A few weeks ago, the very first National Trans Visibility March was held in Washington, D.C. As described in their call to action, the purpose of the march was to bring attention to “the social structures that have oppressed us and disenfranchised our communities.”
Thanks to the One Orlando Alliance and generous sponsors, about 50 transgender people, including myself and a few allies, made the road trip to our nation’s capital to participate. It was without a doubt a profound and inspiring experience for all of us who went, but perhaps not as successful in making our issues more “visible” to the cisgender, queer community.
On the long bus ride north, I reflected on how I had come to learn of the trans march during the Stonewall 50 Commemoration Rally at World Pride in New York City back in June. At one point during the innumerable speeches, I heard distant shouting down a side street and got nervous it might be anti-LGBTQ protestors looking to disrupt the rally in these contentious times. I looked around to see if anybody else was concerned, but most everyone seemed intent on ignoring the noise.
It was then that a group of transgender people, fists in the air and carrying a very large banner between them announcing the trans march in D.C., broke through the crowd. They held station directly in front of the stage, completely blocking our view, but the speakers continued on as if nothing was happening. In an ironic twist, throughout the program, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were praised as transgender Stonewall pioneers, but no one acknowledged the living examples of transgender women of color protesting at Stonewall in the present; not even when they left and came back later. No one mentioned the National Trans Visibility March. They might as well have been invisible.
In retrospect, I can think of no better analogy for how many transgender people feel the rest of the queer community regards our little corner of the LGBTQ. That is we are noisy and annoying, but if we are ignored we will go away; presumably, along with our problems. Overall, I don’t think that is true, but it does have a disturbing kernel of truth. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by trans people that the news of trans women being murdered doesn’t inspire nearly as much of an outcry as stories of gay men attacked at South Beach Pride or lesbians attacked on busses in the U.K. They are all awful and deserve attention, but that isn’t happening equally.
Indeed, despite the attempts at in-your-face marketing at Stonewall 50, attendance at the National Trans Visibility March by cisgender allies wasn’t exactly overwhelming. With estimates of between 1,500- 3,000 people, I’ve seen much larger turnouts at Lake Eola. Still, it was a respectable first showing and more than made up for quantity with quality and sheer star power including speakers Geena Rocero, the recently named first transgender Playboy Playmate in history, and Angelica Ross of “Pose” fame. I even managed to grab a quick selfie with an incognito Carmen Carrera.
However, as amazing as those moments were, it was the address by Alphonso David, the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, which made the 27-hour roundtrip bus ride worth it. He made a point to acknowledge how the cisgender queer community needed to do more when he said, “We have to stand up for the transgender community and stand up for them as if they are our family because you are our families.” The unspoken reality being that isn’t happening enough. It was nice to hear that acknowledged out loud by a cisgender gay man instead of in cynical conversations between trans people. Of course, he also announced a trans justice initiative that didn’t seem to have any input from trans community leaders, dozens of whom signed an open letter to HRC admonishing David to listen to trans people and to stop the co-option of a trans liberation movement that predates HRC. Yet again, we were being “annoying” by insisting our voices be heard. Clearly, a lot of healing work needs to be done.
It seems that most of my columns can be distilled to “cisgender gay people, stop being terrible to trans people,” which hurts my soul because I am trans and a lesbian. I love being both, but as a friend once told me, the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference, and too often I feel that from the gay community I also call home. Trans people shouldn’t need to carry “We Are Dying” and “Do Something” signs at the LGBTQ Democratic debate. Itali Marlowe, the 21st trans person to be murdered so far this year, should be a household name to all LGBTQ people and motivate a crisis response, instead of being met with the apathy Republicans usually reserve for climate change evidence or presidential treason. And I shouldn’t need to keep writing columns like this one.
Until that day happens, expect transgender people to keep grabbing the mic and speaking truth to power whether it is Sylvia Rivera in 1973 at the Christopher Street rally or Blossom Brown in 2019 at the CNN town hall. We won’t be ignored and we won’t be silenced.
Melody Maia Monet has her own YouTube channel where she answers lesbian and transgender life questions you are afraid to ask. You can find it at YouTube.com/MelodyMaia.