StormMiguel Florez is a filmmaker and artist who wrote this open letter to State Senator Mark Leno in response to the Senator’s remarks at Friday’s Trans March, where he and other politicians were shouted off stage.
Dear Senator Mark Leno,
I am writing to you as a trans Latinx person who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 20 years. I’ve also been actively involved in Trans March in some capacity (both as a participant and a past organizer) since it first started. Yesterday I arrived at the Trans March just as you were being boo’d off stage. I was surprised, frankly: I was fully expecting Scott Wiener and Ed Lee to be heckled, but did not suspect that you would be met with that response, given your history with the Trans March.
That said, I was incredibly disappointed by your response and your lack of connection to today’s trans communities in San Francisco. When our community made it clear that they did not want to hear you speak, you stayed on stage and scolded the audience. I’m grateful that you have been a long-time supporter of the SF Trans March and the larger trans communities, however your response on Friday, and frankly, your endorsement of Scott Wiener tell me that you are not in touch with those most marginalized and targeted in our communities today.
In your own words, you say you were heckled by people who are “new people to the city who don’t know their history… who don’t even know who I am.” If that is true, then what is also true is that you don’t know them. And I’m betting they know more about our current struggles than you do.
And while some of those heckling you may not know you, many do. For instance, I know that at least one of the loudest hecklers was a trans elder who has been in community for years and was angry that you singled out Theresa Sparks as the person who started the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force, when it was actually started by several members of the trans community including Marcus Arana, Dominique Leslie, David Cameron, L.J. Irving, Shawna Virago, Veronica Fimbres, and Sarah Marshall. Other long time trans community members boo’d you because you endorse and align yourself with Scott Wiener, and I believe you were also called out because many of us are tired of politicians using us for photo ops and exposure.
Elected officials show up to a few trans events throughout the year to placate our communities with declarations from the city and state. We want more from you. If politicians really want to be our allies and show up and support, you would come to our events without expecting to, or even finding it appropriate to, get on our stages. You would show up, step back, and simply listen. Heckling politicians is as old as politics itself and is an opportunity for elected officials to step back and ask their constituents “What do you need?” “What can I/we be doing better?” It is not a time to become defensive and call a community that you are not a part of “disrespectful” for using their voices and expressing dissent. It is not a time to condescend and tell our community members that we are being irrational and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. Yes people were angry and screaming and cussing at you. That must be very hard. But it is part of your work as an elected official to recognize that emotional communication does not equal irrational thought, that people are angry and calling for your attention in the best way they can to pay attention to our dissent and our struggles.
People are being pushed out of San Francisco, mental health services are being cut, community service organizations are begging for scraps from the City budget so that they can continue to serve what’s left of our communities here in San Francisco.
Please understand that many in our community have had it with Scott Wiener and Ed Lee, whose policies are harming San Francisco’s homeless, many of whom are trans, lesbian, gay, and bisexual and many of whom are youth.
When community members boo’d you off stage for standing shoulder to shoulder with these politicians who have deeply harmed our communities yet demand space on our stage for a photo op, you could have used that moment to acknowledge that you heard that you were not welcome. You could have offered an invitation to meet with community members to gain a better understanding of our anger and frustration. You could have pledged to work with us to make things better. And then you could have left the stage graciously and with humility and invited Scott Wiener and Ed Lee to leave with you.
So many of us are fighting to make sure that all people in our trans communities are safe and thriving. Our outrage is a perfectly rational and appropriate response to city and state policies that prioritize commerce for an elite few and erode safety and well-being for the rest of us, and to politicians who are by course of their action and inaction killing us. We know who you are, and while we’ve valued your allyship in the past, perhaps it’s you who are new to this city. We’re fighting to survive here, and we’re shouting to be heard.
In solidarity with my fierce and beautiful community, who will never hesitate to tell you the truth,
SF District 8 Resident, Filmmaker, Artist