Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Story Part 50 – Politics

Since the elections are next week, I thought about how I got interested in politics might be a good topic this week. It all started when in 2005; I went to a fundraiser for Gender PAC. I had already been somewhat involved with the Connecticut TransAdvocoacy Coalition (CTAC) and a friend invited me to go to a fundraiser down in Stamford. At the fundraisers there was the Stamford mayor, the first selectman from a neighboring town, the co-chairs of the Judicial Committee and a couple of VP’s from IBM. I originally went to it because it gave me another chance to crossdress and donate to a good cause, but later I felt that being a visible trans-women helped others to be comfortable around trans-people. Then in 2006, I was invited to a meeting in Hartford with the Anti-Discrimination Coalition (ADC), an informal coalition of non-profits from around the state. The coalition included organizations like CTAC, Gender PAC, labor unions, CT Women Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) and the CT chapters of the ACLU, NOW, and the ADL (Anti Defamation League). We met at a lobbyist office in Harford to discuss strategy for passing the gender inclusive anti-discrimination bill. In the spring, the coalition sponsored lobby training at the legislative office building (LOB) that I attended.

In June of 2006, I went to a three-day workshop on Trans-Rights in Albany NY that was sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NTCE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (The Task Force). It was by invitation only and it was for activists from nine states that had a chance to pass a gender inclusive anti-discrimination bill. Later that month, the Task Force held a Town Hall meeting in Hartford to energize the community to help pass a gender inclusive anti-discrimination bill here in CT. They said that that the community needed to get involved in local politics, we had to put a face on the trans-community, “be there and be out”. At the town hall meeting a community organizer for the Ned Lamont campaign was there, so I volunteered to help out on his campaign. I worked the phone banks for six months and I learned from that I’m not cut out for phone banking.

In 2007, I testified before the Judiciary Committee on the bill, it was an amazing empowering feeling, it was both scary and a feeling of accomplishment. That motivated me into going to down to Washington DC to lobby for the Hate Crime bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In the fall, I went over to
Long Island to a three-day conference given by the Task Force called the “New York Power Summit” you can read about it here and here and here is a video form the conference.

Then in 2008, I testified again before the Judiciary Committee and for the second time I headed down to Washington DC to lobby for the bills. I also attended lobby training in Hartford by a state lobbyist. That year I also became a matriculation student at UConn School of Social Work with a concentration in Community Organizing. I chose CO because I felt that was the best way to help the community, we needed people who could one, go out and speak for the community and second, to empower the community to speak for itself. In 2009, I did my internship at an organization where I lobby for the gender inclusive anti-discrimination bill.

So why did I get active in politics? It is because I want to help to give voice to the trans-community, to help a marginalized community to empower themselves to fight for their rights. It took the Woman’s Suffrage movement over 40 years to get the vote and we will get our Rights one day.

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