Tag Archives: LGBT

LGBT Youth Living With Violence

Shanesha StewartThis weekend I was not able to attend a vigil for Shanesha Stewart, a young Black transgender woman murdered in the South Bronx here in NYC. I’ve gone to lots of vigils like this over the years, and have known many stories where no such vigil was held.

Instead I was at Hampshire College at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Annual Reproductive Rights Conference. CLPP’s annual April conference for students and community activists connects young people to reproductive rights organizations and campaigns locally, nationally, and internationally and provides them with information, analysis, and “how-to” organizing to bring back to their own campuses and communities. The conference presents a broad view of the issues and links reproductive rights to civil liberties, LGBT rights, environmental justice, peace and security, youth liberation, disability rights, access to health care and child care, and freedom from violence and abuse.

Besides reconnecting with other activists and organizers I know, or meeting some new people, the standout experience was attending a workshop by an organization in Springfield, Mass called QuEST. QuEST is comprised of youth dedicated to educating themselves and others on the intersections between queer youth and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). We are a member of the State Wide Harm Reduction Coalition (S.H.a.R.C) which includes 30 organizations and individuals spanning Massachusettes.

The most moving part of their workshop was this 20 minute audio documentary about their experiences with as queer youth with family, students, teachers, police, and community members. But it also documents their resiliency, beauty, and joy. LISTEN to their stories.

Rest in Peace: Bob Kohler

I learned a few days ago, that Bob Kohler, Queer liberation activist, died.

I didn’t know Bob well, but had spent time with him when I was working with FIERCE! –a queer youth of color community organizaing project. Bob was a long-time resident and business owner of the West Village, and a real vet of the Stonewall riots (probably one of the few white men in attendance). He was always very supportive of the work FIERCE! was doing, and always turned up to assist us when he could.

He always shared very openly his life, his work, and the history of the West Vill, Stonewall, the Gay Liberation Front, his lifelong friendships with Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and any other work he was involved in. He was a real shit-stirrer, and sometimes not in the best way. He could be extremely cranky, too!

I mean, REALLY, cranky!

But at the end of the day, Bob always had our back. And not just other activists and organizers. Bob helped a lot of homeless queeer youth who would have otherwise been jobless or homeless. In terms of his activism, he also worked outside the “gay civil rights” paradigm, and very much sought to support Black and Latino struggles, especially around homelessness and police brutality.

He led a really interesting life, and I am glad to have crossed paths with him for the short time I did. The Village Voice just republished a 1999 profile of him…

In 1999, after his arrest in front of One Police Plaza /a>, where protesters set up vigil after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, Kohler told the Voice:

“I do not equate my oppression with the oppression of blacks and Latinos. You can’t. It is not the same struggle, but it is one struggle. And, if my being here as a longtime gay activist can influence other people in the gay community, it’s worth getting arrested. I’m an old man now. I don’t look forward to spending 24 hours in a cell. But these arrests are giving some kind of message. I don’t know what else you can do.”

Some folks I know are having a political funeral for Bob, starting this Sunday, December 9th, beginning at the NYC LGBT Center at 4pm, and ending at the Christopher St. piers.