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March for transgender rights and liberation makes history in Chicago
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by Bronson Pettitt and Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2017-03-04

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In what organizers called "one of the largest and most diverse mobilizations for trans equality and equity to ever take place in the Midwest," well over 1,000 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals gathered alongside cisgender allies March 3 for the Trans March for Liberation in downtown Chicago.

Beginning with a rally set against the backdrop of Trump Tower at Wacker and Wabash, the freezing temperatures did little discourage a historic turnout of transgender and gender nonconforming activists representing the Black, Latinx, Two Spirit, Muslim and white communities joined in solidarity to protest discrimination and violence against trans people and to fight for equal rights.

There was also a strong contingent of sex workers demanding an end to the criminalization of the profession.

The emotionally charged rally was hosted by organizers and Trans Liberation Collective members Stephanie Skora, Jacob Milhouse Record and LaSaia Wade.

Skora recognized the eight trans and gender nonconforming individuals who have been murdered in the United States in 2017 Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Jojo Striker, Jaquarrius Holland, Keke Collier, Chyna Doll Dupree, Ciara McElveen, and Sean Hake.

Collier, AKA Tiara Richmond was gunned down in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Englewood Feb 21 and became the second trans woman of color to be killed in the city in as many years following the slaying of T.T. Saffore on the West Side in 2016—a crime that still remains unsolved.

Hake was killed by police officers in his Pennsylvania home on Jan. 6.

"We say their names now, tonight and in perpetuity as we fight for the liberation of all trans people," Skora said. "This direct attack on our trans siblings will not go unanswered. We will take to the streets and loudly, proudly and fiercely make our voices heard as we struggle for our own liberation and the liberation of all oppressed peoples."

There was a deafening roar of anger as Skora gestured behind her towards Trump Tower.

On Feb. 22, Trump's administration revoked federal guidelines extending Title IX protections to transgender students causing a national outcry which was echoed by rally attendees who promised community-wide protection for trans youth.

"[We] decry the heinous actions of the Presidential Administration in targeting trans students, who are some of the most vulnerable members of our community," Skora said. "We will not be hoodwinked by propaganda and other falsehoods; trans people know that 45's directive to the Department of Justice and the Department of Education does not change the reality of our rights under the law."

However, Skora also asserted that "the laws of the United States are not intended to protect us. They were created and supported by a government that continues to condemn trans people to poverty, homelessness, death and violence."

In a repeat of the demands read at the October, 2016 rally for slain transgender woman of color T.T. Saffore, activist and DAB of Consulting Director Xavier D. MaatRa called for an end to police brutality against trans people, better and broader healthcare and equal employment opportunities in all neighborhoods, regardless of socioeconomic status.

DeMaatRa sought community-wide education on "Black, trans misogyny, and the unique barriers that keep Black, trans people from living full lives, living wage jobs for Black, trans and [gender nonconforming] people in all fields of employment, especially in leadership roles within organizations that claim to fight for trans issues, shelters and affordable housing designated specifically for trans youth and elders, in the neighborhoods in which they choose to live, free access to hormones, needles, gender-affirming surgeries, STI testing, and all other basic health needs [and] free access to mental health services—provided by other trans and [gender nonconforming] people—who view us as in need of healing, not fixing."

Other speakers included Choccaw-Cherokee tribe member and Two Spirit Society President Reginald Sawyer said, representatives from the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois ( TJLP ), celebrated trans activist Afrika Lockett, Muslim advocacy organization Masjid Al-Rabia founder, writer and public speaker Madison Mahdia Lynn and activists Alex Garza, Milani Varela and Alex Corona.

Celebrated trans activist and Howard Brown Policy and Legislative Advocate Crispin Torres called on cisgender people and other members of the LGBQ community to take action.

"It's not just about bathrooms—it's about trans people trying to survive in all areas of life," Torres said. "The real issues are trans people in prison, trans people being murdered. That's why we're here today."

After nearly 15 years of activism, Torres told the Windy City Times that "some of the biggest challenges come from within our own community around transgender acceptance and so we're kind of past the point of acceptance and past the point of tolerance. We want to be fully included, we want to be at the table, we want to be leading the battle, we want to be steering the conversation."

In a fitting illustration of their intention to lead that battle, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals were at the front of the passionate but peaceful march which closed down a number of Chicago loop streets including State, Van Buren, Dearborn and Clark.

Outside the Metropolitan Correctional Facility at the intersection of Clark and Van Buren, the marchers formed a wide circle in pertest of institutional and judicial violence meted out against transgender people by local and federal law enforcement as well as Immigration Customs Enforcement ( ICE ) which has a long history of abuse against transgender detainees.

The march closed with a candlelight vigil at Federal Plaza and a promise that the evening's action was only the beginning.

"In solidarity, power, and fierceness, our liberation will be realized," organizers stated.

To support these Brave Space Alliance Fund for Trans Justice and Liberation, see actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-brave-space-alliance-fund-for-trans-justice-and-liberation .

The video playlist below contains multiple videos. Choose Playlist in the top left hand corner to watch videos out of order, if preferred.



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