L.A. Celebrates TransUnity Pride VI

More than 1,400 people attended the Trans-Unity Pride VI: Gender Explosion, the weekend of June 3-5 at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Village at Ed Gould Plaza.

The 6th Annual Siren Awards were presented Sunday. The Icon Award for lifetime service to the transgender community was presented to Rabbi Levi Alter; Alexis Rivera received the Trailblazer Award; Bryan Dunncan was honored with the Spirit Award for Youth; The Excellence Award went to GQR founded by Alexander Yoo; and the Media Award was bestowed upon Mike Judge for his trans-sensitive episode of King of the Hill.

Trans-Unity Pride is an annual multicultural, substance-free celebration of the Southern California regional transgender community: transsexual, transgender, gender-queer, and cross-dressing individuals, and allies who love them. Participants come together for a day of workshops, discussion groups, entertainment, art, music, refreshments, and relaxation.

The free, weekend-long event included entertainment, music, and transgender-sensitive HIV/STD screening. There was also Teen Town, an area just for the youth, open to all GLBTQ youth and friends. The event kicked off with a free screening of Southern Comfort, a documentary that follows the beautiful and tragic story of an FTM (female-to-male) transman, his partner, a woman of trans experience, and the transphobia that led to his death. There was a Q&A; panel made up of couples with at least one transgender person immediately following the film.

On Sunday, more than 25 vendors and other community organizations participated in the all-day celebration by setting up booths to inform and educate about the services and resources available. Mid-day, keynote speaker Jennifer Leitham spoke to the crowd. She is a world-renowned MTF (male-to-female) jazz musician, who has played with many of the major jazz musicians and is currently touring with Doc Severinsen's Big Band. Since her transition she has been featured in many publications as well as a TV documentary special.

TransUnity began in 2000, and is the largest annual gathering of the transgender community in the country. Attendance has grown each year with 500 people attending in 2003 and more than 1,000 in 2004. Last year's TransUnity Pride kicked off with a near-packed-house screening of the film Soldier's Girl, the award-winning film based on the true story of the murder of U.S. Army soldier Barry Winchell by two fellow soldiers because of Winchell's relationship with a transgender woman, Calpernia Addams. The screening was followed by a Q&A; session with Addams. Other high points included readings by Jamison Green, author of Becoming a Visible Man, and Rosalyne Blumenstein, author of Branded T. Keynote speakers have included California state senator Sheila Kuehl, nationally recognized transgender activist Leslie Feinberg, as well as many local community activists. The producers of Trans-Unity Pride are the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, FTM Alliance Los Angeles, Inc., and the Unique Woman's Coalition.

-- Denise Penn In LA Magazine