To be sure, as the marchers said, chanted, and cried over and over again, the current assaults against trans people are awful, brutal, and murderous. The theme of the march, where attendees were asked to wear white, was “an action for trans youth,” and was focused on the many laws and bills against trans youth’s access to sports and healthcare that have bloomed like toxic algae in Republican legislatures over the last few months.
As The Daily Beast has reported, eight Republican-controlled states have now banned trans kids from competing in sports, exploiting them to score points with the GOP’s populist, religious, and ignorant base. Thousands of anti-trans bills have been introduced nationwide. The Texas Senate has even voted to classify gender-affirming health care (such as hormone treatments) as child abuse.
And on the streets, 2021 is shaping up to be yet another record-breaking year of violence against trans people, especially trans women of color. At least 24 violent deaths of trans women of color have been recorded this year.
Needless to say, these two phenomena are interrelated: elites stigmatizing trans people under the law places the most vulnerable at even greater risk. It was rightly called a “state of emergency.” And there was plenty of rage and grief at the Liberation March.
“Trans youth are specifically targeted and have been shoved to the side,” said Zephyr Merkur Herrera, a 25-year-old trans advocate who works as a Prevention Navigator at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York. “Being in a crowd again was kind of overwhelming, but it felt great to be marching and chanting for things that I know I would have wanted and needed access to [when I was younger]… It felt good to be in solidarity with my demographic.” (Merkur Herrera’s comments are their own and not GMHC’s.)
Personally, the march gave me a sense of not just a hope but a kind of certainty that the Republican party’s attack on trans people is going to backfire.
Because, the fact is, trans people are real. Their lives are real, their experiences are real, and like gay people, they can be born into any family, any community, any culture. What’s being said about trans people today, especially trans youth, are lies. It’s a lie that trans girls are boys in disguise, trying to creep on cis girls in the locker room and defeat them on the soccer field. It’s a lie that gender and sex are the same thing.
And the thing about lies is, you have to work really hard to continue to prop them up, especially when the truth keeps leaking out in the form of the trans kid your daughter goes to school with, or the movie you watched on Netflix.
“Ten years from now, the Right’s transphobia will look as bigoted and outdated as its homophobia does today.”
— Jay Michaelson
We saw this in the 2000s and 2010s, when I was working as an LGBT activist (as we called it then) and fighting against the lies that gay people were child molesters and family destroyers. Though the fight took decades and is still very much ongoing, eventually those lies did give way to reality.
That’s especially the case today, because young people see the reality of gender better than older ones. Gen-Z is less gender-rigid than any recent generation. They are more likely to identify as gender non-conforming, non-binary, transgender, or something other than cisgender. Just as sexual diversity was taboo for Boomers but no big deal for Millennials, so, it appears, gender diversity will be for Gen-X. It’s just part of life.
Ten years from now, the Right’s transphobia will look as bigoted and outdated as its homophobia does today.
Moreover, as the March showed, intersectionality has permeated the consciousness of liberal and farther-left young people. At the Brooklyn march, chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter” and “Black Women Matter” and others were all interspersed. It was obvious that these liberation struggles are interlinked and, for many people, overlapping.
“While the awareness is great, visibility will not be the savior for trans youth.”
— Zephyr Merkur-Herrera
That’s particularly true for Black trans women, who are again bearing the brunt of our societal transphobia. Their experiences and names were front-and-center at the Liberation March, as was their leadership.
But even for those of us whose experiences don’t intersect in the same way, the logic of intersectionality is becoming almost intuitive. Liberation movements are mutually interdependent, and the solidarity that emerges from that consciousness is eventually going to win this battle against the religious and reactionary Right. We are stronger together.
Of course, particularly for trans people, the march was personal as well. “If the conversation around trans people had been around when I was younger, I would have understood a lot of the pain I was going through,” said Merkur Herrera.
None of this is to suggest that things are going great and will all work out for the best. In the meantime, trans kids and trans women in particular are being used as pawns in an outrageous right-wing chess game. It’s despicable, it’s dangerous, and it has to stop.
And there is much work to be done. As Merkur Herrera put it, “While the awareness is great, visibility will not be the savior for trans youth. Liberation, empowerment, and health care for all is what will save kids and adults alike going through the journey.”