When Christian Lovehall – a black trans man and activist from South Philadelphia – created the Philly Trans March in 2011, he did so in reaction to the (still) unsolved 2010 slaying of Stacey Blahnik, a transgender woman of color and a beloved member of that community. At that time, Lovehall, trans men and women of all color, along with their brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ/non-binary communities marched for justice, not solely for Blahnik, but for every trans woman and man who worried for the safety and fought for their freedom.
“From the start, I wanted to create a voice for marginalized communities,” said Lovehall on Oct. 6. Issues such as unsolved cases, hate violence, the lack of official concern and resources for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming youth and elders were on his mind.
On a gray, breezy Saturday, LGBTQ protestors (200+ according to police supervisors on the parade route, 600 according to the Trans Equity Project Facebook page) along with straight men, women and children walked in the Philly Trans March for trans rights issues like employment discrimination and misgendered identification.
“We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t f— with us,” and “Transphobia has got to go,” were but two of the large crowd’s chants.
They were also marching for justice and the right to walk the streets unharmed — not only in the name of Blahnik, but Shantee Tucker, a transgender woman of color fatally shot in September.
“I think the march raises awareness about the issues that trans people have daily, and lets the families of those whose murders go unsolved that there is community behind them,” said Lovehall. “We have their back.”
Saturday’s Philly Trans March started in Love Park with speakers such as Malik Moorer, partner of Stacey Blahnik. The March moved through Mid-Town Village in an attempt to peacefully disrupt its Fall Festival of food of music, and paced itself while moving up Broad Street toward City Hall (to the delight and chagrin of just-married wedding parties taking photos along the median).
“I’m here because too many people are dying,” said Marian Rossi, a demonstrator from Northeast Philadelphia, along the March’s route.
“We have people close to us who are trans, and we are here because they deserve love, safety and respect,” said West Philly’s Graham Stratton who brought his two children, aged 7 and 10.
Philly Trans March brings the community together
Diane Smith of West Oak Lane, Tucker’s aunt, was at the march with Tucker’s mother, Wanda Bibbs, and other members of Shantee’s family. Smith was proud of her niece, and was happy to meet some of her community members. “This is the proof of the love that people have for Shantee,” said Smith, who also claimed that the police have been errant in doing their job in order to find Tucker’s murderers. “There are descriptions of the getaway car, and there are witness statements,” said Smith in regard to pushing the Philly police to move quicker to resolution. “When God gives you an assignment, you see it through.”
The March ended where it began, in Love Park, with songs from musical performer ICON and speeches from Trans Equity Project’s Milan Sherry, who joked “can we get a round of applause for my feet,” before awarding her co-activist Lovehall with a plaque for his service. “Credit Christian with rallying the troops and taking the very real blows,” said Sherry.
Saturday’s Philly Trans March was a peaceful and loving display of unity and strength for the present and future of the area’s trans population, male and female. “We’re not always known for standing in solidarity with our black trans sisters but that changes now,” said Lovehall. “T-men are here for you. We will walk you home from the club. We will take care of you.”
The only glitch with Philly Trans March came at the very end of the program when a self-identified “straight” woman hopped on stage, took hook hold of the microphone, and said that “out of respect for God, trans people should only use their own bathrooms.” After much booing from the crowd, Sherry grabbed back the mic and yelled, “We have been using your bathrooms without you even knowing it. This is what I get for giving somebody else the mic.”