Community members and advocates joined together in Manhattan on Oct. 21 for the National Trans Visibility March, which started at the Stonewall Inn and concluded with a rally at the Christopher Street Pier.
The march and rally capped off a days-long slate of events for this year’s National Trans Visibility March, which also featured an annual Torch Awards ceremony, a faith summit, and other gatherings — both in-person and virtual. This year marked the fourth annual edition of the march, which first took place in 2019 in Washington, DC.
Speaking from outside the Stonewall Inn ahead of the march, Marissa Miller, CEO and co-founder of the National Trans Visibility March, said organizers ultimately decided to hold the event in New York — but not before traveling the country along the way.
“We stopped in Alabama, we stopped in Florida, we stopped in Atlanta, we stopped in Indiana, we stopped in Texas — we stopped in all of those places that don’t give us the privilege to celebrate like we are today,” Miller said. “It is a privilege for the streets to be blocked off for us to celebrate.”
The opening rally featured music blaring from speakers and trucks donning digital billboards promoting the march. Lingering rain tapered off as the afternoon settled in, making it easier for marchers as they set off westbound from the Stonewall Inn.
Marchers hurled chants like “trans lives matter!” and carried both Rainbow Flags and Trans Flags, which blew in the wind on an overcast and blustery day. Folks arrived at the Christopher Street Pier and gathered around a tent, where leaders delivered speeches against the backdrop of the Hudson River.
Messages of affirmation for transgender community members were voiced throughout the rally, including by individuals who conveyed their own experiences. Among the speakers at the pier included Kiara St. James, the co-founder of New York Transgender Advocacy Group, who invoked the United States’ longstanding history of racism and transphobia as she recalled a time years ago when she was with some girlfriends and gender non-conforming friends at a McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan.
“There were some other customers with their family and they were just really disgusted with our presence,” St. James said. “They were really aggressive, agitated about our presence, and went and got the manager. The manager came to our table and told us we would have to leave the premises.”
“That history is so important — how far we have come in New York City,” St. James added. Among other points, St. James urged attendees to use their voting power to drive change in future elections.
The march and rally also featured several other local advocates and groups, including Queer Liberation March co-founder Jay W. Walker, Destination Tomorrow executive director Sean Coleman, and members of the New Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBTQ organization.
The closing rally combined messages of affirmation with moments of remembrance and reflection. A video screen displayed a slideshow showing the faces and names of transgender and non-binary individuals who have died in the last year dating back to October of 2022.
A faith-based theme was also evident throughout the march and rally. There was a moment of prayer in the opening rally, while the closing rally at the Christopher Street Pier also featured remarks from religious leaders. On Oct. 19, the Riverside Church and United Church of Christ co-led an empowerment service and faith summit under a theme of “Reclaiming Our Time: Changing the Narrative Through Faith in Action.”
Most of the rhetoric, though, was focused on supporting the trans community and denouncing the broader effort to curtail trans rights across the nation. An attendee named Milaun, carrying a large Trans Flag, attended the march to help push back against transphobia in society.
“I’m trans and we’re ostracized in the world,” Milaun told Gay City News. “So we’re going to fight back. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Next year’s National Transgender Visibility March is slated to take place in Washington, DC, Miller said.