Rallying against anti-LGBT violence

August 4, 2009

NEW YORK--Nearly 100 people gathered July 26 in Jackson Heights to rally against recent attacks on two transgender women, Leslie Mora and Carmella Etienne.

The crowd was diverse--ranging from older veterans of civil right movements to young students joining out of hopes for a better future--but no matter what their background, they gathered because they knew something had to be done.

"It is unconscionable that transgender New Yorkers are being attacked on the streets where they live," said Brendan Fay, a LGBT civil rights activist and organizer of the rally.

On June 19, Leslie Mora was repeatedly beaten with belt buckles, which left her with gashes on her head and multiple bruises on her body. Almost exactly three weeks later, on July 8, Carmella Etienne was attacked. Her offenders beat her with bottles and rocks while threatening to cut her throat. She was left half-naked and bleeding on the sidewalk.

"Transgender people are in every community, including Jackson Heights, which has a reputation of being a welcoming, inclusive and diverse place," said Fay. "They deserve equal rights and respect...We had to do something. We can't be silent when our transgender sisters are being beaten up on our streets."

Homophobic and transphobic politicians, laws and policies implemented at the top create a climate and political grounds for such hate crimes. It's no coincidence that during one of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression, we are seeing a spike in discriminatory crimes.

Politicians who spout transphobic and homophobic ideas about issues such as gay marriage and transgender rights are trying to distract people from the real problems in our society--leaving the true perpetrators without blame and the victims of such crimes as the scapegoats.

Rally organizers called for people to get out into the streets and to let their voices be heard. Many speakers called for the passage of Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) as one step forward for ending discrimination and giving transgender people equal rights. While most of the fight for GENDA has been lobbying Congress, this rally showed the potential for a mass movement for transgender rights.

We must demand real change, not only for the here and now but also for a better more human society with real sexual and gender freedom and liberation.

The rally was sponsored by Anti-Violence Project, Dignity NY, Integrity NYC, Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Make the Road NY, Metropolitan Community Church NY, Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC, New York Trans Rights Organization, the International Socialist Organization, Queens Pride House, Campaign to Stop the False Arrests, St. Pats for All, Civil Marriage Trail and Proud Righteous Youth Demanding Equality.

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