November 27, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

New Documentary Pays Tribute to Transgender ‘AIDS diva’ Connie Norman

A new documentary titled “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman,” will pay tribute to the transgender leader in AIDS activism 25 years after her death. 

Connie Norman was a local LA activist who worked tirelessly to make a difference for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and stigmatized for having the disease. 

“AIDS Diva” was a title Norman, a transgender woman and ex-sex worker who overcame addiction and abuse to become a leader in ACT UP L.A. in the late 1980s, gave herself. It was a hint at the warm, humorous woman behind the forceful activist who got arrested, went on hunger strikes and carried a bullhorn like it was an extension of her hand.

Directed by Dante Alencastre who has documented the experiences of other transgender women, including youth activist Zoey Luna, TransLatin@ Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo and the trans community in Lima, Peru spoke about Norman saying, 

“She had a life experience of oppression and also overcoming all those obstacles—living on the streets, addiction, sex work.”  Alencastre continued, “When she came to ACT UP… she found a family, a family that looked up to her because she made sure she was schooling everybody… She was really a pioneer, supporting and making sure that her siblings and her children would be taken care of properly, as a proud trans woman living with HIV herself.”

Beginning in the late 1980s, Norman led protests to demand greater funding for HIV research and treatment, an uncompromising campaign that sometimes got her arrested at public protests and removed from meetings where local and state officials discussed—or avoided discussing—the urgent issue.

Norman became a particularly effective public speaker and debater who was not afraid to engage with conservative or anti-LGBT audiences.

“I think we need to get pissed off,” Norman says in an archival interview in the film. “And then once we really understand that that anger is justified, we’ll go out and find our own channels for it.”

Inspired to action in the face of apathy and denial, Norman raised her voice in protest both for her fellow HIV+ community members, and as an early, lively voice for trans rights. Through unforgettable footage of Norman, and interviews with her contemporaries, “AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman ”, cements her name as a true legend in LGBTQIA+ history. 

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