In the continued fight for trans lives, trans equality and trans visibility, organizers in Philadelphia and around Pennsylvania are holding events for International Trans Day of Visibility on March 31.
Philly Trans March (PTM) will host Rise for Trans Lives: a TDOV demonstration at City Hall on March 31 at 6 p.m. PTM and participants plan to send a message to Philly’s municipal leaders that anti-trans legislation will not be tolerated.
“It definitely is a call to action to municipal leaders because in light of all that has gone down with these laws that are passing throughout our country, even the world,” said PTM organizer Bri Golphin. “I feel like now’s [not] the time to do nothing.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. state legislators have already introduced 124 bills this year that restrict LGBTQ rights, including for trans youth.
Golphin said that a Philadelphia City Council person’s staff member contacted PTM regarding the passage of a Trans Day of Visibility resolution. However, Golphin believes that a TDOV resolution has little meaning without other protections for the trans community.
PTM activists plan to push for statewide healthcare protections for trans people and are reaching out to activists in neighboring counties with sizable LGBTQ communities about holding similar actions.
“Maybe we have less than a year because we don’t know how this presidential election is going to go,” Golphin said. “What we would like is for the same situation with Gov. Tom Wolf, when he made an executive order to legalize abortion in the state of Pa. We want the same thing for gender-affirming care.”
In keeping with tradition, the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs is hosting a flag-raising event to commemorate TDOV, which will be held at City Hall’s North Apron Flag Poles at noon on March 31. At the event, local LGBTQ community members will speak about their contributions to the community and the dangerous political and cultural landscape for trans communities.
“Transgender Day of Visibility provides us the opportunity to hold space for and celebrate transgender people while simultaneously raising awareness of the discrimination and violence we continue to face,” Celena Morrison, executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, said in a statement. “It is also an opportunity to recognize our accomplishments and the history of our contributions to society, which are too often ignored.”
As the Transgender Pride flag is raised, community member Marcuz James will sing the song “You Raise Me Up.”
“I think TDOV means freedom for many reasons,” James said. “The ability to literally be visible without fear, but also to be visible for friends, family or people who can’t be visible for various reasons. It’s a huge privilege to me. It also feels like an honorable day to think about the ways that I navigate life, and how they’re cherishable in a lot of ways.”
James said that he was initially unaware of the reality that not all trans people have the privilege to be visible and safe. “I’m honored to keep creating visibility so that those people do get to experience that kind of freedom as well,” James added.
At the close of the flag-raising ceremony, staffers from the QTBIPOC radical social justice organization galaei will be there with an ice cream truck to provide free desserts to attendees. They will do the same at their space in the Norris Square Park neighborhood as well as at their TDOV Market event at William Way LGBT Community Center on March 31 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. The market will feature 10 trans and nonbinary-owned small businesses.
“Trans Day of Visibility is not just a day to raise awareness of trans issues, it is to also uplift and celebrate the trans community while we are still here,” said Hazel Edwards, manager of galaei’s TINGS program, which stands for trans, intersex, nonbinary and gender nonconforming services.
The team at William Way Community Center will also partner with the City for TDOV events. In addition to William Way having a presence at the flag raising and providing a space for galaei’s TDOV Market, Tyreef King, evening front desk coordinator at William Way, organized an event that will take place at the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on March 31.
The event will kick off with a screening of a TDOV video organized by Trans Resource Center Director and Acting Chief Operating Officer Darius McLean and filmmaker Daisy James, which features interviews with trans people in and around Philly. James will also DJ the event. Other offerings include poetry readings, speakers and performances by Zyah, Sabrina and Andrea Lamour-Harrington, associate reverend at Whosoever Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia, and Rami, whose art has been exhibited at William Way. Members of Hearts on a Wire, a grassroots prison advocacy organization that addresses the needs of trans people in Pa. prisons, will perform poetry by people who are incarcerated. Attendees can also enjoy food and drink.
King said that because many trans-centric events are to mourn and celebrate trans people who have lost their lives to violence, he wanted to make TDOV more of an uplifting event.
“I was just trying to make it a little fun this year,” he said. “I wanted it so people could know that these people that [they] walk past every day are part of the community; you can actually reach out to them if you see them. I just feel like we need to try to help each other out. I wanted the community to be a little more intertwined with each other. If we want other people to see us a certain way, I want us to start by doing it with ourselves.”
At galaei’s TDOV Market, Trans activist Kendall Stephens will be tabling on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence, where she interns through her studies at Temple University. She will also speak at the Trans Day of Action march at the Bell Tower at Temple’s main campus on March 29 at 1:00 p.m., organized by the group Students for Trans Awareness and Rights.
Stephens said that her interpretation of TDOV evolved as she became more in tune with her identity.
“I’ve noticed more community members become more visible, and seeing the societal backlash as a response to that visibility, it signified to me that TDOV was more than just a sacred event meant only for people of trans experience,” she said. “This is a celebratory event for all human beings to recognize the strength, bravery, and courageousness of trans individuals who have to fight against tidal waves of hate, bigotry, discrimination and prejudice all day, every day, and still rise and thrive.”
Part of the reason that attacks against the trans community persist, Stephens said, is due to lack of support from the gay and lesbian community.
“There are people within the LGBTQ space that are cisnormative that do not believe in the existence of transness,” she said. “We’re fighting two wars: the war within our own community and this war of identity establishment from outside of the community.”
As part of that ongoing battle for trans equity, Pennsylvania LGBTQ organizations will hold a rally on the steps of the State Capitol in Harrisburg on March 31 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. to advocate for youth “in the face of increasing anti-trans attacks in Pa. and nationwide,” according to a press release. The PA Coalition for Trans Youth, Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering (TAKE), Lititz Chooses Love, March on Harrisburg, the GLO Center, Queer Youth Assemble and other organizations partnered to organize the rally.
“Pennsylvania, like much of the country, is in a battle right now about how trans young people will or won’t be included and accepted in schools,” said Daye Pope, director of civic engagement at the TAKE Resource Center. “We’re really grateful that none of these anti-trans laws statewide have passed in Pennsylvania yet, that have passed in many other states.”
She referenced “Don’t Say Gay” laws, laws that ban trans youth from participating in sports, and laws that restrict access to gender-affirming care for trans youth. The purpose of the rally, Pope said, is to show all youth, LGBTQ youth included, that they are loved and supported; to assert that Pennsylvanians will not tolerate the passage of laws targeting trans and LGBTQ people in the Commonwealth; and to provide updates on a bill that staffers of PA Coalition for Trans Youth and TAKE have been working to introduce to protect trans youth in Pa. schools. Some school districts in Pennsylvania, including Central Bucks School District, have been banning books and enacting policies that discriminate against trans students.
Crafts will be provided at this family and youth-friendly rally, and attendees are invited to meet up at the GLO Center, an LGBTQ community center in Harrisburg, to debrief over free food and drink after the rally.
“I think it’ll be an important event to update folks about the legislation, but I also think it’ll be a community, social, fun event for people,” Pope said. “For me, Trans Day of Visibility has the potential to be a more celebratory and positive day to come together as trans and nonbinary folks and our allies and families.”