Barbra Casbar Siperstein
Barbra Casbar Siperstein (November 20, 1942 – February 3, 2019) was an American transgender and political activist. She came out as a trans woman in the late 1980’s. When her wife died in 2001 she channeled the grief into activism. She served in numerous Democratic Party political organizations including the New Jersey Stonewall Democrats, Garden State Equality and the Democratic National Committee Eastern Caucus. She advocated for gender inclusion in discrimination and hate crime laws in New Jersey. In 2009 she became the only openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee serving in various roles until 2017.
Siperstein, born November 20, 1942, grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. She knew from early childhood that she was different, but did not fully recognize she was transgender until middle age. Siperstein told her wife that she was transgender in the late 1980s. For most of her life Siperstein denied to herself that she was transgender, until she eventually came out to her wife who was extremely supportive. They created Casbar as a combination of Carol's initials and Barbra, then Barry's name. Carol encouraged her to be openly outwardly female, and Barbra began to transition in small steps. Barbra was openly transgender with her family, but did not come out publicly until around 2000, when she began her activism in earnest. She was outed by a local newspaper, and continued to transition in strides. Barbra's wife Carol died in 2001. Barbra has said that she channeled her grief about her wife's death into her activist work. Eight years after Carol's death, Barbra changed her Hebrew name officially to a female name after a teshuva on the status of transgender people in the Jewish faith allowed her to do so. Siperstein started her activism fully after her daughter took over her family business.
Career and activism
Prior to transitioning, Siperstein served in the Army and was a small-business owner. Siperstein advocated for marriage equality, workplace discrimination reforms, and amendments to discrimination laws in order to better protect transgender people. She also advocated for making gender equality an important part of any political LGBT agenda. She was one of 24 authors that helped write the Dallas Principles in 2009.
Siperstein was President and a board member of the New Jersey Stonewall Democrats until its closure in 2013. She was also Vice President of Garden State Equality and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee Eastern Caucus. Through those organizations, she advocated for gender inclusion in discrimination and hate crime laws in New Jersey. She was also appointed to the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission. Siperstein had served as Deputy Vice Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. She was also Political Director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey.
In 2009, Siperstein became the first openly transgender member of the DNC, where she was appointed by then-chairman Tim Kaine. She was appointed to the Democratic National Committee's Executive Committee in 2011, where she served until October 2017, when she and several other DNC officials were demoted or removed. In the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Siperstein was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton. As of 2016, she was one of 28 openly transgender people to serve on the Democratic National Committee.
Death and tributes
In June 2019, Sipperstein was one of the inaugural fifty American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument (SNM) in New York City’s Stonewall Inn. The SNM is the first U.S. national monument dedicated to LGBTQ rights and history, and the wall’s unveiling was timed to take place during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
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