If there’s one word that best describes Pride Foundation Fellow Dianne Piggott today, it’s “authentic.”
That’s certainly not the word the Boise transgender woman would have picked for herself until just a few years ago when she decided it was time to “pick up where I left off” and continue her gender transition process. In the late 1990s, Piggott had moved to Seattle in an unsuccessful attempt to transition. But she came back to Boise just two years later and resumed her life as a man for the next several years.
“I was marginalized,” Dianne said of her time in Seattle. “There was too little understanding of transgender issues at that time, including by me, and nobody to say ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK.’”
But what a difference nearly two decades makes. Now 54, Dianne not only knows she’s going to flourish, she’s determined to make sure others in need can, too. She will be a junior at Boise State University in the fall, where she is seeking a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Dianne also plans to earn a master’s degree in social work, with the end goal of becoming a counselor.
“I want to specialize in change,” Dianne said. “I’ve learned about the burden of not making change when you need to, and not just in the LGBTQ community. This is something I see as part of my journey. It’s central to me being a whole person.”
Dianne’s desire to help bring about change includes stepped-up activism in the Idaho LGBTQ community. She was arrested twice as part of Add the 4 Words, peaceful protests during Idaho’s 2014 legislative session to encourage lawmakers to include the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protections in the Idaho Human Rights Act. Dianne was also among those interviewed for an Add the Words documentary film earlier this year, co-sponsored by Pride Foundation.
In June, Dianne joined the ACLU of Idaho’s staff for the summer as part of Pride Foundation’s Fellowship Program. Her duties have included compiling a network of transgender people in Idaho to help facilitate regional communication about shared issues, and putting together a “Know Your Voting Rights” pamphlet for the transgender community.
“Dianne has been pivotal in our work to expand education on issues relating to the rights of transgender community members,” said Leo Morales, interim executive director for the ACLU of Idaho. “In many parts of the country, transgender community members face elevated challenges, and even more so in Idaho, where biases continue to permeate communities, institutions, and places of work. Dianne is extremely talented, energetic and passionate, and we are happy to have her here with us. Her unique paradigm on the issue of transgender justice has been tremendously important in our work to advance equal justice for all.”
“Our partnership with Pride Foundation to host a Fellow here is very significant,” he added. “Some of the work we do now would not be possible if not for the additional staff support we get from this program. Our transgender justice work this summer is reinforced because of the program, and that creates a better place for all Idahoans.”
“This experience has been awesome!” Dianne said. “I appreciate that one of the points of the Fellowship Program is to help me develop my activism. The staff at the ACLU have made a point to not just put me in contact with those involved in this work, but also to help me ask good questions so I can learn about these people’s lives as activists and what has led them to where they are today, their motivations, and passions. I’ve been involved in the goal formation and planning stages of the projects I’ve worked on, which means I don’t just know how to do something, I also understand why and what the goal is. It has really prepared me to be much more effective in the community.”
Asked to sum up who she is today, Dianne described herself as “a student, an activist, and someone who is moving forward. My advice to people is to not be afraid to live, make changes and try new things. Be authentic – and have no regrets. Regret doesn’t do anyone any good at all.”
Applications for organizations to host summer fellows will be available on August 25th. Click here to learn more and make sure to share this information with organizations in your region.
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.