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Pioneer Award Acceptance Speech (2009)

Pioneer Award Acceptance Speech (2009)

©2009, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source. Dallas Denny. (2009). Transgender Pioneer Award Acceptance Speech. Fantasia Fair #35, 18-25 October, 2009, Provincetown, MA.

The Pioneer Award is an honor bestowed upon lifelong leaders of the transgender community by the board of directors of Real Life Experiences, Inc., the nonprofit that oversees the annual transgender event Fantasia Fair. It’s an award I in fact proposed to the board back in 2001. The first award was given in 2002. I was honored to receive it seven years later. In the 1990s I received the Outreach Award from another nonprofit which oversaw the Fair, the Outreach Institute for Gender Studies. I’ve been involved in the leadership of the Fair since 1991.


Transgender Pioneer Award Acceptance Speech


I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this honor. It humbles me to receive an award that has previously honored Virginia Prince, Ari Kane, Stephen Whittle, Jude Patton, Phyllis Frye, Holly Boswell, and Merissa Sherrill Lynn, among others.

Why a transgender pioneer award? Why is this award significant? This award is important because it honors the dedication, hard work, and sacrifice of those who came before us. It acknowledges the debt we owe our leaders and thanks them for decades of service performed for free or nearly so. In our small transgender community there are few organizations that can afford to pay those who do the work. Most of our leaders work without compensation.

But it’s more than mere hard work. Many transgender leaders have worked so hard for so long for this community that their careers and fortunes have suffered. Did you know Virginia Prince once owned a chemical factory? She spent her last years subsisting on a reverse mortgage on her house, no chemical factories in sight. Merissa Lynn had no career outside this community and now lives in public housing. Only when Fantasia Fair stopped taking all of her time did Ari Kane go back to school and train as a sexologist. Sister Mary Elizabeth, whose primary work these days is with HIV/AIDS, works out of a bedroom in her parents’ house in San Juan Capistrano. She is a skilled helicopter pilot.

The Transgender Pioneer Award honors these sacrifices and provides a small measure of assistance to long-time leaders, especially those who have given up so much to do so much.

In my case, my position as a psychological examiner kept a roof over my head and is providing a modest retirement. It was a good career and I have no regrets, but had I not been so busy changing the world in a small way, I’m sure I would have put more time and energy into my work.

This community’s leaders may sometimes be ornery and hard-headed, but they have indeed changed the world. Take a moment, please, and thank one of them.

And me? Well, I thank you all for this.