I am tremendously honored that you have elected me as your co-chair for 2010. I truly appreciate all of the words of support, trust, and confidence that you have sent my way so far and I really look forward to working with all of you. We have a terrific, smart, and energetic Board of Directors this year, and therefore, I know that we will be making great strides together making Alice more powerful than ever.
One of the most important things that has guided and driven me ever since I was a little girl has been this Persian saying repeated countless times by my family elders: “We are like waves in the ocean that continuously move into the surf, and like waves, if we stop moving, we will die.” It is an eloquent way of saying never quit. I have made this my motto in life. It is the motto that helped me to get to this position and it is by this motto that I will lead the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.
I want to take this opportunity to discuss the importance of coming out and when I speak of the importance of coming out, I speak from experience not only as a lesbian but also as someone who managed to be a minority on three different continents. As you all may know, I am an Assyrian-Persian-American (aka mutt of the middle east.). My mother is Assyrian, Caledonian, Kurdish and Roman Catholic. My father is a Persian Azerbaijani who is also part Assyrian. Our family was influenced by Islam, Greek Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Catholicism. While I don’t practice any religion, I was baptized Catholic, something that didn’t necessarily help me growing up in Tehran .
I was born and raised in Tehran , Iran , and then immigrated as a child to England , where I learned to speak English. At age 9, I then immigrated to the United States . My complicated religious and ethnic background as well as my strange-sounding German name made me an automatic minority in Iran (a Muslim country). Going to England didn’t help because although I didn’t have the religious problems anymore, my name and my ethnic background made me a minority there. So, I was really excited to come to the US , thinking that my troubles would end here. Not so.
In the US I was a minority because of my ethnic background and my British accent (which I was forced to change in speech therapy). As I grew up I learned that the fact that I was female and my sexuality didn’t help the mix at all. For a while as a teenager and a young adult I hid my sexuality from the world hoping I wouldn’t have to face the issues that would be raised in my family and with society. Living as a minority really helped me because I knew how to hide and I did it well. It wasn’t until I entered law school, moved to San Francisco , and made countless LGBT friends that I realized I didn’t have to hide anymore. As I came out to members of my family, I learned, that the more people knew that I was a lesbian, the more power I had. Kate Kendall and Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights gave me my first legal job and I will forever be indebted to them and that organization for showing me the way to the freedom that I have now. I learned there that we need to keep coming out to all people in our lives. That was the most powerful way that tolerance would be created. The more that we come out, the more powerful we are. The more that we come out, the more difficult it is for anyone to hide us. The more we come out, the more we become like those powerful waves on the beach.
This could very well be a watershed year for LGBT rights. We have the pending Federal marriage case, a possible 2010 ballot measure overturn Proposition 8, the fight to get marriage, developments with the Employment Nondiscrimination Act or ENDA, and our continuing struggle over the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Now more than ever, it is important to keep coming out to people as much as possible The more people have a personal relationship with LGBT people, the more difficult it will be for them to deny us our rights.
In order to maintain our strength, our stride, and our influence, Alice needs to do an exceptional job with the endorsement process. We need to get our candidates elected, and our measures passed. I encourage you to offer a helping hand in this work. Some of the ways may be to regularly check our website for updates, attend membership meetings, engage members of the board, and volunteer as much as you can. We will need more people than ever to make phone calls, walk precincts, and attend important events. This coming year will be absolutely exciting and it offers us a chance to alter history in our favor. We can only do it if we keep moving and keep fighting like a powerful crushing wave!
Bentrish Satarzadeh, Co-Chair
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club