For many transgender people, heightened visibility can put them at greater risk of discrimination.
“I always let someone know where I’m at and who I’m with,” said Chanel Lopez, a transgender community liaison for the New York City Commission on Human Rights who shares her location with her best friend at all times.
Chanel was one of many transgender advocates who discussed safety, policing, and more during a Zoom panel on March 31 for Trans Day of Visibility, a worldwide holiday commemorating the accomplishments of transgender people. The event was led by the New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus and LGBTQ Caucus.
TS Candii, a Black transgender activist and leader of Black Trans Nation, moderated the panel discussion, which featured Cecilia Gentili, the founder of Trans Equity Consulting; Grace Detrevarah, an LGBTQ liaison at the Osborne Association; and Elana Redfield, the director of LGBTQI Affairs at the New York City Department of Social Services.
While the event focused on the importance of representation and the discriminatory policing of trans bodies, advocates also celebrated their most recent gains. Advocates led a successful effort to repeal a loitering law known as a ban on “Walking While Trans” due to the way in which the now-gutted law was used by police officers to disproportionately target transgender women of color. That legislation, which was signed into law this year, also seals all prior convictions and records under the statute.
“This was a win driven by trans people,” Gentili said. “We did it.”
Gentili praised TS Candii, one of the lead organizers in the movement to reverse the archaic policy.
“You do not get enough glory as you should,” Gentili said tearfully to TS Candii. “I’m taking this opportunity to celebrate you.”
For others, the repeal of the law was long overdue.
“It’s about time,” Lopez said. “We’ve been fighting this for years.”
Detrevarah recalled how frequently law enforcement officers used the law to harass transgender people for unsubstantiated reasons, such as carrying condoms in their purses.
“It was like they were playing eenie, meenie, miny mo,” Detrevarah said. “This gives us an opportunity to address the other things that are on our agenda.”
Others on hand for the event included out gay City Councilmember Daniel Dromm of Queens and Councilmembers Darma Diaz of Brooklyn, Vanessa L. Gibson of the Bronx, and Helen Rosenthal and Carlina Rivera of Manhattan. The hour-long panel also featured a performance from the drag queen Egyptt.
With LGBTQ rights and progress at the forefront, activists are calling for lawmakers to take notice of other issues facing trans people, including poverty, a lack of quality medical care, and employment insecurity.
“Those people happen to be trans,” Gentili said of the financial burdens that affect the community. “Many of us don’t have an opportunity to finish school…we have to do whatever we have to do to make money.”
According to Gentili, it is time for lawmakers to build more opportunities for trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people.
“What we have to do as a city that loves calling ourselves progressive is we have to bridge the gap of poverty,” she added. “It’s outrageous that we have people who are homeless on the same streets with multi-millionaires and billionaires that live the grand life.”
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