The Transgender Equality Rally hosted by OUT Memphis began with a moment of silence for the transgender men and women who have already been murdered in 2017, but it ended with a great noise into the world of purpose. Gathered on the greensward in Overton Park in Memphis, TN last Thursday, people from all walks of life came together with one purpose on their minds; Solidarity with their Trans siblings.
Not counting those who have died since the rally on Thursday, these names are the first seven Trans lives lost in the year 2017:
- Mesha Caldwell (MS)
- Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow (SD)
- Jojo Stike (OH)
- Tiara Richmond (IL)
- Jaquarrius Holland (LA)
- Chyna Dupree (LA)
- Ciara McElveen (LA)
I spoke with quite a few attendees present at the Transgender Equality Rally and the general consensus was that Trans youth were of the utmost importance in this battle for protections. Kayla Gore, Transgender Services Specialist at OUT Memphis, an organizer of this event and a Trans woman of color said, “The purpose of this event is showing support for our Trans youth in the area and around the South and to show them they are a part of this community. A part of the LGBT community.”
Tami Montgomery, owner of local LGBT hotspot Dru’s Place was there early to help with the lighting and had this to say as to why this event was important to her, “We have to be here and stand up to support our community and the youth in our community especially because they are the future men and women who will be leading this community one day. And we need to send a message to our lawmakers that we all derserve protections and to simply be treated as equals and left alone.”
Attendees were people of all types– straight white men stood next to Trans women of color and teenage Trans boys stood hand in hand with cisgender straight girls as the crowd listened to voice after voice stand at the mic asking for one thing- to no longer stand for the systemic oppression that allows Trans people to be treated less than human, to stop the murders and politically sanctioned discrimination.
The speakers ranged from white cisgender men and gay nuns to Renee Taylor from Official Black Lives Matter Memphis chapter and a representative from Planned Parenthood who said the organization would be working closely with OUT Memphis to determine how their organization can better serve the Trans POC community.
One person we spoke with while waiting for the rally to begin was Barb Hope, a Trans woman in her 60’s living in the Memphis area, “This isn’t about the fact that I am Trans or anything like that. It is about allowing people to live their lives without persecution or harassment. That those children should not live in fear of what may happen if they need to use the bathroom.” , Barb continued, “People tell me how brave I am to have come out so late in life and have transitioned. How I see it is that the brave part was surviving for the past 60 years so that I could live in a time when I am allowed to be myself and transition. That is something that our lawmakers or the new president should not be allowed to take away from these young people.”
Barb was referencing the latest in a series of executive orders being written by Trump, one in particular that repealed President Obama’s executive order that schools and universities allow Trans students to use the bathroom of their corresponding gender identity. In turn, here in the state of Tennessee lawmakers have sought to reinstate a bill that would require all students to use the restroom of their “biological gender”, a move that would be devasting to Trans youth all over the country. These moments were both a catalyst that brought the Transgender Equality Rally to reality.
Ellyahna Hall, a Trans woman of color and lifelong Memphian who spoke at the Transgender Equality Rally said, “We are here today to highlight the ongoing oppression and to let our lawmakers know that we will no longer allow them to scapegoat us. We know they are using our freedom as a distraction from the terrible things they do behind closed doors. It is the time we bring to light the truth of who Transgender people are so that the world will know who the real enemy is here.”