Remarks at Callen-Lorde Community Health Awards

Thank you for seeing me, for honoring my work, and for devoting yourself to our beautiful community.

Below are the written remarks I delivered on November 13, 2017 at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Awards where I was humbled to be recognized. A modified version of these were spoken that evening.

Good evening, everyone.

Thank you all so much for being here to honor this incredible, life-saving, organization. And thank you to Callen-Lorde for this recognition.

What a challenging, humbling and beautiful time to be alive and to be doing this work.

Growing up, I had no sense that I would or could survive into adulthood. There was no map of a life that I could imagine living because I never felt at home inside my body.

I did not know as a child that one could be trans and like so many trans people, I felt betrayed by my body and keenly aware that I existed in a liminal space of both body and mind.

I have struggled with mental health crises, addiction, and experiences of suicidality.

I name all of this because these are the things we are taught to hide and be ashamed of. But my truth — this truth — I now understand makes me strong, beautiful, alive.

And of course I can name all of this because I have the privilege of having my pain and struggle integrated into my life rather than criminalized. I have been able to find beauty in the messiness of my existence, whereas far too many in our community — people who are Black and Brown, immigrants, disabled, poor, incarcerated — are left to internalize their existence as shame while others of us get to march in the streets with pride.

Indeed, the very freedoms we embrace and the wins that we celebrate have been forged at the margins by the most outcast among us — the trans women and femmes of color, bisexual and non-binary people, sex workers, and disabled people who have always put their bodies and lives on the line for the progress that the rest of us have enjoyed.

But we must not forget…

— The ashes of our queer family members scattered on the lawn of the White House in the 1990’s in protest of the government’s neglect of the AIDS crises,

— the bodies of our trans siblings of color being ravaged by violence today against the backdrop of resistance and organizing led by trans women of color,

— the collaborative visions of our bisexual leaders who brought trans people into our movements when others sought to exclude us

… together these bodily formations and movement histories are the lifeblood that sustains us today.

The sacrifices of others — mostly untold, too many forgotten — have allowed us to be together tonight, to envision a world where we can be embodied and not policed, where our love will be celebrated and not repressed, where our histories will be told in all of their complexity in the voices of the people who have lived them.

I have survived — as have so many of you — because I have been the beneficiary of white supremacy, of inherited resources, of my citizenship status, and my access to formal education.

I have had the health care, the housing, the employment, the education, the love, to live my truth.

But so many in our community — particularly trans, non-binary, bisexual and queer people of color still do not.

We are dying by suicide, by violence, by neglect, by incarceration, by illness.

This did not start with the election of President Trump nor will it end with his (hopefully near term) departure from office.

The premature deaths of our LGBTQ family members are the result of the systems that we have all put in place and the norms that we all reinforce.

In the coming year I hope to do the following and I hope that you will join me and build on these daily actions:

-Stop gendering body parts. There are no male bodies or female bodies and the myth of coherently sexed bodies is killing us.

-Center non-binary and bisexual+ people in our programmatic work and services because erasure is killing us.

-Stop talking about some bodies as “clean” and implying that others are dirty or that their bodies should be exiled. It is killing us.

-Give cash to people who need it for health care, bail, food, harm reduction. Poverty is killing us.

-Talk about addiction, drug use, and mental illness in connection to my own experience because shame and stigma and incarceration are killing us.

Thank you for seeing me, for honoring my work, and for devoting yourself to our beautiful community.

I will never stop fighting for the world that our beloved elders dreamed we could inhabit and I will be humbled always by all of you who have taught me how to dream creatively, demand boldly, and love fiercely.

Thank you.

Lawyer, dad, queer, pats fan