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Identity & Community

Demonstrators Gather To 'End The Cycle Of Violence' Against Transgender People

At least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people died by violence in 2020. So far, at least 17 individuals have been victims of fatal violence in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Transgender people of color, particularly Black women, have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to housing and employment. Awareness of these patterns of violence against the community was core to the message of a demonstration in Oakland organized by the advocacy and resource group Trans YOUniting on Sunday.

“Folks are being displaced, going hungry, being attacked,” said Dena Stanley, activist and executive director of Trans YOUniting. “So today, we’re going to talk about it.”

A member of the transgender community raises his fist during a demonstration through Oakland on Sunday, May 2, 2021.
Katie Blackley
A member of the transgender community raises his fist during a demonstration through Oakland on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

The crowd began to gather in Schenley Plaza in Oakland around 2 p.m., eventually filling the center of the park. Speakers took to the front of the group and began talking about their experiences with violence and discrimination as Black transgender people.

Chauntey MoNique, a Black transgender woman who said she was incarcerated for 16 years, talked about being in prison.

“We walked around with a target on our backs...and were called ‘sir’ by [correctional] officers,” MoNique said. “I walk outside my door each morning and wonder if I’ll come back.”

She also talked about the Pennsylvania law that prohibits transgender people who have been convicted of certain felonies from legally changing their name.

 Chauntey MoNique with Trans YOUniting speaks to the crowd at a demonstration on Sunday, May 2, 2021..JPG
Katie Blackley
Chauntey MoNique with Trans YOUniting speaks to the crowd at a demonstration on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

Other activists talked about how inaccessible some homeless shelters are for transgender people. Dalen Michael with Trans YOUniting said many are run by religious groups and bar transgender or non-binary people from entering, while others aren’t well-versed on how to ask for and use people’s pronouns.

“We don’t want to add to people’s dysphoria,” Michael said. “We want to break down those barriers.”

Vuestro Merced, an activist with the group, asked the group to chant the name of Iris Santos, a Latinx transgender woman killed in Houston last week, according to Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

The peaceful crowd later marched from Schenley Plaza up to Fifth Avenue, and then back down Forbes Avenue, stopping three times to “circle up” at intersections. There, more speakers addressed the crowd, encouraging them to have “uncomfortable conversations” with friends, family and coworkers about violence against the trans community.

“We could stop murders by speaking up and having conversations,” Dalen Michael said.

Dena Stanley, executive director of Trans YOUniting, speaks to the crowd at a demonstration on Sunday, May 2, 2021.JPG
Katie Blackley
Dena Stanley, executive director of Trans YOUniting, speaks to the crowd at a demonstration on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

Last month, five Republican state lawmakers introduced legislation that would exclude transgender female athletes from playing on cisgender girls’ teams. Freedom Foster-Grady with Trans YOUniting said they were “disgusted” by the proposal.

“This legislation will have, like, really significant consequences for our community because it's not just about sports, it's about inclusion and discrimination,” Foster-Grady said. “And it's a really harsh lesson to learn at a young and vulnerable age how cruel this country is towards trans people.”

 Artist Terrance Alexander sings "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cook during a demonstration in support of transgender lives on Sunday, May 2, 2021.JPG
Katie Blackley
Artist Terrance Alexander sings "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cook during a demonstration in support of transgender lives on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

The bill is among more than 40 similar pieces of legislation that have been introduced around the country.

Sunday’s demonstration coincided with Trans YOUniting’s month-long campaign to address violence against transgender people, which includes a fundraising campaign for emergency housing services. According to the organization, they were able to assist about 300 transgender and non-binary people with housing and other essential services.