By ERNIE GOTTA
On Nov. 3, 2020, Jerimarie Liesegang—a kind, funny, and dedicated fighter for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and social justice—lost her fight with cancer. Socialist Resurgence sends our condolences to her family, friends, and comrades who live on to carry the struggle forward.
Jerimarie was born in Long Island, N.Y., to a longshoreman father and a mother who was a nurse. Jerimarie would eventually make her way to Hartford, Conn., with degrees from Notre Dame and a PhD from Harvard.
Being out as transgender in the workplace, Jerimarie had to struggle for her right to make a living, event though she had more than enough credentials. Her life’s work included fighting for all trans working people to have access to a good, safe job and adequate housing. In the 1990s, Jerimarie helped found “It’s Time Connecticut,” which led to the formation of the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition.
In Connecticut, Jerimarie played an important role in politicizing the transgender and broader LGBTQIA+ community. In the early 2000s, as U.S. imperialism launched wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jerimarie, along with comrades like Richard Nelson, formed Queers Without Borders (QWB). Richard writes, “When I met her in 1999 she was the answer to my queer prayers. So much of the L and G movement had been a single-issue movement for so long I was out of my mind. That is not how I thought and what my mentors had taught me. Then along came Jerimarie.”
Richard continues, “We met up with each other many times, at antiwar demonstrations, at rallies, at lectures, meetings and organizing sessions as we navigated our way into the new century. She was working tirelessly organizing in the Transgender community and to me and many others she is the mother of the Connecticut political transgender movement.”
Making a space for queer activists in the antiwar movement was important for waging a fight against U.S. imperialism. Jerimarie and QWB extended their organizing effort to also include immigrant rights, fighting police brutality, labor solidarity, and much more. For Jerimarie, this included building mass actions in the streets, educational forums, and documentary videos, as well as expressing her moral outrage by getting arrested, demanding the closing of the notorious U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, known for human rights abuses.
She was also a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation. In 2012, QWB organized the “No Pride in Apartheid” event, in which Socialist Resurgence in Connecticut (at the time Socialist Action) participated. Jerimarie adeptly made the connection between the militancy of the Stonewall rebellion, the corporatization and commodification of PRIDE, and the pinkwashing of the apartheid state of Israel. The politicization of the LGBTQIA+ community continued by joining with other organizations during PRIDE NYC to integrate the demand for the freedom of Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier and whistleblower against U.S. atrocities in Iraq. Jerimarie helped carry the lead banner during the parade, and without this unwavering dedication to her community, Chelsea Manning might not be free today.
In 2020 a new generation of trans activists are taking up the queer banner first raised by the Stonewall generation and continued on by Jerimarie in the 1990s and 2000s. Thousands marched this year in New York City in an alternate to PRIDE that explicitly opposed the commercialization of their community. Instead, activists wanted to bring the movement back into the streets. This renewed militancy was highlighted with a mass rally of thousands in Los Angeles this June, demanding justice following the police murders of Riah Milton of Ohio and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells of Pennsylvania, two Black transgender women.
The fight for trans liberation in Connecticut is especially important today. The targeting of young trans athletes like Andraya Yearwood by far-right wing groups, such as Alliance Defending Freedom, for daring to compete and succeed is an attempt to put trans youth back in the shadows. Instead, we should follow Jerimarie’s example of solidarity and defend these youth from any and all attacks.
We also encourage our readers to watch the videos made by Jerimarie and her comrade Richard and activist friends at CT Trans History and Archives. Celebrate her life by continuing to organize in the streets and sharing these rich and powerful reminders of where the struggle for trans liberation has been and where it still needs to go.