Transgender activist Barbra “Babs” Siperstein has passed away at the age of 76.

Siperstein, who died on February 4, surrounded by loved ones, was the first openly transgender member of Democratic National Committee. She was appointed to the DNC’s Executive Committee in 2011, and served until 2017. Her passing comes just days after a law named in her honor was enacted to allow transgender people in New Jersey to update the gender marker on their birth certificates without proof of gender confirmation surgery.

Barbra Siperstein

She came out in 2000, and got active in politics after her longtime wife, Carol Ann, died of cancer the following year, telling the Windy City Times she used her newfound participation in political life as a way to channel her grief.

“I remember reading, always reading, and there was a medical book. The duality of gender and sex struck me,” she told the publication in 2012. “I read about Christine Jorgensen [the first known person to have sexual-reassignment surgery]. But then, back then, one had to be in denial. I was the first-born male of the first-born male in a tough, working-class Italian/Irish neighborhood.”

Siperstein served in the Army and was a small business owner prior to transitioning.

 


“Babs was a towering figure in the LGBTQ community who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of transgender people over the last two decades,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality , reports Insider NJ. Siperstein was an original board member of GSE, and served as vice president at one point.

“She was an architect of our movement, pioneering critical civil rights legislation here in New Jersey and, as the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, throughout our nation. With Babs, we had an LGBTQ icon—among the likes of Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin—born and raised right here in the Garden State. With the Babs Siperstein Law in effect now, every transgender Jerseyan who updates their birth certificate will be reminded of Babs and her courage. Babs’ work has touched countless lives and will continue to do so, and we will ensure her legacy is remembered for generations to come.”

“For so many in the Democratic Party, Babs was the first openly trans person they ever met and she undoubtably changed the hearts and minds of many party leaders who were not yet committed to trans equality,” said LGBTQ Victory Fund Senior Political Director Sean Meloy.

“She was a constant advocate for the entire LGBTQ community and helped make the Democratic Party more accepting not just of trans people, but trans candidates as well. Her presence in the DNC helped prepare the party and pave the way for trailblazing trans Democratic candidates like Danica Roem and Christine Hallquist—and her impact will be felt for years to come.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy shared that he and his wife, Tammy, were “saddened” by the news of her passing, calling her “a tremendous, passionate advocate for NJ’s LGBTQ community, and a dear friend.”

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