I asked Salter Scharstein if they were shocked to be named one of Charleston's 50 Most Progressive.
“Yeah, I thought it was spam!”
You know, just their really progressive work.
Salter told me the story that started it all: “In October of 2013, I was really excited to attend We Are Family’s event Spirit Day, which is meant to bring awareness and attention to bullying, especially in the LGBTQ community and showcase stories of local youths. Their keynote speaker that year was Laverne Cox, so I was super stoked. I got there an hour early and was the only person in the theatre, like, ‘I love Laverne Cox!’ But the most moving portion of the event for me turned out to be a 14-year-old trans girl and her mother speaking. I was crying, because, first off, it’s a huge deal when parents can show up for their kids in such a powerful way, but this girl was bubbly, brilliant, funny, and self-deprecating, and, at the end of her talk, she said that the worst bullying she’s experienced to date has been at the hands of her insurance company. They denied her claims for puberty-suppression medication.”
So, Salter founded Trans Love Fund, a program of the preexisting We Are Family, whose first task was to help this youth gain access to the medication she needed, and then continued its work providing small, need-based grants to transpeople across the state.
Salter, too, is bubbly, brilliant, funny, and self-deprecating: “I don't how your brain works, but mine is very good at saying, ‘You’re never going to be able to do anything about this!’ But, finally, it said, ‘Maybe you will appreciate that you tried.’
Thus far, Salter has “tried” to provide micro grants for transpeople without health insurance or legal access, “tried” to normalize the terms genderqueer and non-binary in the Lowcountry, while educating many about non-conforming gender identities and the use of gender neutral pronouns. “Tried” to contribute to Charleston’s art scene with photography that isolates portions of buildings in downtown Charleston and seems to say, “One part of a thing does not equal the whole.”
And by “tried” I mean they've succeeded.
Words by Elizabeth Bowers
Photo by Leslie McKellar