. Two weeks later, I walked into his office, and I knew exactly what I wanted, why I wanted it. I was convinced that this was the right path. This is what I needed to do.
Hollis Evans: That was in 2013?
Rachael Rose Luckey: Yes. July 23, 2013 was the first time I took hormones. That’s the date. That's my transgender birth date. That's when I feel like I officially started my transition. In retrospect, I wish I transitioned when I was a teenager.
But the reason I was telling you this whole story, and the reason that there's not a linear timeline to this, because when I started transitioning, and throughout, especially the early years of that, I could then look back...I have a jewelry box that I have from when I was a kid, and in it there is a single Jack, like from the game Jacks?
Hollis Evans: Yeah, I got the visual.
Rachael Rose Luckey: There's a single Jack in there. And I had found it, and I had kept it, because I had always wanted to play Jacks with the girls. I had always wanted to learn how to double-Dutch. I always felt more comfortable around the girls than the boys. And, you know, I can look back to when I was a young person, and as a teenager, and see it. I can see it. Of course, I was born in 1963, and you’ve got to remember, at that time, I guess the word they were using at the time was transsexual. Transgender wasn't even a word then.
Hollis Evans: I remember the word transsexual from the 1970s, but I don't remember the word transgender ever being used then. It’s a newer term.
Rachael Rose Luckey: The answer to the question is that, during my transition, I was able to look back into my childhood and my teen years, even my early adulthood, of signs that, if I had known, if there had been the gender education we have now, I think I could have identified myself at an early age, or someone would have identified me at an early age.
Hollis Evans: Right, the schools are much more sensitive to this issue for kids coming up. The kids are very educated in this.
Rachael Rose Luckey: The kids are. Unfortunately, a lot of the adults aren't. There was a study done, probably two or three years ago, and 25% of the students polled identified somewhere along the transgender spectrum.
Tell me how transitioning segued into a political awakening for you? You've talked about the Stonewall Democratic Club.
Rachael Rose Luckey: During my transition, about nine months into it, in the spring of 2014, I attended the Transgender Law Center's Transgender Leadership Summit, and I took their activism workshops and I was bitten by the bug. One of the things I came across while I was doing my research on transitioning was to make a plan. I didn't do that (laughs).
Hollis Evans: Make a plan?
Rachael Rose Luckey: Yeah, make a plan. Because, for some, it depends on where you are in the country, especially in the early days, when things weren't quite as liberal as they are now, the plan would be to transition in the locale that you're at, and then move to another city and start all over, start a new life in the new gender and go stealth. Stealth, meaning that you don't let anybody know that you're transgender. During the bad old days, that was a defense mechanism.
Hollis Evans: Back in the old days when unmarried women got pregnant, they often went to another town or city to have the baby, and then came back. There was a kind of shame attached to it.
Rachael Rose Luckey: One of the things that I read was, in a lot of cases, you will not be able to do the same work that you had been doing as male. For me, because my work at the time was as a set carpenter, which is very, very physical, the effects of the hormones I had read--and later on discovered it's true--I would lose 20-30% of my upper body muscle mass. You've heard the arguments about transgender people being in girl sports?
Hollis Evans: Yeah, it's a huge controversy right now.
Rachael Rose Luckey: And Republicans are using it as a wedge issue right now. But as long as the transgender person has gone through a hormone replacement therapy regime during a long enough period of time...
Hollis Evans: I believe it’s a year.
Rachael Rose Luckey: Yeah, that sounds about right. Then, you know, then their argument falls apart. So I got bitten by the bug, and at the same time knowing that I needed to find something else to do for a living, I pivoted. That was the same year that Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) came out on the cover of Time magazine, with the subtitle, Transgender Tipping Point. She's an actress. I get that. But she had also been able to parlay her activism into actual paying work. And so, I said to myself, let me go in this direction. Let me see what happens...
The Future is Female, Is City Hall Ready for Its First Transgender Councilmember?, Part 2 will appear Monday, May 3 in CityWatch LA. You can find out more about Rachael Rose Luckey and her campaign for L.A. City Council CD13 in 2022 at RachaelRoseForLA.com and by listening to her podcast, ConversationsWithLA.com.
(Interview by Hollas Evens wih LA City Council candidate Rachael Rose Luckey.)