Melissa Sklarz, New York, 1999


Melissa Sklarz is Director of the New York Trans Rights Organization and is playing a lead role in efforts to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in the New York legislature.

Melissa Sklarz

Born 1951

New York City Democratic Committee

New York, New York

Career Overview

Elected September 1999



News article about Melissa Sklarz

NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: CHELSEA; For Transsexual, Small Election Victory Is a 'Big Step'

By David Kirby

New York Times, September 26, 1999

It may be a small position, but it is a very big step, said Melissa Sklarz. Ms. Sklarz, who is openly transsexual, was elected as a delegate to the Democratic Party's Manhattan Judicial Convention, which was held Thursday. No one can recall the last time a transsexual was elected to any position in the city.

A collections manager for the Actors Federal Credit Union, Ms. Sklarz, 48, and 109 other delegates nominated Democratic candidates for State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Of 33 who ran in her district in the West Village, 11 were elected delegates. Because the borough is heavily Democratic, the candidates they picked are likely to win.

Ms. Sklarz said she appreciated being able to talk to the civil and criminal court judges seeking Supreme Court seats. Judges know absolutely nothing about conflicts transgendered people go through, she said. Now we're going right to the judges and educating them.

She said her biggest concerns were stemming violence and discrimination against transsexuals, and preserving the quality of life in the Village, which she said has been a welcoming place for her.

But it has not been so welcoming to all transgendered people, some advocates say. Richard Haymes, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, said police antiprostitution sweeps had rounded up law-abiding transsexuals too.

Lieut. Stephen Biegel, a police spokesman, said, Officers make arrests based on probable cause, and not based on how people are dressed or their appearance.

Mr. Haymes said his group was working with the police on sensitivity training. The police academy's director of training, Dr. James O'Keefe, said transgendered people give seminars to instructors.

Ms. Sklarz can also help, Mr. Haymes said. With these judges meeting Melissa, he said, she's going to shoot their stereotypes out of the water.

Sloan Wiesen of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports gay candidates, said no transgendered people had sought its aid. That's not to say that there aren't any out there, he said, but there's been none to our knowledge.

Kevin Finnegan, president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, which supported Ms. Sklarz, said she was the first openly transgendered person to win an election in New York.