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Transgender issues are driving a wedge in LGBT community, says activist ousted from Pride Parade

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MILWAUKEE— Like it or not, America is undergoing a profound transition.  From Caitlyn Jenner to public restrooms, gender identity has taken center stage. But not everyone is happy about that. The FOX6 Investigators found some of the harshest criticism coming from a place you might never expect.

When it comes to fighting for gay and lesbian rights, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more battle-tested soldier than Milwaukee's own Miriam Ben-Shalom.

"If I have to march in lock step to some political line, then to heck with it. Because I don't march in lock step," Ben-Shalom said.

But when it comes to transgender rights, she might just be fighting for the other side.

Ben Shalom

Miriam Ben-Shalom

"My fight is ensuring that women are safe from the pretenders who might use the trans issue to get in and hurt somebody," Ben-Shalom said.

Transgender issues are stirring debate across America, but they may also be driving a wedge in a community that, for decades, thrived on solidarity.

"Is there a growing chasm in the LGBT community?" asked FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.

Before he even finished the question, Ben-Shalom replied, "Yes. I would say that there is."

And that helps to explain why she was invited to serve as grand marshal of the Milwaukee Pride Parade, only to be told 'nevermind.'

"Her mindsets don't line up with ours at this time," said Brent Holmes, coordinator of the parade.

Transgression 2

Parade coordinator Brent Holmes called Ben-Shalom's selection as grand marshal a 'no-brainer' until they saw her Facebook posts.

Holmes said this year's theme is "Heroes Of Pride," which made the selection of Ben-Shalom a no-brainer. That is, until board members noticed her Facebook page.

"It was a shock to all of us," Holmes said.

In recent weeks, Ben-Shalom shared posts asking whether transgender women are a threat in public restrooms, and created her own posts calling them "violent and judgmental" -- even urging other lesbians to "Get the 'L' out of LGBT."

"There's some hostility it seems," Polcyn said.

"Sure there is," Ben-Shalom said. "Sure there is. I have hostility."

The parade board called the posts an "attack on trans women" and informed Ben-Shalom she was out as grand marshal.

"It's a bad thing for everyone, in my opinion. But it just had to happen," Holmes said.

"I just think they're full of it," countered Ben-Shalom, a self-described 'radical feminist' who has never been afraid to say what's on her mind.


Her lifetime of activism is deemed so important the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is preserving boxes of her personal records in library archives and the Library of Congress has historical files on her, too. In a 2004 interview, recorded for the national archives, Ben-Shalom says her activism started in 1975 with a single question, not long after she enlisted in the U.S. Army.

"I got called into my commander's office," she told the Library of Congress. "And it was, 'Sergeant Ben-Shalom, are you a homosexual?'"

She admitted she was a lesbian and the Army kicked her out.

"I was judged because I told the truth. I refused to lie," Ben-Shalom said.IMG_6160

In 1988, 12 years after she was discharged, Ben-Shalom became the first openly homosexual service member to be re-enlisted in the Army, by court order.

"I want it recorded that it was not a gay man who first won and went back in," she told the Library of Congress. "It was a Jewish lesbian from the state of Wisconsin."

Miriam Ben Shalom being arrested

Miriam Ben-Shalom is arrested and dragged away from the White House during a protest in 2010.

But the fight was far from over.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton made 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' the official policy of the United States military. And for nearly two decades she fought to repeal it, twice chaining herself to the White House fence. When President Barack Obama finally repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' for good in 2010, Ben-Shalom's place in history was sealed.

"I'm really thankful for Miriam's work and what she's done," Holmes said.

Ben-Shalom actually served as grand marshal of the Pridefest Parade in Milwaukee in 1990.  A quarter-century later, things have changed.

Transgresson 3

Karen Gotzler, Director of Milwaukee's LGBT Community Center

"I think in the community in the last 25 years, we have come a long, long way," said Karen Gotzler, executive director of Milwaukee's LGBT Community Center.

She said it's not just the general populous learning to accept transgender individuals, it's some gays and lesbians too.

"There's so many of us in the lesbian, gay and bisexual community who really don't have a full appreciation and understanding of what it means to be transgender," Gotzler said.

But it's Ben-Shalom's position on restrooms that has her most at odds with LGBT leaders.

"If trans women were really women, they would get it!" Ben-Shalom said.

She insists she is not "transphobic," as Pride Parade officials have suggested -- just protective of spaces reserved for women who were born women.

Transgender bathrooms3

"My concern is not with transgender people," she said. "My concern is with the pretenders."

And by "pretenders," she said, she means men posing as women.

"I have not heard at any time where an honest to God man has just put on a dress and tried to walk into a ladies room for a nefarious purpose," Holmes countered.

The safety argument is one more commonly made by conservatives like Wisconsin Assemblyman Jesse Kremer.

"I mean, if I send my girls into the girls changing room," Kremer recently told FOX 6 News, "I don't know who's in there."

Rep. Jesse Kremer

Rep. Jesse Kremer

Last year, Kremer introduced a bill that would've required Wisconsin schoolchildren to use the bathroom that matches the sex they were assigned at birth, rather than the gender they identify with now.

"If they need to use the bathroom, they should use the bathroom," Holmes said, noting that the bathroom debate is just one example of how transgender individuals face hurdles today similar to what gays and lesbians faced years ago. "And look, they were with us back then. We need to be with them now as they go for those same struggles and those same rights."

"Are they going through the same struggle you were then?" Polcyn asked.

"Possibly," Ben-Shalom responded. "But we were not authoritarian in our demands. We didn't say 'our way or the highway. Give us what we want, or else.' We worked for it."

Gotzler said Ben-Shalom represents a mindset that is going away.

"The percentage of people who feel that way is decreasing over time," Gotzler said.

It's safe to say that Ben-Shalom is not the only lesbian with reservations about trans women in the restroom, but she might be one of the few saying it so loudly.

"I mean, how many women have to get hurt before enough is enough?" she said.

Milwaukee Pride Parade

Milwaukee Pride Parade

Pridefest opens at the Summerfest grounds on Friday, June 10th and the separately organized and operated Milwaukee Pride Parade is scheduled for Sunday, June 12th, at 2:00 p.m. in Walker's Point.

Ben-Shalom tells FOX6 she intends to be miles away from both.


  • Polar Girl

    Transgender people and homosexuals get along like Sanders and Clinton supporters do.

    Not completely an analogy since transgender people are predominantly for Sanders while homosexuals are predominantly for Clinton.

    • nelle

      Some of us are more than one letter in that acronym. Most of us get along fine. There are jerks in every community; no community is immune.

  • Z

    Maybe there wouldn’t be so much hostility towards either groups if they (and the media) would stop jamming their political agenda in the average persons face and every conceivable chance.

    I just watched this piece on TV, Gotzler is clearly a moron. These pretender-genders dont get it. Not to mention they are attempting to brainwash the next generation. Just look at what that girl (who thinks she is a guy) was doing at that high school in Kenosha. Pathetic trash.

    • Emmett Kelly

      For too many years, LGBT folks had no voice in the world. They were petrified of losing their jobs, being evicted from housing and even being physically attacked. The only people who spoke for trans people were ignorant bigots who spread lies, misinformation and insults.

      As more and more LGBT folks are coming out of the closet, and demanding the same civil rights as everyone else, they’re reclaiming their voices, and working hard to fix the falsehoods that have been spread. This means having to do a solid PR / communication campaign to get the word out.

      Maybe if folks like you didn’t spread lies and hatred, we wouldn’t have to take up so much media space correcting the record.

    • S.A.A

      If you don’t like a country where discrimination is illegal I suggest growing up.

      The only political agenda is for trans people to stop being harassed, killed, beaten, and discriminated against by transphobic bigots like yourself.

      I wish an education upon you, one where you learn compassion and empathy for those you (obviously) know nothing about.

  • Rbc

    Oh come on. Community that thrived on solidarity? Complete nonsense. The G&L folks have always looked down uponthe T people and often displayed complete outright hostility and hatred. This is nothing more than this very old, longstanding contempt for T people that some segments of the G&L community have.

    • T.S

      FOR YEARS, many male to trans (with their penises still attached) have been harassing lesbian women. Stop playing victim. When women disagree or even question the intent of gender identity, they get called “TERF” and now it’s considered a slur over the violent threats. Don’t you dare even suggest the “T” have it sooo hard. Women’s rights are up for grabs for any man that feels feminine thanks to these self absorbed narcissistic transtrenders that don’t want a compromise but want to push themselves into every single space where women expect privacy. This isn’t just about bathrooms but also locker rooms, dorms, women’s sports (this is being abused), domestic abuse shelters for women.

      It’s MRA in drag basically. Miriam has every right to question and be concerned. You wouldn’t know a real hero….Miriam is a real hero and it takes WAY MORE bravery to be a woman that a fake woman like Bruce Jenner that is rich and can be a perma autogynephiliac.

      For people not understanding what happens when you are called a TERF…read for yourself and tell me what your reaction would be.

      Enough with this narcissistic image production and damage control BS. The LGB should not even have the T in it considering many are straight men. Since lesbians have been ignored for years over the male dominated club, I can agree that maybe the LGBT should stop even pretending they care about lesbians and also stop trying to re-write history to stamp trans on everything especially since “TRANSGENDER” wasn’t even a thing until the 90’s. People called themselves Queens (or drag queens) Crossdressers knew what they were. Lumping all these people into one umbrella just to push out garbage that WOMEN DO NOT WANT. I REPEAT, WOMEN DO NOT WANT! For everything the trans community whines about, stamps victimhood on themselves…they are actually the bigoted ones. Go look up bigot in the dictionary and then take a good long look at yourselves and you will see the bigot you claim others are.

      Also, look up “THE COTTON CEILING”. For the man in the video claiming zero cases of men dressing up like women to abuse…yeah you never take the time to investigate because you’re too busy pushing out this Orwellian garbage. Penis does not equal vagina. Vagina does not equal penis. Men are not women. Women are not men. Biology is real, get over it!

      • you are really reaching

        Also, the acronym TERF literally stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’. A description of your trans-erasing, trans-exterminatory brand of (mostly second-wave) radical feminism. It’s no more a slur than ‘bigot’ is a slur, or ‘transphobe’ is a slur. Unlike, of course, actual slurs like ‘tranny’ that you TERFs are a fan of using.

      • edruminations

        TERF is a slur.

        I’m as much of a TERF as I am a UERF….unicorn-exclusionary radical feminist. I don’t believe in unicorns, either.

        Also, Janet Mock calls women “fish.” That is true hate speech.

      • zoebrain

        Bev Jo Van Dohre, noted TERF Activist, on Trans women:
        “They expect we’ll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don’t realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead.”
        “There are no words to describe them. There are tiny parasitic wasps who paralyze small animals (spiders, caterpillars, etc.) and lay their eggs on them, so the animal is alive while being slowing eaten by the growing baby. But the wasps aren’t deliberately cruel. These men remind me of a deliberately female-hating version of that. They’ve prove what I’ve been saying for decades — they are more female-hating than even many het men. The character in Silence of the Lambs who skinned women to wear really seems more accurate all the time.”

        More TERF ideology:
        “The male-born are biologically incomplete mutants, useless and obsolete; walking viruses on two legs and a cancer, spreading disease, death and destruction wherever they go. They are the walking-dead and the antithesis to life. Gyn-energy sucking vampires who have to plug into women and feed on them in order to survive. No different than a parasite who sucks the life and energy out of its host.”

        No need to comment. Just quote what they themselves say when they’ve dropped the mask.

  • ramon

    I like when these issues trump whats going on in the world and our economy. Seriously, is the potus legacy going to be allowing who ever into someone else potty room. Liberals are causing the demise of a great nation along with their feminist beta girls.

  • dskoll

    It’s too bad she’s so bitter. Luckily, those attitudes really are dying out and you hardly ever find them among young people.


    There’s the tolerant left for you. Spends her whole life fighting their causes for them, but the one time she steps out of line she gets the ban-hammer. The entire liberal establishment is a twisted cult, and once you question any of their beliefs you’re done…because they’re so tolerant.


    Sick sick people, all of them, no morals, values or standards, they need help.

  • grunt

    It looks like some in the LGBT community are bullies if you don’t agree with everything they tell you to.

  • Dierdre Lenore Knitter

    Wow, all these comments below are confusing to me. I hang out with gay and lesbian people all the time, and the vast majority are SUPER supportive! I understand what the report says, but I really don’t think it covers the majority opinion of the LGBTQ community.

    • Matt Powers

      You would be surprised. The lesbian and gay community has been increasingly conservative over the past twenty years. People hear the newest identity to accommodate and everyone falls over themselves to do so. The problem is that this particular group is feeding off of women’s rights and not so subtly destroying much of the work feminists had fought for. Segregated toilets for men and women exist for a reason: women’s safety. Most women are not fools about being told a man who wears a sun dress and hat is simply not a woman. I think the transgender movement needs to take up their cause with their own sex: let these males speak to men and organise that males stop inflicting violence on each other. Why have women’s bathrooms become the site of this debate? There is really no reason for this aside from the cultural assumption that women will move over and shut up. It looks like this woman here is not going to do that.

      What I want to know is where is the left-wing press taking into account women’s voices? Why are almost all reports and social media weighing in on this males? Why is nobody discussing this group’s push to remove the word woman from women’s healthcare services (because they deem it as transphobic). It is a stupid “revolution’ because in the end these people do not want to change society (a true revolution); rather they are all out for themselves. They behave as bullies, readily viewable online and threaten women for disagreement. It is really worrying to think that these folks will be sharing toilets with our female friends.

      • nelle

        Actually, polls indicate women are far more accepting than men are. Further, most of the arguments men make are about women’s restrooms, something that is rather curious but also rather misogynistic.

        The fact is, transgender people have been using gender appropriate restrooms all along. The noisemaking started when some politicians pouted over losing on marriage equality and sought another way to target the lgbtq community.

    • KendraChelsea

      Yep my experience also. I just went on a trans cruise with a gay group and all of them were awesome. We danced until the sun came up. Even USMC GRUNT 0311, AUTHOR OF SARCASM was there hitting on me but he gawd no…he ended up leaving with an S&M group.

      • Alpha Co.

        You’re a man and always will be. Doesn’t matter how you apply your costume in the morning, or that you have a changed birth certificate and drivers license, both of which are MAN made! Biologically you are a man! Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, remember and say these words, “I am a man, I pretend to be a woman, I can’t change what my biology is from birth”! Now, go seek mental health treatment, apparently you are suffering from a severe case of delusion and need experienced help! Have a nice day!

      • KendraChelsea

        It is funny, your comment made me laugh; I have never been happier in my life, my family loves me, i have the best friends anyone could have. The fact of the matter is, you need to be pitied more than ridiculed. Your kind is dying off, In the 13 months of living full time as Kendra Chelsea I have not had one bad word, not one bad look and made more friends than I could have imagined and oddly enough while traveling from Canada to Mexico, even traveling through the Carolina’s and Georgia. So Mr. T-Rex, enjoy your kinds eventual extinction

  • edruminations

    The Ts boycotted Michigan Womyn’s Festival and the Stonewall movie. They vandalized the Stonewall memorial. They attempted to ban drag queens from an alt-pride event in Glasgow. The founder of a GLBT organization in Mississippi resigned from his own org because he did not want to be called “cis.” They harass RuPaul. A transwoman college student in Canada set her school’s gay pride flag on fire recently. Juliana Fialowski, a tranwoman who counseled LGBT youth, is now in jail for child porn and had been arrested for raping a lesbian. And don’t even get me started on what they are doing to children — blocking their hormones, encouraging breast binders which may hurt a child’s organs, and downright lying to them that it’s possible to change sex. Many gender nonconforming children grow up to be gay. And guess what — it turns out that homophobic parents would rather have trans kids than gay kids. The fake hormones given to these young people have not been tested…we don’t know the long term consequences from using them. They could be carcinogenic. They could sterilize these kids, who are not old enough to consent to sterilization. Plus these drugs are very expensive…and required forever. And for what…because a boy likes pink? A girl doesn’t like how our society treats females? No straight man will ever marry and start a family with a transwoman. Nor would a gay man. No straight woman wants to marry and start a family with a transman. Nor would a lesbian. Yet no one in the media is debating this. Gender critical comments are deleted from articles. Google even tried to scrub the search results for the “Drop the T” petition started by people in the LGBT community. Men becoming women is a radical thing, yet we’re not even allowed to debate it? Gender is a social construct. Sex is a biological fact. Restrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms, showers, clinics, shelters, etc., are separated according to reproductive organs…not by “gender identity.” People who get pregnant require and deserve privacy from people who can impregnate them. Most transwomen are sexually attracted to women, and keep their male anatomy. Start showing photos of nude transwomen — we see nude women all the time, but not nude transwomen. Johns Hopkins stopped performing “sex change surgeries” due to poor outcomes. Many people have “sex change regret.” There’s no such thing as a risk-free surgery…just ask the late Joan Rivers. It’s impossible to change bio sex. Nobody is completely happy with their bodies…and you can’t fix a mental issue with physical surgery. Removing the breasts from a woman with body dysphoric a is like removing the lower ribs from an anorexic. This is madness. Too many people are profiting from this industry to care one bit about ethics. I predict that one day, people will look back on this era and think of it as McCarthyism. I predict that “sex change surgeries” will ultimately be considered as barbaric and cruel as lobotomies.

    • S.A.A

      I’m sorry for your lack of education and ensuing prejudice you express towards the trans community.

      Gender dysphoria is not body dysmorphia. It has been shown for over half a century that transition is the only viable solution for people suffering from it, not mental health therapy.

      Yes we boycotted Womyn’s Michigan Festival. They banned trans women, welcomed trans men and demonstrably showed a lack of understanding, acceptance, and tolerance for the trans community.

      There are many happily married couples where one partner is trans and the other cis. Your argument holds as little water as a sieve, or one claiming homosexual couples wouldn’t ever want to start a family.

      As for your comments regarding children and them being allowed to transition I dearly wish I had been able to do so. If I had transitioned pre-puberty I would not consider myself a lucky survivor of numerous suicide attempts, but rather a blessed person who never felt the need to try.

      You promote a message and belief that condemns trans youth to a life of social ostracism, increased risk of suicide, depression, and , homelessness by telling them they are predatory pretenders who shouldn’t seek equality, compassion, or acceptance from society.

    • Deb Gee

      “The “Ts” WERE Stonewall. There would BE no “Pridefest” without trans folks” Gosh you guys like to re write history, her story, lesbian story and now gay story. You have done so little yourselves you appropriate MY sex – Woman, you appropriate MY sexuality – Lesbian, and now you want to appropriate the Stonewall. DO something for yourselves, stop glomming on to everyone else. Have your Mock and Jenner and go away.

  • Jummy

    If you’re not familiar with the history of LGB rights, the thing you have to know about the decision to ban Ben Shalom from the Milwaukee Pride event because trangendereds complained is approximately equal to banning Jesse Jackson from an MLK Day parade for not recognizing Rachel Dolezal as black.

    • S.A.A

      No it’s approximately equal to banning (not asking them to be a grand marshal representing all LGBTQA) them for hate speech against bisexuals.

  • Joy Green

    I am a transgender woman and I am lesbian so if the L leaves LBGT then what happens to people like me? Where is your kindness miss Ben-Shalom?

      • Joy Green

        My genitalia is none of you business, you attacking people you don’t know is proof you cannot think very well and finally, you should consider hate management treatments because you seem to be having an episode at this very moment. Please find peace Anita

      • KendraChelsea

        You are the kind of people that makes me LOVE my state…you are the kind of people that pushed and pushed until we pushed back and now. Me, a trans girl, with my new name, new drivers license and new BIRTH CERTIFICATE proudly stating FEMALE allows me to, no FORCES me to use the women’s room in these back-woods states that are pushing hard religious right bathroom agenda. And thanks to you, my original birth records are SEALED…and get this, this is the best part…the ONLY way any state, anywhere can keep me out of the ladies room is if they begin genital inspections on EVERYONE that enters. So even though your comment showed a complete lack of education you have helped US more than than any one group could so please continue…..oh and thank you

  • Emmett Kelly

    Last time I checked, lewd and lascivious behavior, sexual assault, child abuse, rape, and kidnapping were serious felonies. We have stringent laws against all of these things. If someone is going to violate these laws by going after a woman or a child, why would they pay attention to a misdemeanor bathroom bill? Or if a trans bathroom bill will keep women and children safe, why don’t those other laws protect as well?

    Terfs like Ben Shalom are petrified of trans rights because that would prove that there are differences between men and women. That evidence would destroy many of the inherent beliefs that drive folks like Ben Shalom in their feminist efforts.

  • Crystalia Beaumont

    “But it’s Ben-Shalom’s position on restrooms that has her most at odds with LGBT leaders. “If trans women were really women, they would get it!” Ben-Shalom said. She insists she is not “transphobic,” as Pride Parade officials have suggested — just protective of spaces reserved for women who were born women. “My concern is not with transgender people,” she said. “My concern is with the pretenders.”

    @Miriam Ben-Shalom It is you who does not get it. NONE of us, not a single one, wants a predator getting into the bathroom–men’s OR women’s, a distinction transphobes often ignore; yes, perverts use the men’s room with men and little boys in harm’s way, too, where is the outrage about that?–and hurting people. You seem to have failed to even look at the statistics showing that where laws protect trans people’s usage of their appropriate bathrooms, assaults in bathrooms have not ticked upward in those jurisdictions in the slightest. You also seem to have failed a basic point of morality that you don’t punish the innocent (in this case, trans people) to get at the guilty. Feminism that disregards fact, or excludes trans women, is neither radical, nor feminism. You’ve done many great things for the LGB communities, but you are actively trying to harm the trans community, and I can think of nothing more transphobic than such an agenda, short of actually advocating our slaughter, and believe me this comes close. Trans people are being slaughtered regularly, and comments like yours serve to fuel that fire. Please stop

  • Trans Sisters United

    How far can stupidity go? Are there no limits? For example this:

    “Kremer introduced a bill that would’ve required Wisconsin schoolchildren to use the bathroom that matches the sex they were assigned at birth”……
    BECAUSE PREDATORS are law-abiding persons who follow laws? Of course the only targets with “birth-assigned sex” and restroom access are, well, trans school children.

    Why do most anti-trans “real” women appear as “real” men….only to turn around and attack us for seeking to become “real” women to the xtent possible? Hypocrisy in full display….

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