2011 Stoney Awards: Latino Equality Alliance Honored as Organization of the YearShareThis
On Monday, April 11, in a last minute development, the state Senate in Maryland killed a Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination bill that LGBT advocates had worked hard and expected to pass the state Legislature. It was yet another reminder of the great difficulty faced by transgender people seeking equal protection under the law.
Ironically, just the day before, on Sunday, April 10, transgenders were celebrated by the Los Angeles-based Stonewall Democratic Club at their annual “Stoney Awards.” Among those literally embracing the cause of transgender rights was movie star icon and antiwar activist Jane Fonda, who was honored by Stonewall with the Anne Marie Staas Ally Award. In 2004, Fonda helped produce an all-transgender performance in West Hollywood of The Vagina Monologues, for which playwright Eve Ensler wrote a specific, new monologue. The performance was also produced as a documentary calledBeautiful Daughters, with Calpernia Addams as one of the stars. Calpernia, who is an author and reality star, presented the award to Fonda.
Also honored at the event were: longtime transgender activist Bamby Salcedo, presented with the Sheila J. Kuehl Trailblazer Award by Kuehl; Torie Osborn – who is running for the California Assembly from the 41st District – presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by her Camp Courage co-founder Mike Bonin; the post-Prop 8 group Latino Equality Alliance, honored as Organization of the Year received their award from stellar ally Congressmember Judy Chu; and LA AIDS Coordinator Stephen Simon, recognized as Stonewall’s Member of the Year, with the award presented by LA Democratic Party Chair and California Democratic Party Vice-Chair Eric Bauman.(All photos taken by and courtesy of Debra Evans – see more photos here and here.)
Jane Fonda met Calpernia Addams at Sundance in 2004 at the premier of “Until the Violence Stops” – the documentary about ending genital violence against women – part of a movement that grew out of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.
“Solider’s Girl” – a Showtime drama about Calpernia’s tragic relationship with Barry Winchell – was a Sundance hit the year before. Winchell was murdered by his fellow soldiers because of his love for Calpernia. It was then that Fonda decided to produce an all-transgender production of The Vagina Monologues.
At the Stoney Awards, Calpernia talked about how amazing it was to meet such a great advocate as Jane Fonda and how most people give lip service to helping out – but Fonda followed through. That is particularly important to transgender people since “T”s are always the “last” in the LGBT community – just like the experience of most gays 30 years ago. Jane Fonda, however, was a loving role model and mentor during the making of the documentary about the transgender-cast play, Calpernia said, introducing Fonda, who cried.
Jane Fonda spoke about her history as an activist, including with her former husband Tom Hayden and with the Delancy Street Foundation. About producing The Vagina Monologues with a transgender cast, Fonda said:
“For years and years I thought I was a feminist. I said the right things; I went to the right rallies; I talked to the right people. But it was all in my head – it was intellectual. It wasn’t until I saw The Vagina Monologues that I truly became a feminist. It came down from my head and filled my heart and occupied my whole body. THEN I was a feminist.”
Fonda also talked about meeting Calpernia Addams and Andrea James, Calpernia’s business partner, and the inspiration they inspired. She framed being a transgender woman in a context of the dominant patriarchal system – how society might reject them “because these are beautiful, powerful women who had [masculinity] and rejected it. Who said ‘don’t need it; don’t want it’. Who chose to live as the women they are. And this is the truest rejection of our patriarchal society. And it occurred to me – wouldn’t it be the truest form of feminism to do an all transgender Vagina Monologues?! And so, we did it!”
“I am extremely grateful to Stonewall Democratic Club for this award…The idea that a woman, or a man who really should be a woman, is going to control their body, if that happens, it means that it is the end of patriarchy and the beginning of a new way of living….
Tonight’s ceremony was very interesting. Lots of new, young, passionate progressive democrats, including elected officials, which included U.S. Congresswomen, Judy Chu. It was thrilling to witness a new generation of articulate, courageous activists.”
Stonewall is a Democratic club so not surprisingly, much of the talk of the evening was geared to the political state of the state, union and the LGBT community. “This past year, we helped effect a stunning Democratic sweep of California constitutional offices, even as we witnessed devastating Democratic losses nationally.
And even while our new Democratic leadership in California gives us hope for a more just and progressive state budget, we must gird ourselves like rarely before for the political fights to come,” Stonewall President John Cleary said in a statement. “To reclaim national leadership, Democrats need to follow the example we set in California of unified and full-throated support for progressive ideals and accomplishments, and for the re-election of President Barack Obama. No equivocation; no apologies.”
After thanking “Team Torie” and Sheila Kuehl, “the most important person in my life” who inspired her to run for state office, Osborn talked about how “America has always had a divided soul” which she identified as racism and imperial wars versus the aspiration for “liberty and justice for all.” She also noted that America today faces “economic inequality worse than 1929 and climate change that threatens the earth.” Osborn also got to acknowledge Jane Fonda as an antiwar inspiration during the Vietnam War.
Osborn told me later:
“I got to tell Jane Fonda — whom I’ve met as we share a close friend, Holly Near — but I got to thank her publicly for inspiring me in 1972 when she was the FIRST woman I’d ever heard speak at an Anti-Vietnam War rally. And it was electrifying — that lustrous, proud, bold gorgeous voice that told the truth and was powerful. She was my very first role model for activism, and I got to tell her [that]!”
Ari Gutierrez, co-chair of the Latino Equality Alliance, reported on LEA and Salcedo’s awards in a write-up to Stonewall members:
“The Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) was founded by Latino LGBT organizations, and individual leaders, in our community in the wake of Proposition 8. We formed when we realized that working independently and often in competition with each other was not working and that we had to build an alliance of trust, understanding and unity among our organizations and community,” explained Ari Gutierrez, Co-Chair of the Latino Equality Alliance. “We challenged ourselves to form an Alliance and together insist on the acknowledgement, support and cooperation we have been missing from Latino civil rights organizations, labor leaders, elected officials, our employers, friends and families – to gain real support, not just in theory, but in action! We pledged to draw back the cloak of invisibility that hid our Latina and Latino LGBT members within the Latino community and that overlooked our interests in the LGBT community,” she added.
In two short years, LEA has been very successful in unifying a widening network of supporters to actively and consistently work on LGBT issues within Latino communities that voted over 60 percent in favor of Proposition 8 and introduce for the first time, community discussions on LGBT issues in a culturally sensitive manner. With politically strategic and timely events like the first Census LGBT Forum in the country, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Town Hall in El Monte hosted by Congresswoman Judy Chu and the Community Discussion on LGBT issues and Faith in South East L.A. — each bring LGBT issues to Latino communities in an open, frank and empowered way that highlight how people of color are negatively affected by state and federal laws like Prop. 8, DADT and DOMA and why we need the support of our people of color communities.
Additionally, the Latino Equality Alliance has significantly increased positive coverage of LGBT issues in Spanish print and television media – regularly reaching a national audience of millions with positive in-language messaging for family acceptance, inclusion of LGBT issues as part of comprehensive immigration reform and marriage equality.
In accepting the award, Eddie Martinez, Co-Chair of the Latino Equality Alliance and Associate Director of the Wall/Las Memorias Project, dedicated the award to the people of color living with HIV and AIDS. He thanked the women of the 80′s who stood up for our community in advocating funding and services for HIV/AIDS. Accepting the Stoney Award he said, “Members of the Latino Equality Alliance believe that change can happen if we work together. They believe that change can happen if we give the people a voice. And change can happen when we find the common thread with our neighbors and our neighbors’ neighbor.”
Bamby Salcedo, a Latino Equality Alliance board member, was recognized for her groundbreaking work on behalf of the Transgender community. Receiving the Sheila J. Kuehl Trailblazer Award, Bamby shared, “I can say that I almost got to the White House. I was recently invited to speak on the challenges faced by the immigrant transgender community but I did not get security clearance because of my past. Unfortunately, the challenges that I would share at that White House hearing were not heard because of the very barriers we face.”
She asked the Stonewall Democrats to be careful of who they support and to who they give money, “Many times elected officials don’t follow-through on their promises. We need elected officials that will support us after they are elected.”
Bamby later told me:
“It is a very humble experience to be nominated with such incredible people. As we know, Jane Fonda has advanced transgender visibility by including transgender voices in The Vagina Monologues. To be recognized by the Stonewall Democratic Club is truly an honor. Being next to Jane Fonda and such exceptional people who are doing great work in the community is a very humbling experience.
The Stonewall Democratic Club did an exceptional job including all segments of our community! As we know often times the “T” and the “B” get out of the equation of LGBT – but on Sunday, the Stonewall Democratic Club showed that inclusion could be done in our communities and I am very humbled and proud to be honored by such a wonderful and inclusive group.
In my speech I said it is important for people to be conscientious about who we do endorse for candidacy and to hold them accountable for what they say they are going to do when they are running for office. I also mentioned the importance of knowing that in 2011 the services that there are out there for trans women are HIV prevention. We need economic empowerment and professional development. If you have the ability to hire people, hire a trans person, we are very creative and we make shit happen!”
LA AIDS Coordinator Stephen Simon thanked Stonewall for their support and added that he expected “my best work for Stonewall Democrats is yet to come.” Stephen identifies as a bisexual.
List of elected officials present:
Hon. Judy Chu Member of Congress
Hon. Debra Bowen CA Secretary of State
Hon. Fran Pavley State Senator
Hon. Sheila James Kuehl State Senator – Retired
Hon. Cathleen Galgiani Assemblymember
Hon. Anthony Portantino Assemblymember
Hon. John Noguez LA County Assessor
Hon. Wendy Gruel LA City Controller
Hon. Carmen Trutanich LA City Attorney
Hon. Paul Koretz LA City Councilmember
Hon. John Heilman West Hollywood Mayor
Hon. Jeffrey Prang West Hollywood City Councilmember
Hon. Miguel Santiago Vice President, LA Community College Board
Hon. Scott Svonkin Member, San Gabriel School Board and Stonewall’s candidate for LA Community College Board