Flags Held High, Trans Activists and Allies Hit the Streets

This article was originally published here

Rallies took place in cities and towns across the country in recognition of the 14th annual International Transgender Day of Visibility amid escalating attacks on the trans community’s civil rights by right-wing politicians.

At more than 100 rallies held March 31 in Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and many other locations, trans Americans and their allies took the opportunity to push back against an increasingly toxic political environment.

Several hundred demonstrators in Manhattan marched from Union Square to Washington Square Park Friday evening, calling attention to the rising hate aimed at the trans community and demanding equality and change.

“We deserve better. We deserve to live our best life,” said attendee Noah Bornheimer. “We should live how we feel because we know ourselves best, and if people can’t accept that, then fuck them.”

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia have all passed restrictions or bans on gender-affirming care for minors. While federal judges have prevented enforcement of new laws in Alabama and Arkansas for now, 21 more states are considering additional bills to restrict or ban care, with some even considering restrictions on adult care.

International Transgender Day of Visibility was started in 2009 by activist Rachel Crandall, who led the advocacy organization Transgender Michigan at the time, and the day has been marked in more places every year since. In 2021, Joe Biden was the first president to issue a proclamation recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility.

Biden on Friday issued a statement commemorating the day and supporting the trans community in the face of the wave of anti-trans legislation, criticizing “MAGA extremists” for “advancing hundreds of hateful and extreme state laws that target transgender kids and their families.”

“These attacks are un-American and must end. The bullying, discrimination, and political attacks that trans kids face have exacerbated our national mental health crisis,” Biden said. “My Administration will never quit fighting to end discrimination, to stand against these unjust state laws, and to guarantee everyone the fundamental right and freedom to be who they are.”

Even with this measure of support from the White House, the threat to the trans community posted by right-wing legislation remains, and many attendees at the New York rally called out the bills being passed in other states.

Attendee Finley Rodriguez said that as someone receiving gender-affirming care, he feels fortunate to be in New York, where access is not being made more difficult, but he knows the situation is dire for trans people elsewhere.

“We are privileged to be in New York,” Rodriguez said. “I have been on testosterone and gender-affirming care for two years now. I am very privileged that this state allows that, this state allows coverage for that, so we’re fighting for that for everyone around the country.”

Rodriguez said the attacks on gender-affirming care for trans people are all the more deeply personal to him because he has family ties in Florida, a state where trans people remain under attack.

“What is getting passed [in Florida] is that trans adults can’t get any sort of insurance coverage for their gender-affirming care, and without insurance coverage, testosterone, estrogen, top surgery, bottom surgery, all of the things that — even getting therapy, psychiatry, can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, and we need insurance coverage,” he said.

Rodriguez was referring to S.B. 952, called the Reverse Woke Act, a bill introduced in the Florida Senate “requiring employers that provide coverage of gender dysphoria treatment to also cover the full costs associated with treatment that reverses such gender dysphoria treatment,” even for someone no longer employed. The bill would also allow employees and former employees to sue to recover the costs of such care from the employer. While not an outright ban on insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for trans people, the bill, if passed, is likely to deter insurers from covering gender-affirming care.

Another attendee at the New York rally called attention to a threat faced by trans people since long before the current wave of legislation targeting the community: a lack of acceptance.

“I’ve been working with kids since a very young age, including working as an activity director at a youth center in Astoria, Queens, where I grew up,” said drag performer Bella Noche at the event. “And in my years working with those kids and now working with Drag Story Hour, I have seen how immensely important it is to protect and support our transgender youth. I have seen so many beautiful and creative souls struggle to blossom because of the lack [of] care they get from the worlds that they live in. I have seen many, many persevere. And sadly, I have seen some that don’t. And that loss to our community is immeasurable because everyone in our community should feel like they have someone to turn to for help and for love.”

Mina Rao, an organizer of the New York rally, said a key takeaway for those not in the trans community is the immense threat posed by recent bills.

“I think I would just want them to know that trans people are under attack all over the country and their rights are being threatened,” Rao said. “Their right to medical care and their right to being themselves is being threatened by legislators who are all cis.”

“It’s not acceptable, because trans people are people, too, and deserve medical care just like everyone else,” Rao added.

But even against the larger background of hate directed toward trans people, some at the New York rally were able to find a ray of positivity to focus on.

“Not only do we need to make a change, we need to get our names out — because we are here, we are queer, we’re not going anywhere,” said organizer Raven Benjamin. “As somebody who went so long without having people in my life that are like me, it’s so nice to, you know, walk around and look around and chat with people that have had the same experiences as you, that know what it’s like to be you.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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