We in the Houston trans community knew this day was coming because she had been valiantly battling Parkinson’s Disease since 2006, but it still hurts to write this post announcing the death of one of our pioneering trans leaders in Sarah DePalma.
DePalma passed away Sunday night, and the woman I call ‘Mommy Sarah’ was another one of our Houston based kick butt trans advocates who also had trailblazing national and statewide reach.
She and another Houston trans trailblazer in Phyllis Frye met in the late 1980’s, and the two Aggies formed a lasting friendship as a result. By 1993 DePalma was upping her own activism game and heading to Austin to push for changes in our state laws that would benefit transgender people.
She was also giving the lesbian and gay community in Houston and nationally hell for their exclusionary anti-trans attitudes in the 90’s and early 2000’s. We successfully fought a pitched battle for inclusion in the Houston GLBT caucus during that time while calling HRC out for their anti-trans stances.
DePalma was the founder of and Executive Director of It’s Time Texas, which later became TGAIN (Transgender Advocacy Information Network) and is now TENT (Transgender Education Network of Texas) She also led It’s Time America, one of the early trans advocacy groups formed in the 1990’s.
My first Texas Lobby day was in 1999, but she was already a veteran lobbyist at the state and national level by the time I met her. Where Sarah and I connected in addition to her being one of my early trans advocacy mentors was as the co-host of KPFT-FM’s After Hours show with the late Jimmy Carper.
She leaves behind her longtime partner Lori, and a host of people who loved her. As of yet don’t know when her memorial service is going to happen, but will definitely be there to pay my last respects to her.
We’ve lost another of our trans pioneers. Rest in power and peace, Sarah. .