8. Babs Bill
Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, the first out trans person elected to the Democratic National Committee (pictured with Hillary Clinton), was honored by New Jersey’s new Babs Siperstein Law, which allows trans people to change the gender on their birth certificates without undergoing gender-confirmation surgery. – caption in The Advocate
Edison’s own Babs Siperstein is featured in The Advocate this week under the title of 10 Things to Get You Through This Week. Her thing – #8 – is alongside other good stuff like the RBG action figure, nifty resistance postcards, and gay people making all kinds of news. We were a little stretched when Gov. Murphy signed the bill named in Babs’ honor, so it didn’t get the attention here it deserved. It’s great we can show you that Babs and the Babs Siperstein Law are getting national attention.
A long time ago there was a song sung by Holly Near (backup by Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert & Arlo Guthrie) with a verse that said it was good for the world when gay people come out. That may sound strange to some, especially a lot of younger people who know very well the world’s made up of all kinds of people and none of it is a big deal. But at the time, I was living in the West Village, the epicenter of AIDS. And some of the people I knew were fighting like hell for their own survival, while others were terrified of what we straight people could do to them, and folded back even deeper into the closet. Holly Near’s song hit me hard because it supplied a fundamental truth that I should have known all along, that when people can live honestly, and stand up for themselves and each other, life is better for everyone. No justice till justice for all. Years later, on the day 7,000 people occupied the New Jersey statehouse for the marriage equality vote, I was interviewing people for Blue Jersey. I saw my friend Heidi, and stuck a microphone in her face. Why are you here, Heidi? Her answer was the wisest thing I heard all day: Because I’m married, so I have an investment in the institution of marriage itself. And I believe my marriage, and all marriages, will be better, more right, and our towns and communities better, if we all can have what my husband and I have. Yeah, Heidi’s quality people. And I take my education where I can find it.
Babs Siperstein was the other person who wised me up. Babs used to be known as a man; when I got to know her, she was out as trans. That’s the lady I know; my friend. I know something of Babs’ coming out story, and I’ve always been pretty gobsmacked that she came out big – and within a few years began taking on leadership roles in the LGBTQ movement, and in the state & national Democratic Party. I should cop to the fact that Babs is much more of a party-loyal Dem than I am. I’m the rabble compared to her, and she has succeeded in some of the party reforms she sought. She broke ground big-time; first openly transgender person in the DNC, got all the way to the inner circle, on the DNC Executive Committee. Till Tom Perez replaced her (damn you, Perez, no really).
She was my fellow delegate in the 2016 Convention, she Hillary, me Bernie. And I always thought it was kind of a big deal for New Jersey that this particular badass woman was one of ours. So glad to see her – and the Babs Siperstein Law – get recognized like this.