Women’s History Month: Sylvia Rivera

For the last day of Women’s History Month, I give you Sylvia Rivera, proud, out, trans woman who participated in the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, and only a year later watched as gender and trans rights were disappeared from the new Gay Rights’ movement’s agenda.

On June 27, 1969, Rivera was in the crowd that gathered outside the Stonewall Inn after word spread that it had been raided by police. The sight of arrested patrons being led from the bar by authorities riled the crowd, but it was Rivera who threw one of the first Molotov cocktails that actually initiated the riots and sent Stonewall into the history books.

In 1970 Rivera joined the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and worked on its campaign to pass the New York City Gay Rights Bill. She attracted media attention when she attempted to force her way into closed-door sessions concerning the bill held at City Hall. In spite of Rivera’s (and other drag queens’) participation in the GAA, the organization decided to exclude transgender rights from the Gay Rights Bill so that it would be more acceptable to straight politicians.

Rivera was shocked and betrayed by this decision. She also became disillusioned with the gay rights movement in general and dismayed by the backlash against drag queens that had developed by the mid-1970s.

Perhaps already sensing that transgendered people could not rely on the gay rights movement to advocate for their civil rights, in 1970 Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson had formed a group called Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.). The members of this organization aimed to fight for the civil rights of transgendered people, as well as provide them with social services support.

At this time, Rivera and Johnson began operating S.T.A.R. House in the East Village, which provided housing for poor transgendered youth. S.T.A.R. House lasted for two years, but was then closed because of financial and zoning problems. Although in existence only a short time, S.T.A.R. House is historically significant because it was the first institution of its kind in New York City, and inspired the creation of future shelters for homeless street queens.

Shelters seems like an exaggeration, since the only other I know of is Transy House (which was around the corner from where we lived in Park Slope). I’m pleased to see the Day of Silence and GLSEN are honoring her as well this year.

Which Side Are You On?

Rachel Maddow presents a long overdue analysis of the difference between the rhetoric (“limited government”) and what’s really going on (eg mandatory drug testing).

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This has baffled me for a long time — how it is, exactly, that the people who stand for small government still want the government big enough to make sure women don’t get abortions and gays don’t have sex (or employment, or legal rights, etc).

So conservative friends, family, readers: which is it?


ENDA has been re-introduced in the House as of today, according to NCTE and TLDEF. More updates as they come through.

Two Tune Tuesday: Bessie Smith

I’m a day late, but not a dollar short: Bessie Smith makes me so damn happy with her crazy blues with attitude.

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Filtered, No Doubt

It turns out that some high schools are filtering out sites like GLAAD’s, or the It Gets Better campaign. Honestly? It just pisses me off. God forbid we help save the lives of at-risk youth; somehow that’s perceived as advanding the so-called gay agenda.

If White Power youths were committing suicide at alarming rates, we would all want to see them stop. What is it about LGBT youth that people are so hateful about? Is it this proposed ‘gay agenda’? How is it that homosexuality has trumped even suicide as a sin against God?

They drive me nuts. At least the ACLU is on it. You can check your school’s filtering and report them if necessary.

Gendered Toy Ads

You can mix and match two ads for toys: one aimed at girls, one at boys. Entertaining, but interesting especially to parents, I’d think.

Safe Space Radio Interview Up

The interview I did the other night is now up at Safe Space Radio’s website. It was a good one, and I think you can tell that we both enjoyed the conversation which is the best kind of interview. Honestly, we probably could have talked for another hour.

Canine Fine Dining

This is just too brilliant: surreal, funny, deeply human in some way that’s utterly bizarre:

Just genius: I can’t stop watching it.

Interview: Safe Space Radio

Tonight I’ll be interviewed on Safe Space Radio, out of Maine.

Definitely do check out some of the other interviews Dr. Anne has done on trans issues – the one on the trans youth summer camp is particularly interesting.

Two Tune Tuesday: Neko Case

This one’s for Betty, and Women’s History Month:

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Her voice is like spun gold, thick and honeyed and sweet.

Look Ma, It Can Talk!

As others on our mHB message boards have noticed, there is a certain tone of disbelief in stories about trans women who are attractive that is offensive, frustrating, and yet – and yet – progress.

In this story about a trans woman and trans man not being allowed entry into Egypt, it’s just a mention of her “outstanding beauty” – I’m sure she was – but once you’ve read enough news stories like this you just get a kind of creepy feeling. I have a friend who used to refer to it as the “look ma, it can talk!” tone (except he was taking about stories about African Americans).

& That’s aside from there being no explanation as to why, when everything they said was true, and their IDs checked out, they were still sent back to Jordan.

And because I have some very literal readers, I will add here that I find this practice of being amazed that a trans woman can be not only a woman but an attractive woman, appalling and offensive.

All Out: Help Brazil Pass a Hate Crimes Law

A 22 year old woman named Priscila was murdered execution style in Brazil. Too many LGBT people in Brazil – particularly trans people – are killed. A local group, All Out, is seeking a hate crimes law to help prevent these murders, and have an online petition you can sign.

I didn’t embed the video here because it’s too triggery for too many of us who have lost people to transphobic violence. Do watch, because it’s important – and a lovely chance to see this young woman alive and optimistic about her life – but I thought people needed to ready to watch.

ENDA Returns

As if my days aren’t heady enough living in Wisconsin, it turns out that ENDA is about to be introduced in DC. It’s not expected to pass, however.

But the general consensus among Capitol Hill observers is that passage of any pro-LGBT legislation, including ENDA, will be a significant challenge for at least two years with Republicans in control of the U.S. House. Last year, Frank told the Blade there would be “zero chance” for the passage of any legislation that would directly benefit the LGBT community.

Still, Frank said introduction of the legislation is important to educate the public and members of Congress, especially on the transgender protections included in the bill.

“It’s important to introduce it to give people a chance to lobby their members on it,” Frank said. “Having a bill there encourages people to lobby their members. Particularly, we need people to do more lobbying and educating on the transgender issue, and so having a bill there is a very important part of getting the votes ultimately to be able to pass it.”

(boldface mine)

Honestly, I never expected Rep. Frank to be behind a version that included trans protections; like many (but not all) gay men of his age, he really didn’t seem to get the trans thing at all. (I have no doubt that Diego Sanchez has been educating him from the elbow these past couple of years, either.)

Chrissie Edkins Interview

This is one of the better interviews with a trans woman I’ve seen.

She’s gorgeous and gracious and serious. And bi. Am I allowed to say hot? Yes, she’s hot.

(via The Daily Mail)

Two Tune Tuesday: Joe Hill

Madison’s protests meet Women’s History Month, but how could I resist Paul Robeson’s version of “Joe Hill”, too? Damn: that one gives me shivers.

Still, folk singers of two generations: : Joan Baez’s “Joe Hill” was a huge deal at Woodstock, and Michelle Shocked performed at the Madison protests a couple of weekends ago. Here’s her “Quality of Mercy” (and you can read the lyrics here).

Honestly, I almost choked when I saw the images of Joe Hill at the first rally I went to; seeing his image was like going backwards & forwards in time at the same time.


What is there I could possibly say about Japan? There are reports of a 2nd tsunami now, and I can’t even get my head around some of the footage of the 1st. Those poor people.

Love to them, & to all of those all over the world who can’t yet even get a hold of their loved ones there.

Set Your Clocks Back

Make sure to set your clocks ahead an hour tonight, unless, of course, you’re in Wisconsin, where you need to set them back 100 years.

No, really: 1911 saw the WI passage of the first Worker’s Comp laws, but it wasn’t until 1959 that WI was one of the first states to pass collective bargaining laws.

Here are some of my other favorites of the day:

(Photo via Daily Koscourtesy of Mark E Anderson who managed to get my stripey-hatted head in a shot, ha.)


Queer Wisconsin, Queer Work, Queer Rights

Bilerico has had a couple of good pieces about the connections between how what’s going on in Madison connects to LGBT political organizing.

Susan Raffo’s recent piece mentions the history, references queer historian Allan Bérubé:

In 1919, the labor movement’s successful fight for a 40-hour workweek bought us the time and the space to start coming together as queer people; to come together and take a deep breath and just plain notice ourselves. And in the noticing, we started to ask questions and in asking those questions, to dream of how things could be different. That’s what economic justice creates for us. It creates lives where there is the space to talk to each other, to feel like we can turn our gazes away from making sure there is enough food and a place to sleep and instead begin to act on our dreams.

Caitlin Breedlove commented recently on the unusual alliance she’s experiencing as a queer Madisonian in the midst of what is often white working class organizing:

I believe that in Wisconsin I am in the midst of many working class white people who voted conservative in the November elections based on rights to their guns, or because they don’t like the idea of gays getting married, or because they don’t like that Obama is Black. I am standing next to them in struggle. This is an unusual position for me. I am standing with them as I am watching parts of them being transformed. Many of these people have realized their guns are not as important as having a job, a house, decent public schools for their kids, or healthcare. They are figuring out that, as Michael Moore said from the Madison Capitol this weekend: “America is not broke…the country is awash in cash…it is just that the wealth is not in our hands.” Many of my comrades here have said that it is amazing how many people realize this fight is about capitalism and corporate greed.

Her larger point, about the reclaiming of public space as essential to LGBT people, immigrants, & the working class, is vital information. Our public sector has been under attack for a few decades now by people who want none of us to be empowered in the way our government treats us:

She points to the fact that the Capitol occupation is very much about reclaiming public space. As LGBTQ people, we are systematically pushed out of public space – discouraged from being ourselves at our workplaces, our kids’ schools, at the grocery store, and in our local and state governments. Why do so few of us run for public office? Why are so many of our activists who do not work in LGBTQ-specific areas closeted? Because we have been sent a clear message: public space is not our space. We are not “the Public.”

We are not the only community sent this message.

Immigrants are told something similar every time we open our mouths and speak a language that is not English. The systems of our towns are set up so that on every street, every bus, and every glittering downtown poor people are sent the same message: you do not belong here, this place is not for you.

This week people in Madison are saying that class warfare is real, it needs to be faced head on, and to do that we must reclaim public space. This month, people all over the Middle East are saying this, and so much more. Are we ready to recognize that this struggle (like so many struggles) is our struggle?

I can’t imagine a message that queer people have heard over & over again but her “you do not belong here, this place is not for you.” We know exactly what that means, and we know exactly how it feels, and the queer movement has for years resisted being told where and when we get to exist and have our lives be visible. Without public spaces, without the people’s insistence on government accountability and the right to assembly, both of which are being denied in the state capital of Wisconsin, queer organizing will also be shut out.

Please, queerios, pay attention to what’s happening here. The right to bargain collectively is not just about economics, nor about work. It’s about the right to BE counted as persons and citizens: We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it is a little more like We’re here, get used to it just now.

Can You Believe These Guys?

The Republican Senators of Wisconsin pulled an unprecedented and undeniably shitty move tonight:

In a surprise move late Wednesday, Senate Republicans used a series of parliamentary maneuvers to overcome a three-week stalemate with Democrats and pass an amended version of the governor’s controversial budget repair bill.

With a crowd of protesters chanting outside their chambers, Senators approved Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, which would strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees. The new bill removes fiscal elements of the proposal but still curbs collective bargaining and increases employee payments in pension and health benefits. The changes would amount to an approximate 8 percent pay cut for public workers.

We’ll be in Madison on Saturday, no doubt.