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January 30th, 2008 Byron Beck | Queer Window
 

First Responder

The back story on a democratic badass.

     
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Willamette Week introduced readers last week to Laura Calvo, a transgendered woman who is the Multnomah County Democratic Party’s freshly elected treasurer (see “Trans-formational Politics,” WW , Jan. 23, 2008).

Her new role is one more first in a long list of firsts for Calvo as a willing representative of the trans community. But Calvo hasn’t only been on the forefront of trans culture. Like a female Forrest Gump, Calvo, 51, has also been on the front lines of history.

As one of San Francisco’s youngest (at that time male) paramedics in the 1970s, Calvo was a first responder to major moments in the city’s history: As an EMT, she was one of the first medics on scene during the ’75 assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford, she also witnessed the brutality of the Golden Dragon restaurant massacre (where five were killed in ’77), and she was there for the assassinations in ’78 of Mayor George Moscone and County Supervisor Harvey Milk.

In the ’80s, she served as a field medic in a Marine Corps unit in California. Through the ’90s, she saved lives as a Southern Oregon sheriff’s deputy by pulling accident victims from burning cars, delivering babies alongside the highway and disarming a man intent on harming himself.

“I’ve seen some pretty scary stuff,” says Calvo. “But you do what you are trained to do in any given situation and think about what it all means later.” While her story is the stuff of movies—action-packed superhero movies—don’t call Calvo a hero. In fact, she says she was just doing her job.

I met Calvo—who fully transitioned to womanhood in ’04—last spring in Salem when she testified in support of Senate Bill 2, which forbids employers to discriminate based on sexuality or gender identity.

She said then that she believes “in the ideal that every citizen, regardless of who they are, is entitled to the same rights, privileges and lawful protections.” That’s a very matter-of-fact conclusion that I think stems from the cool head required of “first responders.” I believe Calvo’s past will suit her well as she enters the fairly strait-laced world of politics. I can’t help but think she is the right person to teach everybody she deals with what it’s like to be discriminated against both in and out of the workplace.

“I believe in public service, I’ve been in it all my life,” says Calvo. “There is really no difference between what I did in San Francisco as a paramedic and as a police officer in Southern Oregon to what I’m doing now. It was the right thing to do then. It’s the right thing to do now. It’s just a different role. The issue of being trans is a non-issue to me in this situation. I’m just pitching in and doing what I’ve always done—my job.”


SEE IT: While the anti-discrimination bill took effect Jan. 1, a domestic partnership bill also passed last year by the Legislature was put on hold by a federal judge until a Feb. 1 hearing. Basic Rights Oregon is sponsoring a rally to protest that delay at Terry Schrunk Plaza, Southwest 3rd Avenue and Madison Street. 5:30 pm Wednesday, Jan. 30. Free.
 
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