Donna Rose

Transgender Pride

Filed By Donna Rose | June 10, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: gay pride, New England, New England Trans Pride, Pride, Trans Pride, transgender, transsexual

June is PRIDE month in most cities and states across the country (Phoenix PRIDE is in April - by June it's too hot). All manner of celebrations, parades, and other activities are planned to observe TransPride.jpgthis month set aside to acknowledge "gay" Pride. This year's observances are particularly timely and relevant due to the recent same-sex marriage ruling in California. There truly is lots to be proud about.

Little by little, however, the transgender community is finding its own identity away from its larger, louder, more established GL (and sometimes B) siblings. It is finding that it has unique needs that are not being met in the context of the broader community and, in fact, often get glossed over or missed as part of the bigger movement. Some in the community see this as reason to "secede" from the GLB communities (as if such a thing were even possible) while others are simply finding ways to celebrate our own unique identities in our own ways. It is in that spirit of celebrating our uniqueness that Transgender Pride has been born.

For many, the notion that "Transgender" and "Pride" can in any way be linked seems more than improbable. After a lifetime of struggling with the unholy trinity of Shame, Guilt, and Fear that so often pervades the Transgender experience any notion of escape to a more positive mindset can seem impossible. It's not impossible and, in fact, it is absolutely necessary in order to achieve any level of self-acceptance that, I'd submit, is truly the foundational concept of Pride.

I attended the First Annual New England Transgender March and Rally in quaint Northampton, MA, this weekend. I'm told that when the the event planners originally called the city to get the appropriate permissions they were told by confused officials, "But we already have a parade for you people." Us people? Who is us people? They apparently felt that since there was already a Gay Pride parade that there really wasn't anything more to do. They have since been "educated."

The entire notion of whether or not the T belongs with the GLB stirs strong passions in some and that's not a debate I'm willing to get into here. I am a believer in community and will continue to work to build bridges to unite us and make us stronger. Those who hate us and would take our rights (and lives) away don't stop to consider the nuances that make us unique or different. I continue to believe that we all need to achieve rights together and that we need to protect the most vulnerable in our family. At the same time, however, the transgender communities need more than simply to share in Gay Pride. We need our own forum to express our own Pride.

Almost 800 people gathered in a small park near downtown Northampton to march. It was a diverse group that included young and old, black and white, a rainbow of ethnicities, trans and allies, male and female, and everything in between. People came from all over New England and beyond to participate. The "Flaming Grannies" were there with flowers in their hats and a big, bold banner. A group from the production of "Rocky Horror" was there and made the march in fishnets. People with dogs, kids on bikes, marchers carrying banners and signs, a police contingent of four, a documentary crew, a group of Legal observers - all gathered in the baking sun to make the two mile walk from the park through downtown to the rally area. It was a beautiful sight to see.

The march snaked through the historic tree-lined streets of Northampton towards downtown. Some marchers chanted, "What do we want? Trans Rights! When do we want it? Now!" Others yelled slogans chastising HRC. Some sang, while others talked among themselves. Some simply marched in silence as if paying reverence to something special and important or just needing to soak it all in. A festive atmosphere prevailed as hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets of downtown to watch and wave (and take pictures - we were a pretty amazing sight), cars honked their horns in support as they passed, and marchers reveled in the positive energy of the event.

The parade led to a rally area in the middle of downtown. By the time we arrived the morning clouds had given way to bright, humid, hot sunshine and marchers baked while visiting vendor tables, socializing, or sitting in front of the main stage to watch the impressive line-up of speakers that had come to participate.

The always articulate and passionate Monica Roberts was there; a highlight for me was being able to spend some time with her since we never seem to have that opportunity when our paths cross. Miss Majors, Ethan St. Pierre, Gunnar Scott, and a long line of local and national activists shared the stage with musicians to share their views on the current state of transgender affairs. Many were pissed-off and their anger struck a chord in many as demonstrated by the sea of heads nodding in agreement, and the applause. Some were hopeful about the future. All spoke eloquently. All spoke passionately.

There was recognition that the we as a transgender community need to take a more active role in determining our own destiny. It was a theme that was repeated time and time again. There was continued outrage that "friends" who had made commitments to us had abandoned us in our time of need and what we need to learn from that. There was appreciation for the support in the broader community and calls for transgender people (and allies) to get more involved. There was concern that we need to be involved in writing our own history rather than allowing others to manage it.

I was the second to last speaker, nearly four hours into it, and used my time on stage to step back from big-picture activism to highlight at a more localized sense of personal activism. We talk about law-makers and national organizations and the difficult reality that many of us face, but at a personal level what can each of us (trans and ally) do in our daily lives to help achieve the things we were all there to demand? Sometimes, simply keeping your head up and maintaining your dignity in the face of an onslaught of public disdain is all it takes. Sometimes it's important to remind ourselves that this journey through gender is simply a journey in search of personal happiness, and that's a journey all of us are on no matter who or where we are. That seems to get forgotten somehow.

I talked about the fact that very few of us start this journey wanting to be activists but that at some point many of us find the need to defend deeply-felt ideals like Fairness and Equality. We reach a point where we stop apologizing for who and what we are and begin recognizing that we deserve the same common decency that others take for granted. I talked about workplaces, and the continuing commitment that both Jamison Green and I have to ensuring that we have equality there. And I talked about the fact that the work we're doing now will set a foundation so that future generations of us won't face the same struggles to get and keep a job, maintain relationships with friends and family, face personal and physical harassment, and endure daily assaults on dignity and self-respect, as we do. That is the legacy that we will leave, and frankly I can't think of a legacy more worth fighting for.

The event closed with a rousing performance by the Drag King performance troupe "All The King's Men". Those who endured the long, hot, sweaty afternoon and stayed to the end were rewarded with a performance that truly brought the house down. And, within minutes of leaving the stage and wishing everyone a safe trip home, the sky opened and big, wet, cool raindrops drenched the area. Some of us left the dry, safe comfort under the tent to stand in it, welcoming the cool, wet release.

Transgender Pride is a concept whose time has come. As indicated by the success of this year's events, it will continue to grow and mature. It is symbolic of our growth as a community and, in fact, is a celebration of that. It is an opportunity to take center stage, to recognize that we share experiences and identities with the broader GLB community but have our own as well, to honor our own community heroes, and to escape being simply the silent 't' at the end of GLB.

Pride is contagious. Just watch - more and more of us will be catching it. I, for one, hope it becomes an epidemic.

Photos of the event courtesy of Donna Rose.
Photos and Video of the event courtesy of the New England Blade


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Donna,
The best part of this event next to chillin' in the RV and meeting a few of my TransGriot readers was finally getting to spend some quality time with you. ;)

Looking forward to the next time our paths cross.

The Northampton Trans Pride March has inspired a number of blogs around the theme of being trans and proud, including my own: http://transcendgender.com/2008/06/08/trans-and-proud/. Being proud of who we are and refusing to be cowed by the fear and shame that some segments of society seek to impose on us is an essential step to freedom and respect for our own generation of trans people and for countless more to come.

A personal view, and one I don't expect others to share, it's just me.

I don't feel "Proud" to be Trans. Heck, I don't feel particularly "Trans" for that matter, whatever it might mean.

I'm not proud to have khaki green eyes, or dark chestnut hair. Not ashamed either, it's just the way I was born.

I do feel proud that I helped make the most complex microsatellite ever launched, and gave some help in a very minor way for the MESSENGER satellite that's exploring Mercury. I'm proud that some of my software has helped rescue many people too.

I'm proud to be amongst some of the bravest and kindest women on the planet, those who have transitioned and rather than leave, have stayed around to give others a hand. I'm particularly proud to be held in high regard by some of the people I most respect, even though I think that regard is rather higher than it should be. I'm egotistical enough without that.

I just don't feel comfortable marching in some parade. Maybe it's a cultural thing, we're not big on marches here. ANZAC day, the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney, and Moomba festival in Melbourne. That's about it for the whole country, floats and banners and hoopla just aren't part of our culture. I can't imagine anything like the Mummers, or even the Boston St Patrick's day parade here.

But even those who don't participate in marches can do their part. Radio broadcasts, newspaper articles, letters to editors and human rights organisations, lectures at universities, blogs, even "human interest" stories in mass-market glossy magazines. There's no chance of remaining un-noticed when your picture is in a publication with a readership in 7 figures.

Blogs, Newspapers, TV stations, they nearly all have a place for online comments and feedback. If we never let a single one of the berserk, transphobic and often incoherent articles and comments go unanswered, if we can provide a humane, logical, and respectful rebuttal, we can influence the grassroots at least as much as by spectaculars. Even those who are Stealth can do that.

This is an important article on Bilerico because it talks about an event that over time will become a very historic one with regard to the movement for Transgender rights and equality.
I am going to take some different approaches to this subject. First of all, there are many in the transgender community who, thanks to people like Donna and Monica and Ethan and many others who have helped us move beyond the unholy trinity of fear, shame and guilt. We who transitioned as adults know only too well these emotions on deeply personal levels.
But thanks to people like Kim Pearson and www.tyfa.org, gender variant children are being helped to transition and be themselves so they can be helped to avoid the unholy trinity.
There are those among us who continue to live with this unholy trinity on a daily basis with varying degrees of success, and that is the gender variant community who for whatever reason are unable or unwilling to transition. I, personally, did not have the courage not to transition because I knew the intense pain that I would experience if I did not. I don't think I could have survived it.
But when we speak of community, I believe that it does include all of us - the young and the old, the transitioned and untransitioned, the pre-op, the post-op, etc., etc.
I am convinced we all need the acceptance, and the love and support of one another. We'll all lead happier lives if we do.
That's what it's all about, isn't it?

Donna Rose | June 11, 2008 9:18 AM

I believe there are any number of "flavors" of being Trans and feeling pride. "Trans and Proud" may not be the same as "Proud to be Trans", and it may simply be a matter of semantics, but they essentially achieve the same goal - finding something positive out of something that for so long was an overwhelming burden. There is pride for many of us in having the opportunity to experience a broader spectrum of life than most, in overcoming paralyzing fear on a path of self-actualization, in taking control of your life rather than allowing life circumstance to dictate who they are, in achieving life goals that at one time seemed impossible. Not all of these experiences is uniquely trans, but all help to inspire pride.

UdontKnowme | June 11, 2008 9:55 AM

Great article Donna. We have much to be proud of :-)

I am very much looking forward to Trans March for just that reason!

Gerri Ladene | June 11, 2008 10:46 AM

I loved this!

"But we already have a parade for you people." Us people? Who is us people? They apparently felt that since there was already a Gay Pride parade that there really wasn't anything more to do. They have since been "educated."

And this speaks volumes!

There was recognition that we as a transgender community need to take a more active role in determining our own destiny.

Transgender Pride is a concept whose time has come. As indicated by the success of this year's events, it will continue to grow and mature. It is symbolic of our growth as a community and, in fact, is a celebration of that. It is an opportunity to take center stage, to recognize that we share experiences and identities with the broader GLB community but have our own as well, to honor our own community heroes, and to escape being simply the silent’t’ at the end of GLB.

These were very poignant observations of Donna’s activism in the Trans community. Thank You for being “The Rose” in the garden of hope!

Thanks for sharing this, Donna! I've never seen a trans pride festival!

Bil: I doubt if anyone else ever saw a trans pride festival either. If someone has, would they please tell us about it?

There is something like this out in San Francisco the day before Pride Day, and the big parade. There are lots of trans-related events, but I don't think there is a parade. Has anyone been to that?

Did the organizers of this year's event say they will do it again next year?

Donna, I just realised I omitted something very important.

Thanks for doing so much for so long. Your example was an inspiration to me in my own transition too, so add a personal "thank you" for that.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 12, 2008 2:59 PM

Thanks, Donna, for sharing this. Wish I coulda been there.

Shari,
The shirt I have for the event says the first annual, so I'd say that there's a strong probability that the NE Transgender Pride event will happen next year.

June LaTrobe | June 13, 2008 11:35 AM

Hi Dona,
Haven't had the pleaure of speaking with you, in person, since the Gay Games.

Since the Trans community has a perfect event of civil disobedenice, that pre-dates Stonewall, by 3 years-the Compton Cafeteria riots, it would seem we have a real right to have our own celebrations.

How each different local community decides to conduct their celebration will be interesting.

However, the idea of having a seperate celebration, is no differnt than the Lesbian, Leather, or Latino focused celbrations that all take place during Pride month, June.

If there is anyone here, in the Chicago area, who would be interested in working on a Trans Pride event, for the 2009 Pride month, please contact me, directly, at: jlatrobe@centeronhalsted.org.

All the best,
June

Brianna Harris | June 16, 2008 10:04 PM

Four years ago you never would have convinced me that there was anything to be proud of wrt being trans. Now, 4 years later, I am post-op and living and working in the same place in rural Vt that I have for 24 years. That, in itself, is an accomplishment that I am proud of! "Pride" comes in many forms. You don't have to be out marching in the streets to be proud of who you are. There are many, many people out there that, simply by transitioning, have improved conditions for the Trans Community as a whole. At this stage in the Trans Rights Movement no steps are small ones. The best parts of the Rally for me were getting to meet Donna, Monica, Miss Major, Ethan and so many of the "movers and shakers" from our community. And then there are people like Rhiannon O'Donnabhain hanging it all out there... taking on the IRS for the GRS tax deduction... simply because it is the right thing to do. These folks deserve our respect, admiration and sincere gratitude. Last, but definitely not least, there was the opportunity to touch the life of a mother of a 5 year old boy who likes to wear dresses and "do girl things". A mother who, in the midst of a custody battle, is trying desperately to do what is right for her child. A mother that, up until the day of the Rally, felt so alone and hopeless in her predicament. A mother who now has hope for her childs' future through the contacts she made and the support network she began creating at Trans Pride. So often we get so caught up in our own trials and tribulations that we forget about those that support us and are dragged (often kicking and screaming) into this with us. This day was also a time to pay tribute to those people, the ones that support us, stand by us and take this journey with us. Thanks to Dru, Jackie, Bet, Justin, Marie and all the volunteers involved in making this first New England Transgender Pride March and Rally an event to remember. BTW Shakay, I'm sure you can count on this event happening, at least, next year. We made enough money through t-shirt and beverage sales as well as the generous donations of our supporters to cover this years' expenses and give us a good jump on next years'.

I would love to be there next year with a few thousand of my brothers and sisters.

Have they selected a date for it yet?