Sunday, June 19, 2011

Speaking at Heritage of Pride Rally: and looking back at history

No, you won't find me on the program, but Noah Lewis from Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) was on the program, and graciously shared his four minute time slot with Patricia Harrington, one of the other plaintiffs in the birth certificate lawsuits, and me.

In my brief comments, I looked to the history of the New York City Pride Rally, particularly at a dark chapter eleven years ago when Jim Fouratt, a Stonewall veteran and Radical Faerie, used his time on the podium as a featured speaker to share his discredited views about transgender women, and then turned to the present, looking forward to the day when the laws and regulations actually catch up with the science.

Here are my prepared remarks:

Remarks by Joann Prinzivalli at Heritage of Pride Rally, June 18, 2011

Eleven years ago today, at the Pride Rally in Bryant Park, the featured speaker, a stonewall veteran, claimed that transgender women are only “gay men in denial” - those of us in attendance who knew better than that turned our backs on that speaker.

Transgender women, like me, never really were men even if we spend part of our lives trying to fit into societal expectations.

Having the government fix the birth certificate regulations to recognize the reality that we are different, and having my birth certificate corrected, will go a long way toward erasing the prejudice that comes from ignorance of the biological reality that scientific study has discovered over just the past 17 years.

While I started the lawsuit in 2009 on my own, and obtained a victory against the City on its motion to dismiss the case, I am grateful to TLDEF, and to Noah Lewis and the other lawyers who are moving the lawsuit forward.

My piece lasted about 40 seconds - but I thought it important to look back to the history.

But the history of the relationship of trans rights to the New York City Pride Rally has a longer, darker history.

In my brief remarks, I did not have the opportunity to go back all that way to 1973, when the late Sylvia Rivera was pulled off the stage at the New York City Pride Rally when she tried to speak.

According to one account of this episode, found in Martin Duberman’s book Stonewall:

“During the 1973 gay pride rally in Washington Square Park, Jen O’Leary of GAA [Gay Activists Alliance] publicly denounced Rivera for 'parodying” womanhood.' Lesbian Feminist Liberation passed out flyers opposing the ‘female impersonators.’”

According to one report, “Sylvia Rivera Talk at LGMNY (June 2001)” (transcript by Lauren Galarza and Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes) Sylvia, herself, recalling the incident, shared the following:

“I had to fight my way up on that stage and literally, people I called my comrades in the movement literally beat the shit out of me.”

Contrast that to what happened to Jim Fouratt in 2000 - when a large number of people, aware of his proposed comments, attended to portest by silently turning our backs on him during his speech.

And then yesterday, we made it to the stage - no one tried to pull us off. No one was calling us "female impersonators" or "gay men in denial." No one was denying our legitimacy.

We have a duty to future generations, to use whatever means are available to help the arc of history bend toward justice.

We have to educate, advocate, demonstrate, legislate, litigate - we must speak truth to power and pray that power will be used with love.

I'd like to think that somewhere, if there is a heaven, Sylvia is smiling today, as the work toward justice for the trans community continues.

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