Fresh off teaching a Spanish class, Aurora “Austyn” Higgs walks into Lift Coffee and immediately recommends the jalapeño grilled cheese.
“In case you’re hungry,” she says.
Higgs’ love for taking care of people shows, as does her dream of being a polyglot. She’s a French speaker, her Spanish is on the come-up and she manages all continuing education language courses at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she just received a master’s degree and focuses on diversity and inclusion initiatives within education and leadership.
She started a company called AustynTacious Consulting to continue informing corporations, school and organizations on diversity and inclusion and how to implement change to assist the LGBTQ community.
But Higgs is even more known for her social activism within the LGBTQ community. As a trans woman of color, she lends her voice to the Office of Health Equity, the Virginia Department of Health, multiple mental health panels and is a point of contact for Delegate Danica Roem. She advocates for policy change in hopes of overturning laws that make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
On Instagram, she documents her life as a trans woman of color to demystify hormone-replacement therapy and answer questions. She also serves on the board of the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, which focuses on ending violence toward LGBTQ communities across Virginia.
“People don’t realize the unemployment rate and the barriers to access and education are so much higher,” Higgs says. “The farther we come, the more I see the gaps in what could be. I just want to fill those gaps.”