Last weekend I had the honor along with fellow Bilerico contributor Donna Rose of speaking at the first annual New England Transgender Pride March and Rally in Northampton, MA.
I wrote a blog post about my exciting history-making weekend on TransGriot, but I'd like to share my speech with you as well. The text of the speech I delivered on June 7, 2008, follows after the jump
I am deeply honored to be standing before you as we make history together with today's New England Transgender Pride March and Rally. I sincerely thank the organizing committee for extending me the invitation and opportunity to address you today.
W.E.B. DuBois, a distinguished son of Massachusetts who was an NAACP founder, once stated, "We cannot stand still; we cannot permit ourselves simply to be victims.
When he spoke these words a little over a century ago, they were directed at my fellow African-Americans. But these words are just as applicable to my fellow transgender people of all colors as well.
We cannot sit still as our inclusion in civil rights law, despite clear and pressing evidence that we desperately need it, is not only treated as an afterthought by some legislators, we're cut out of proposed bills and tossed aside like empty soda cans.
We cannot sit still as the Forces of Intolerance, right-wing pundits and so-called fundamentalist 'christians' use myths, distortions and outright lies to demonize and dehumanize us as they pitifully attempt to sway public opinion against doing the norally proper and correct thing by recognizing our humanity.
We cannot sit still as hate crimes committed against us are ignored, the perpetrators are given a legal slap on the wrist and segments of our society give their wink and a nod approval.
We cannot sit still as the media disrespects the unfortunate victims of these crimes. Their old names are weaved throughout slanted and sensationalized stories as their new names and identities are disrespectfully placed in quotation marks.
We cannot sit still as an organization with an equal sign logo that claims to be our ally spends a decade fighting our inclusion in the Employment Non Discrimination Act. Its executive director adds insult to injury by walking into our signature convention in Atlanta, promising to fight for an inclusive ENDA while collecting $20,000 of our hard earned money, then reneges on the promise weeks later. He later claims he 'misspoke' while they demonize their critics by claiming they're concocting 'transgender conspiracy theories'
We cannot sit still as fundamentalists, conservative talk show hosts, radio personalities and pundits attack our patriotism, our lives, our values, our right to exist and our constitutional rights for ratings points or to scapegoat us for the failures of their dry as dust mean spirited ideology.
We cannot sit still as people frustrated with their own lives use us as focal points for their anger, attack our community for the purposes of organizing their own, use us as bogeymen for fundraising purposes or as a distraction so people won't pay attention to their catastrophic failures of leadership.
It's time to stop wandering in the desert of shame and guilt. It's time for us to cast aside the woe is me victimhood about being transgender Americans and boldly stride forward towards the oasis of freedom, equality, justice and pride in who we are as transgender men and women.
Our pioneering predecessors passed a torch to us. As their successors it's up to us to keep it lit, hold it high and not allow anyone to douse the freedom flame until we can pass that torch on to the next generation of transpeople
Nelson Mandela said a decade ago that to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the lives of others.
Once we cast off the chains of self-doubt, shame, and self-hatred, the first people we owe respect to are ourselves.
So how do we do that? We show respect for ourselves by standing up and fighting for our rights and our basic humanity like my African-American GLBT brothers and sisters did a Philadelphia's Dewey's Lunch counter in 1965.
We show respect for ourselves by standing up and fighting like our brothers and sisters did at San Francisco's Compton's Cafeteria in 1967.
We show respect for ourselves like Miss Major, the late Sylvia Rivera and our brothers and sisters did almost 40 years ago this month at Stonewall in 1969.
We show respect for ourselves when we stand up and loudly proclaim in one voice that we will no longer meekly accept or tolerate second class treatment or second class citizenship. We are putting friends, foes and 'frenemies' on notice that we are demanding an upgrade to first class citizenship.
First class citizenship means that our rights are codified, respected and protected at all levels of government, be it city, county, state or federal level. We're also putting you on notice that from this day forward, if we ain't in a proposed civil rights law, we reserve the right as a community to kill a non-inclusive bill until it does.
We must act for not only the transkids that Barbara Walters profiled on 20/20 and others yet unborn, but for our fallen brothers and sisters such as Deborah Forte, Chanelle and Gabrielle Pickett, Rita Hester, Tyra Hunter, Gwen Araujo, Brandon Teena and Fred Martinez. We must act for every transperson who fought, marched, organized, lobbied, lived a stealth life, raised hell and died so that our lives could be a little bit better than theirs.
We took action towards earning that first class citizenship upgrade by marching in Northampton's streets today. We let our feet do the walking, but from now on our lips, our pens and pencils, our e-mails, our faxes, our letters, our telephone calls and our votes in this and future elections must do the talking.
Never again must we allow ourselves to sit still and allow ourselves to be victimized by friend or foe. It's past time for us to say it loud, I'm transgender and proud and take our rightful place at the American family table.