Editor's Note: Today's Guest Contributor is the Reverend Donna Tara Lee, a Gainesville Florida out and proud M2F transgender activist.
I recently had the opportunity to attend two GLBT conferences. The first one was the Equality Florida Training Weekend held in Orlando on July 11 and 12. During this two-day activist training there were sessions on canvassing, fundraising, lobbying your legislator, the various GLBT civil rights bills in the legislature, framing the discussion and even a short session on how the legislature actually passes a bill. This was a very high impact, fast-paced training. We had breakout sessions on each topic and even hit the streets to canvas. Equality Florida is to be commended for an excellent training.
The following week I was in Key West for the Florida State Democratic GLBT Caucus. I am North Central Florida's female representative. Each district has a male and female representative. I am the first transgendered person to hold an officer's position in the caucus. The caucus was held on Saturday, July 18.
We had phone calls from Jared Polis, CEO Alex Silk, who is running for governor, Tammy Baldwin, Karen Thurman and Cleve Jones, who spoke on the March On Washington scheduled for October 9-11. We had speakers from other groups, such as One Human Family and Organizing for America. Eric Draper, a candidate for Fl. Agriculture Commissioner and Dan Gelber, candidate for State Attorney General addressed the assembly.
The caucus made it overwhelmingly clear that we should not give money to candidates who will not support and sign a pledge to work for and sponsor GLBT rights in the state legislature and also in congressional races throughout the state. We are tired of candidates taking our campaign work and contributions and not stepping up for us. There was a discussion of AIDS and why we favor a needle exchange program. Each officer in attendance gave a report on his or her office or district. I reported on the great victory we had in Gainesville in defeating Charter Amendment 1, a proposal to strip GLBT citizens of the civil rights protections we have in Gainesville.
One aspect of these events held my attention. Both of these groups made efforts to include transgendered persons. I can attest to that through my own personal experience. Stating that, I must say I am shocked by the absence of T's at these meetings. We are definitely welcome. There were 2 T's at the training session and 3 at the caucus. I do wish there were more, not that I feel uncomfortable because I also identify as a lesbian and as I said, T's are welcomed by both of these groups.
It is my feeling that unless more and more T's are willing to come out and be activists or simply to become visible, we will continue to be misunderstood and treated with disdain by a public that scorns us due to a lack of knowledge and scare tactics by the religious right. With the level of violence against T's though, I don't blame T's for being stealth. I was, but the activism that runs through my veins cannot allow me to stay hidden. My job and duty are to be out and fighting for understanding and acceptance of GLB and especially T Americans. With that will come our civil rights.