SACRAMENTO, Calif. — When Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announced she was establishing the first of its kind Transgender Advisory Council, Ebony Harper said she was overcome with gratitude to be chosen as one of the nine members. 

"This is historic, we've never seen anything like this. The little 13-year-old me would have never imagined that we would have something like this – let alone me working as somebody in leadership," Harper said.  

What You Need To Know

  • Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis created the first in the nation Transgender Advisory Council

  • The council is made up of nine members from different parts of California

  • Ebony Harper is one of the members chosen by Kounalakis to help create dialogue between state leaders and the transgender community

  • The council will meet regularly to discuss the issues impacting transgender people in California

Harper said she was 13 when she ran away to Hollywood due to the emotional trauma she experienced from her family not accepting that she was transgender.

"I grew up in South Central and I grew up in a time when transgender folks had it really rough," she adds.

Fast forward to 2021, Harper is now the executive director for California TRANscends, a statewide initiative that focuses on the health and wellness of transgender people with a special focus on Black and brown communities.

This year, Harper was recognized by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty as the Woman of the Year for the 7th Assembly District..

“Not trans woman – woman of the year and that meant everything because we want to be affirmed as how we identify,” said Harper.

As one of California's Transgender Advisory Council members, Harper is looking forward to using her voice to help bring awareness and change to issues impacting members of the transgender community. 

"Here in California, I'm proud we have enacted many protections for LGBTQ+ people, but we still have work to do," Kounalakis said. "I look forward to the opportunity to listen, to learn and to help elevate the voices of the members."

Harper adds she's grateful to have allies like the Kounalakis who are standing up for the trans community.

"We just want to be accepted as other humans. A lot of us don't want special privileges, we just want the same privileges everyone else has," Harper said.

Through her leadership on the council, the human rights activist is hoping to help make life easier for trans children and youth who are in the same shoes she was once in.