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The Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition supports the well-being of LGBTQ+ people of the Berkshires.


June 16, 2020

BERKSHIRE STONEWALL COMMUNITY COALITION PRAISES SUPREME COURT DECISION

The Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition celebrates and welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision that employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people is now illegal across the US, at all levels of government. The June 15 decision, released in the middle of Pride Month, interprets the phrase “because of sex” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ+ liberation has always been led by people of color, and the fact that this decision is built on the work of the 1964 Civil Rights movement led by Black activists is no exception. Today’s decision is a huge victory for the LGBTQ+ community, as large a step forward as the 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

The court ruled on two cases, one involving a transgender woman, the other combining two previous cases brought by gay men. Aimee Stephens was fired for transitioning during six years of employment as a funeral director; Gerald Bostock was dismissed from a government program that helped abused children after he joined a gay softball league; Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired on the basis of a female customer’s complaint that he told her he was gay, intending to reassure her about the close physical contact required for a dive. Six justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, voted in favor, three against. Justice Neal Gorsuch, appointed by President Trump, wrote the majority opinion.

While Massachusetts has prohibited employment discrimination against lesbian and gay people for more than a decade, and against transgender people since 2011, before today’s decision only 22 states and DC had full protections for LGBTQ+ people. The Coalition joins individuals and organizations across the country in praising the Court’s decision. However, our work isn’t finished yet.  Discrimination is still happening across the country in many areas besides employment.  We need to come together, and ask everyone to stand up and speak out. We need to all come together, allies included, and continue to be vocal and work towards ensuring a better future in every aspect of our lives. We must push on together to full racial, educational, and economic justice.


June, 2020

Black Lives Matter
Black Trans Lives Matter
Black LGBTQ+ Lives Matter
Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition stands today and always with Black and Brown communities in deploring the ongoing murder of Black people by police, law enforcement and self-appointed vigilantes, and we stand against systemic racism in all its forms.
LGBTQ+ Pride Month and LGBTQ+ liberation only exist because of the activism and uprising of trans and queer people of color, at the Stonewall Riots and beyond. Despite this, the LGBTQ+ movement has struggled for decades with white supremacy and exclusion. We call on our white LGBTQ+ members to confront that past and change it. For ourselves, Berkshire Stonewall is in the process of creating short and long-term goals to better serve and support Berkshire LGBTQ+ communities of color, including making changes to our programming, partnerships, and board membership. We welcome all thoughts and suggestions at info@berkshirestonewall.org
We mourn the hundreds of murdered trans and other LGBTQ+ people of color. We support our local Black and Brown LGBTQ+ leaders and we call for systemic change in our society. Liberation is a central value of the LGBTQ+ movement, and we will continue to be in the streets defending the rights of all people, especially LGBTQ+ folks in the Berkshires.


April, 2020

BSCC Spring Fling Postponed due to Coronavirus Precautions. Rescheduled date to be announced.

The Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition, as part of the wider community, is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dinner/Dance scheduled for Saturday, April 4 has been postponed, with a new date to be announced as soon as possible. We appreciate those who have purchased tickets and we will honor those tickets at the rescheduled date.
Please follow our online Calendar for up-to-date information about ongoing events such as Rainbow Seniors potlucks and Berkshire Trans Group meetings.
In this time of uncertainty, with multiple closing and cancellations, risk to health and financial upheaval, it is easy to become overwhelmed. LGBTQ+ people may be especially vulnerable to unsafe family situations or social isolation. We offer the Resources page on our website, and encourage everyone to offer support and help to neighbors, family, and community – in person if safe, otherwise virtually.
As previous generations did in times of crisis, let us urge each other to Keep Calm and Carry On.
Resources:
Crisis Text Line
COVID-19 Relief for LGTQPI+ BIPOC Folks
MassEquality Resource Page

 


Photo of Christa Steele-Knudslien

Statement in response to the sentencing in the murder of
Christa Steele-Knudslien, Jan 23 2020

As the regions’s longest-serving LGBTQ organization, Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition has closely followed the case of the murder of Christa Steele-Knudslien, the North Adams resident and founder of the Miss Trans New England Pageant. Today, her murderer has been sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after serving 25 years. In the two years since we lost Christa, the community has rallied around her memory and inspiration. In North Adams, a grass roots task force was founded in reaction to her death and those of other residents killed by their partners. This led to the Berkshire County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force, a coalition of community agencies such as Elizabeth Freeman Center, law enforcement, and the court system, currently working to end domestic violence in Berkshire County for good. On the brighter side, over the past 2 years the Berkshire Pride Festival has grown to be a major event, celebrating and uplifting the trans community that Christa cared about so much. An annual award for local LGBTQ leaders has been established in her name and with her spirit. Clothing swaps have happened where Berkshire residents shared the joy and beauty of being trans, the same goal Christa had in mind when founding her pageant. Rainbow Seniors and the Berkshire Trans Group expanded their meetings, providing support and connection from Williamstown to Great Barrington. Politically, a local contingent spent hours organizing and fighting to pass the state ballot measure last year that made Massachusetts the first state to successfully defend an attack on a trans rights bill, setting a strong precedent for human rights across the nation. And we mourned, as a community, at each Trans Day of Remembrance, a national event that struck home when we read Christa’s name amongst those murdered.

Christa’s life made our county, commonwealth, and country more beautiful, and her death has inspired us to make them safer for the most vulnerable amongst us. Berkshire Stonewall urges our community leaders to continue this forward march towards a county where the wellbeing and safety of all LGBTQ indviduals, and trans women in particular, are valued and protected. We still have a long way to go, and despite our progress we are enraged by the reality that Christa’s murder is part of an unjust pattern – that trans women are killed at rates far exceeding those of the larger population, and that up to 50% of trans women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. The message is so often that transgender lives are less valuable, and deserve less justice. That message is disturbing, painful, and unjust, and has real consequences to the lives of those in our community. This message starts to change when justice is served. But nothing can replace what was lost to our community when Christa was killed.

We at Berkshire Stonewall will, in the spirit of our namesake and in Christa’s memory, continue fighting for our mission – the wellbeing of all LGBTQ+ people of Berkshire County.


 Interested in hosting an event?

If you are hosting, or interested in hosting, an LGBTQ friendly event in Berkshire County and would like our help spreading the word, please email us at info@berkshirestonewall.org.