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First Trans Day of Action draws 1,000

Published Jun 29, 2005 10:04 PM

Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Pride weekend in New York began June 24, with a militant rally and march lead by TransJustice of more than 1,000 people demanding rights for trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people and in solidarity with social and economic justice for all.

Marchers on the first ‘Trans Day of
Action’ in New York on June 24.

The first annual Trans Day of Action for Economic and Social Justice was endors ed by over 100 organizations and individuals, from as far away as Puerto Rico to Canada and San Francisco. The march was endorsed by the vast majority of national lesbian, gay, bi and trans organizations, as well as immigrant-rights, anti-police-brutality and racial-justice organizations.

TransJustice is a project of the Audre Lorde Project, a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit and trans people of color community organizing.

Imani Henry

Speakers and activists from the LGBT communities, as well as straight allies and activists, spoke of unity as key to victory in the struggle, connected the U.S. imperialist war on people of color around the world with the war on people of color and LGBT people at home, and expressed their commitment to continuing the struggle.

The opening rally was chaired by TransJustice Program Coordinator Imani Henry, who told the crowd: “Right now, in San Francisco, there are trans people and their allies marching in the streets. This coast-to-coast visibility and solidarity of many movements is what the powers that be fear the most.”

Jesse Lokahi

Henry said the fact that the march was held at all was a significant victory. The day before the event, police had informed the organizers, after weeks of negotiation, that they were denying them a permit to rally in Union Square.

Organizers spent the entire day fighting with the police, camped out at both the Parks Department and Sixth Precinct offices to ensure their right to march. Several New York City Council members, especially those of color, lent their support, calling the police and Parks Depart ment to demand permits be granted and charging them with discrimination. It wasn’t until 6 p.m. the night before that the cops conceded to the organizers’ demands and granted a permit.

March for trans justice
June 24.

Opening the rally was longtime African American activist Kira, who after experiencing brutality, mobilized trans women in the first struggle for trans people in the shelter system in the late 1990s. She told the crowd, “I’m living proof that you don’t have to have some sort of title to do something for the community.”

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner of the Metropolitan Com munity Church expres sed her gratitude for what the TGNC community did 36 years ago, by resisting police brutality at the Stonewall Inn, an event that sparked the modern LGBT movement. She said, “The trans community taught us all to be what we are looking for.” She further called for open immigration policies and open borders.

Desiree Gordon from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a leading force against police brutality and in defense of political prisoners in the United States, gave a powerful solidarity message. She said: “You don’t have to know me; I will defend you. We are committed to defending the human rights of our community; you are our community, and we are a part of yours. We are proud of the legacy of LGBT struggle.” She said that within her organization, they are in the process of rewriting their points of unity to include the fight against heterosexism and homophobia.

Moni Alam spoke for the South Asian organization Desis Rising Up and Moving. She also told the crowd: “As immigrants, our struggle is one. Together we will fight the criminalization of people of color, trans people and immigrants in jails. Together we will fight the REAL ID Act.”

Dean Spade of the Sylvia Rivera Law Pro ject described the significance of the day. He spoke of what it means to be marching together to say that we are a movement for social and economic justice: “Our well-being is connected to all. We want to start our work with those who are most vulnerable.” He rightly called out Washington’s “war on terror” as a war on immigrants, people of color and trans people, and said the movement must be in solidarity with those most visibly attacked.

Hyun Lee of CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, told the crowd: “The U.S. is building military bases around the world, they are confiscating land from indigenous people and forcing young girls into sweatshops. We so desperately need each other, so that together we can work for the righteous cause of justice.”

Larry Holmes of the Troops Out Now Coalition told everyone that the anti-war movement is in total solidarity with TGNC struggles, that there is no difference in the struggle to fight for LGBT rights and the struggle to stop the war, and that in solidarity we will win. He encouraged everyone to go to D.C. for the Sept. 24 mobilization against the war.

Rickke Mananzala of FIERCE!, a youth organization that recently called for a community cop watch in the West Village neighborhood, led the crowd in a chant from Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Many of the groups whose representatives spoke not only organized contingents to march, but also provided security, legal and logistical support, and mobilized within their own movements to bring people out to the event.

Other speakers included New York City Council person Margarita Lopez, LGBT Center Direc tor of Policy Miriam Yeung, Carrie Davis of the Gender Iden tity Project of the LGBT Center, Deba nuj Dasgupta of the Queer Immi grant Rights Pro ject, lesbian trans historian and activist Leslie Feinberg, and Dee Perez of GLOBE, the first LGBT group in the Brooklyn community of Bushwick.

The opening rally was followed by a militant march that went through the meatpacking district, where historically thousands of arrests of trans women have taken place; to St. Vincent’s Hospital, which budget cuts threaten to close; and across 14th Street to finally arrive at Union Square, the historic site of a number of labor rallies throughout the last century.

At the end of the rally, the buzz at Union Square plaza from many of the participants was that they had not experienced such a diverse movement come together before, and that they were excited about the potential for organizing for next year’s Trans Day of Action.