Connecticut Rally Demands Equal Rights for Transgender Community

Posted April 5, 2017

MP3Excerpt of rally speeches by Tony Ferraiolo and two members of Voke Spoken Word at Yale University, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

transgender

The issue of transgender rights has been in the news spotlight again in recent weeks, as the state of North Carolina recently passed a law overturning its earlier so-called "bathroom bill," which required public school students to use the bathroom that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificates, rather than their current gender identity. Trans-rights advocates say the new law has many flaws and they're hoping national corporations and sports organizations will continue to boycott the state until lawmakers pass legislation that truly recognizes trans-citizens’ human rights.

Meanwhile, the appeal of a Virginia transgender youth, Gavin Grimm, who sued to use the boys' bathroom in his high school, had made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was scheduled to be heard on March 28. But after the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era decision banning discrimination "on the basis of sex" in schools that receive federal money, the justices cancelled the hearing and remanded the case to a lower court.

In response, a group of trans activists and their allies held a rally on the steps of the federal courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut on March 28. As protesters held up large signs calling for equal rights, trans men and women spoke to a crowd of more than 100, and two Yale students gave a spoken word performance. In this excerpt from the rally, recorded and produced by Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus, we hear first from Tony Ferraiolo, an advocate for transgender youth and their families. [Rush transcript]

CHANTS: Trump says get back! We say Fight Back! Trump, SC, Pence

IV STAKLO: : Tony Ferraiolo is an amazing dude. TF is an amazing trans advocate. TF is a fighting arm of our community.

TONY FERRAIOLO: We’re not asking anything more than our human rights, the rights to live our lives authentically and to be respected. So what do we do to comfort the youth of our community? What do you say to a trans youth when they ask, “It’s only a matter of time before somebody hurts me, right?” What do you say to them when they ask, “Why is my government against me?” How do you bring peace to a child who cries out, “My school isn’t on board with this. I just want to use the bathroom like everyone else.” And what can you possibly say to comfort them when they say, “This is getting way too hard for me, Tony. I don’t think I can hold on much longer.” What words are enough? What words will comfort them and give them hope for a better future?

Well, I can only tell you what I tell them because I’m asked these questions all the time. I talk to them about owning their truth. I remind them that they have the power to believe in themselves. I talk to them about owning themselves and I remind them of the strength of this community and that we will not stop fighting for them. I remind them of the strength of our allies and that there are more people out there who love us and will stand by us than not. I choose to lead them with love, compassion and hope, because when you give a child hope for a better life, they won’t want to take their life. So for all the trans youth around the country who are feeling alone and not loved, today we send you love and remind you that you are not alone. Today we promise that we will not stop fighting for your rights. Today and every day we hold you close to our hearts, and today we leave our fear behind. Thank you. (Applause and horn honks)

IV STAKLO: Thank you so much, Tony!

BETWEEN THE LINES: Two students from the group Voke Spoken Word at Yale, representing the LBGTQ community on campus, delivered a powerful spoken word defense of the trans community.

VOKE: I pledge allegiance to the flag, to the pink, white and blue, and to the resistance for which it stands, one movement, one siblinghood, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. I pledge allegiance to trans folk, pushed to the margins, made homeless or jobless. It is not your fault. This is not a product of your identity; this is a product of prejudice.

I pledge allegiance to the trans kids, teens and adults, trapped in the closet, praying for a rainbow to break up the dark.

I pledge allegiance to the two in five trans people who have attempted suicide, to those who do not want to die but do not know how to survive without living.

I pledge allegiance to the trans folk who can’t afford surgery, or can’t risk surgery, or don’t want surgery.

I pledge allegiance to the trans women, fetishized by the porn industry and the gaze of the voyeuristic patriarchy.

I pledge allegiance to a future that protects the safety of the vulnerable over the comfort of the powerful.

I pledge allegiance to a future where trans women can walk home safe at night, where they feel, at last, at home.

I pledge allegiance to a future where doctors protect bodily autonomy instead of gatekeeping hormone therapy.

I pledge allegiance to a future where the uteri of trans brothers and sibling aren’t governed by religious prejudice.

I pledge allegiance to a future where bathroom rights aren’t a fight, where justice of the people, by the people, for the people, recognizes trans people as people, where (muffled) is heard and justice is served. I pledge allegiance to a future where justice makes space in bathrooms, in schools, in offices, in shelters, in our minds, where the gavel knocks away prejudice and bigotry instead of enforcing this hegemonic binary.

I pledge allegiance to inclusive activism, to feminism, staking trans territory, tearing down turfs, declaring space for trans people of color, to Janet Mock speaking at the Women’s March on Washington over a crowd of growling pussy hats, I pledge allegiance (cheers)

I pledge allegiance to everyday resistance, to polling our senators, to challenging alternative facts, to affirmative pronouns.

I pledge allegiance to building something that lasts, a brick and mortar movement that is more than just a march on cobblestones. Stonewall was not built in a three-hour rally. We have ourselves a foundation. Now it’s time to raise a wall and build a future for ourselves.

I pledge allegiance to the flag, to the pink, white and blue, and to the resistance for which it stands, one movement, one siblinghood, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

For more information on New Haven, Connecticut's fight for transgender equal rights, visit www.facebook.com/events/398234297221117/.

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