New Jersey mourns the passing of Babs Siperstein

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NJ trans activist Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein. 2010 file photo
NJ trans activist Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein. 2010 file photo

Barbra Siperstein was the first openly transgender member of the DNC

Just days after her namesake law went into effect, Barbra “Babs” Siperstein passed away at the age of 76. A native of Jersey City, Siperstein was the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee.

The Babs Siperstein Law fast tracks the process for New Jersey residents to change the gender on their birth certificate, doing away with an archaic ‘proof of surgery’ requirement. It also adds a third gender designation ‘X’ for non-binary/undesignated; removes the provider certification (letter from a therapist, etc.) and replacing it with ‘Self Attestation’.

Christian Fuscarino is the Executive Director of Garden State Equality
Christian Fuscarino is the Executive Director of Garden State Equality

“Babs was a towering figure in the LGBT community who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of transgender people over the last two decades,” Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino said in a statement. “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 now in effect, every transgender New 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.”

Siperstein was an icon and had many accomplishments

In 2009, Barbra “Babs” Siperstein was appointed to the Democratic National Committee by Chairman Tim Kaine. She was the first openly transgender member of the DNC. Siperstein, a longtime Democratic Party Loyalist, was appointed to the DNC’s Executive Committee in 2011, where she served until October 2017. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she served as a superdelegate for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Upon word of her passing, friends and colleagues remembered Siperstein as a strong, supportive force. She was a passionate activist who was instrumental in making New Jersey a leader among states for transgender rights and protections. She was named number one on Insider NJ’s OUT 100 Power List in 2018 by Jay Lassiter,. The listing included her many accomplishments with organizations like Garden State Equality and Gender Rights Advocacy Organization of New Jersey.

Trenton’s Mayor Reed Gusciora
Trenton’s Mayor Reed Gusciora

Siperstein served as president and a board member of the New Jersey Stonewall Democrats until it closed in 2013. She was also Vice President of Garden State Equality and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee Eastern Caucus. She served as Deputy Vice Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, was appointed to the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, and was Political Director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey. As of two years ago, she was one of only 28 openly transgender people serving on the Democratic National Committee.

“I was saddened to hear about the passing of my friend Babs Siperstein,” Trenton’s first openly gay Mayor Reed Gusicora said in a statement. “She was one of the most influential advocates for the LGBTQ community and an important voice in the Democratic Party for trans rights and visibility. While she may be gone, I take comfort in knowing that her legacy lives on in the lives of countless people whose destinies she changed for the better. Rest in Peace, Babs.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy released his own statement in regards to Barbra “Babs” Siperstein. He highlightied the power of the woman whose namesake law he signed into reality.

“In the long and proud history of New Jersey’s LGBTQ community, few voices spoke with the power and passion of Babs Siperstein. She was a tremendous advocate and good friend and was never shy to push us to open our hearts and minds, and to move our thinking ever forward. Tammy and I join all who mourn her passing and send our thoughts to her family. However, as we do, we should all take great comfort in how far we have come in the fight for equality and dignity under the law — and the fights that have been won in no small part because of Babs’ leadership. And, in her memory, we will continue to move forward.”

The LGBT family joins the Siperstein family and remembers the long legacy  

Siperstein is survived by her partner, Dorothy Crouch; a daughter, Jana Siperstein-Szucs and her husband David of Woodbridge; two sons, Jeffrey Siperstein and his wife, Lisa, of Lake Worth, Florida, and Jared Siperstein of Scotch Plains; five grandchildren; a sister; two nieces; a grandniece and a grandnephew. She was the president and owner of Siperstein’s Paint Store in Fords and was a Rutgers University graduate, getting her BA before moving on to Pace University, where she earned an MBA in public accounting.

LGBTQ Victory Fund Senior Political Director Sean Meloy, who served as the DNC’s Director of LGBTQ Engagement while Babs was on the executive committee, said the following about her legacy:

“For so many in the Democratic Party, Babs was the first openly trans person they ever met and she undoubtedly changed the hearts and minds of many party leaders who were not yet committed to trans equality. 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.”

Donations may be made to the Barbra Siperstein Endowed Scholarship at Middlesex County College.