Donna M. Cartwright

Interviewed By Michelle Esther O'Brien

Donna Cartwright discusses her long history in the labor movement, as a socialist militant, in leading roles in trans rights organizing and LGBTQ organizations. She recounts her 30 years spent as a New York Times copy editor, active in the left caucus within the union of employees at the New York Times, and her leadership work with Pride at Work, the LGBTQ constituency group of the labor movement's AFL-CIO. She also describes controversy in the national trans organization GenderPAC, the her leading roles in the formation of New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), Gender Right Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ), and the National Committee for Transgender Equality (NCTE). (Summary by Michelle Esther O'Brien.)

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1990s (00:50)
coming out as trans (01:59)
New Jersey (02:51)
New York (03:21)
Christine Jorgensen (03:45)
1965 (05:02)
John Hopkins University Gender Clinic (05:17)
activist (06:42)
Civil Rights Movement (06:51)
1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City (07:26)
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (07:42)
Lyndon Johnson (08:05)
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labor movement (18:00)
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1974 (19:28)
female impersonator laws (20:14)
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1977 (24:24)
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2006 (25:15)
labor activist (25:21)
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1986 (26:21)
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gender fluid (29:21)
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gay and lesbian employees at The New York Times (34:07)
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1994 (37:06)
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androgyny (38:25)
gender fluid (38:36)
running for union office (39:12)
1995 (40:05)
trans identity (40:54)
Ilana Berger (41:55)
The LGBT Center (42:53)
CUNY Graduate Center (43:22)
Jamison Green (43:26)
Kim Coco Iwamoto (43:29)
Rosalyne Blumenstein (43:38)
Gender Identity Project at the LGBT Center (43:42)
Antonia Gilligan (44:22)
gender confirmation surgery (44:39)
1996 (45:32)
trans support groups (46:28)
endocrinologist (46:44)
Ilana Berger (46:51)
Barbara Warren (47:24)
trans and political identities converge (47:55)
social and economic disadvantage in trans community (48:13)
sex workers (49:36)
welfare (49:37)
informal economy (49:46)
trans movement (50:06)
1996 (50:37)
transition (50:39)
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Joe Lelyveld (51:16)
portrayal of trans people in The New York Times (51:40)
Priscilla Queen of the Desert (52:00)
Terence Stamp (52:02)
coming out (55:01)
1997 (55:20)
trans rights at work (55:34)
Dan Clifton (55:42)
Linda Foley (56:55)
Randy Furst (57:40)
Minneapolis Star Tribune (57:41)
Organizing in the Newspaper Guild (57:45)
Barry Lipton (01:00:50)
trans rights protection from the Newspaper Guild (01:01:18)
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coming out as trans at work (01:02:26)
1998 (01:02:30)
NY Daily News (01:05:50)
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Tyra Hunter (01:08:27)
gay and lesbian history (01:09:50)
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Transsexual News Telegraph (01:10:07)
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National Gender Lobby Day (01:10:38)
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New York State 1999 anti-discrimination bill (01:13:07)
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Miriam Frank (01:14:08)
February 1965 anti-war event in Washington, D.C. (01:14:14)
GenderPAC (01:14:30)
Riki Wilchins (01:14:49)
2000 (01:15:30)
Gina Reiss (01:15:36)
resignation from board of GenderPAC (01:17:20)
First Event (01:20:24)
Southern Comfort Transgender Conference (01:20:27)
Deborah Glick (01:22:43)
New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) (01:23:52)
Pauline Park (01:24:00)
Paisley Currah (01:24:01)
Founding the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ) (01:24:10)
Carla Enriquez case (01:24:59)
Lisa Mottet (01:25:34)
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (01:25:35)
gender identity protection in New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (01:25:46)
Mara Keisling (01:26:45)
creation of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) (01:26:47)
2002 (01:29:31)
True Spirit Conference (01:29:36)
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) (01:31:19)
GenderPAC (01:31:22)
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) (01:31:33)
Pride at Work (01:31:59)
Coalition of Labor Union Women (01:32:39)
A. Phillip Randolph Institute (01:32:45)
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (01:32:54)
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (01:32:59)
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (01:33:06)
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) (01:35:09)
National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (01:35:33)
2008 (01:37:57)
Labor Campaign for Single Payer (01:38:08)
Labor Notes (01:38:17)
International Socialists (01:38:37)
Troublemaker's Handbook (01:40:52)
coming out as trans (01:41:37)
trans youth (01:42:22)
The Wachowskis (01:43:06)
Orange is the New Black (01:43:15)
Janet Mock (01:43:19)
Transamerica (01:43:37)
Susan Stryker "Screaming Queens" (01:43:47)
The Crying Game (01:44:02)
Trump (01:44:26)
trans bathroom bills (01:44:30)
parents' jobs/backgrounds (01:48:22)
The Depression (01:49:22)
Montclair State University (01:51:10)
Maplewood, NJ (01:53:04)
Christine Jorgensen (01:55:48)
gender training (01:57:16)
segregated upbringing (01:57:57)
racism (01:58:17)
Maplewood Fair Housing Council (01:59:06)
Newark (01:59:36)
Martin Luther King and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (02:03:24)
1963 (02:04:11)
Children of Birmingham (02:04:19)
James Meredith (02:05:07)
1963 March on Washington (02:05:21)
Birmingham bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church (02:06:09)
Kennedy assassination (02:07:12)
Freedom Summer (02:07:50)
transition (02:08:57)
Labor Notes (02:09:19)
racism (02:10:15)
Selma March (02:10:29)
Baltimore friends of SNCC (02:10:44)
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) (02:11:54)
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) (02:11:58)
gender and race segregation at Johns Hopkins University (02:12:01)
Walter P. Carter (02:13:04)
Jim Griffin (02:13:05)
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) (02:13:28)
Miriam Frank (02:14:23)
Mark Rudd (02:14:35)
Free Speech Movement in Berkeley (02:14:59)
being a social justice activist while being in the ROTC (02:16:11)
February 1965 anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. (02:17:10)
I.F. Stone (02:18:09)
Kim Moody (02:18:46)
working class and socialism (02:20:40)
trans sex workers in Baltimore (02:28:07)
Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic (02:28:31)
Paul McHugh (02:29:04)
study to justify the closing of Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic (02:29:16)
trans backlash around Janice Raymond's The Transsexual Empire (02:30:33)
lesbian anti-trans current (02:31:01)
trans identity (02:32:13)
anti-trans violence (02:32:37)
trans history (02:33:30)
1980s (02:33:58)
trans people driven into hiding (02:34:19)
Chrissy Lee Polis (02:34:51)
coming out as trans (02:36:29)
passing (02:37:54)
participation in socialist movement (02:39:44)
Young People's Socialist League (02:40:12)
Berkeley Independent Socialist Club (02:40:59)
Hal Draper (02:41:07)
Socialist Workers Party (02:41:13)
Workers Party (02:41:20)
Theodore Draper (02:42:00)
Free Speech Movement (FSM) (02:42:15)
"Two Souls of Socialism" (02:42:28)
Sy Landy (02:42:38)
Baltimore Independent Socialist Union (02:42:51)
"Toward the Working Class" (02:43:08)
Steve Kindred (02:43:53)
Independent Socialist Club (02:44:22)
The Weathermen (02:44:53)
Eldridge Cleaver campaign (02:45:37)
Dick Gregory (02:45:58)
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) (02:46:09)
Bill Ayers (02:46:47)
Bernadine Dorn (02:46:48)
Cathy Wilkerson (02:46:55)
Progressive Labor Party (PL) (02:47:00)
1969 SDS Convention (02:47:16)
Founding of International Socialists (IS) (02:48:07)
Detroit (02:50:47)
Hal Draper (02:51:41)
Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) (02:52:27)
Steve Kindred (02:53:40)
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) (02:53:44)
United Autoworkers (UAW) (02:53:58)
1973-74 recession (02:54:19)
oil crisis (02:54:24)
"Right Turn" by Thomas Ferguson (02:54:33)
International Socialist Organization (ISO) (02:54:50)
Workers Power (02:54:54)
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) (02:58:37)
Betsy Wade (02:58:39)
Labor Notes (02:59:11)
Workers Power (03:00:07)
Socialist Action (03:00:40)
Socialist Unity (03:00:45)
1987 (03:01:50)
Solidarity (03:02:25)
LGBT work in Solidarity (03:03:14)
Against the Current (03:03:24)
Solidarity Summer School (03:04:23)
Obama election (03:05:16)
Robert Rubin (03:06:23)
Larry Summers (03:06:25)
Timothy Geithner (03:06:27)
1992 (03:06:38)
Sam Farber (03:06:39)
Clinton (03:06:46)
Lloyd Bentsen (03:06:48)
universal health care (03:07:35)
Democratic Party (03:08:00)
Clinton health care plan (03:08:12)
Affordable Care Act (ACA) (03:09:01)
Solidarity in Baltimore (03:10:14)
Pride at Work (03:10:29)
2009 (03:10:45)
Nancy Wohlforth (03:10:56)
Jeremy Bishop (03:11:51)
becoming co-president of Pride at Work (03:12:18)
Stan Kiino (03:13:24)
Peggy Shorey (03:13:44)
coming out to parents as trans (03:15:43)
"True Selves" (03:17:05)


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Interview Data

Date of Interview
December 23, 2017
Location of Interview
NYU Department of Sociology
Place of birth
Hackensack, New Jersey
Copy Editor
Birth Year
Gender Pronouns
she, her
Rights Statement
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About This Collection

NYC Trans Oral History Project

NYPL's Community Oral History Project is teaming up with the NYC Trans Oral History Project to collect, preserve, and share oral histories from our city's transgender and gender non-conforming communities. 

We'll be training a community corps of interviewers to collect these largely undocumented oral histories in order to build a lasting and expansive archive on NYC transgender experiences.

About the NYC Trans Oral History Project:

We are a collective, community archive working to document transgender resistance and resilience in New York City. We work to confront the erasure of trans lives and to record diverse histories of gender as intersecting with race and racism, poverty, dis/ability, aging, housing migration, sexism, and the AIDS crisis. 

We are inspired by the public history activism of the ACT UP oral history project to build knowledge as a part of our anti-oppression work. We believe oral history is a powerful part of social justice work, and that building an alternative archive of transgender histories can transform our organizing for transgender liberation. 

You can listen to interviews, search interviews tags (like #genderfluidity #self-knowledge #gentrification and #queerfamily), and soon read transcripts. We hope the interviews and tags will preserve and proliferate new knowledges about trans and gender non-conforming experiences.

Content warning: Many of the interviews here include personal accounts of violence, sexual assault, abuse as children, or trauma.