It’s a joyful season but this time we sang the blues. The 2016 Pride season has now passed into the heat of summer, and after the massacre at Orlando we still wipe away tears. We didn’t just have the usual events of parades, booths, and concerts. We had things like healing circles and condolence books.
More and more, Pride isn’t just a gay and lesbian season. We transpeople have been holding our own Pride events. Orange County held its second annual Trans Pride event on July 2, a couple of weeks after one held in Los Angeles. Relatively few people take notice of Trans Pride, the little sister of the greater “Gay Pride” festival. For that matter, Trans Pride is little more than a dozen years old in concept, but built upon a deep anger that the larger “Gay Pride” never really addressed.
The reason comes down to this, expressed by syndicated columnist Dear Diva in 2000 when directing The Cotillion for Transgender San Francisco (TGSF): “People must understand. Transgender is a straight world phenomenon, not a gay world phenomenon.”1 Many Bay Area transpeople felt hurt and resentful because of those remarks, even betrayed. But Dear Diva asserted that this is what she really believed and she’s not alone.
This has been the case since the very dawn of the “Gay Rights Movement” that began when a police raid upon the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, erupted into rebellion. Though the flash point of the uprising had been the actions of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnsson, both homeless transvestites,2 the role of transfolk had largely been ignored in the following years. Not only had they been ignored, the same organizers found themselves ostracized by gays and lesbians for years.
Ehn Nothing describes Sylvia’s treatment during the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day rally at Washington Square Park:
“Blocked from speaking and physically attacked by lesbian feminists for parodying womanhood, Sylvia stormed onto the stage, grabbed the mic, and confronted the audience for its whiteness, class privilege, and lack of concern for prisoners. As Sylvia describes it: ‘I had to battle my way up on stage, and literally get beaten up and punched around by people I thought were my comrades, to get to that microphone. I got to the microphone and I said my piece.’”3
Consider also the case of Beth Eliott who served as Vice President of the San Francisco chapter of the lesbian group, Daughters of Bilitis who expelled her once her status as a transsexual became known.4
Transpeople have had to face a stark fact that they could never hope to be anything more than the periphery of the LGBT movement and there will always be those who want us to go our own way because we aren’t the same. Professor Lori B. Girshick wrote in Transgender Voices:
“It’s been a rough alliance. Lack of acknowledgement of the role of trans-identified people at Stonewall…; lesbian feminists denouncing transwomen in women-only space; macho gay men rejecting femininity in men; butch lesbians transitioning as transmen; androgynous lesbians who reject feminine transwomen; antidiscrimination laws written without including gender identity and expression__ these and other political and social clashes over the past 40 years have repeatedly raised questions about common agendas, identities, and issues. I believe that we have a common adversary in those who diminish the personhood of LGBT people and see us as “less than.” And, while not everyone agrees with this stance, I see sexual orientation as related to gender identity because sexual orientation involves behaviors that are viewed as violations of gender role and gender behavior. I believe that we have more in common to fight for than we have to prevent our alliance.”5
While transpeople clearly have issues beyond others in the LGBT alliance, transpeople have been profoundly impacted by events in Orlando. One of us, trans performer Jasmine Jiminez, almost fell victim to the general carnage at the Pulse nightclub.6 We feel attacked, knowing that our own numbers have spiked since our media visibility spiked in 2015
Past Trans Pride events have been sporadic with references of Trans Pride in Seattle as far back as 1997.7 Evidence exists of a similar event in Michigan the same year.8 A timeline of transgender history states that a “Holy War Committee” organized an alternate pride event in the District of Columbia during 1995. They did so to protest against Capital Pride refusing to add the words “bisexual” and “transgender” to the event name.9
But Trans Pride seems to have gained much impetus with the Trans Marches of the first decade of 2000. A 2004 Trans March organized in San Francisco, action impelled by deep anger over the murder of 17-year old transgender girl Gwen Araujo in Newark less than 2 years before and whose assailants were still locked in trial in nearby Fremont. But these are still different events.
Discussions for Orange County Trans Pride began in 2014 while The LGBT Center OC planned its observance for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. This came at a time when Metamorphosis, a Buena Park endocrinology clinic, initiated a clinic for transgender people on the 2nd floor of The LGBT Center OC called Transitions. One glaring problem dogged The LGBT Center OC regarding its facilities on Spurgeon in Santa Ana: limited space. This especially became a problem when more transgender groups were using the facility every week: BeingMe for English-speaking male to female transpeople, Transgeneros En Acción for trans Latinas, Trans*Fusion for trans youth, OCFTM for female-to-male trans, and Trans*Forum, a transgender group therapy group meeting in a counselor’s office. Clearly, transgender needs have been gaining attention faster than those of any other demographic.
The LGBT Center OC had come a long way since its days as The Center OC in Garden Grove. Despite hosting the BeingMe group for over a decade and having a transgender staff member, other staff at times demonstrated open hostility to transgender people including this blog writer, manifest in harassment, meanly misgendering, and suspicion while working as a volunteer. The same resigned from The Center OC in a face-to-face meeting with the Volunteer Coordinator called by the writer after the Director at that time ignored a written complaint about mistreatment.
But changes in The LGBT Center OC extended farther than just a name designed for inclusiveness. Pertaining to transpeople The LGBT Center OC has put its best foot forward. When the body of Latina trans-activist Zoraida Reyes turned up by the parking lot of an Anaheim Dairy Queen, The LGBT Center OC organized an impromptu vigil, then gave advanced attention later that year for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, both events being held publicly in French Plaza in Santa Ana. During this time also, another office space opened up on the 2nd floor overlooking French Plaza (image) and The LGBT Center OC secured this space to become The Center on 4th (CO4). This would become the home of Orange County Trans Pride beginning in 2015.
This year’s Trans Pride OC on July 2, led by Transgender Services Coordinator Dannie Ceseña, may have been much smaller than LGBT Pride the previous month, but it had heart. Apart from the booths in French Plaza and upstairs, The Center on 4th conducted sessions in the Gallery and Board room that included a resume and job interview clinic, workplace and immigration rights, insurance concerns, sexuality, and basic concepts of transgenderism. Some of the main speakers included Jessica Herthel, Co-Author of , I Am Jazz, and Keynote Speaker Shakina Nayfack, Transgender Writer, Actress, and Producer.
But in this writer’s mind, the Healing Circle, attended by only a handful, excelled all other events in worth. Many more hurting people must have come to Trans Pride OC than actually attended. Wounds still freshly sting. We still have to take time to embrace and comfort the hurting.
Perhaps the greatest success of Trans Pride OC this year has been in breaking through the barriers of Orange County cliquishness, barriers that separate old from young, ethnicities, and even types of transpeople. This was a time to network, to exchange business cards, to share efforts, support one another, laugh and cry together, and simply to celebrate being trans.
Unless otherwise noted, the blog writer relies upon her own recollections concerning the events mentioned.
1. Tudor, Silke. Night Crawler: At the Cotillion (February 2, 2000) SF Weekly. http://www.sfweekly.com/sanfrancisco/night-crawler/Content?oid=2137929. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
2. Fleisher, Julian. The Drag Queens of New York (1996) Riverhead Books, Berkley Publishing Group NY. ISBNL 1-57322-552-5, pp. 35,36.
3. Nothing, Ehn. Queens Against Society. Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt, and Queer Antagonist Struggle (n.d.) Tract: Untorelli Press, untorellipress.noblogs.org, p. 7,8.
4. Nettick, Geri and Eliott, Beth. Mirrors: Portrait of a Lesbian Transsexual (July 16, 2011) Press Release: https://www.createspace.com/3624772
5. Girschick, Lori B. Transgender Voices (2008) University Press of New England, Lebanon NH. ISBN-13: 978-1-58465-645-6, p. 183, 184.
6. Brydum, Sunnivie. Meet the Trans Performer Who Narrowly Escaped the Pulse Shooting (Video) (June 20, 2016) Web: The Advocate. http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2016/6/20/meet-trans-performer-who-narrowly-escaped-pulse-shooting-video. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
7. (n.a.) Seatte’s First Trans Pride Rally Builds Unity (July 24, 1997) Web: Reprint from Worker’s World http://www.workers.org/ww/seattle.html / . Retrieved July 6, 2016.
8. (n.a.) Celebrating Transgender Pride Since 1997! (2016) Web: Press Release, Transgender Michigan. http://www.transgendermichigan.org/events/pride.html. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
9. (n.a.) Timeline of DC Trans History (n.d.) Tract, Raibow History.org http://rainbowhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/transhistory.pdf. p. 1. Retrieved July 6, 2016.