Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Transgender Americans: Young and old; in the workforce and in our families

Recent news stories have highlighted breakthroughs and challenges for transgender Americans, both young and old, in the workforce and in our families. As he begins his transition journey, Kye Allums has gotten approval to remain on the George Washington University women’s basketball team. Like many in the college generation today, his teammates came around pretty quickly, supporting their coach’s decision to be inclusive. To help high school and college athletic programs navigate a world in which more transgender students are coming out, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and It Takes a Team! have co-published a guide for schools,which was cited in the New York Times article.

That same week, a Huffington Post column by Joanne Herman highlighted the challenges coming up for an earlier generation of transgender people as they age, often bringing the legacy of unemployment, under-insurance and mistreatment by health care providers into their final years. This story shows how urgent equal employment opportunity is for transgender Americans. The Pride Agenda is working to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in New York State as soon as possible.

That urgency heightens the significance of the breakthrough last week by Victoria Kolakowski, who won her election as California’s Alameda County Superior Court Judge—the first transgender trial judge in the country. Unfortunately, it is all-too-common for transgender people to lose their jobs when they transition.

A moving story in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine makes passing reference to the likelihood that an emerging transwoman, who teaches music at a Catholic school in the Bronx, will lose "his" job. But the focus of that story is on the journey of this transwoman’s sister, from resistance to acceptance, as her “brother” becomes her “sister.”

Everyone who is in circle of a transgender individual – family, friends and colleagues - goes through their own transition along with them. Indeed, inclusive workplace policies and trainings have a broad impact. Both our Pride in My Workplace and Pride in Our Union programs provide the trainings that can support not only transgender employees, but also the employees and union members who are family and friends of transgender Americans.

Post by Desma Holcomb, Program Director

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election Day was step 1 -- Now we take the struggle to them!

Voting is something you do maybe a couple days a year. Politics is what happens every other day.

Thanks to you we made some important wins on Election Day, and sent the message loud and clear to all elected officials that supporting our community is good politics. We're operating under a new political reality and our work is far from over.

We can't stop now if we are going to achieve LGBT equality and justice in New York State. We're planning face-to-face meetings with legislators from across the state, both at the Capitol and in your district. Will you commit to meeting with your legislator face to face?

We know from experience that these in-person meetings are our most effective strategy for appealing to the head, heart and nerve of our elected representatives. We've seen it in assemblymembers and senators from both political parties who changed their position after meeting with constituents: Nothing beats sharing your own personal story and explaining how New York's unfair laws affect you personally, or the life of someone you care about. We can't let one senator or assemblymember in Albany think that supporters of LGBT equality and justice don't live in their district, or that they needn't serve all their constituents.

Won't you join us at an in-person meeting with your legislator to share your story? Election Day was just step one. The struggle continues, and now we take it to them...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Message delivered to whomever is in power

To figure out what last night's elections here in New York mean for LGBT equality and justice requires more than a mere head count of how legislators will vote on our issues. A message has been sent and delivered to candidates and elected officials. People in power must contend with a new political calculus: equality is the winning message in New York.

  • The tide turned on gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino just when he went after LGBT New Yorkers.

  • Every statewide official elected yesterday was vociferously outspoken in support of LGBT equality and justice from the beginning of their campaigns, including marriage equality.

  • In races that the LGBT community strongly targeted, we saw three anti-equality Senate seats—Republican, Democrat and open—shift to pro-LGBT supporters, with wins for Tony Avella, Tim Kennedy and David Carlucci.

  • New Yorkers elected another LGBT legislator, the first from outside New York City, Assemblymember-elect Harry Bronson.

These victories are testament to the power of the LGBT community and send a strong message. Those in power now know what they have to do: follow our many allies in the Senate and Assembly who have stood by us in the past.

Every elected official has learned that opposition to LGBT rights is bad politics. This message wasn't sent by accident. The change in the game often happened through the unsexy—sometimes intentionally quiet—work on the ground.

Through the Pride Agenda's canvass in Queens in the heat of the summer when no one was watching, we knocked on over 10,000 doors to identify new supporters of LGBT equality and lay the groundwork for Tony Avella's victory. In fact, yesterday's compelling new direction for Senate District 11 came after two years of work on the part of the Pride Agenda. In the weeks leading up to the election, we were able to send these hard-hitting mailers to all the supporters we had identified in the district to hammer home incumbent Padavan's opposition to marriage equality and basic protections for all LGBT New Yorkers.

In Buffalo, Pride Agenda staff and volunteers had hundreds of individual conversations with people in the district to identify new supporters of LGBT equality and did phone banking and mailings to hundreds of local constituents. In both races the Pride Agenda devoted staff members to the campaigns, and we initiated innovative voter registration efforts that signed up thousands of new local college-age voters. These new voters—most of whom wouldn't be captured in pre-election polling—gave us a strategic advantage over opponents who weren't counting on this new influx of younger voters who could be decisive in what we knew were going to be tight races.

Elected officials have heard loud and clear the lesson we've known for some time: in New York, equality is the winning message, and to be against the LGBT community is bad politics. Whatever political party may be in power in the months ahead, our legislators now have no choice but to respond to this new political reality. Together with you, the Pride Agenda will be forcefully reminding our elected officials of this truth, and we can't wait to get started. Please join us.

Onward to justice,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Check out these hard-hitting mailers we sent for Tony Avella


Victories for equality and justice -- You made it happen

The LGBT community worked hard to have our voices heard in this election.

We're thrilled to report victories for our statewide endorsements: Andrew Cuomo for Governor, Bob Duffy for Lt. Governor and Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General. At our Fall Dinner, Andrew Cuomo said that he wanted to be "the governor who makes marriage equality a reality in New York State." As Attorney General, Cuomo worked closely with the Pride Agenda to fight transgender discrimination in employment and to defend New York's policy of fully respecting the legal marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state. In Rochester, Mayor Duffy has consistently supported measures to ensure that LGBT residents have the same rights and privileges as all other city residents. As a State Senator, Eric Schneiderman has also been a tireless advocate for the rights of LGBT New Yorkers and our families, and he is committed to continuing that support and advocacy as Attorney General and just acknowledged our longtime partnership by thanking the Empire State Pride Agenda by name in his victory speech.

In addition to contributing to these statewide victories, the LGBT community played a significant role in electing pro-equality State Senators.

In particular, the elections of Democrat Tony Avella in New York's 11th Senate District, Democrat David Carlucci in the 38th Senate District and Democrat Tim Kennedy in the 58th Senate District are significant steps forward for LGBT equality and justice.

In this election, we showed candidates of all parties that when they support us, we will support them, and when they do not support us, we will hold them accountable. In fact, in the primary for the Democratic nomination in the 58th Senate District, Pride Agenda endorsed Tim Kennedy over an incumbent who had voted against marriage equality.

We sent the message to candidates running for office in our state that working toward equality for LGBT New Yorkers is not only the right thing to do, but is also politically prudent.

Finally, the victory of gay Assembly candidate Harry Bronson -- our first LGBT legislator from outside of New York City -- is another reminder that voters all across New York State believe in fairness and LGBT equality. While Bronson campaigned on a wide range of issues important to his community, his election also represents another step forward for all who support equality and justice for New York's LGBT families. Having members of our community in elected office, sharing their lives with their constituents and legislative colleagues, makes an important difference in changing hearts and minds.

Along with our allies, we demonstrated that we will strongly support those who stand for equality and that we will mount serious challenges to those who do not. In the months leading up to the election, the Empire State Pride Agenda did canvassing in key districts across the state to have tens of thousands of individual conversations and to identify supporters of LGBT equality, phone banked and mailed our tens of thousands of supporters, placed paid staff and volunteers in key campaigns and initiated voter registration campaigns that signed up over 4,000 new college-aged voters.

We will continue to share our victories with you as they happen. Thank you for your work!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Message from the Executive Director: Now it's up to you

As we've said time and time again, today's elections will set the pace for our movement for years to come. We've shared with you our election guide, and we've urged you to share it with your friends. Many of you got involved in key races by donating your time and resources. Today it comes down to you and the simple act of voting.

Every vote will count today. Don't sit this one out, or let anyone who cares about you miss their opportunity to cast a ballot. The stakes are too high and we can't expect anyone else to do our work for us.

The polls are open until 9:00 PM tonight. If you forgot to vote this morning, it's not too late. Don't wake up with regrets tomorrow; do your part for LGBT equality and justice today.

With gratitude and hope,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomorrow will tell the tale

Tomorrow is Election Day -- one of the most critical election days in recent memory that will literally determine whether New York's LGBT community achieves our pressing victories in one year or five.

Polls are showing airtight races for statewide offices such as Attorney General and Comptroller -- where we've endorsed Eric Schneiderman and Tom DiNapoli respectively. Newspapers are speculating on the power balance in the State Senate. The truth is that anything could happen tomorrow. So we need two things from you and all our other supporters:

  1. VOTE! Download and print the latest version of our election guide and take it with you to the polls. Make sure you know where to vote.
  2. SPREAD THE WORD about how important these elections are. Do all your friends and family know what this election will mean for you? Share our election guide on Facebook and Twitter to get them the information they need.

Empire State Pride Agenda staff and volunteers have been working around the clock, supporting local campaigns on the ground and through phone banks to get out the vote and ensure success in these elections. After tomorrow, we'll know a lot more about what kind of strategy we will need to win marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers. Today, please think about who you know who may not turn up to the polls tomorrow. What can you do to get them there?

You can follow us on Election Night on Facebook and Twitter, where we will be bringing you updates throughout the night on key races throughout New York State.

Tony Avella for Senate volunteer canvass

Post by communications coordinator George True Simpson

Saturday I decided to volunteer on a race I care about: Tony Avella for State Senate. Empire State Pride Agenda’s PAC has endorsed Avella and he’s facing a decades-long incumbent who voted against marriage for same-sex couples and even SONDA, basic nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual New Yorkers. Along with my canvassing partner Gustavo, I knocked on many doors in Queens and mostly spoke with supporters, which was encouraging.

I joined volunteers from many other groups representing choice, labor and other movements. The candidate joined us all for a pre-canvass rally to share some inspiring remarks and to remind us all about what this race means.

Pride Agenda’s volunteers, Brad Menoche, Erin Drinkwater, Desma Holcomb and Lynn Faria with Tony Avella in the middle

If you want to volunteer on the campaign of a Pride Agenda-endorsed candidate for the final stretch, you can find a list of volunteer contact information on our website.