The first New England Transgender Pride March and Rally was held on June 7, 2008 in Northampton, Massachusetts. Organized by members of the trans and gender variant community and their allies, the event was dedicated to educating and building awareness about the movement against gender-based discrimination and to celebrate and affirm the diversity and strength of the trans community. Documentary videographer Carlyn Saltman invited DanicaMarie Ali, one of the organizers of the march, to tell her story at the MobileEast Booth during our stay in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“I was born in Trini Tobago in the West Indies in the Caribbean. I was born in a Muslim family, Muslim religion. Coming out as a transgender person was very difficult at first because I was trying to identify the person I was on the outside, as well as the person I was on the inside. I was born male and, um well, male in the wrong body. I felt that I was a woman trying to get out of a male body,” says DanicaMarie. “I was 8-years-old when I first experimented with my mother’s clothing. I was questioning my own mentality, my own physique, my own beauty. Seeing other kids I grew up with in the Muslim community, if they identified a small way of being male to female, or female to male, they would be punished for it.”
“The first time I tried to communicate [this] was when I first saw my first transgendered female person. Her name was Samantha. She was almost 40-years-old. I talked to her briefly, I told her what I felt, and she first told me, ‘Well, you’re gay,’ ” recalls DanicaMarie. “Then I explained to her more what I was feeling and she said ‘No, then you’re transgender. But you are a very young child to be transgender.’ ”
After struggling through years of discrimination and the death of her close friend, who was also transgender, DanicaMarie made her way to New York City. “I came to the United States when I was very young,” says DanicaMarie. “When I found that my community, my people like myself – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people – existed in America, I felt like I was in heaven. I could be around them and be myself, and be who I am. Be happy with myself.”