Trans youth and families flood Washington streets to demand rights

SLL photo: Andre Powell

More than a thousand trans youth, family members, and allies joined the Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy March in Washington, D.C., on March 31, Trans Day of Visibility. The march was called by Queer Youth Assemble, which presented a list of demands supported by many organizations.

The D.C. action was one of dozens held in cities across the U.S. to rebuke and resist hundreds of bills targeting trans youth in nearly every state and the growing campaign of anti-trans hate and violence promoted by media from Fox News to the New York Times. 

The multinational crowd gathered outside busy Union Station, then marched to the Capitol, where a rally was held in Grant Park. The protest drew people not only from the capital and surrounding states but from as far as California, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.

Official Washington’s sheltered, well-manicured streets rang with chants of “Protect trans youth” and “No justice, no peace!” A colorful banner from Women in Struggle – Mujeres en Lucha declared: “Trans people won’t be erased. Bigots say get back, we say fight back!”

Protesters were outraged by the far-right Republican campaign to outlaw gender-affirming health care, prevent students from playing sports or using school restrooms, and ban trans people from public life – measures that will increase suicide and transphobic violence.

Several speakers also called out Democrats for claiming to support trans rights but doing nothing to stop the growing onslaught that has already robbed youth in at least 14 states of gender-affirming care and imposed many other Draconian laws aimed at causing harm to the entire trans community.

“These last few months have been hard for all of us. One side likes to act like we are not real, just products of a social trend, not every bit as real, as valuable, as deserving of freedom as everyone else,” said Samira Burnside, a trans youth activist. “Some even suggest that we be eradicated, shunned, pushed into a quiet corner, and silenced. 

“Look at SB 264 in Florida, where I’m from, which would take us from our parents and make those who give us the care we need felons. They cloak their disdain for us in phrases like ‘save the children’ and moral grandstanding. But they truly only seek to save their positions of power.

“And the other side? Democrats say things like ‘pass the Equality Act immediately,’ but don’t put their words into action when they have the power to do so. They say, ‘I support my trans family,’ yet sit idly by while we are legislatively attacked,” Burnside said.

Struggle-La Lucha spoke with trans activist Melinda Butterfield of Women in Struggle – Mujeres en Lucha, who was distributing leaflets and talking to people in the crowd about her group’s proposal for a National March to Protect Trans Youth to be held in Florida in Autumn 2023.

“It was heartening to see so many parents and families supporting their trans kids,” Butterfield said. “The media and politicians try to make it seem like parents are only interested in protecting their ‘right’ to treat their children like property, to be whipped into line with conservative expectations. But today there are many, many families that accept their trans and queer children and are determined to do everything they can to help them lead happy, healthy lives.”

Butterfield said that a Black trans woman who came all the way from Missouri, another state where trans rights are under fierce attack, made a big impression. “She said she’s been waiting for a national protest and was determined to be here no matter what. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she and pretty much everyone I spoke to – young and old, queer and allies, union organizers – were excited at the prospect of a national march for trans youth in Florida. 

“People are eager for bold action. There is a huge vacuum that will be filled with the same old lesser-evil voting politics that led to the end of Roe v. Wade unless independent forces take action soon. But if we do act boldly, I think we will be surprised by the response.”

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SLL photo: Melinda Butterfield


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