Thursday, May 23, 2019

Nothing Has Changed In Fifty Years… Or What Was That Thumping Noise?

As we approach the anniversary of Stonewall there are still those who deny our involvement in the uprising. One of the results of Stonewall is the recognition that we needed to organize our own organizations and not be on the coattails of lesbian and gay organization.
How Sylvia Rivera Created the Blueprint for Transgender Organizing
The trans activist's most enduring legacy lies in the institutions she built, inspired, and forced to change.
By Raquel Willis
May 21, 2019

Two years before her death, Stonewall veteran Sylvia Rivera served as muse for a photography series captured by Valerie Shaff. The black-and-white images feature the outspoken activist dolled up with razor-thin eyebrows, a bold lip, and wind-strewn hair on a makeshift encampment near the Hudson River. A nearly 50-year-old Rivera was living there in protest of the mostly gay- and lesbian-focused organizations and community groups at the time — particularly, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center (then known as the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center Inc.), which was mere city blocks away.

Rivera contended that the mainstream LGBTQ+ organizations were ignoring the needs of local homeless youth and transgender people. For her, the LGBTQ+ nonprofit industrial complex had grown into something far different from the initiatives she’d spearheaded throughout her lifetime.

“Sylvia was really for the democratization of our movement. She was unwilling to have an agenda be set behind closed doors by the most elite people in the community,” says Dean Spade, a trans activist and associate professor at Seattle University School of Law.  “We see this even now: There are always battles over how homeless people and people with psychiatric disabilities are treated at LGBTQ+ centers and events. The battles over those exclusions are an example of carrying on Sylvia’s work in a deep way.”
After all these years I am still concerned about being swallowing up by lesbian and gay organizations. if you look around you will see many LGbtq that do a good job of covering the spectrum but others seem like that cater to “Gay” and trans are just lip service.

I realize that the “T” is just 0.5% of the population but when you see their Board of Directors you only see one or two trans people on their boards. Here in the Connecticut the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition (CTAC) is the only trans organization and all the other are LGBTQ+ also most of them are regional.

Rivera’s created the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and the STAR House which I believe is still going strong in NYC and  during that time a number of pure trans organizations formed, some of them are still around today and others have faded out.

CTAC has its roots in the national organization “It’s Time America” and CTAC used to be named “It’s Time Connecticut” but changed our name in the early 2000's.
Despite continued silencing and erasure from the larger landscape of LGBTQ+ nonprofits, Rivera fought fiercely in the last two years of her life. She continued to publicly excoriate the proposed Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), which had been periodically introduced since the 1970s and failed to provide protections for trans people. Wicker recalls Rivera meeting with the Empire State Pride Agenda on her deathbed, pleading that trans people not be left out of the legislation. Ultimately, they were — and gender identity wouldn’t be included in the law until New York Governor David Paterson issued an executive order seven years later.
I saw that here in Connecticut once the marriage bill passed the donations dried up and the organization folded but they gave a grant to a non-LGBTQ+ organization as the fiduciary to support the passage of the gender identity non-discrimination law and CTAC was a part of the group but once the law passed ctEQUALIITY disbanded.

Around the state there are a number of trans support groups that are run by trans people for trans people, however they are only support groups and do not offer any other services. CTAC only offers training to businesses and state agencies, their annual conferences, and legislative initiatives and dose not provide legal, medical, or therapy support, nor any community space. The state just doesn’t have enough trans people to support a large trans agency.

There we have to turn to the LGBTQ+ organization for those services and sometimes we feel like an adoptive child. There was a loose coalition that came together for legislation but faded out and is trying to reform as ctEQUALITY, but the fear that I have is that it will be managed just by larger LG organizations and the smaller organizations will lose their identities. Right now when a news agency is looking for comments about trans issues they turn to CTAC but if there is an umbrella LGBTQ+ organization would news agencies be refer to CTAC or would ctEQUALITY comment on trans issues.

So the bottom-line is we need to make sure that our voices are held we need LGBTQ+ but we will not be their lap dog that they bring out to parade around when they want to show that they support the trans community. We need to make sure that we are not thrown under the bus but rather are on the bus as an equal partner.

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