Transgender activist Babs Siperstein mourned as ‘trailblazer’ for equality
Transgender activist Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein has died aged 76 on February 3, just days after a law named after her went into effect in her native New Jersey.
After years of advocating for transgender rights, Siperstein made history in 2009 when she became the first transgender person to be appointed to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
She went on to serve on the DNC Executive Committee in 2011, making her the highest-ranking transgender member of the Democratic Party, a role she held until 2017.
“If you have the political capital, you can force it. That’s my nature. Find the win-win,” she once said, speaking to the Windy City Times in 2012. “You need to understand people. You’ve got to step up. You’ve got to raise your hand and do.”
Her legacy lives on in the Babs Siperstein Law, which was signed by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy in July and was enacted on February 1. The law removed the requirement of gender-affirmation surgery to change the gender marker on a person’s birth certificate.
Instead, people will be required to sign a form affirming under penalty of perjury that the modification is needed to accurately reflect their gender identity.
“With the Babs Siperstein Law in effect now, every transgender New Jerseyan who updates their birth certificate will be reminded of Babs and her courage.”
— Christian Fuscarino
Governor Murphy mourned the death of the transgender activist in a tweet on February 4.
He wrote: “Tammy and I are saddened by the loss of Babs Siperstein. She was a tremendous, passionate advocate for NJ’s LGBTQ community, and a dear friend. Just last week, the Babs Siperstein Law took effect. Thanks to her, birth certificates will more fully represent gender identity.”
LGBT+ advocates mourn death of ‘trailblazer’ Babs Siperstein
LGBT+ advocates remembered Siperstein as a “trailblazer” and “pioneer” for transgender rights and equality in general.
Sarah McBride, the national press secretary for LGBT+ organisation Human Rights Campaign (HRC) wrote on Twitter: “Babs was a trailblazer and pioneer for transgender equality and trans people in politics. Her work changed and saved lives. I – and so many others – walk in her footsteps. May her memory be a blessing to all who counted her a friend or family member.”
New Jersey-based LGBT+ rights organisation Garden State Equality also celebrated Siperstein’s advocacy for equality.
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“Babs was a towering figure in the LGBTQ community who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of transgender people over the last two decades. She was an architect of our movement, pioneering critical civil rights legislation here in New Jersey and, as the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, throughout our nation,” the group’s executive director Christian Fuscarino said in a statement.
Fuscarino added: “With Babs, we had an LGBTQ icon—among the likes of Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin—born and raised right here in the Garden State. With the Babs Siperstein Law in effect now, every transgender New Jerseyan who updates their birth certificate will be reminded of Babs and her courage. Babs’ work has touched countless lives and will continue to do so, and we will ensure her legacy is remembered for generations to come.”
DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement mourning her death: “Babs was a lifelong activist and a trailblazer for transgender people and the entire LGBTQ community.
He added: “Our party and our country are stronger because of Babs’s leadership. And our hearts go out to her family, her friends, and all those who had the fortune of fighting alongside her.”