5 Things I’ve Learned as a Part of the LGBTQ+ Movement

By Ranelle Porter,

Lorelei Erisis. Photo by Sonja Brenna and Lorelei Erisis.

By Lorelei Erisis | August 15, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

My name is Lorelei Erisis. Maybe you’ve seen me marching in Boston Pride, shouting loudly for trans rights while wearing a glittery crown, Miss Trans New England sash, and Doc Marten boots.

In short (which I definitely am not), I’m an Out, Proud, and Loud Queer Trans Woman. I’m also a Second City trained improviser and a longtime activist and I’d love to share with you several things I’ve learned as a part of the LGBTQ+ movement.

1. Say “Yes!”

Saying “Yes!” is how I got where I am today and it’s something I learned from improv.

I say, “Yes!” whenever I reasonably can and sometimes when I reasonably can’t. Saying yes whenever somebody needed a speaker, a volunteer, or a helping hand took me from a passionate but unknown speaker at a rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton to the halls of the Massachusetts State House to being invited to The White House and a whole lot of places in between.

2. Listen

Next, but equally important, is listening—another thing I got from improv.

In an improv scene, if you’re actively listening, then you’ll be in the moment and ready to react, say yes, and take advantage of whatever your scene partner might offer. If your partner is doing the same, everyone will be at their best and most effective. The scene will grow and move forward organically.

Now substitute “LGBTQ+ movement” for “improv scene” and you have a vital key to my success.

3. Visibility is important

Visibility reminds people that we, the LGBTQ+ community, are here. I made a choice early in my transition that I would be as visible as possible, even if that meant being a little messy about it sometimes.

I like to look good—I like being made-up and I like dressing up. I make TV appearances, model, and have been in the press enough times that I gave up trying to keep track. But I also work as a waitress and I know that as effective as everything else is, my visibility as a diner waitress has its own enormous impact. It lets me meet all kinds of folks and it normalizes the experience of my trans identity.

I think it’s important for people to see me when I’m being a regular person. It helps trans people to know they can just be who they are. And for everyone else, it humanizes me and the identities I represent.

Visibility, both big and small, is one of the most important drivers of change I know.

4. Be kind

Sometimes it can be hard and other times it simply isn’t possible, but it’s still important. I try to be kind to everyone I meet because I’ve seen how it makes a difference and I can honestly say it’s the most effective tool in my kit.

Aside from it just being a decent way to live, I’ve turned adversaries into allies simply by being kind. I’ve made lifelong friends and brief acquaintances remember me positively years, and even decades, later.

5. Self-care is good activism

I generally try to focus on the more positive things about being trans and LGBTQ+ activism and identities. We’ve made a lot of progress and that’s worth celebrating. But trans and queer folks are still under attack.

As relatively lucky as I’ve been, my own life has had a lot of pain and hardships. I’ve faced discrimination and harassment. I know that as bad as it’s been for me, many others have it far worse. That’s why I fight. Why I speak and write and march. Why I’m visible.

It’s also why I try to remember to laugh and enjoy life whenever I can—why I make time to read, cook delicious food, watch a movie, and fall in love. Staying alive, and enjoying life, is the best activism I can do. Our most revolutionary act is simply being here and being ourselves.

Learn a few lessons from trans activist Lorelei Erisis’s experience in the LGBTQ movement and how you can apply them to your own work and life.

A Brief History of LGBTQ Rights in the United States

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | November 29, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

The history of LGBTQ rights in the United States dates back to the mid-20th century. The 1950s and 1960s were decades fraught with anti-LGBTQ sentiments across the nation. Oftentimes, those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer were forced to hide their orientations and identities. Members of the community would regularly congregate in bars, clubs, bathhouses, and other areas where they could live openly. On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn—a mafia-owned gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood—was raided by police and its patrons were subjected to harassment and arrest. Most of the patrons were marginalized people living on the fringe of society.

The raid itself boiled over into a full-out riot with many of the patrons forming groups to confront the police force over its treatment of LGBTQ community members in the city. The Stonewall riots were considered the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement in America. The act of public defiance and protest by a small group of marginalized people became a call for other activists in the community to become more vocal around the oppression they experienced. Political leaders such as Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, were inspired by the new wave of political and social engagement. Activists became fiercely engaged around a range of issues including the erasure of LGBTQ people from the media, the AIDS crisis, and the lack of federal resources devoted to LGBTQ homeless youth.

In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to allow same-sex couples the right to marry and enjoy the same legal protections as different-sex couples. Eleven years later on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court would legalize marriage equality in all 50 states and rule that every state had to acknowledge the out-of-state marriage license of a same-sex couple.

After the historic marriage equality win in the United States, opponents of LGBTQ rights focused on other ways to oppress LGBTQ people. Some, like Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples while business owners publicly declared that they would not serve same-sex couples. While the actions of a vocal few to defy the Supreme Court decision couples dominated the media, conservative state legislators across the nation mobilized against another marginalized group of people under the LGBTQ umbrella—the transgender community.

Transgender people of all ages were attacked in several states by hateful legislation known as “bathroom bills.” These bills were aimed at dehumanizing transgender people and painting them as sexual predators unworthy of legal rights in public spaces such as coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. And most disturbingly, opponents of trans rights accused trans people of being threats to women and children in public restrooms.

In 2016, Massachusetts passed legislation amending the law to include transgender people as a protected class in public spaces. Within weeks of the bill being passed, opponents gathered enough signatures to put repealing the law on the ballot. On November 6, 2018, by a margin of more than 60 percent, the ballot question was defeated—a huge victory for the LGBTQ rights movement in Massachusetts.

While many battles have been won in the fight for LGBTQ equality, there is still a long way ahead for full equality. Several states still insist on not providing comprehensive legal protections for transgender people and there are many other issues of importance facing LGBTQ people including:

  • A lack of federal and state funding for HIV/AIDS services and programs
  • Support programs for homeless youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, who make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population
  • Adequate health insurance coverage for gender affirmation care and therapy for trans people

“Currently there are efforts all over the United States by anti-LGBTQ advocates working to take our hard-won rights away,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “We know that our opponents will continue to work, and so must we.”

As part of Eastern Bank’s Join us For Good campaign, let’s commit ourselves to leave our mark on the history of the LGBTQ community and ensuring the rights of all!

Learn more about the history of LGBTQ rights and consider donating to the ACLU.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Ranelle Porter,

Twenty-two transgender individuals have died so far this year, and the first loss this year was in Massachusetts. This isn’t just a statistic, it’s an epidemic. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, while we mourn the tragic losses in the trans community, we also vow to continue the fight for justice.

Miss Trans Massachusetts and Her Commitment to Spreading Equality for the LGBTQ Community

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | August 3, 2018 | 2 Minute Read

As a queer, trans woman, and Massachusetts native, I’ve personally been involved in activism for trans rights and organizing within the LGBTQ community. And wherever I’ve been, Eastern Bank has been there as well.

They’ve stood solid as a committed partner and supporter of the LGBTQ community. In addition to marching in both the Boston Pride Parade and the North Shore Pride Parade, Eastern Bank’s LGBTQ efforts are visible and run deep into the community.

When Eastern reached out to me to write for them, I had no hesitation accepting. I felt like Eastern Bank was already a trusted friend—an ally, in the best sense of the word.

When we were fighting to win basic civil rights protection for transgender people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Eastern Bank was there. They sat with us through gruelingly long days of testimony at both statehouses, on multiple occasions. Representatives of Eastern Bank personally testified in support of transgender rights.

Nancy Stager, Eastern Bank’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources and Charitable Giving, said that Eastern Bank has been so committed to the LGBTQ community and the struggle for transgender rights, “Because it’s the smart and right thing to do. As a company, we need to access the broadest talent pool and we can’t afford to have populations of talented individuals feel less than,” she said. “In my experience over the last 10 years of supporting trans rights, I’ve seen and heard stories that are just heartbreaking. And we’re personally and organizationally committed to doing whatever we can to make it better because it’s just wrong.”

Beyond supporting the transgender community, and marching in the Boston Pride Parade, Eastern Bank seeks to serve the entirety of the LGBTQ community. For five consecutive years now, they have had a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index. Their “Equality Under the Blue” employee network meets regularly with senior leadership to discuss issues that are of importance to their employees and the larger LGBTQ community. As an organization, Eastern Bank was an early leader in providing health insurance coverage for their employees that covers gender-related care and transition-related services and surgery.

And of course, as co-founders of the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Stager shared that they have, “…actually gotten some really wonderful resonance. We’ve got 45 small businesses already signed. And we have 12 large companies that are putting in $25,000 each to join as a founding sponsor. And we’re nowhere near done.”

Eastern Bank is right there, joining us for good. When President Donald Trump signed a discriminatory directive banning transgender people from military service, Eastern Bank put up a billboard that read, “Good salutes all those who serve our country. All.” with the letters in “All” representing the colors of the transgender flag.

Eastern Bank continues its long commitment to serve the transgender community as a co-chair, along with Harvard Pilgrim and Google, in the business campaign with Freedom For All Massachusetts. They stand with us to fight against the attempted repeal of our still new, and popularly passed law providing, or rather affirming, those basic rights and protections for transgender people that were placed on the state ballot this coming November.

Eastern Bank’s LGBTQ efforts are neither new nor surprising. They were the first company in the country to sign GLAAD‘s brief asking the United States Supreme Court to strike down the pernicious Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as “DOMA.”

“Eastern’s revenue and bottom line have grown every year,” said Stager. “And our commitment to help protect the rights of people who want to live an authentic life doesn’t diminish our business at all. In fact quite the contrary—people appreciate a company being willing to step out and say what everybody’s thinking.”

That’s a business sentiment so sensible, and kind, that my Yankee-Irish grandmother would have heartily approved. I do too.

Join Eastern Bank in supporting the LGBTQ community generally, and the transgender community specifically, as they continue to fight with us to protect our rights and enrich our lives.