Melinda Butterfield: ‘Trans people will continue to resist’

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Talk given by Melinda Butterfield at the Oct. 7 National March to Protect Trans Youth in Orlando, Florida. Butterfield is a member of Women in Struggle-Mujeres en Lucha and co-editor of Struggle-La Lucha.

Melinda Butterfield. Photo: Lexi Webster / Center for Constitutional Rights

I have a message for Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature: Woke doesn’t come to Florida to die. Woke is alive and well and coming to kick your ass.

Trans people have always been here. No matter what laws you pass, no matter what lies you tell, trans children will continue to be born. Trans youth will continue to find ways to survive. Trans people will continue to resist.

We are the children of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Leslie Feinberg. We will not be silenced.

Bigots say get back; we say fight back!

We aren’t alone in our struggle. Many other communities are being targeted. We have to work to create unity, solidarity, cooperation. That’s why the demands of our action aren’t limited to those issues specific to trans people but include the fight against racism, for reproductive rights, for workers’ rights. We are part of those communities. We are part of the working class. 

We are health care workers, service workers, teachers, tech workers, sex workers. We are Teamsters and Auto Workers, actors and writers, and all too often, underpaid and unemployed workers. We live the reality of intersectionality every day. 

Standing up for trans people is an act of self-defense for all workers. An injury to one is an injury to all.

As trans people, we aren’t afraid to say what the real enemy is: capitalism. Not just DeSantis and Greg Abbott, not just the Republican Party – the system that enriches their billionaire patrons, who fill their election coffers, that use divide and conquer tactics to set us against each other. They’ve been doing it for centuries. No wonder DeSantis doesn’t want young people to learn any true history!

But the young people see through them! They want a future that puts people and the planet first instead of profits. The truth is, the bigots are afraid of us – not for any of the absurd reasons they claim, but because we herald the end of their rotten system. 

I can’t stand here in Florida and not say a few words about Cuba. I visited Cuba last spring with a queer delegation to learn about the country’s new Families Code that expands queer rights and elevates chosen families to equality with blood families. 

Schools and parents are obliged to provide young people with sex education, including education on sexual and gender variance. If a child feels their rights are not being respected, they have recourse to appeal to the authorities. What a contrast with Florida!

Queer Cubans and all Cubans are suffering because of the U.S. blockade. Our community needs to demand that President Biden end the blockade and take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In 1963, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent desegregation. President John F. Kennedy ordered the National Guard to remove him and enforce integration.

Today, Ron DeSantis and many others are standing in the door of the schoolhouse, the doctor’s office, the restroom, and the library. President Joe Biden has not lifted a finger to stop him and shows no inclination to do so.

The difference has nothing to do with the “character” of the president in question. The difference is that in 1963, there was a mass movement for Civil Rights – one that the capitalists and their politicians feared and were unable to control. This is the example we have to look to. 

When the bosses and politicians fear the people, then we will see a roll-back of the anti-trans attacks. When the fascists who invade our streets know they will be met and confronted by a united people’s movement, then they will scurry back into the holes they came from.

Today is about taking the first steps toward building that kind of movement – the kind that can win.

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