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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Upstate Report: NYTRO serves upstate trans community

The Empty Closet

The New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO) can trace its roots to the acrimony in New York State trans politics at the turn of the 21st century. At one time, there was only one statewide New York trans-political organization, the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA). Due to personality and policy conflicts, over a period of time several New York trans-activists found themselves pressured or voted out of the NYAGRA organization or its board.

Several of those who found themselves on the outside started to put together the NYTG Coalition, a loose alliance of individuals and organizations dedicated to putting an alternative face on New York trans politics and set a course dedicated toward trans-inclusion in the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act.

When that coalition was put together, NYTRO was born.

The brainchild of White Plains trans-activist Joann Prinzivalli, NYTRO originally had only one member, or as Joann was known to quip, “actually, three members — me, myself and I.” It was originally the equivalent of a “DBA” for Ms. Prinzivalli.

After the NYTG Coalition had unraveled and sort of faded away (it still exists as a Yahoo group), in mid-2004, a group of New York City activist friends of Joann, led by Melissa Sklarz and Paisley Currah, asked her if she would be willing to allow them to join NYTRO.

After a few e-mails back and forth, it was decided that Joann would retain the title of Director of the statewide NYTRO organization, but that the organization itself would be built up with independently operating chapters. The only constraint on chapter organizations is that they subscribe to the principles and have at least one member involved with the state organization’s communications group.

Camille Hopkins volunteered to start the Western New York chapter. The Western New York Chapter of NYTRO made its formal debut at the Buffalo Pride Celebration on June 5, 2005.

NYTRO - WNY is currently assisting the City of Buffalo and Rochester’s Bausch and Lomb to develop written guidelines for transgender employees. In addition, NYTRO – WNY is in the process of putting together a coalition consisting of GLBT community members and straight allies in order to develop a stronger and meaningful anti-bias relief for the City of Buffalo’s anti-discrimination ordinances. Camille Hopkins has a commitment from City of Buffalo Councilmember Antoine Thompson (the elected official who introduced the “Gender Identity and Expression” amendment in 2002) to submit to the Common Council this amended anti-bias relief once the coalition has finalized it.

This revised anti-bias relief will impact more than the just the GLBT community. It will give better protections to other protected classes discriminated against due to race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age.

NYTRO has several active chapters throughout New York State, and several members participate in the statewide GENDA Coalition organized by ESPA and Housing Works, together with people from NYAGRA and NYTRO, and others who are affiliated with neither trans organization. Over the years, we have learned to bridge the gap between personality and policy differences and work together in a coalition toward a common goal where we can set the differences aside by letting a neutral ally facilitate our efforts, even if we can’t work well within a single organization.

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