The trans community protests Trump’s assault

November 1, 2018

The Trump administration’s leaked memo targeting transgender rights provoked a flurry of rallies and protests. Socialist Worker rounds up reports from across the country.

IN THE wake of the Trump administration’s leaked memo outlining plans to roll back legal recognition of transgender people and undo years of hard-won civil rights, people across the U.S. took to the streets to express their outrage and their solidarity with the trans community.

The Department of Health and Human Services memo revealed that the Trump administration is looking to reverse the trend toward recognizing gender as a matter of individual choice, as distinct from an individual’s sex assigned at birth. Instead, the agency is seeking to impose a rigid classification system that defines everyone as either male or female based on the genitals they have at birth.

In response, networks of trans activists and those in solidarity with them organized a series of protests and actions across the country on very short notice.

In Minneapolis/St. Paul, between 4,000 and 5,000 people poured into the streets, at one point forming an unbroken chain of humanity from Chicago Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis to Marshall and Otis Avenues in St. Paul.

Protesters hit the streets of San Diego for trans liberation
Protesters hit the streets of San Diego for trans liberation (San Diego LGBT Community Center | Facebook)

The idea for an action evolved out of a conversation among a handful of trans activists and friends who felt helpless about yet another threat from the Trump administration but determined to do something to address that feeling.

“We all got together and talked it out and planned it in my living room,” explained Billy Eloy, one of the event organizers. “We had all done different kinds of organizing and actions in the past, but this was the first of this type for all of us.” Eloy continued:

We were all trans folks — half of us trans folks of color, half young folks, and one cis woman who’s a badass ally. We had a sense of urgency not only because we only had five days to organize it, but because our trans, gender-expansive and intersex community needed something. We all needed to do something, and we all needed to be together and not feel alone right now. That feeling of being alone in all of this is deadly — like, actually deadly...

We had so many folks help with some many different aspects of the action. It was something I’ve never seen before. I’m so thankful, and the turnout was beyond anything we could have asked for. When the idea came up, we thought it was a nice idea to want to connect the cities in this line of love, but we didn’t think it was likely to happen. We were going to be happy if folks filled a couple blocks and at least those people got to get together...

When the core crew of organizers debriefed afterwards, it was pretty emotional. I know I had to take a break between the action and openly weep for about 45 minutes. For real, the overwhelming joy of it all hit many of us pretty hard. I think I’d just gotten so used to getting beaten down by this administration that I forgot for a bit how utterly amazing and supporting the community we have here is.

In Boston, about 1,200 mobilized against the Trump administration memo — by far the largest rally for trans rights in Boston’s history. Many at the rally took the opportunity to address Massachusetts Question 3, a referendum on the ballot next week that could rescind a law passed in 2016 barring discrimination against trans people in public accommodations if the “no” vote wins.

A few individuals issued the initial call for the rally, which quickly attracted a bunch of co-sponsors, including the Yes on 3 campaign. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey gave speeches, along with a long list of local trans activists.

When a group of about 10 far-right counterprotesters showed up, anti-fascists at the rally mobilized about 150 people to surround them, and eventually pushed them out of the rally, chanting, “We’re trans, we’re queer, Nazis are not welcome here” and “Trans rights now, Nazis go home!”

Endorsers included Pride at Work Eastern MA, Yes on 3/Freedom Massachusetts, Bay State Stonewall Democrats, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Boston Democratic Socialists of America, MassEquality, National Center for Transgender Equality, Trans Lifeline, and Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth.

In San Diego, about 500 people gathered downtown for an October 27 #Won’tBeErased protest at the County Administration Center in defiance of the Trump administration’s anti-trans memo.

The event — organized by members of the Trans Youth Project, Trans Pride San Diego, the LGBT Community Center and San Diego Pride — halted downtown traffic with a spirited and unexpectedly large crowd before marching back to Waterfront Park to cheer on an incredibly diverse series of speakers and leaders, ranging from high school students, to up-and-coming trans actors, to seasoned activists.

One after another, those who took the mic shared deeply personal stories about coming out and finding their community, tying heart-wrenching stories of homelessness, assault, job discrimination and family abuse to structural political issues like the need for universal access to housing, health care and protections for workers.

One longtime trans activist encouraged people to show solidarity with their trans neighbors not only by fighting for their liberation but also by extending simple expressions of support and acceptance. Another speaker expressed gratitude that they had the language to identify as non-binary while still in high school and vowed to fight to keep the same option open to future generations.

Another gave a speech that after a few introductory remarks contained this chilling admission: “If I had been forced to live as a woman, I wouldn’t be alive right now.”

ISO member Amy Arreaga delivered a full-throated condemnation of the capitalist roots of LGBT oppression — landlords getting richer while empty homes and homeless people multiply — and the need to fight for health care, bodily autonomy, open borders and justice for workers.

Skye Elizabeth with the Trans Youth Project said her fellow organizers made sure to center “the voices of more folks of color, more radical views, and more young people” in order to proactively open their own organizations to more voices. As a radical first introduced to social-justice organizing through small, local actions, she urged young and inexperienced activists to “just start talking to people, ask them what’s relevant and what’s happening in their communities.”

After the protest, several protesters walked the handful of blocks to the Westin San Diego Gaslamp to picket alongside UNITE HERE Local 30 workers as they continue their nationwide strike against Marriott.

In New York City, the ISO participated in an October 29 rally and march for transgender rights organized by Feminist Rapid Response, an ad-hoc coalition formed around the anti-Kavanaugh protests that sprung up several weeks ago. The event was organized by the ISO, along with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), Left Voice, International Women’s Strike and Red Bloom.

The rally in Madison Square Park began with speakers from the above groups as well as invited speakers from the Audre Lorde Project and the Trans Oral History Project. PSL chaired the speak-outs; the ISO and DSA marshaled.

The crowd then marched to Grand Central Station, accompanied by a heavy police presence aimed at keeping the marchers from spilling into the streets, which happened momentarily anyway.

People on their way home from work seemed interested and supportive, and a handful of people seemed to join the march, which numbered around 500 at its peak. Favorite chants included, “We’re trans, we’re queer, we’re socialists, don’t fuck with us” and “Trans liberation, fuck assimilation!”

At Grand Central, there was another speak-out, including this powerful speech by ISO member Fainan Lakha.

Amanda Achin, Katie Fustich, Alexander Wells and Elizabeth Wrigley-Field contributed to this article.

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