by Guy Oron
People will gather Friday for the seventh annual Trans Pride Seattle parade and celebration. Every year, thousands of trans, gender non-conforming, and queer people converge from throughout the Pacific Northwest to share joy, be in community with each other and take pride in being who they are.
U.S. society is so opposed to trans liberation that even just coming together and living freely as trans people is a powerful, radical act. Author, artist and Trans Pride headliner J Mase III said “us getting together as trans people and all the expansiveness of that — it’s doing radical work for us to gather, everytime we gather.”
Unfortunately the far-right group Proud Boys have threatened Trans Pride and their organizers. In response, the local community has rallied behind Trans Pride.
“There are literally hundreds of people who have said ‘how do we help make sure that trans pride is safer for people?’” said Elayne Wylie, Co-Executive Director of Gender Justice League and Executive Producer of Trans Pride. “I expect we’re gonna see lots of bystanders on the sidelines cheering us on.”
Unlike mainstream pride events, Trans Pride has shunned the trend of increasing corporatization.
“[Trans Pride] has historically been organized and funded by organizations we see in the community everyday,” Wylie said. “We remain committed to insisting that those organizations focus and center trans people in those sponsorships.”
Instead of relying on police-based security, Trans Pride has hired a small security team and dozens of volunteers to ensure the safety of people at the event.
“We don’t have to rely on an increased police presence [or] increased firepower in order to feel safe,” Wylie said. “We can actually take positive, community-based steps to secure ourselves. Our mission at Gender Justice League is to create community where people can feel safe, true to themselves, and secure from discrimination.”
Police often endanger queer and trans people’s lives, especially queer and trans Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color (QTBIPOC). Mase explained that “police shoot people all of the time” and that instead, community-based groups such as the Fruit of Islam and the Brown Berets have provided autonomous security to keep many communities safe.
“Police make bad decisions all of the time because oftentimes they aren’t part of the community and don’t usually have community recognition,” Mase said.
One community member who has volunteered to protect Trans Pride is Doug Trainer of the South Sound Leather Alliance.
“I didn’t want [the Proud Boys] to interfere with the parade,” Trainer said.” I thought that the leather community, ‘we can sometimes appear intimidating.’ If we can lend that look to shield the marchers then I thought, ‘why not?’”
Trainer wants the far-right to know that “these queers can give as good as we get.”
This most recent wave of far-right threats has come at a time when hate crime reports are at six-year high. However, Wylie said “the increase in crime reporting could be both an actual increase in incidents of violence [and/or] an increased confidence by the community that reporting the things that are happening will actually make a difference.”
Since the election of the 45th president, some white liberals are finally taking seriously the far-right, which have committed violence against QTBIPOC for generations.
“We need to take more cues from radical communities who have been organizing and have been thinking about safety issues for decades and millennia. We need to take all threats seriously,” Mase said.
Rather than gaslighting, society needs to listen to and support trans people, especially Black and Brown trans people, when they are threatened with violence. Black trans women and feminine people “are actually pretty clear about what safety does and doesn’t look like,” Mase said. In order to seek to be in solidarity with them, “we need to put them front and center about how we talk about our survival.”
“There are some people whose ideas and thoughts are violent and cause and inspire violence against targeted communities who experience violence everyday,” Mase said. “Instead of a world in which we allow white, straight, cis men to say whatever the fuck they want, we need to be clear about taking back power from people who seek to eradicate us from this world.”
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