Friday, November 14, 2008

Monica's TRANScending Gender Keynote Speech

TransGriot Note: This is Part I of the original text of the speech I delivered at the TRANScending Gender Symposium at CU-Boulder on November 7, 2008. Link to Part II

To the organizers, conference attendees, students, allies and friends, I bring you greetings from the Bluegrass State and my birth state of Texas.

And no, I'm not a Texas Longhorn fan. I'm a proud University of Houston alumnus who despises the color burnt orange.

I sincerely thank the organizers for the opportunity to address you today in the wake of a historic presidential race. I'm also tickled to death to be as my shero Rep. Barbara Jordan stated over twenty years ago during the Democratic Convention in New York, your keynote speaker. (imitated Barbara Jordan at that point)

As I shared with Angela, Andee, Stephanie and others during our numerous e-mail exchanges prior to my appearance here today, this isn't my first trip to the Denver metro area. Twenty years ago when I was a Continental Airlines employee I hopped a flight for the day to attend a company picnic at the Adams County Fairgrounds.

Two months later I found myself spending the month of July 1988 living in a hotel on Denver's east side in a training class. And at that time I looked a lot different than the Phenomenal Transwoman you see standing before you today.

So yeah, a lot of things have changed since my last visit, including me.

Twenty years ago, DIA didn't exist, Federico Pena was Denver's mayor, Roy Romer was governor, Colorado was a red state gearing up for a legal battle over the odious Amendment 2, the Broncos played at Mile High Stadium, the Buffs played in the Big 8 Conference, the GLBTRC on campus was a few years from being born and transgender people were speeding south down I-25 to Trinidad to get SRS from Dr. Stanley Biber.

Today you have a wonderful governor in Bill Ritter, Colorado is unquestionably a blue state with statewide GLBT protections, the Buffs now play in the Big 12 Conference, the Broncos have a new mile High Stadium to play in and transpeople are still speeding south down I-25 to get SRS from Dr. Marci Bowers.

By the way, on behalf of your GLBT brothers and sisters nationwide, congratulations on not only electing Jared Polis to Congress, but we profusely thank you for getting Marilyn Musgrave out of Washington.

One other thing that's consistent over the last 20 years is that transpeople flip Rev. James Dobson and Unfocused on the Family the finger as they pass through Colorado Springs on their way to Trinidad.

This is an interesting time to have a conference. We are now roughly 72 hours past a historic election in which an African-American will be occupying the Oval Office on January 20.

The Democrats have expanded their House majority and picked up seats in the Senate with three races outstanding in Minnesota, Alaska and Georgia. The best part is that Barack Hussein Obama will be picking the Supreme Court justices when the next opening on the court happen.

And yes my friends, there will be openings- Antonin Scalia is 70, Clarence Thomas is 60, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in her 60's, David Souter is hinting at retirement and John Paul Stevens is in his 80's.

So let's segue into the theme of our conference, 'The Future of Transgender Activism'. But before I can talk about the future of transgender activism, I'll have to take you back to the past so that you'll know where we came from and how we arrived at this point. I've personally been involved since the mid-90's, but transgender activism predates Stonewall and San Francisco's Compton Cafeteria riots of 1966.

Let me stop the way back machine in Philadelphia, PA in April 1965 outside a diner frequented by GLBT peeps of African descent called Dewey's Lunch Counter.

Many of the people who frequented this diner were transgender. One day the management got tired of all the GLBT people hanging around their establishment and decreed that they would no longer serve people wearing 'gender variant clothing'.

When the owners backed up their rhetoric by refusing to serve transgender people, this being the 60's and the Civil Rights Movement being in full effect at the time, it was on like Donkey Kong. They borrowed the tactics of the movement and organized a sit it and informational picket campaign that after a few arrests, eventually forced the owners of Dewey's to rescind their odious policy.

The best part about it for me was that this was an all African-American GLBT production. It's gratifying to know that the work that I and other people of color do is rooted in this event, and makes me feel connected to a part of my history.

A year later came the Compton's riot followed by the more famous Stonewall Riot in New York in 1969, of which we'll celebrate the 40th anniversary of its occurrence next year.

But as the 70's dawned transpeople found themselves being rudely shoved out of the movement they had major roles in kick starting to life. We also found ourselves under attack by radical feminists such as Janice Raymond and Germaine Greer.

By the time I got yanked out of the closet in 1993, our long isolation was beginning to end. Transpeople began to stand up for themselves, form organizations such as ICTLEP and GenderPac and demand our rights. We began to lobby Congress in 1994 and push for inclusion in hate crimes and ENDA. We began to get involved in politics and do what I'm doing right now, speak to college students, professional organizations and others about our issues.

Coloradans such as Dainna Ciccotello also had major national leadership roles during that formative period as well. One of the first self-help books on transsexuality I read was written by the late JoAnn Altman Stringer. Other Coloradans were working diligently to get GLBT inclusive rights passed in boulder, Denver and eventually the rest of the state as well.

And we can't forget the country doctor doing state of the art SRS down in Trinidad.

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