With silver hair and strong features, Polina is striking. She
is stylish, sports polka-dot leggings and high-heeled clogs. Some know her
has P.J. She has been a woman for just shy of nine months.
Speaking on behalf of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, Polina talks of
fear, of injustice, of having to hide the identity of who she knew to be her
true self the whole of her life—since she came to understand where her
military family’s stance on the murky waters of gender identity in a bath-time
lesson on “boys” and “girls." She was born a boy but she wanted to wear her sister’s clothes and grow
her hair long and someday be like her mother, but this was not her reality. At 4, she already thought differently.
“You will grow up to be like your father,” she remembers her mother saying, “Your sister will grow up to be like me.”
Her story is unique, but it is not uncommon. Identity and security are themes well-worn but woven tightly into the threads of discussions of prejudice, separation,
loneliness, the pain of silence and the absence of safety for women to feel
believed and respected. They are timeless
questions that require asking. What is justice in the sphere of modernity?
“Someone once told me there is no justice,” says Isabel Ribem of
Santa Fe non-profit the Adelante Program for Homeless.
“There just is.”
Gathered on Sunday among colleagues, friends and family, the New Mexico Women’s Coalition, a newly formed silo of community members committed to activism for women, has banded together to continue the conversation: What is justice? Ninety days before their plan to be a part of 1 billion who will rise for international justice against violence for women, a small but strong group filled the Forum at Santa Fe Uuniversity of Art and Desing to discuss what, in the sphere of the local community, the word really means.
Following the tradition of what has become an annual campaign in at least 207 countries, in 2014 the Valentine’s Day press conference/flash mob/dance party One Billion Rising will celebrate it’s 16th anniversary of gathering to create a safe space to break the silence on issues surrounding violence against women and children.
Last year, the global movement made an impressions in Santa Fe at
the Roundhouse. This year, it will rise again on Feb. 14. But before the event, the
panel — organized by managing V-Day director
Cecile Lipworth that included lawyers Bette Fleishman (New Mexico
Women’s Justice Project) and Pamelya Herndon (Southwest Women's Law Center),
Ribe of Adelante, Corrine Sanchez (TEWA Women United), Nina Simons (of
environmental group Bioneers) and Polina Smutko, an advocate for the
Transgender Resource Center of NM — is tackling the tough truth that the One
Billion Rising movement may be growing, but the numbers are not changing: Violence continues.
“We live in a culture of violence,” says Ribe, “That’s the reality.”
The statistics are startling—and slow to change. One in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. But, there is strength in numbers, and the local movement is tackling the sphere of violence, from immigration policy, to the treatment of incarcerated inmates, to environmental impact issues, domestic abuse and beyond.
“We want to look at how we connect,” says Lipworth. “Instead of treating [awareness] as a Band-Aid, we want to look at what we can fix.”
For now, the advocates will continue to meet, preparing to put brainpower towards building a better reality and a security for generations forthcoming.
“Until we can bring wisdom back into society, I don’t think anything will change,” says Ribe.
For more information on upcoming meetings, updates on the movement, or to join the organization contact Cecile@vday.org.