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When ‘too much’ is just right

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Mia Satya (Courtesy Mia Satya, photo by Victoria Smith)

Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya, 25, is a community grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride parade. The recognition comes for her work as an activist for youth and as a political organizer, as well as the many milestones she’s reached as a transgender woman.

She was the among the first class at Mills College, a women’s college, to admit transgender women uniformly (and not on a case-by-case basis).

She was also the first transgender woman in Emerge, a political training program for women.

But on the recent Thursday she met with the San Francisco Examiner, she was simply a daughter.

Satya sat a 2-foot-tall cardboard package shipped from her mother onto her kitchen table. It was filled to the brim with what Satya called “apology” gifts, because her parents didn’t attend her graduation.

Satya asked her parents to agree not to use her male birth name if they attended — to respect her true gender and her chosen name.

They didn’t go.

“She bought me a lot of random stuff from Wal-Mart,” Satya said as she opened the box.

Hot sauce, peanut butter and more emerged.

“They decided not to support me in college,” she continued. Satya supported herself through community college and through Mills.

She expressed some embarrassment when talking about her struggle. “I don’t know how to say it without sounding stereotypical,” she said.

That’s because, in many ways, her story now is the story of the maturing LGBT struggle writ large: Satya has many public accolades, appears in a documentary and video advertisements for S.F. Pride and is widely recognized as an upcoming social justice leader.

This success exists, even as she unpacks the apology box from her mother.

In her current role as director of young adult engagement for Transitional Age Youth San Francisco, Satya organized kids and teens to push local legislators to pass Free Muni for Youth, a program that continues to this day.

Satya also organized to renew the San Francisco’s Children’s Fund in 2014.

“I don’t know why that’s not sexier,” she said, noting how the effort received little news coverage, before joking the words “kids and sexy” shouldn’t go together.

Despite this social justice work, she said of a possible future political career, “I’m dreading the articles saying, ‘transgender candidate,’ the ‘transgender advocate,’” adding, “It’s very easy to put that label before” anything else.

Asked if she’ll run for office soon, Satya said “no comment” and laughed.

She moved to California from Texas at age 18. She flew with two nearly 50-pound bags. “I didn’t realize there were weight limits,” she said, “and hello, my name is Mia ‘Tu Mutch!’”

“Too much” was how people described her since childhood. “I was always extravagant, over the top and eccentric,” she said. “I never understood why it was such a big deal, but I had these rainbow pastel cheetah-print skinny jeans I’d wear in high school.”

People told her, “That’s too much, tone it down.” So when it came to pick her name, she said “maybe I am ‘too much,’” but “maybe that’s not a bad thing.”

Satya was homeless off and on until she was 20, but still quickly enmeshed herself in San Francisco community.

Satya was on the S.F. Youth Commission, and now serves on the advisory board of the S.F. LGBTQ Speaker’s Bureau, the Department of Children Youth and Their Families oversight and advisory committee, and the Mayor’s Taskforce on Human Trafficking and Child Sex Trafficking Subcommittee.

She’s in so many groups, she can’t remember them all off the top of her head.

Her success has given her “survivor’s guilt,” she said, knowing so many other transgender people, especially transgender women of color, who endure hate crimes and transphobic violence nationwide.

“I definitely benefitted from white privilege, and pretty privilege — some days,” she said, noting that she can “pass” as her true gender more often than not.

After she started getting her mother’s apology packages for not attending her graduation this month, Satya reached out.

“I was texting my mom, ‘FML, I’m so broke, this is a sad time,’” she said, referencing the internet text acronym “F– My Life,” an expression of frustration.

Satya said her mom’s text back surprised her. “She responded ‘no, it’s not an FML, you’re living your dream,’” Satya said.

Her mother hasn’t acknowledged Satya’s life quite like that before, she said. She paused, as she searched for the words to describe what that meant to her.

“I don’t take it for granted,” she said, “I will continue fighting so everyone can live their dream.”

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