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2014 — A Transgender Year in Review, Part 2

| Jan 19, 2015
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Part 1

2014 was on balance a very good year for transgender people in America. As a trans activist there was much to celebrate for our movement and even the most negative happenings had a silver lining and gave hope for future progress. In Part 1 of this year end summary I reviewed the many positive things that occurred on a national level, mostly thanks to actions by the Obama Administration with input from our trans activists and policy people. I mentioned briefly the tragic, yet high profile suicide of Leelah Alcorn, which shed a light on the reasons behind the endemic transgender suicide rate, especially among trans youth. Leelah’s suicide brought her story front and center and engaged a wide range of people all over the world.

Personally, in 2014 I received an embarrassment of riches in recognition and awards that give me an added incentive to keep working for trans issues, and I hope that the enhanced recognition that I and other recognized members of the trans community received in 2014 will be an incentive for transgender people, especially our younger activists, to keep pushing for equality and societal respect in bold, measured and responsible ways. I think there was an added message this year in the extra recognition not only for me but also for our entire trans community. 2014 was different.

babs01In March, prominent civil rights attorney and elected Freeholder John Bartlett initiated an annual banquet to celebrate “Champions of Civil rights.” Senator Loretta Weinberg, often seen on MSNBC, and an LGBT Equality champion who I consider my political godmother, made the introduction.

In May, the New Leaders Council (NLC) a presented me with their “Progressive NJ — Equal Rights Award at the Historic Trenton Barracks adjacent to the NJ Statehouse! The NLC recruits Fellows from outside traditional power structures and equips them with the skills necessary to be civic leaders in their communities and workplaces. Their mission is realized primarily through the NLC Institute; the nation’s premiere political entrepreneurship training program. These young leaders will not have any hang-ups over trans people!

It is significant that these are not LGBT groups and I that in my acceptance remarks I was not addressing LGBT people. Instead, these groups were diverse and impressive allies that affirm an inclusive LGBT movement, and I had the opportunity to speak with them about the challenges that transpeople face, to further educate and promote societal change. In both events, I was the only “out” LGBT honoree.

babs02In July I was honored at Newark PROUD — the Newark pride awards reception. I am very supportive of the outreach efforts being made to perhaps the largest LGBT community in NJ. In turn they are reaching out to Newark’s large and often hidden trans community.  It is acknowledged to be a challenge engaging our sisters and brothers in Brick City and we must be persistent in reaching out to our folks in the inner cities, nationwide!

In October the Pride Network held their LGBT Leadership Awards and Congressman Frank Pallone, who led the charge in Congress for President Obama to issue the LGBT Executive Order for Federal contractors, presented me with their “Stonewall Legends Award” and noted that he put mention of me in the Congressional Record… pretty cool!

2014 was a huge year for trans people in the media. To its credit Rolling Stone Magazine recognized that fact, but not necessarily in the most constructive way. Their article really demonstrated in my opinion what can happen when people who have limited and superficial knowledge of the transgender community and our history have the platform  to reach world audiences and spread their sophomoric knowledge of the trans community. But media is all about media!

The Rolling Stone article came out before the dramatic and public suicide of Leelah Alcorn in late December and universal reaction to that “family” tragedy. It put a very bright and blunt light on the societal and social stigma that transpeople face especially in daily life and put a spotlight on what can happen to a young transperson living in a “loving, traditional religious” family!

In retrospect, although I originally took issue with their #1 rated item, since Transparent did win the Golden Globe awards, the often replayed  acceptance speeches of Jill Soloway and Jeffrey Tambour were big and very positive. All these things came about by engagement and political activism that were reflected in the changes in our governmental infrastructure…. Change begets change! All these activities of changing laws, codes, regulations, coming out in  positive engagement; these acts enable transpeople on all levels, especially those in the media, to come out, be accepted and climb the ladder to success.

I’m not going to comment on Jared Leto or RuPaul … Although I will do my best to continue to expose RuPaul and his brand as transphobic and not be welcome in any LGBT organizations with which I am affiliated. Tim Gunn’s thoughts about transpeople, on the other hand, were a huge disappointment as I’ve met him and attended events at his NYC home including in 2014. We have mutual friends. I attempted to reach out to him in a constructive manner AFTER I found out about his transphobic remarks … but he never responded.

As one who encourages and appreciates proactive positive action over talk, Rolling Stone’s last item, #11 has in my opinion potentially the most importance. LaVerne Cox, walking the walk and exposing the worst of the way our society and criminal justice system treats transpeople, especially transwomen of color, as less than human is remarkable! Cox is producing a film about CeCe McDonald who was jailed in a men’s prison for defending herself based upon what has been widely reported in the news. McDonald’s story has the graphic elements, the drama and the documented outrageous treatment done to her by our justice system to have a global impact.

We judge our society on how it treats its vulnerable… transpeople are like the canaries in a coal mine, a bellweather for society at large. It is good to see a diverse population of transpeople, including our most vulnerable, fighting back!

Looking back to 2014, I have to mention MichFest and the TERFS (Transgender Excluding Radical Feminists). The blog I wrote up as posted on Bilerico and TGForum exposing their hypocrisy and pettiness had many responses and put me personally on the TERF’s equivalent of the FBI most wanted … hey, I’m in great company with Martine Rothblatt and so many other positive trans role models! Thank you, Cathy Brennan, I must be doing something right!

I had many intelligent responses, including from women who I actually know who had attended MichFest and criticized me initially, but when we were able to carry on a reasonable conversation, they understood my points and reasoning. They understood Vogel’s doublespeak to be just that. One final TERF note, for those trans activists who were upset about the TERFS sending transphobic testimony to the United Nations a few years ago, you would be pleased to know that in December I got a message from an old friend who was at that time a high ranking official at the United Nations. Her family has a ”Holiday” tradition for their children to make a donation for a righteous cause every year. This year her daughter wanted to make her 2014 donation to a transgender cause and my friend asked if I knew of any trans organizations.  There is HOPE! WE are making progress!

I’m finishing with one note for 2015 for which my enthusiasm trumps my modesty, In December I was also notified that the American Conference on Diversity had named me as one of their “Humanitarians of the Year” along with 4 other remarkable individuals including singing legend Dionne Warwick. What is truly remarkable is that it appears that in their long history of honorees I may be their first out LGBT person! With major corporations and institutions as sponsors, and in attendance at the award ceremony, I look forward to the opportunity to spread the positive yet accurate word in an effort to continue tearing down barriers for transgender people at the event which will be held in April 2015! Click here for more information.

On this upbeat note, I look forward to the rest of 2015!

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Category: Transgender Community News, Transgender History, Transgender Politics


About the Author ()

Babs at 76 passed away in 2019. She was a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee, Deputy Vice Chair of the NJ Democratic State Committee and Political Director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of NJ. She served on the Executive Committee of Trans United 4 Obama. She has served as Vice Chair of the DNC Eastern Caucus, was President of NJ Stonewall Democrats, Co-Chair of National Stonewall Democrats Federal PAC Board, Vice-Chair of Garden State Equality, Executive Board member of National Stonewall Democrats as Chair of the DNC Relations Committee and a member of the NJ Civil Unions Review Commission.

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