Thursday, September 20, 2012

Joining the Trans Advocacy Network

Post by Christopher Argyros, Pride Agenda Transgender Rights Organizer
I’m excited to announce that the Pride Agenda has joined the nationwide Trans Advocacy Network (TAN)! This is a recently-formed alliance of organizations that advocate for transgender equality and justice at the state and local level. TAN will create opportunities for member organizations, such as the Pride Agenda, to connect with trans organizations across the country for organizing and sharing resources, best practices and strategies, with the goal of building momentum for trans equality across the country.
I can certainly attest from my own experience as a trans rights organizer that this Network will be enormously helpful for the work I do with the Pride Agenda and as coordinator of the New York State Transgender Rights Coalition. Over the last year, I’ve gotten on the phone regularly with advocates from other states, seeking their insight and advice on strategies and sharing resources. I found that my conversations with organizer-extraordinaire Gunner Scott (Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition) were so helpful that I invited him to speak with the New York State coalition last month about campaign organizing, media outreach and messaging strategies. While recognizing that each state is different, with a unique set of hurdles and challenges in forging the road to full equality, the knowledge we share about what works (and what doesn’t) is invaluable. Additionally, in these conversations we inspire and support each other in what can sometimes be frustrating and challenging work. 
You can learn more about the Trans Advocacy Network at the new website: Also, check out the Network on Facebook and follow the Network on Twitter.
This new website is one tool that will make TAN’s goals possible as there has been no central hub for this kind of organizing before on the local and state level for trans activists.  On the public side, TAN will provide information about the member organizations and promote our work through the website and via social media.  
Along with the launch of the website, the Trans Advocacy Network will host conference calls and webinars for the member organizations on topics like community building, education and advocacy. These dialogues and training opportunities are crucial. Organizations across the country will now be able to support one another’s local struggles, while coming together in coalition to advance transgender rights across the country.
It’s an exciting time to be a part of this growing national (and international) trans rights movement that has the potential and opportunity to free all of us from restrictive gender stereotypes, and create a world where each of us can live with greater authenticity and freedom. If you would like to learn more about the advocacy happening here in New York, feel free to email me at or call (518) 649-8140.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New from TRANScribe: Paola

Paola from Albany reflects on combating threats and discrimination in a dangerous living situation, reminding us that everyone deserves a safe place to live.

Here's an excerpt:
This was my worst nightmare turning real. I tried to be honest with my housemates because I was concerned they could have figured out I was transgender, and then how would they have reacted? Maybe in a more aggressive way. I still have fear when searching for apartments. I don't have a job to pay for one of my own, so I need to have roommates to afford living expenses. Read more.
Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New from TRANScribe: Patti

Patti from Buffalo describes the rejection she faced from family and coworkers and stresses the importance of securing equal protections for transgender New Yorkers.

Here's an excerpt:
Without legal protections, it is easier to avoid, dismiss, fire or evict us than make the effort to understand. This is why we need to raise awareness for transgender issues and pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The transgender students, teachers, police officers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers, office workers, construction workers and farmers deserve the same rights and protections as any other New Yorker. Read more.
Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New from TRANScribe: Deborah

Deborah from Hudson Valley writes about her daughter, Jessica, and her fears for her future in a state whose laws put her at a disadvantage.

Here's an excerpt:
In New York State she can be denied the job that she is studying so hard for just because she is transgender. At a time when Jess is just starting out, she is at a disadvantage for jobs, housing, loans--all the things that the rest of us take for granted. Read more.
Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Why I’m interning at the Pride Agenda

Emily Cozzi, Center
In my final year as a student at Colgate University, I spent a lot of time thinking about (or perhaps agonizing over is the more appropriate expression) what I wanted to do with myself after I graduated. I also spent a lot of time (I’m talking weekends camped out in the library) doing research and writing papers for various classes about issues relating to gender and sexuality. It wasn’t until about halfway through the year that it occurred to me to transfer this relatively newfound academic interest and passion to my life in the real world. I applied to be an intern for the Empire State Pride Agenda because I decided it was time to take all of that thinking and writing and start actually doing. I wanted to take action and make a positive difference in the lives of LGBT New Yorkers.

When I tell people that I’m working at the Pride Agenda, their initial reaction (if they’re not too busy puzzling over what on earth LGBT stands for) is often: “Why?” I’m straight, so why do I care so much? Why am I here? Frankly, there are too many reasons to list them all right now, but allow me to offer a few highlights: I’m here because of the people I love who don’t enjoy all of the same rights as me, and because I’m a huge fan of Kurt and Blaine on Glee. I’m here because Judith Butler blew my mind and because you can’t write a 25-page research paper about the Lavender Scare without getting emotionally invested in the well-being of the LGBT community. I’m here because I know that self-acceptance is hard enough for teenagers without having to worry about being bullied or judged or rejected by their families. Mostly, I’m here because I think everyone should be free to love who they want and to express themselves in whatever way they choose. I’m so excited to be part of an organization that does such remarkable work towards furthering those freedoms.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Check out this video a volunteer made for us!

See what you missed our relive the memories from Equality & Justice Day 2012...

Friday, June 22, 2012

New from TRANScribe: Drew

Drew from Albany considers herself "fortunate" for her supportive family and coworkers, but notes that others are not always so lucky.

Here's an excerpt:

I usually shy away from telling those dark tales. I would never deny them, and my and other trans people’s dark stories are undoubtedly important testaments to the need for social change and tolerance. But the thing is, sad stories about trans people are so ubiquitous in our community’s ongoing dialogue that, being as fortunate as I am, I’m compelled to share my countless positive experiences and show people that being trans need not be treated like a leprous curse. You can be trans and have a great life. Read more.

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Building Transgender Awareness in My Community

Guest Post by Kelly from Saranac Lake, NY

Christopher Argyros, Esq., the Transgender Rights Organizer from the Empire State Pride Agenda and his lovely girlfriend Laura, came from Albany to Saranac Lake to speak at the Adirondack Unitarian Universalist service which centered on transgender acceptance.  This was the first time I have ever attended a Unitarian Universalist service. 

I arrived about ten minutes prior to the start of the service, very nervous as I know several of the “UU” members; they, however, do not know of my alter persona. I sat where I thought the back row would be on the end seat. As more and more people strolled into the room, it was clear more seating was in order. I was no longer in the back, nor on the end but right in the middle of the congregation!

Suddenly I looked up and there was a woman I had worked very closely with for seven years. She did not seem to recognize me or pay any special attention, but was sitting a couple seats down from me. One big sigh of relief! As the service began, there were several people who know me from my “other life.” However, none recognized me, which was great.  At the opening of the service, during the announcement and welcoming segment, any new person attending is invited to stand, say hello and be welcomed. Well, you know I wanted no part of that; however, a woman from the congregation I know from our monthly LGBT dinners came over, placed her hands on my shoulders to announce to the group her friend Kelly was here today! Oh NO!  Again no issues or problems. Another very big sigh of relief!  I do have to admit being a bit nervous as both my legs shook a bit through the initial part of the service.

The speaker, Christopher Argyros, is a very nice young gentleman.  As he began his speech, I wondered, other than working for the Empire State Pride Agenda, what actual first-hand experience he hand.  Christopher began by talking about a woman, Alberta Lucille Hart, back in the early part of the last century who became a doctor and then transitioned to become the first female-to-male transsexual in the United States.  It was quite interesting hearing the story of his life, the obstacles, hardships and discrimination he had to face. Yet he was true to himself, persevered and was quite successful. 

Next, Christopher spoke about how in many Native American cultures transgender people where held in high honor and respect. They played a very vital role in the culture and daily lives of their people.  As Christopher pointed out, this can be found in many cultures throughout the word, including in Africa, Asia, and South America, not only in today’s society but throughout history dating back to the Greek gods themselves.  What came as a complete surprise was that, as he was talking, it became clear the reason Christopher chose to open with the story of Dr. Alan Hart was that he followed a very similar journey to become the handsome young gentleman he is today. Needless to say I was so impressed!

After the main service, there was a very enjoyable “coffee hour” were members mingled and chatted among themselves.  I chatted with several members of “UU” Community. As the day was Mothers Day, one of the members brought roses to hand out to the mothers and women of the community. I was so happy when I was also presented with a lovely long-stemmed red rose.  As I said previously, there were several people in attendance who were quite familiar with my “other self” but none seemed to recognize me!  How wonderful to be able to mingle freely! After the “coffee hour,” Christopher led an hour-long discussion group for those interested in staying, on transgender issues in New York State.  There was quite a lively discussion focusing on the many issues and discrimination transgender people still face today as well as how New York State representative government is too conservative to pass legislation guaranteeing equal rights for all residents.

After the discussion group finished, Christopher and Laura invited me to join them for lunch at one of our many well-known local restaurants. Living in such a small community for as long as I have, there are risks in being out when you are likely to run into people you’ve know for many years. After such a wonderful time with Christopher and Laura for the past two hours and given the success I enjoyed at the UU gathering, I happily agreed to join them.  Christopher and Laura are such a delightful young couple, very personable and smart. In the restaurant we sat getting to know each other and chatting about life here in the North County, what we do for entertainment, recreation and what life was like so far north. They chatted about their life in Albany, skiing, tending their gardens.

There was an empty table next to us, which given the reputation of the eatery was quickly filled.  The main issue was the couple and their young son who sat down were my neighbors from across the street!  YIKES… Now what? As I sat directly across from them what could I do…. the answer was simple… NOTHING! Christopher, Laura and I continued chatting and eating our lunch.  Every so often, “Brandy” (the wife) would look over to our table, much as one might glance around any restaurant looking to see who might be in attendance.  At one point she strolled from their table, down the aisle to the counter, rather than returning to her table, she came up to ours, bent down between Christopher who was seated to my right and myself to whisper in my ear, “you look wonderful!”  

BUSTED!!! She was so supportive.  “Brandy” again whispered “you look so beautiful, I can’t believe it!”  I whispered back that I at that point I was so nervous and scared.  She said don’t worry about a thing; she “was so happy for me.” As she returned to her seat I informed my dining companions as to what had just taken place. They were very supportive as well as happy and relieved all had gone so well. After we finished our lunch and got up to leave, I walked over to their table both to show off my outfit and so they could see the full image.  They were very impressed. As we exited the restaurant, Christopher, Laura and I gave our hugs and said our “goodbyes.”

Later that same afternoon, I called over to my neighbor’s house and “Brandy” answered the phone. I told her I guess I have a bit of explaining to do. I told her this is the way I’ve always been.  She again was so supportive saying “you need to be able to be who you are.” Later in the conversation she said they had other friends who were likewise transgender so it was no big thing for them. “Brandy” inquired as to my name, which I gave. Then I invited her and her husband to come over some evening to a glass or two of wine to meet their “new neighbor.” This should make for an interesting evening of conversation.

I have often said, “The hardest door to get out of is your own front door.” Now that my secret is out to one set of neighbors, it will be that much easier to walk out my own front door.
All in all it was a very positive day, one I will remember for some time to come.

Monday, April 23, 2012

We Need You Here for GENDA - A Legislator's Perspective

Post by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Assembly GENDA Sponsor, and State Senator Daniel Squadron, Senate GENDA Sponsor.
We are proud to sponsor the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and we'll fight alongside you until we finally pass a law explicitly banning discrimination against transgender New Yorkers.

That’s why we are pleased to announce that the Empire State Pride Agenda is extending the registration deadline for the LGBT movement’s largest statewide day of advocacy at the Capitol.

You can still register for Equality & Justice Day until this Friday, April 27. Don’t miss your chance to make your voice heard in the New York State Legislature. Please sign up right away!
As legislators, we know that the kind of face-to-face meetings that happen at Equality & Justice Day can have tremendous impact. Personal stories, messages of support and real world explanations of what legislation means to the people we represent is infinitely more powerful than recycled talking points.

Our colleagues need to better understand the transgender non-discrimination bill. They need to hear from you about how a person can lose their job, be refused service in a restaurant, kicked out of a public library or evicted from their home simply because they are transgender.

They also need to hear about other issues impacting the LGBT community, like funding for organizations in the LGBT Health and Human Services Network and for sheltering homeless and runaway youth.

Finally, legislators who voted for marriage last year deserve all of our sincere gratitude, and Equality & Justice Day is your opportunity to thank them in person.

Equality & Justice Day on Tuesday, May 8 is when this movement’s power is felt most strongly in Albany. We hope you’ll join us and make a real commitment to change.

We look forward to seeing you in Albany.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New from TRANScribe: "A Voice of a Heterosexual"

Read this story of self-discovery by a cisgender woman whose spouse came out to her as transgender.

Here's an excerpt:
I had known a lot of things about my husband so I had to at least understand what he was. I read books about transgenderism, joined the Long Island Trans Experience community, attended transgender meetings and support groups. I went to therapy. By doing all this, I had hoped that I could embrace in my mind what the heart could not. I was trying to find salvation in my marriage, which had just been turned upside down. Instead, I found a great deal more. Read more.

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What does Equality & Justice mean to you?

What does equality and justice mean to you?

Whether you're able to join us in Albany or not for Equality & Justice Day on Tuesday, May 8, you're probably involved with the Empire State Pride Agenda because equality and justice are values you hold close.

Take a moment and share with our movement what equality and justice means to you. Download and print our sign "Equality & Justice because..." Fill it out. Take a photo of yourself holding it. Post it on the Facebook wall for Equality & Justice Day or Tweet it at us @prideagenda using the hash tag #ej12.

Your response can be very personal or very broad; it can be words, a drawing, a photo, whatever you think of.

For Pinterest users, we will also be cross-posting these images on our Pinterest board "Equality & Justice because..." and re-pinning images with the hash tag #ej12.

We look forward to seeing your submissions online!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Empowering Myself at the Pride Agenda

Post by Pride Agenda Intern Jeremy Markman. Find out more about interning at the Empire State Pride Agenda.

When I opened up Facebook this past 4th of July and had realized that Joe had killed himself, I was paralyzed. Questions mixed with anger stormed my head. This array of emotions was juxtaposed with a genuine understanding of what initially led him to that dark place. This was another premature gay death on top of too many. At the bottom of all these tragedies appears to be a self-hate that runs deep--so deep, that the individual actually sees opting out of life as a viable solution. The suicide rate and addiction rate among the LGBT population is drastically higher than the population at large. Why is this and what can we do to stop it?

Coming to terms with my sexuality at a young age was not easy, despite the fact that I had a great deal of family support once I came out. I always felt different from my peers and certainly encountered some rough bullying growing up because of my differences. In retrospect, I handled this the best way I knew how. I immersed myself in academics and pushed through. With every “faggot” flung my way I tried to remain tall, even if I was breaking down inside. The seed of shame grew wildly out of control and through the years continued to fester. It isn’t until relatively recently in my life that I have been able to come to a strong sense of who I am, what I am about and really nurture that. It has been such a long process to feel truly proud of who I am and be able to show that to the world. This is not an easy task for so many, especially those who are LGBT and have been beaten down physically and emotionally. To be quite honest, I still can fall prey to that shame, but as I become more aware of it, I am able to not let it overtake me.

In high school, I remember when Matthew Shepherd was killed. This affected many people by the sheer brutality that was inflicted upon this innocent young man. This hateful act affected those of us who identified as LGBT on a deeper level because we realized that this could have easily been one of us. Matthew Shepherd was just the symbol at the time for homophobic injustices that were taking place everywhere. While writing this piece I happened to see that Joe was a fan of the Empire State Pride Agenda on Facebook. This adds another layer to why interning here has so much meaning for me. “Pride” is the operative word, and with that comes empowering oneself. It is about working toward creating policies that support this sense of wellbeing, that have all too often been eroded away in LGBT people.

We live in an America where we have leaders like Rick Santorum who preach hateful rhetoric about being gay. We must be role models and protect our gay youth from ever feeling that they are insignificant or less than. We must make our voices heard and say that anything less than equal treatment and respect is not going to fly. That is why I am doing this work and that is the underlying principle that embodies every word typed, email sent and phone call made. It is about showing support and respect to one another within our community and then making sure we have one another’s back to combat any lingering injustice we face within the larger population. I do this for all the Joes out there who found or continue to find it extremely difficult to live at peace in this world. I want to do my best to help other LGBT people who are struggling to know that they do indeed matter and that they should feel nothing less than entirely proud of who they are. As I continue to lend my hand in this quest, I get closer to fully accepting who I am as well.

New from TRANScribe: "Anonymous in Lockport "

Told by a woman in Lockport, the next story in the TRANScribe Project really underscores why we fight for transgender equality and justice. When in custody, this type of situation can be terrifying and unfortunately is all too common. Nearly one in four transgender New Yorkers who have interacted with police reported harassment by an officer. Here's an excerpt:

...was the most humiliating experience that I have ever had in my entire life of over 50 years. It is something that brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of it.

I cannot reveal my real name because I live completely undetected in Lockport. I am afraid that if people ever found out I would lose my home, a home that I have lived in since 2004. I am well-liked but afraid my neighbors and friends would stop talking to me if they knew that I was not a genetic female. I already lost all my friends and family once when I transitioned in 1996 and I am afraid they would retaliate against me for telling about the horrible treatment I received... Read more...

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Greetings from a Pride Agenda Intern

Post by Ruth Michael Lindner

I remember standing among a crowd of happy, smiling faces at my first Pride Parade in 2006. The air buzzed with excitement as the masses of people, free to express themselves and who they loved, moved around. It was a beautiful day, not only because the sun was shining but because I felt so wholly at peace with who I am. I've been lucky, growing up around Albany, spending five years in New Paltz and then moving to New York City. I've also been lucky to have a family who never judged me or questioned whom I love.

I know this is not the case for everyone and this knowledge is part of the reason I wanted to intern with the Empire State Pride Agenda. The work they do to protect and honor the rights of all New Yorkers is magnificent. I think especially of marriage equality in New York. I'm surprised I didn't injure myself jumping off the couch with excitement when I heard the news. I tend to lose my major motor skills when something so profoundly moving occurs. I joke that my partner is "the rock to my roll" because she keeps me grounded and stable. Simply being comfortable enough to say, "my partner," and having protection from discrimination is something few could have fathomed a half a century ago.

Great strides have been made, but there are still a host of issues on the table. Those who know me say that I am a worrier, and while there are moments where the trail seems steep, I know that the LGBT community is strong enough to fight an uphill battle. My mother likes to remind me that in the "big picture" and the "grand scheme of things," changes are happening quickly. And they are. The fight for equality requires a myriad of different people, of varying ages, with different tactics for making change. I see so much beauty in the variety of people sharing this earth. Much like the memories of my first Pride Parade, the collage of people is colorful and vibrant, as it should be.

Working with the Pride Agenda has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I've met people who work all over New York State for this cause, and I am looking forward to the upcoming Pride Agenda events. I know that whatever my future holds, fighting for the equality of the LGBT community will be a part of that.

New from TRANScribe: "One of the Lucky Ones"

Joanne Borden of North Woodmere discusses being "one of the lucky one":
At a very early age, some of us transgender girls were told, "Boys don't do that!" and we believed it. We kept the girl a secret. She was buried in the deepest corner of our soul. I, for one, spent my life hoping for a cure, so I could be rid of what seemed to be a curse. The cure would come: when I started college; when I turned 21; enlisted in the army; when I got married; when I became 30 and at nearly every other milestone in my life. Read more...
Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New from TRANScribe: "Just a Regular Joe"

Bec Collins of Nassau, NY discusses challenges and successes of transitioning on the job:
The general consensus of both my department manager and HR is “so what.” It’s not an issue as far as my employability, and I have been reassured that my gender expression would never be held against me. HR decided to educate my fellow employees about transgender issues and harassment policies. It wasn’t until the company hired a new guy that I ran into some issues.

The general consensus of both my department manager and HR is “so what.” It’s not an issue as far as my employability, and I have been reassured that my gender expression would never be held against me. HR decided to educate my fellow employees about transgender issues and harassment policies. It wasn’t until the company hired a new guy that I ran into some issues. I asked my manager how they were going to handle this, and she told me that he would have to know about my gender status. I told her that I didn’t see why he needed to know. And she told me that if I felt uncomfortable disclosing this information to him, then she would do it. I went into panic mode, but kept my cool. Read more >

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Story for the TRANScribe Project

Here's an excerpt from a moving story by parents Rex and Karen L. Butt of Poughkeepsie, NY, who write about supporting their transgender daughter:

Because New York does not have a law that protects our daughter as a gender-variant person, finding employment is a struggle. Since she has not changed sex legally, she has to consider whether an employer has a policy regarding gender identity and expression. She has to decide whether she will apply as a man or a woman. She was unemployed for two years, which put an incredible strain on our family’s finances, and, although she currently has a job, she has to present herself as a man and assume her previous name while at work. Living this double life has created significant stress for her. Read more >

Learn more about our TRANScribe Project or submit your own story.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Staten Island Transgender Equality and Justice Service

Post by Lead Organizer Kate McDonough, coordinator of our Pride in the Pulpit program. Sign up for updates on New York State's transgender non-discrimination bill and more.

Last Sunday, February 12, I was privileged to attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Staten Island’s special service, Beyond the Binary Code: Gender in America, exploring the limitations that gender binaries can place on an individual and putting a special focus on the need for transgender equality and justice. Throughout the service members of the congregation offered personal reflections on how they grew in their understanding of transgender identity and became passionate advocates for transgender civil rights. In addition, activist Ron B. performed a powerful monologue highlighting the triumphs and struggles of a transgender woman.

Here’s an excerpt from my own reflection during the service:
I can honestly say that I am very happy today. I am happy today because throughout my life, my family has stood by me and given me the support I needed to embrace my identity and bring my whole self to any situation. In turn, because I am not put through the exhaustion of having to fight for the acknowledgement of my existence, I’ve been able to thrive personally and professionally. Many of my transgender friends are not as lucky--both in terms of family support and acceptance within a broader society.

The harsh realities of transphobia are heartbreaking. A recent report showed that three out of four transgender New Yorkers experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job. A staggering three-quarters of transgender youth in New York State reported being harassed in school and many leave as a result. 17% of people were refused medical care due to their gender identity or expression. Another report released by the Empire State Pride Agenda showed that more than one-third of transgender New Yorkers have been homeless at one time and over one-fifth have incomes under $10,000 a year.

Within these numbers lies the human face of some amazing people, who have great gifts to offer. There is my first supervisor at Pride Agenda, who took a chance on a nervous 23-year-old he saw potential in. I owe so much of my professional development to him. He is currently studying to be a rabbi and I’m excited to see who else’s potential he will help to foster. There is my best friend who has always provided me with insightful advice even when it’s 1 a.m. and it’s a topic I’ve brought up at least ten times already. This friend is an educator, and has the ability to enrich so many with meaningful advice. There’s my boyfriend who is such a beautiful, tender soul and can always bring a smile to my face regardless of how stressful the day is, which plays a key role in keeping me sane. He’s a nanny and I sleep a little better at night know that he plays a part in shaping the attitudes of the generation to come.

Following the service, I moderated a panel with members of the transgender community, who told personal stories and answered questions from the audience. Many members of the congregation stayed for the discussion, asked thoughtful questions and shared insightful perceptions on how gender stereotypes can have an effect on us all.

GENDA Letter Drop-Off Day! Showing Senators NYS Supports Transgender Non-Discrimination

Post by Pride Agenda volunteer Theo Zegers, student and Capital District resident. Sign up for updates on New York State's transgender non-discrimination bill and more.

There can come along with the prospect of “dropping off letters to senators” a certain apprehension. The overall sense is not very unlike rolling out of bed in the morning, like “oh here we go…” But on February 6, I am content to report, I was a part of a very successful afternoon in which approximately ten concerned citizens, including transgender activists, their families, friends and allies, went and distributed at least 2,000 letters from across the state of New York. (These letters are a mere snowball in the avalanche of support that will follow.)

All of the letters came from the constituents in varying New York State Senate districts, and all expressed the urgency for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) to pass. GENDA simply expands the human rights legislation that already exists to protect New Yorkers on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc. The population that remains unprotected until GENDA passes includes, but is not limited to: people who identify as transgender, people who are gender non-conforming, and individuals with varying gender expressions.

These key points were all very articulately conveyed by the aforementioned group of concerned citizens; and the message was heard by, well, anyone who was willing to listen. The majority of our audience seemed genuine in their understanding and even agreement that this bill is vital. It was only a very small percentage of staff members throughout the entire afternoon who seemed to zone out slightly as our team relayed its message. The experience was positive and impactful.

Among some of the most powerful highlights of the day, one detail that impressed me was the support from the individuals in our group --some of whom this bill does not directly effect, and yet who uphold the notion that until everyone is free, no one is free. Among our team members, there were parents of transgender children, transgender people of color, and LGBTQ interfaith leaders all contributing time and energy. Christopher Argyros, who heads up the coordination of transgender rights at Empire State Pride Agenda, kept our hope alive by sharing that 16 other states already have this legislation, including states ranging from places like Connecticut to Nevada.

I have faith that New York’s progressive nature will catch up to and eventually outrun its bigotry. Monday’s events were just another smooth leg in the race towards equality and justice.

Also, check out this video montage put together by Transgender Rights Organizer Christopher Argyros:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pride in the Pulpit Update

Post by Lead Organizer Kate McDonough, coordinator of our Pride in the Pulpit program.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here is a story of romance:

Last New Year’s Eve I was at a Glitter and Glamour-themed house party. I was standing by the bar holding a drink called a “glitter bomb” and staring at the front door as party guests made their grand entrances. The door swung open and a dandy entourage strolled in, each one wearing an outfit that incorporated suspenders and a bowtie. The door was about to close when suddenly a black-gloved hand stopped and slowly pushed it back open to reveal an elegant individual wearing a back shimmering dress and gold glitter eye makeup.

An excitable friend was standing next to me and I could tell that he was overwhelmed, “Look at those people, Kate—everyone is gorgeous!” I opened my mouth to respond, when suddenly he grabbed my arm and shouted, “Oh my god that boy is beautiful!” I turned around and within a matter of seconds the entire room blurred and I could no longer hear the voices of the people around me. All I could see was a handsome guy standing in front of me with a teal button down shirt that brought out the blue in his eyes and a gray vest. I was brought back into the party by the sound of my own voice: “Yes, I think so, too.” This was the first time I laid eyes on Shawn, my boyfriend, who happens to be a transgender man.

Shawn works in childcare and is the most beautiful, tender soul that I’ve ever encountered. Even during the most stressful days, Shawn can find a way to make me smile. I feel very lucky to be with him, but there are times when I fear for his safety. Although Shawn presents as male, many people have a hard time figuring out what his gender is. On good days all he’ll receive is a dirty look; on bad days it’s a dirty look that quickly becomes a hostile remark. I worry because there is no statewide law protecting Shawn from discrimination. I worry because all he has to do is be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he won’t even have the law to protect him. I have no words for what it feels like to care for someone so much and live with the fear that they could be harmed simply for existing.

As we celebrate our first Valentine’s Day in a post-marriage equality New York, I’d like to congratulate all the couples who are finally experiencing this day as legally married. Happy Valentine’s Day from the very bottom of my heart. However, I think it’s important keep in mind that we are not done. Even with marriage equality, couples like Shawn and me do not have the protections needed to keep our families safe and intact. Furthermore, until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed, same-sex couples in New York State are essentially only half married. They still don’t have access to the federal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. Shawn was my New Year’s kiss. The moment his lips touched mine I remember thinking, “I didn’t even know I was looking for you, but I think I just found you.”

In Peace,


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Honest Girl Scouts?

Post by Director of Upstate Organizing Sheilah Sable

Congratulations to the Girl Scouts celebrating 100 years of courage, confidence, and character building of girls in the USA.

Back in Fall of last year a Colorado troupe welcomed a transgender girl by following the basic tenet that if a youth identifies as a girl, she should be treated as one. The Girl Scouts of Colorado stated that requests for transgender children to join have grown and the group has been working to support them and their families, simply because it is the right thing to do.

This is great news that I applaud wholeheartedly. It gives me hope to know that the Girl Scouts is able and willing to change with the times, so that young children are not left out, simply because they don’t see where they fit or don’t fit the traditional and slim definition oftentimes imposed by institutions. When I was a young kid -- a “Tom Boy,” as we were known back then, “gender non-conforming,” as I would say now -- the Girl Scouts represented something that just didn’t work for me. I didn’t see myself in the mission or the programming and I missed out. Similarly, they missed out on me.

By inviting and welcoming all girls to participate and become Scouts, the Colorado chapter sends a positive message about change and expanding our thoughtful horizons. It is a concept inherent in equality and justice that no one be excluded or treated unfairly, especially and most importantly for our young people.

I was recently saddened to read about a Girl Scout in Ventura, California who feels as though she is being duped by the affirming action taken by Girl Scouts of Colorado. She alleges they are “hiding transgender boys” in their troop and lying by allowing young scouts to live freely in their true spirit. Urging a boycott of Girl Scout cookies, she is trying to push the first publicly welcoming chapter to the fringes.

Perhaps we, as the LGBT community, many of whom -I know- LOVE a good Girl Scout cookie (we buy a few dozen boxes in our Albany office alone), can start our own cookie campaign. I challenge you and urge you to use your Girl Scout cookie buying clout to take advantage of this teachable moment. When your friendly neighborhood Girl Scout (or her parent or aunt or uncle) approaches you at work, school, church or the gym to buy these can’t-resist cookies, ask if you can speak to the troupe leader about this controversy; perhaps have a conversation around educating Girl Scout leaders about gender expression and identity. This way we can engage the adults who raise and supervise the kids, lead the troupes and ultimately have the power in the organization to establish welcoming and supportive environments for all kids.

Our Community Ambassador trainings are coming up in February. Join us to learn how to speak eloquently and effectively on transgender issues – whether to the Girl Scouts, the media or legislators at in-district meetings or Equality & Justice Day on May 8. With Girl Scout cookies on sale from now until April, the timing is truly perfect.

Email me at ssable AT prideagenda DOT org for information about transgender equality and justice and how you can get involved.