Occupy Denver profile: Kerri Kellerman wants safer space for women & transgender occupiers
It takes a while for Kerri Kellerman to remember the last time she had health insurance, and she laughs before she answers: 1995.
It doesn't really matter, though. Outside of her life with Occupy Denver, the 38-year-old has not seen a doctor since 1992. Outside of the occupation, she hasn't needed to quite as often.
Although the knuckles of her hands are still healing from her occasional role as de facto security at Occupy Denver, they were softer when she got there. On October 9, her first official day at the occupation, Kellerman took a bus downtown and asked a handful of strangers where she could set up her embarrassingly small green tent. "Maybe over there will all those other tents," came the reply. Five days later, Kellerman was arrested when she locked arms in front of those tents. The day after that, she was arrested again. The story has become old hat by now, but the reasons behind it have not.
Yesterday, circumstances found her in the federal courtroom of Judge Robert Blackburn, where she spent her day on the second bench to the right in support of the occupation that was her home, on and off, until her realization that it was no longer safe for her to spend the night there. "I don't see Occupy Denver as a safe space for women anymore without the Thunderdome," says Kellerman, who's transgender. "(The general assembly) had to take a strategic vote to make women equal. If you have to do that, it's because they're not -- and there's no way to enforce it."
Kelsey Whipple. Kerri Kellerman was born in Seattle, holds a Virginia license and currently lives in Denver with a friend she met at the occupation.
At a slender six-foot-one, Kellerman's height makes her an easy target for frequent and rude comments targeted at her transgender identity. "It's what's inside my mind, not between my legs," Kellerman says. "Not that they will ever understand that." More than twenty years have passed since she gave up her birth name and adopted Kerri Faith as her legal replacement ("I like the irony that I'm a militant atheist and my middle name is Faith"), but not even three months have passed at Occupy Denver. Revolution can be a waiting game, she has learned.
"I think that if there's a revolution brewing, this is the awkward stage -- its painful, awkward birth," Kellerman says. "There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution, and there aren't a ton of fast ones, either. I don't stand up for people; I stand up for principles."
Kellerman, who is a middle child with two sisters and two brothers, still lives her life in the middle of things. At Occupy Denver, she is constantly a part of direct action (perhaps to the chagrin of her legal representation). This is related in large part to her central role at the Thunderdome, where she served coffee, tea and cocoa as its head barista. She has lived in an impressive number of states -- Virginia, California, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, Kansas -- and worked in the center of almost as many industries: retail, fast food, subcontracting, housecleaning. At one point in time, she owned a cleaning service. At another, she moved to California to start a (later unsuccessful) porn production company.
This past Saturday, she stood at the center of a political divide. Kellerman spent fifteen minutes arguing politics with a member of the Tea Party's protest across the street from Occupy Denver before ending the meeting with her approach to reality. "You look at a Chevy commercial, and you see people smiling and maybe an American flag in there somewhere, and you think that life is perfect," Kellerman says. "But real life is not a Chevy commercial. Some of us still haven't realized that."