Trans folks, gender non-conforming people, and cisgender supporters of trans equality banded together in an emboldened demonstration against recent attacks on trans rights on Oct. 29 in New York City. In a show of solidarity and camaraderie, various socialist groups in this city organized the action, as the newly formed coalition Rapid Feminist Response, to stand in support of trans people everywhere. “Trans liberation is everyone’s liberation” was the common theme throughout the demonstration.
The recent wave of rollbacks on civil rights and liberties has impacted trans people harshly, from Trump’s rollback of protection for trans students, to Jeff Sessions’ reversing protections against transgender discrimination in the workplace, to a recently leaked memo from the Department of Health attempting to define gender as a strictly, biological condition determined by genitalia at birth. These backward steps not only endanger the health and safety of trans and gender nonconforming people, they also seek to eliminate the mere existence and identity of trans people.
But the trans community of New York City made it very evident that trans people will not be erased. Gathering at the Flatiron Building, several hundred people then marched up Sixth Avenue, and finally entered Grand Central Station. Demonstrators of all genders chanted both in resistance and celebration of trans identity. Those who have felt silenced spoke at rallies at both sites. They included speakers from Trans Lifeline, International Women’s Strike, various socialist organizations, and a parent who spoke with her two gender non-conforming children on either side.
Celina, from the Party For Socialism and Liberation, spoke on her experiences with transphobic and misogynist cops and harassment by men on the street, and said she expects to live only to age 35, the average lifespan of trans women. “Trans rights, like the rights of others will be won in the streets,” Celina proclaimed proudly. “No one who is oppressed can be free while a few at the top exploit the work of the many.”
Oliver from TransLifeline, a support hotline by and for trans people, noted the sudden increase in calls to their hotline after each and every rollback of the already sparse protections for trans people.
Emily, a parent of three children, two of whom are gender non-conforming, detailed the humiliating experiences of having to defend their children’s gender identity in the courts. Emily called on all to support Senate Bill S502, which seeks to protect against discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Not only must we vote to provide material wins for trans people and all oppressed people, but we must fight and organize our community in the streets and in the workplace.
‘This is not a moment, this is a movement!’
What has seemed like defeat since Trump’s presidency was not felt at this demonstration. Celebration of trans resistance was the tone, and a deafening one too, as screams and chants echoed through the giant hall of Grand Central Station.
Many speakers tied the trans struggle to the Black struggle and to the anti-war struggle. There is no liberation until all people are free here in this country and abroad where countries are being destroyed by the U.S. war machine, some said. Other speakers voiced their fears, their anger, and their fury against Trump and this racist, sexist, transphobic system we live in known as capitalism.
They also voiced optimism that struggle and solidarity could protect their rights. Ruby, a high school organizer in the Bronx and ally, exclaimed, “This is not a moment, this is a movement! I do what I do [as an activist] to open the door to give someone the mic.” And she did just that as she handed off the mic after sharing a brief moment of solidarity with the trans community.
The demonstration proved the resilience and power of the trans community. Trans people have been among the warriors of every struggle, paving the way towards our collective liberation. The Republican Party wants to erase us, the Democratic Party only pretends to care. It is beyond evident that our government and our capitalist system has no interest in supporting our existence. We must carry the spirit from this rally forward, and fight alongside everyone in the struggle. To unite is to organize. Our liberation is tied together, and we must end violence against trans people and end this violent system collectively.
Rapid Feminist Response, which called and organized the demonstration, is a coalition composed of International Women’s Strike, Left Voice, Radical Women, Red Bloom, Socialist Action, International Socialist Organization, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Party of Liberation and Socialism.