As Pride celebrations become increasingly disconnected from their more radical origins, many queer and trans people have organized alternative events that keep the deeply political nature of the Stonewall riot alive some 47 years later. One of those alternative events is the Trans Day of Action, which celebrated its 12th year in New York City on Friday, June 24.
The demonstration—organized by the Audre Lorde Project's TransJustice initiative—began with a rally of speakers and performers on the eastern side of Washington Square Park before segueing into a march through the streets of New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood.
The Trans Day of Action explicitly highlights issues that disproportionately affect trans and gender nonconforming people of color like mass incarceration, sexual violence, homelessness, and other needs that are increasingly ignored among mainstream LGBTQ circles. According to people affiliated with TransJustice and the Audre Lorde Project, the day is meant to counteract narratives that erase police violence against queer and trans people of color from the Stonewall historical narrative.
"What a lot of people forget is that Pride started after the Stonewall riot of 1969," Alok Vaid-Menon, Communications Coordinator for the Audre Lorde Project, said over the phone. "That was a riot against police violence led by transgender women of color. But today, most Pride events are pro-police, pro-corporation, and extremely white and cis. We try to actually remind people that transgender people of color, the people who started this movement, don't even feel safe at Pride events. Our march is about reminding people that you can't whitewash, you can't corporatize, and you can't erase the history of trans people of color in this city."
Pride celebrations all trace their roots back to the Stonewall riot of 1969—led by trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera—which began in response to an all too routine police raid on the now historic Greenwich Village bar. In 1970, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations organized the one-year commemorative Christopher Street Liberation Day march in New York, and similar demonstrations were organized in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Since Pride began as a heavily politicized protest against police violence, many LGBTQ people feel conflicted—to say the least—over the heavy police presence at contemporary Pride events. This presence has only increased in the wake of the recent mass shooting at Orlando nightclub Pulse, which took the lives of 49 people, most of them LGBTQ Latinxs and people of color, and injured 53 more. Such safety measures don't make all queer and trans people—particularly Latinxs, people of color, Muslims, transgender men and women, gender-nonconforming people, undocumented people—feel very safe.
"There is a lot of erasure around Stonewall," Channing Powers, a member of TransJustice, told me. "Today, it is known as a gay landmark. It's true—it is a gay landmark. But it is also a trans landmark. They totally just ignored the people that were actually on the forefront of the riots and the people who suffered the most at the hands of police violence. Yes, it's an LGBTQ landmark; lesbians were involved, gay men were involved, bisexual people were involved—but the transgender people were the most heavily policed and therefore the most sick of being policed."
As the Trans Day of Action snaked its way through Greenwich Village Friday afternoon—west on Waverly, north on Sixth, West on Christopher, South on Seventh, East on Bleecker and West 4th, and back to Washington Square Park once more—the demonstration paused momentarily in front of the Stonewall Inn, its marchers filling Christopher Street, curb to curb, from Seventh all the way east to Greenwich Avenue.
"Queers, don't deny it!" demonstrators chanted outside the bar, which became the first national monument for LGBTQ rights in the United States earlier that day. "Stonewall was a riot!"
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.