A big problem with social justice movements? Forgetting - and sometimes resisting - to include the people who are the most oppressed in the process. The crew at the Sylvia Rivera Law Projectknows the problem first-hand, and stopped by Occupy Wall Street last week to help other protesters understand where they're coming from. [See a video of the teach-in below.]
Reina Gossett described trans revolutionaries Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson's struggles in the 1960s and '70s with STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). The group's first occupation happened at NYU's Weinstein Hall, when the school refused to allow two queer dance parties and called in the NYPD to get rid of protesters. Many people left when the cops arrived. Later, STAR released an impassioned statement: "All that we fought for at Weinstein Hall was lost when we left upon the request of the pigs, you people run if you want to, but we're tired of running. We intend to fight for our rights until we get them."
Rivera also helped organize New York's first Gay Pride, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Parade. The parade ended at a women's prison in protest of the mass incarceration of queer and trans people - a fact lost on most people who attend today's corporate Pride celebrations.
Naomi Clark focused on the lack of acceptance and resources that trans and queer people face, and how it's sometimes necessary to turn to survival crimes ("also known as Survival"); compounding the problem are associated mental health and substance issues.
Jeannine Tang ended the event with seven statements to help make the Occupy movement a safer space queers and trans people:
At meetings, assemblies, and social spaces, we support people self-identifying their preferred name and their preferred gender pronoun.
At meetings, assemblies, and social spaces, we support calling people by their preferred name and their preferred gender pronoun, even when they aren't here.
If we're unsure of someone's gender pronoun, we'll ask, and share our own. We won't assume.
We will not out someone as transgender without their permission, since we recognize transphobia can be dangerous.
If we create or plan public shelter, medical access, or bathroom access, we will create access that's open to all genders.
In our direct actions and protests, we will not draw police attention to groups including transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and people of color. We will prevent harm to trans and gender non-conforming people at the hands of the cops.
We support gender self-determination for trans women, trans men, gender non-conforming people, and we desire gender self-determination for all.