Today is Trans Day of Action. In New York City, people are gathering in Washington Square Park this afternoon. They’ll march through the city streets, calling out for justice for the trans community.
This day of action is organized annually by the Audre Lorde Project’s TransJustice group. It’s a day to honor transgender women of color who catalyzed the movement for LGBT rights — like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who sparked the Stonewall Rebellion but have largely been erased from movement history.
It’s a day to uplift transgender and gender non-conforming people of color who continue that legacy, leading movements from coast to coast to uproot violence and discrimination. They are tackling police profiling, racism, homelessness, and poverty — and the many other issues transgender people of color face every day.
Trans Day of Action is also a space to heal. Health practitioners are offering free services in the park like reiki, giving priority to trans people of color. This is especially important as our communities continue to grieve for the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando — a painful reminder of the violence and discrimination that LatinX and Black LGBT people disproportionately face. And as we process this year’s record-high number of trans women of color murdered — a tragedy that rarely makes media headlines.
It’s a good day to reflect on the hard work people across the country are keeping up to fight anti-trans bills from South Dakota to North Carolina. And to take stock of what we still need to do.
In solidarity with Trans Day of Action, I asked a few of the ACLU’s transgender clients and advocates of color why they are on the frontlines for transgender justice — and why Trans Day of Action is important to them. Here’s what they told me:
Meagan Taylor, ACLU Client
Being a Black transgender woman, you have to deal with things like sexism, racism, and harassment on a daily basis. Transgender people struggle on a daily basis, and we’re striving to make a change. My message for other Black transgender women is to stay strong. Change is coming really soon. Stay positive and continue to do what you have to do for yourself.
Joaquin Carcaño, ACLU Client
By standing up for transgender justice, we honor the work of those who came before us — trans women of color like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — and we continue their legacy of liberation. The entire LGBTQ community has benefited in endless ways from their energy and work and sacrifice. We have come so far, but liberation is a continuous fight. And the best way I believe I can show my appreciation for the life I am able to live as an out Latino transgender man is to contribute to the work for collective transgender justice. Our lives continue to be challenged, and we need to create not just communities of safety but communities of empowerment.
Trans Day of Action is important to me because we need the platform of dedicated days like this to leverage our voices and highlight those in the fight, especially because our oppressed communities are underrepresented and often spoken for during the conversations that directly involve or attack our livelihood. Our stories matter. Our stories are valuable. As members of the transgender community, we are also part of other marginalized groups — we are also people of color; we are the working class; we are immigrants and women — we face violence on many levels, against our many layered identities and we are connected by this fight. This fight — for our livelihood, for existence, for fulfillment, for ownership of our bodies and identity — is exhausting and can be very isolating. We need each other. We need reminders that we are a large community and family. Our solidarity is a powerful community force, and this day is an opportunity to showcase our resiliency and strength.
Lara Americo, ACLU Action Advocate
Trans* and queer people of color are marginalized every day, and until we have equality everywhere, we have to take action.
I live in North Carolina. I’ve been leading rallies all over the state to call for the repeal of HB 2 and to stand up for LGBT people’s right to live free of discrimination and violence. As a transgender woman, I know personally what’s at stake here. I should be able to use the bathroom, ride the train, go out to lunch, and everything else that any other woman is able to do without harassment and discrimination.
Since I’ve been organizing in North Carolina, I have been moved beyond belief by the outpouring of support I have seen from people across the country. That's why Trans Day of Action is important to me.
*The word trans* is an inclusive, non-binary umbrella term to describe the many trans and gender-non-conforming expressions and identities. Read more about the term’s etymology.