By Julia Diana Robertson and Claudia Lucas Robertson
*Scroll down for Updates
Emilia Decaudin, a self-identified “lesbian woman,” who ran for “Female State Committee Member,” as well as “Female District Leader,” in Queens, is preemptively asking followers to help pay for the associated costs of a potential recount. An unprecedented number of mail-in votes have not been counted. Electronic election night results currently, “unofficially,” show Decaudin, a newcomer to Queens, has taken the “Female State Committee Member” 37th AD seat, from Queens native, Corinnes Haynes-Wood, as well as the “Female District Leader” 37A seat, from Queens native, Deirdre A. Feerick.
While Decaudin was already able to take these seats due to “self-identification,” also known as “self-ID,” laws in NY State, Decaudin is further seeking to remove sex-based language from ‘one man, one woman’ rules (language that guarantees females an equal seat at the table), from all position levels across NY State — A change Decaudin was already able to quietly push through within the NY State Democratic Party, in October of 2019 (see our breaking story here).
Furthermore, Corinne Haynes-Wood’s running mate, Andre Stith, appears to have mysteriously disappeared from the ballot, along with the position listing under election results. According to the NY State Democratic Committee website, Jimmy Van Bramer, who endorsed Decaudin, currently still holds that position. Bramer is listed as Deputy Leader of the New York City Council, Council Member for the 26th District, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside in Queens, as well as State Committee 37AD.
Van Bramer, an openly gay man, also appears to be involved with Stonewall Democrats NYC, which describes their organization as “the first and only citywide LGBT Democratic organization in New York City,” but is male-dominated and male-centered. Stonewall Democrats NYC also endorsed Decaudin.
Van Bramer dropped out of the running for Queen’s Borough President in January, citing “family circumstances.” Interestingly, Van Bramer worked as a reporter for Lesbian and Gay New York, a publication that dropped the word “Lesbian” from it’s name, and is now called Gay City News.
“Few judges sit on the bench in Queens County without the blessing of the local district leaders and the party boss. At a convention just last week, Queens Democrats nominated an attorney to the State Supreme Court after voters rejected him in a civil court primary election less than two months before. Almost every nominee at the convention thanked the district leaders who helped get them there.” — Gothamist
Though election results have been incorrectly reported by another site that picked up our breaking story, in an article titled “Male Wins Female Leadership Position in New York…,” it’s vital that New Yorkers know it’s not an official win, mail-in votes have yet to be counted, so it’s not a done deal. There’s still time for New Yorkers to petition and voice our concerns.
In October of 2019, Decaudin got the NY State Democratic Party to dismantle the “one male, one female” rule from Democratic State Committees. This was a rule put in place by the women’s suffrage movement, to guarantee females an equal seat. In October, Decaudin was able to change the wording so that where the rules once read “his or her,” it now reads, “they,” “them,” or “theirs.” Where the rules once read as “one male and one female,” or, “are of the opposite gender,” it now reads as various version of two people who “do not identify as the same gender, unless they both identity as a non-binary gender.”
This year, Decaudin is looking to do the same, at various position levels across New York state. In layman’s terms: Decaudin, who was already able to occupy seats specifically designated for females (under Self-ID laws), is looking to further remove any sex-based language altogether from party rules across the board, that specifically guarantee females an equal seat at the table.
In 2019, Gothamist reported, “The Queens Democratic Party is one of the most hierarchical party organizations in the city, with relatively little turnover among its elites.“
“The district leaders also play another pivotal role: They help pick judges. When civil court judges are seeking a promotion to the State Supreme Court, they do not run in primaries. Instead, they attend highly choreographed judicial conventions where district leaders nominate judicial candidates for coveted supreme court seats, sending them straight to the general election in November as the party nominees.”
Interestingly, while New York state was in quarantine, NY Governor, Andrew Cuomo (D), changed the laws around how many signatures were required in order to run. On March 12, Decaudin posted, “Petitioning is hard… governor must significantly reduce the number of required signatures… ” On March 14, Cuomo signed an Executive Order, modifying article 6 of the election law, reducing the required number of signatures on petitions “to 1.5% of the registered voters required, or 30% of the stated threshold, whichever is less.”
In 2019, after explaining the changes that came with the amended resolution of the “one male, one female rule,” Samy Nemir-Olivares, policy advisor to the Community Education Council for District 32, explained, “The resolution would NOT affect the gender parity of (half of the seats reserved for women) outlined for elected office seats such as District Leaders. This would only apply to State Committee members…”
Decaudin responded, to Nemir Olivares statement with, “We’re coming for District Leader and County Committee next, though. [cool face emoji]…”
And that’s exactly what’s happened — Decaudin has run for “Female District Leader,” as well as “Female State Committee Member,” under the guise of transparency and inclusion of people of color.
Nemir-Olivares, who uses the pronoun “she,” is also a board member of Stonewall Democrats NYC — The male-run organization avoids use of the word “lesbian,” and erases the Black butch lesbian who started the revolution at Stonewall, in their revision of our history, writing, “The Stonewall rebellion was a riot. Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera LGBTQ people of color, trans people, gay men, sex workers, and others had had enough. They resisted the criminalization of their bodies and identities, and it gave birth to the movement we celebrate each year. This Pride Month, we are reminded, and in some ways forced, to reclaim the original intent of Pride: to resist like hell.”
As part of Decaudin’s campaign pitch, Decaudin said, “Sunnyside and Astoria deserve representation to the Queens County Democratic Committee that will… Promote the inclusion and engagement of… people of color… who are often overlooked and ignored.”
Decaudin, was born and raised in Westchester County, and ran against Corinne Haynes-Wood, a Black woman and life-long resident of Queensbridge Houses. Haynes-Wood is an educator with over 25 years of experience serving her community in Queens. Haynes-Wood grew up in what’s more commonly known as “the projects,” and therefore holds a great deal of insight into race issues that need to be addressed in the area, as well as inequality issues, both as a female and as a person of color, and more specifically as a Black woman.
As part of Decaudin’s campaign pitch, Decaudin further stated that residents in Queens deserve someone who will “Fight for a transparent and democratic county party.”
When Decaudin successfully pushed to dismantle the “one male, one female” rule, only a couple of sites covered the changes, after the fact, introducing the changes with buzzwords like “inclusion.” The bylaws were quietly updated on the NY Democratic Committee website in a document dated November 15, 2019. What happened to Andre Stith? Why was Decaudin moved to Queens just before the election?
Decaudin, claims to be “an advocate for issues facing the queer community,” yet on October 26, 2019, after The Velvet Chronicle uncovered the quiet changes pushed through, and lesbian, bi and straight women voiced their concerns, Decaudin, responded with abusive commands, such as, “suck my girldick.” Decaudin, an elected official, has since deleted the original Facebook page and has put the original Twitter page on private.
On March 4, Decaudin said, “I’m very proud to announce that I am running for District Leader in the 37th Assembly District, Part A with New Reformers.” About New Reformers, Queens Eagle writes, “A group of nearly two dozen community activists and political strategists have launched an insurgent campaign for Democratic district leader positions… The 72 district leaders — two men and two women from all 18 Assembly districts in Queens — vote on party decisions, including endorsements. Critics say they act more like rubber stamps for the will of top party officials. The candidates, known as the New Reformers, are seeking party positions that few Queens residents even knew existed.”
Council Member Costa Constantinides, who is currently running for Queens Borough President (the position Bramer dropped out of the running for in January), is among those who’ve endorsed Decaudin’s campaign. Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club is also among Decaudin’s endorsers. Decaudin is the Social Media Manager for Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, which describes its organization as “New York’s citywide progressive LGBTQ democratic club,” and is also a male-dominated organization.
On June 1, Decaudin wrote, “I am very honored to announce that my campaign for District Leader has been endorsed by Stonewall Democrats NYC and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, the two citywide queer Democratic clubs in New York… Getting their support means the world to me both as a trans woman and as an advocate for issues facing the queer community as a whole. I hope to make my community proud as a Queens Democratic district leader …”
Post election day, a well-known trans figure, Buck Angel, wrote, “And the way this person who is supposed to be a representation uses it for emotional terrorism! This person should lose that seat now!” beneath The Velvet Chronicle‘s latest breaking story on Decaudin.
Decaudin’s group, Binary Free NYC, is working to dismantle the ‘one male, one female’ rule throughout NY state. On April 22, 6 people who refused to check either the male or female box on their forms, were disqualified from running for County Committee Members on the Kings County Democratic County Committee, and sued the Board of Elections. The case was thrown out.
“For nearly 100 years, Democrats in the State of New York have elected one man and one woman per Assembly District to serve in the Democratic Party’s governing body, the State Committee. A rule change passed last month means that after 2020, this will no longer be the case.”
—Decaudin, December 2019, “Toward a Binary Free NYC,” Gotham Gazette
Binary Free NYC, is looking to “amend the way the Board of Elections handles elections for party positions,” by removing all sex-based language. Decaudin is “ready and eager to work with the Kings County Democratic Committee and Executive Committee Chair Rodneyse Bichotte, to work towards a rule change that resolves this issue and many others regarding gender and the party rules, just like we were able to accomplish last year at the New York State Democratic Party.”
If Decaudin succeeds in this quest— a change that already happened quietly in October of 2019 within the New York State Democratic Party (and unknown until our initial Breaking Exclusive)— the rules guaranteeing an equal seat to females would change within other position levels, across NY State.
Update: After several weeks of counting an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, Decaudin has officially taken both the “Female State Committee Member” position and the “Female District Leader” position.
Online, Decaudin openly talked about spending the last several weeks involved in the ballot counting process. On July 21, Decaudin said, “So, I haven’t been too active recently as I’ve been spending most of the past three weeks with @ReformersNew making sure every valid absentee ballot in Queens is counted. (Shout out to @MarthaNAyon and @ZachariahBoyer for their particular contributions to this process!)”
According to City & State NY, “Election lawyer Sarah Steiner discussed the importance of the [one man, one woman] rule for women in a 2018 interview with WNYC, before the state committee rule change. In a comment to City & State, Steiner agreed that nonbinary people have to right to run and should have a pathway, but cautioned that removing the requirement to elect women could lead to women being under-represented on the county committees. ‘I have a feeling that anything that changes these rules will eventually take a toll on the number of women in office,’ Steiner told City & State.”
City & State NY reports, “Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Tenant Association, where Wood-Haynes’ running mate Andre Stith lives, lamented the fact that people new to Queens were running against and beating residents with deep roots in the neighborhood. Both Haynes-Wood and Stith are African American. ‘That bothers me,’ Coger told City & State. ‘How are you supposed to represent me if you don’t know anything about me?'”
On July 23, Decaudin said, “I am especially grateful to be given the opportunity to continue my work on updating the rules of the party to remove unnecessary references to the gender binary. I hope to work with @RepGregoryMeeks to bring the same rule changes I accomplished at @NYDems to @Queens_Dems.”
*Due to issues with unethical journalism practices in the media, plagiarism, etc.— this note, to other publications: The Velvet Chronicle does not operate under “Creative Commons” license. All rights are reserved.
Claudia Lucas Robertson is a lesbian activist, musician, improv performer and Editor-in-Chief at The Velvet Chronicle.
جوليا ديانا — Julia Diana Robertson, is a an award-winning author, journalist and Senior Editor at The Velvet Chronicle.