Jessica Xavier was born in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1952. Growing up in a government family, Jessica was raised in a Roman Catholic household, later attending Catholic school. From age 7, she realized she was not a boy but struggled to find a label to define herself.
From her teen years, Jessica experienced clinical depression and struggled with her identity, a battle that would last well into adulthood. After attending The University of Maryland, she was a semi-professional musician using alcohol and drugs to cope with alienation over her identity. She finally began her medical transition in 1991.
Jessica has been profoundly influenced by various events and individuals. The 1993 March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Rights politicized her and sparked her passion for activism. She then co-founded the grassroots political action and lobbying group, It’s Time, America!, in 1994, which focused on transgender rights.
Throughout her life, Jessica has faced numerous challenges, including experiencing transphobia and assault. She survived anti-transgender violence and became an advocate against it. Tragic incidents like the death of Tyra Hunter in 1995 and the murders of Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis in 1996 highlighted the need for her advocacy work.
She also became dedicated to shedding light on the extent of HIV among transgender women of color, beginning her work with the Washington D.C. Transgender Needs Assessment Survey (WTNAS) from 1998 to 2000. She considers the completion of the WTNAS survey one of her greatest achievements. It resulted in a final report that brought attention to the needs of transgender individuals. During this turbulent period of the late 1990s, Jessica found mentors in influential figures such as Judge Phyllis Frye, Sylvia Rivera, Dr. Judy Bradford, and Dr. Pat Hawkins.
Jessica’s life has revolved around three main axes: political advocacy, healthcare, and music. Her dedication to transgender-related data collection led her to work in HIV care for many years, including clinical research trials at George Washington University and a tenure in the federal government’s Health Resources and Services Administration and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Her advocacy led to the establishment of trans-specific HIV care programs, making significant contributions to the health and well-being of transgender communities. And, in 1999, she released her first CD, “Changeling,” becoming one of the first openly transgender artists to do so. And in 2000, she co-founded Gender Education and Advocacy.
Her work as an activist, scholar, and artist has garnered recognitions such as the Public Service Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex and the Distinguished Service Award from the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance.
Outside of her professional life, Jessica has an interest in Wicca and Reiki, and takes great pride in her work as a musician. Her goal has always been to create a future without fear where trans people have easily accessible healthcare.