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Demonstrators March From Hill To Downtown With Message: ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’

Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Marchers started at Freedom Corner in the Hill District and gathered at the City County Building downtown on Thursday, June 18, 2020.

Demonstrators marched from Freedom Corner in the Hill District to the City County Building downtown Thursday afternoon in a protest organized by the groups Trans YOUniting and 1Hood Media. 


The message of the protest was clear: black transgender individuals deserve visibility and equal rights. Organizers called for local and state protections for trans individuals, after the Trump administration removed nondiscrimination protections for gender identity in health care.


On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that LGBT employees were protected from discrimination in the workplace. The justices said the 1964 Civil Rights Act protected LGBT workers from being fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 


At the rally, cisgender allies, or individuals whose identity and gender corresponds with their assigned sex at birth, were asked to hold their employers accountable for including transgender people in their places of work.


“It doesn’t matter if you can’t fire people for being trans if you’re not hiring them,” one organizer said.


Before the crowd began to march, they held a moment of silence for the transgender people who were killed this year. According to the Human Rights Commission, which tracks violence against the transgender community, at least 15 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in 2020.


The march took place the same day as a new citywide LGBTQIA+ Commission was established by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. The group will help advise city government on issues related to the queer community, including housing insecurity, equitable health care access and workforce development.


Near the intersection of Bigelow Boulevard and Sixth Street, Devar Ferguson, with the LGBT health organization Allies for Health + Wellbeing, had the crowd repeat the names of black transgender women who have been killed.

“These lives matter to us. We stand united. We’re not going to let another person go overlooked, underlooked, not noticed,” Ferguson said. “Our lives make sense.”


Organizers reminded allies at the rally that attending such events was not enough, and that they needed to support policies that support transgender people.

“This is not just sharing a post on Facebook,” the organizer said. 

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.
Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.