We will not be erased: A rally for Transgender Rights

Hundreds of people gathered on the south lawn of the Rhode Island State House in defiance of a Trump Administration plan to erase the identities of transgender people nationwide and impose a binary gender identity to be  determined by genetic testing and genitalia present at birth. In Rhode Island, people who identify as transgender, gender diverse, and/or intersex have fairly decent state protections. These state-level protections are vitally important should federal protections disappear.

The rally served as a strong rebuke to Trump from Rhode Island’s LGBTQI community and their allies: We will not be erased.

Below is all the video from the rally:

The rally began with three songs from singer/songwriter Jackie Rae.

More music, a cover of Miguel‘s “Now” by Lavi Batista.

“On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn into office,” said rally organizer Cam Jenkins. “Two hours later his administration had removed all mention of LGBTQ people and their rights from the Whitehouse.gov website. The LGBTQ community has been under attack ever since.”

Justice Gaines delivered a powerful poem that I can not do justice to by selectively quoting it.

The Trump administration, is seeking to change the way the Federal Government sees people. A memo says that “sex means a person’s status as male of female, based on immutable, unchangeable biological traits identifiable by or before birth, specifically a person’s genitalia, confirmed by chromosomal testing” said Ethan Huckle from the TGI Network of Rhode Island. “No we all know that conflating sex and gender is factually inaccurate and that this reference to chromosomal testing reflects less than a middle school understanding of science. But I am concerned less with those details than I am with the spirit of the memo.

“Don’t be mistaken. This memo reflects and intention to exclude trans people from legal protection or recourse against discrimination.”

“Just last week, seven days ago, we lost 11 people from this world in an act of violence that was essentially state sponsored terrorism by the white men who so often think that they can play God. That they can choose who lives and who dies. That they can choose who is a man and who is a woman and who is who and who you are,” said Noraa Kaplan, organizer of the Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives rally that immediately followed this rally.

“When you think about voting, you have to think about human rights,” said TC Rogers board chair for Options Magazine. “And you have to think about nothing other than human rights. And you have to tell your friends, your family and the politicians that nothing is more important than that the human rights of the most marginalized people of this nation are served.”

“I’m honored to be here today as a teacher, and a Jew, and a lesbian, and a proud mom,” said Tamara Paull. “On behalf of my shy but fierce wife and myself, I want to share my family’s story with all of you., and to tell our seven-year-old twins, and my students, and all trans, gender diverse, queer and fabulous people here: You are loved and you will never be erased…”

“The trans community is under attack,” said Chloe Savage, representing the trans artist community. “We as a community have so much fear already. Us trans women of color have to worry about being at such a high risk of being murdered just for walking down the street and living as ourselves…”

“We won’t be erased. Indigenous people will not be erased. Indigenous trans people will not be erased. Black trans people will not be erased. Disabled trans people will not be erased. Trans people living with HIV will not be erased. Transgender immigrants, won’t be erased. People of color will never be erased,” said Payton-James Osborne in a call-and-response with the crowd. “All transgender people will not be erased as long as we all fight for the rights of transgender people together.”

“i am afraid. But now, more than ever, I am angry. And I am kicking down the closet door from the inside to tell you that we need to be loud. And we need to scream until 45 is out of office. And we need to scream until we are understood and we are heard!” said Ben Felag, an ambassador from Project Fearless. “We are going to scream until we get the respect that we deserve.”

“I’ve been out for a year, but I’ve been transgender my entire life,” said Mitch Bertolino, an ambassador at Project Fearless. “.It’s a very boxed in experience. It’s almost like you’re in this cage, but there’s no way to get out of the cage. You just have to live with it… ”

“I’m trans. I’m here. I’m queer and I’m going nowhere,” said Reverend Donnie Anderson of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. “I need to tell you, after 69 years of confusion, and dysphoria and shame, no one is going to erase me.”

“The most vulnerable amongst us are our youth. The most vulnerable amongst us are those who are marginalized before they ever realize who they are,” said Paul Tavarez, representing Queer Transformative Roots as part of the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM). “That silencing does not go away simply because young people are still alive and grow up. It matures with us. It grows with us. And that abuse leads to murder when we forget how to love.”

“I’m Tati, one of those queer, gay, Latinx youth that Paul was talking about that has faced homelessness, goes to organizations to eat… you know how that goes.

“The best feeling of my youth has been walking into YPI (Youth Pride Incorporated), watching people who come in in graphic tees and jeans, go to the bathroom, the glittery, beautiful bathroom, and come out in the most sparkly heels and bougie dress you can see, and feel the most acceptance and love from the people there who tell us that we’re great and destined to be something beautiful…”

“We are fighting for ‘Yes on 3,'” said Amy Hogarth, who works at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network,  “It’s a ballot question, in Massachusetts. We are in a hard fight for the simple rights of transgender folks. This is a popular vote on human rights – which makes no sense at all – and asks us to remove protections for trans and gender non-conforming people. It’s trying to remove protections in all public spaces.”

“My child was born a she and is now a he,” said Alyssa Coulter-Berkowitz. “His personality has changed, just his gender, which affects no one. it just let’s him be more of who he is.”

“The sad reality is that we still have a long road ahead of us,”  said Kaiden Ramsey. “There are still 21 states where discrimination against trans individuals is still legal – that you can still be fired, denied health care and other opportunities strictly because of who you are as a human…”

“The right to vote is one that we cannot take lightly,” said Ryley Ruben. “Not voting is not an act of protest. it is an act of stupidity and I dare you to tell me otherwise.”

“All of our struggles for freedom are connected,” said K Martinez. “Those of us who are here today, please think about those who are traveling right now in this ‘caravan’ as 45 has mobilized troops to the border. There are trans folks in that caravan. We are all seeking freedom we are all seeking justice. We can’t be here thinking about trans lives if we are not thinking about them too.”

As the rally began to allow people access to an open mic, I had to leave to get to Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives at the Providence City Hall.


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About Steve Ahlquist 627 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. I agree with Jodi about the wonderful coverage and wonderful advocates at this rally and I want to call attention to two comments among the many – first that “all our struggles for freedom are connected” – a point also made at the rally against anti-Semitism that Steve amazingly also posted about, and, “not voting is an act of stupidity.” With regard to the latter, I’ve heard too often that “voting doesn’t matter” or “all politicians are crooks” or “the two parties are the same” – that is wrong and they are attitudes promoted by those who like the status quo. For progressives to throw away their vote is what is desired by the bigots, the polluters, the greediest of the 1%, it is to turn your back on the trans community, on immigrants, on labor, on civil rights, on reproductive freedom, on the environment…. all under attack from the Trump regime and their local allies. So please vote!

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