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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Thursday, November 09, 2017

A Ray of Sunshine Through the Clouds

Victories by trans candidates at the ballot box add visibility, fuel optimism.

Victorious Danica Roem
As the Baltimore transgender communities and allies ready for the Transgender March of Resilience on November 20, their spirits have been buoyed by the election results on November 7 of no less than seven transgender individuals around the country.

On this historic night, a significant number of LGBTQ candidates, women, and people of color were elected to office. Among them was Tyler Titus, an out transgender man and father of two who was elected to school board in Western Pennsylvania. Jenny Durkan became the first lesbian mayor of Seattle, and in Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins became the first out trans person of color to be elected to a major U.S. city’s council.

In the high profile Virginia’s 13th District race, openly transgender Danica Roem (D-Prince William) ousted a 13-term incumbent and self-described homophobe and transphobic author of Virginia’s North Carolina-style anti-trans bathroom bill, Bob Marshall.  That result provided satisfaction to progressives as the match was seen by many as good vs. evil.  However, Roem did not run on the issue of transgender rights; in fact, she connected to and won over voters by advancing her policies on such bread and butter issues as transportation and infrastructure.

While many reports indicated that Roem became the first transgender individual to win a seat in a state legislature anywhere in the country, some fact-checking has proved that to be untrue. 

Althea Garrison was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Republican in 1992. But she did not openly identify herself in public as a trans woman. Her gender identity was outed to the public by a story in the conservative Boston Herald. The reporter who outed Garrison, Eric Fehrnstrom, would go on to work as a campaign strategist for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to Snopes.com .

“We must remember Althea Garrison, a black transwoman who was the first trans person elected to public office in 1993,” says Ava Pipitone, Executive Director of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance, the organization that is spearheading the upcoming March of Resilience.
At the Women's March in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Ava Pipitone

“Out trans folx serving in conservative spaces will have important ripple effects for the trans communities there. And still we do not have to be out to be trans. Visibility is correlated to privilege and safety,” said Pipitone.

Logan Casey, who is transgender and a research associate at the Harvard Opinion Research Program, agrees that the wins are important for transgender visibility.

“With so few transgender people in office, everyone is important,” Casey told the Washington Blade. “And so, there’s one level on which these wins are really important just for trans people and the LGBTQ community generally, saying that we can win elections. We can be out, and be proud and be ourselves and be successful.”

The added visibility and electoral victories are significant, but the reality remains that for many transgender individuals, especially people of color, there is a much higher chance of being a victim of violence, bullying in school, poverty, joblessness, homelessness and drug addiction.  Often, they must live in the shadows and engage in sex work just to survive.  Moreover, the trans community has been under attack by the Trump administration.

November 20 has been set aside as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) to honor deceased transgender people.  It began in 1998 following the murder of Rita Hester.

“This holiday has served our community as a time to mourn and reflect upon the lives senselessly lost to transphobic violence in the previous year,” the Baltimore Transgender Alliance said in a statement.

“However, the impact of silence is lost on those who already feel voiceless. Our tradition, the Trans March of Resilience, subverts this holiday and serves to celebrate the resilience of life in our community.”
The March gathers at the YNOT lot at the corner of Charles Street and W. North Avenue at 5:30 p.m. and proceeds up the stroll at around 6 p.m. Elders and folx with different levels of ability will join from the Safeway parking lot on 25th  and Charles Streets, as well as from the GLCCB.

The elders will lead the March to its conclusion at 27th and St. Paul Streets. Inside the 2640 Space there will be a rally, which then leads to an evening of dinner and entertainment. The event ends at 9 p.m.

“Join our resistance on Monday the 20th, urges Pipitone.  “We will march for Transgender Resilience followed by dinner and dancing. Join our gender expansive celebration and find sanctuary and community. Build with us in Baltimore!”

For more information, visit the event on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/1933171537004796/ or follow the hashtags #bmoretmor #transresilience #transispowerful #transisbeautiful

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