VIDEO: Transgender advocate Brynn Tannehill's passionate and powerful speech for 2014 TransPride Pittsburgh

Brynn Tannehill, director of advocacy for Spart*a, the advocacy group of LGBT people who currently serve or have served in the military, delivered a powerful speech as the keynote speaker at the 2014 TransPride Pittsburgh National Conference last Saturday.

"Though I lived behind a mask fastened to me at birth, the facade never truly defined who was behind it," she said.

She began by emphasizing that tolerance is not the same as acceptance. She compared the struggles of a queer and gender non-conforming person in a place that is tolerant to that of a person drowning in the ocean without a raft.

"Just as survivors of a ship wreck are supposed to lash their rafts together for support and survival so too are queer and gender non-conforming people. But what if there's no one to lash yourself to? Then, we drift; unobserved, unknown, watching ship after oblivious ship glide past the horizon surrounded by water but not a drop to drink."

Actual acceptance is the goal.

"Acceptance, however, is life. Acceptance is an ocean littered with other survivors inviting you to tie yourself to their own rafts," she said.

Half way through, she let the audience into her personal struggle when she came out.

Coming out was, she said, "The most terrifying thing I had ever done. I had zero control and if they chose to use what I told them to hurt or humiliate me, I didn't have any recourse." Coming out, though, is "never comfortable but necessary."

The theme of the speech was visibility.

"As passionately as we claim our identities, as vehemently as we denied those thrust upon us, we fight even more fiercely for those we have claimed when someone tries to take them away," she said.

She concludes with the overall message by encouraging the audience to educate the public about affirming that you're a real person even though you don't fit into these preconceived stereotypes of what a person should be.

"I am real. No gender identity or expression is more valid than any other. I am real. And I'm a woman. Just one with a different history," she said. "I am real and so are you."

Watch the speech below and read her full transcript here.

Brynn Tannehill - "I Am Real" - 09/13/2014 from TransperienceTV on Vimeo.