Monica Roberts

Monica's NE Transgender Pride Speech

Filed By Monica Roberts | June 10, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Monica Roberts, NE Transgender pride, speech


Last weekend I had the ne tpride_monica speaks.jpghonor 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.

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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.


Gerri Ladene | June 10, 2008 10:54 PM

A thought comes to mind in the ever increasing wave of union expressed in the Trans community that is taking place in this time this struggle for our right to equality.
How do you get the support from all those who have decided to take the path of STEALTH and hide themselves from any involvement taking place to protect the rights of struggling now and yet to come? I’ve come across many in transition who wish to just go in hiding and hope their secret is never found out and in doing so detach themselves from any association with the Trans community at all. This in the hope of leading a normal life, hah, they’ve in effect closeted themselves again still in shame. Some have even echoed the same wrong-headed beliefs of the very people who would deny us the most basic of equal rights all stemming from prejudice so they do little more than crawl in bed with the enemy. I would not prefer to use the term enemy since in reality its just people who have been conditioned to think the way they do from a prejudiced pulpit, and the pulpiteers, money grubbing bag of hot air Evangelists mostly, know all to well how to convey their odious message. For many it’s the stigma of being tied in with the GLBT but then aren’t Trans just the total queerness of nature in the flesh. Who would want to admit to being so different in a society that worships its binary separation where one sex dominates another?

In reading the latest posts here from Monica H. and The Rose I would want to believe that we have gained much but there is allot more to do. When you look at the groups who are using the Internet against us, Americans for Truth, American Family Values, American my ass, hate spouting bigots is more like it, you just want to scream “Hey DUMBASS I’m an American too”. So when we have rallies like the “Transgender Pride March” I begin to have hope, maybe it should have been called the “American Transgender Pride March”, nothing like using the opposition’s tactics for the right thing! Maybe we should put American on everything “American GLBT” and see how the haters respond toward Americans, gets more difficult to promote hate against a citizen of this nation when you do that.

It was beautiful to read what was said and see the pictures that where posted of the TPM. You get a witness from me for your speech Monica, Amen Sister Amen!

Gerri, I picked Monica up at the airport, after her weekend in New England (no, I didn't have Barry Manilow in the cd player). One comment she had was that the only thing she could see that was overlooked by the organizers was the American Flag.

You're absolutely right, in your observation that we need to do a better job of emphasizing that we are
Americans. It is our country and we should demand what is rightfully ours.

I made that point with the organizers before I arrived and after arriving on site that day we needed an American flag.

No civil rights movement has won WITHOUT emphasizing the fact that we are Americans and NOT carrying that flag at EVERY event they conducted. I felt not having the flag taped to the stage and carrying it during the march was a mistake.

My people during the Civil Right Movement of the 60' and anti-war protestors had the Stars and Stripes with them. Even the immigration rights people have started carrying it after they were roundly criticized for only having their national flags and not having the flag of the country they reside in.

It's time for us to claim the flag that our transgender vets fought to defend and quit ceding it to our detractors.

Monica, that was one heck of a speech. I'm taking notes, and might just quote you.

The Flag? Of course you should have the Stars and Stripes! We need to make the other side look as UnAmerican as they are. (Yes, I know I'm a durned furriner who has meddled extensively in your country's internal affairs) More is better, and emphasise the military service many Trans people have given their country. Ask why Diane Schroer was treated the way she was, which blatantly damaged national security. Emphasise "With Liberty and Justice for All" means exactly that, for All.

That's why I have a fondness for the US, despite having no wish to live there. It's because while you may not always live up to your ideals, often it's because your ideals are so high. By emphasising that you're just trying to implement those ideals, that you will sway many of those who are so much against you. And that's the way to win, not just preaching to the choir.

As for those in Stealth... I'll quote myself (sorry) from another comment:

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.

As always, I am proud to call you my friend. I wish I was there to hear your speech, but reading it, I can easily hear your voice echoing into the streets and off the buildings. Your soul shows the beauty few can achieve. Your heart is open to all. And, your voice is one we need to hear in these trying times. I hope I can attend this wonderful event next year, and I hope to see you again soon.

I would suggest the inclusion at the next event like this not only the American flag, but also the beautiful Trans Pride flag designed by Monica Helms. I will be ordering one or two of them to keep one for our Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, and to have one at the Creating Change hospitality suite in February 2009.

Monica R: Thank you for you beautiful words!

battybattybats battybattybats | June 11, 2008 9:24 AM

Thats an awesome speech!
Thankyou Monica!
It's a powerful and moving message that I really literally felt deep in my chest.

Good points too Zoe, both about the USA and it's founding on enlightenment values and about the capacity for Stealth folk to keep fighting (like ninjas!) and I must add that folks still in the closet can do the same too! A message I'm trying to spread here and there.

UdontKnowme | June 11, 2008 11:11 AM

Monica your speech was both moving AND inspirational.

I'm glad the speech was worthy of the event.

It took two months and five rewrites before I was satisfied with it. I still felt even right up to the moment I walked on stage it could have been better.

I just wish I had been there to hear it.

Maybe next year....