Trans Visibility March

Trans Visibility March

By Kimi Floyd Reisch

On September 28, 2019, I joined denominational leaders, friends, colleagues, and other transgender and nonbinary people for the first National Transgender Visibility March in Washington D.C. When I sat down to write a reflection of that time, I tried to be impersonal, reporting as I had on other stories, witnessing the events but remaining impartially aloof. I found it impossible to remain distant on an issue that so deeply impacts my life and the life of many of the people I love and care about. I realized that I had to share both the good and the bad of the experience.

The evening before the march, the Torch Awards dinner at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce honored transgender leadership. Recipients included several leaders who are valuable allies to the Open and Affirming Coalition, including the Rev. Louis Mitchell of TransFaith and the Rev. Yunus Coldman of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. Faith leaders who helped organize the Trans Visibility March were also recognized, including the Rev. Aaron Wade of Community Church of Washington D.C., United Church of Christ; staff from First Congregational UCC; and the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, executive for the UCC’s Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy. The event concluded with a loud and joyful open-air trolley ride back through D.C. to the host hotel.

The next morning, members of First Congregational UCC opened their doors to allow all UCC people to gather prior to the rally and march. We arrived at 8 a.m., and then headed to the march in waves after enjoying refreshments and collecting the Coalition’s new “Beloved by God” t-shirts featuring the colors of the Trans flag (which will be available to purchase at UCC Resources later this fall). As we arrived at the rally, speakers reminded us why we marched, including the cases under imminent review at the Supreme Court which seek to diminish the freedom and equality of all LGBTQIA+ people.

Finally, around 11:15 the call was made to step off, and that is where my tears started and my ability to see this as just another march ended. Because I was marching for my life as a nonbinary, transgender person and I was marching for my son as the parent of a transgender child. I also could not fail to see my own privilege. I am proud to be a mixed-race person, but I also know that if I choose I can still pass as white, cisgender, and straight – privileges that allow me to move into and around spaces that many of the people marching with me lack, and which many states are trying to strip away. I was marching for my life, but I was also marching for the hundreds of transgender people who have lost their lives in the past decade, simply for trying to live and be happy. They should have been beside us – not just worn as images on t-shirts. Thirty minutes later, I made it to the ending point and turned to watch thousands of other people marching – bringing with them waves of love, strength, and support for each person assembled.

Which brings me to my only negative reflection of the weekend. It was not enough. Nearly every person at the March was there because they are either transgender, non-binary, or in relationship with someone who is transgender or non-binary. There were exceptions, and a scattering of representation from other parts of the gender and sexuality spectrum, but by and large, cisgender lesbian/gay/straight marchers were absent. People are busy and I am not trying to open a wound or hurt feelings, but it just felt wrong on many levels that transgender people were marching for our lives, and the people that should have been our closest allies stayed home. Instead of thousands of people marching for transgender visibility, there should have been tens of thousands.

This will not be a one-time event, and plans are already proceeding for the next march, but in the meantime, transgender people need help and support. We have fought side-by-side with other queer siblings at Stonewall and Compton Café, we have marched and rallied for gay rights, we have helped build many of the thriving faith communities in our denomination, and now we need your support to help us stop the violence that has led to the murders of at least twenty black trans women every year in the last two decades.

The movement I witnessed in D.C. was incredible. It was uplifting and I came home spiritually and emotionally refreshed in continuing the work to make sure that coming out does not mean giving up your faith through our programs and advocacy; but it also made me want more from my beloved faith community.

Japanese American author Ryka Aoki shared the following on their experiences. “Being a living trans person means vigilance. For a non-passing trans person, there is no safe space. It is not who we are kissing, but our very heights, our voices, and the size of our hands that catalyze hatred and violence. Forget activism; simply negotiating one’s world every day, constantly judging, adjusting, scanning one’s surroundings, and changing clothes to go from one role to another can be overwhelming. Add to that cases of family disownment, poverty, homelessness, HIV.”

Transgender people are fighting for our survival. The truth is that too many of our siblings could not be with us because they were busy trying to not be evicted for being trans, or lose their jobs for being trans, or lose their families for being trans, or die for being trans. We need allies and that means that the next time there is a National Trans March for Visibility, we need you to march with us.