Friday, November 25, 2011

My trip to Occupy Wall St for "Trans-form the Occupation" on Sunday, November 13, 2011

I was invited down to Occupy Wall St. to participate in The "Trans-Form The Occupation" a transgender awareness event on day 58 of Occupy Wall Street in Liberty Plaza on November 13, 2011 in New York City. This was trans 101 type panel, put on by some of the members of QueeringOWS. Some of the speakers included Jenn and Craig from QueeringOWS; Noah from TLDF; Pauline Park from NYAGRA; Michelle Abdus’Shakur; Representatives from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project; myself; and a performance from Mx Justin Vivian Bond. There were also a few trans members that spoke at the speak out portion.

I spoke about the experiences of poverty of transgender people, the experiences of employment and educational discrimination and need for gender identity non-discrimination laws.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why We Are Voting For Felix G. Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley for Boston City Council At-Large

By Robbie Samuels and Gunner Scott

Felix G. Arroyo has been a long-time LGBTQ ally. In 2002, he was an early supporter of the successful bill adding gender identity and expression to Boston's non-discrimination law. As a first-term Boston City Councilor-at-Large he used his position to highlight discrimination by the organizers' of South Boston's St. Patrick Day Parade, saying, "As an At-Large City Councilor, I represent all of Boston and all of Boston’s residents. I take that responsibility very seriously. An entire community that I represent is excluded from marching in the parade. While the Supreme Court said it is legally permissible to exclude LGBTQ groups, I cannot in good conscience march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade until everyone else can." To clearly show his support, Felix hosts an LGBT event when the parade is taking place.

His transgender advocacy continues with his introduction of a City Council resolution in support of the statewide Transgender Civil Rights Bill — passed unanimously this year on March 9th. He also issued an official resolution celebrating the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition’s 10-year anniversary, stating, “With this milestone, we have a great opportunity to recognize the service MTPC has provided to the transgender community. As Chair of the City Council’s committee that focuses on human rights, I am proud of our history of supporting LGBT rights and I understand the importance of continuing our work to promote equality."

Felix' progressive advocacy isn't limited to LGBTQ equality. He recognizes that members of the LGBTQ community are also concerned about libraries closing, education cuts, youth job cuts, small businesses suffering and supporting the #Occupy Movement. Shortly after taking office he brokered a compromise that ended a long-running contract dispute between Mayor Menino and the firefighters union. When the mayor proposed a plan to close four libraries, Felix took the lead forcing the Menino to abandon his short-sighted cost-saving plan. When Arizona passed a law allowing police to ask people for their papers if they have "reasonable suspicion" they are illegal immigrants, Felix led the effort to divest in Arizona companies that do business with Boston.

Even before the #Occupy Movement highlighted nefarious practices by big banks, Felix called for a council hearing to discuss which banks the city now uses and to investigate how to give priority for city funds to banks that "invest locally by supporting small business, lending to home buyers, have a foreclosure prevention plan and invest in Boston-based development projects." In response to concerns about how much #OccupyBoston is costing the city in police overtime, Felix said, "The question is, though, what the cost is to the city if we don't change our economic practices now, what is the cost then and that's the lens I hope we [use to] look at this, to say what is the cost to all of us if we continue on this track, if we continue on the track where 99% of the population is essentially struggling and 1% has all our wealth."

Ayanna Pressley is a newcomer to the Boston City Council, but before being elected to her first term she was at LGBTQ community events asking how she could help the community. Ayanna listens and responds to the needs of an ever growing and changing Boston. Her advocacy reflects the voices and the issues of those who are often marginalized or underrepresented in our local government.

In her first term, she has supported our transgender community by authoring a resolution that gained the unanimous support of the entire City Council urging the Legislature to extend equal rights and protections to our transgender friends, neighbors and constituents. She has said numerous times that it is unconscionable for us to allow any member of our community to be treated as a second class citizen and denied basic protections in the workplace.

Ayanna has taken on addressing sexual education in our schools. There is nothing controversial about providing our young people with a medically accurate, age appropriate, culturally competent sexual education curriculum, including teaching healthy behaviors and responsible decision-making. The only controversial thing would be to sit back and do nothing while our young people were left to rely on their peers, the Internet or pornography for sexual health information.

Ayanna has spoken up about the high rate of suicide attempts among our LGBTQ youth and that is critical there is an early intervention to ensure bullying of youth and particularly LGBTQ youth, is addressed at an early age, and that LGBTQ youth have access to teachers and counselors who can provide the necessary support during what can be an isolating and painful time in their life.

Ayanna is taking on public accommodations discrimination, because no one should be treated unfairly because of who they are or what they look like. Several months ago, she demanded an investigation after the Cure Lounge barred black Harvard alumni and graduate students from their own private party. In recent weeks, her office has seen other establishments cited for similar incidents. However, while many people associate the public accommodation laws in Boston with racial discrimination, there is a growing need to educate licensed venues to protect our LGBTQ community. Boston’s LGBTQ community is growing- which is something we should take pride in- but with the growth occurring in neighborhoods not traditionally home to significant LGBTQ populations, there is an increased need to educate licensed venues about their legal obligations. Additionally, while incidents of blatant discrimination are more easily addressed legally, we must also respond to more subtle harassment and intimidation that can take place inside our venues.

It's important that we re-elect Felix and Ayanna to represent us on the Boston City Council. They're advocacy on a range of progressive issues has given a voice to the LGBT community, communities of color, women, youth, workers, and poor people. What's critical is that they understand that there are intersections of oppression and that these issues are not isolated. This is evident by the high number of endorsements they've each received on SoJust's Progressive Voter Index ( A vote for Felix and Ayanna is a vote for a more progressive Boston.

A low turn-out is expected, so every single vote matters! Not sure where to vote? Visit Polls are open Tuesday, November 8th from 7am-8pm.

Robbie Samuels

Gunner Scott

Monday, October 24, 2011

Only 20 days into Occupy Boston