Trans March turns five
Published 06/26/2008 Bay Area Reporter
by Matthew S. Bajko
Kinnari urged spectators to join the annual Trans March as it passed down Market Street last year. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Now in its fifth year, the annual Trans March will kick off Pride weekend Friday night with what organizers expect will be its largest crowd yet. Attendance could number 10,000 marchers this year as several hot button issues have focused attention on concerns facing the transgender community.
The march this year will spotlight both the need to pass a transgender inclusive federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act through Congress and the push to end the classification of gender identity disorder as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by psychiatrists and therapists.
“In years past it has been growing exponentially. The first year was 1,000 to 2,000 people, then in its second year it went up to between 3,000 to 5,000 people,” said Trans March founder and organizer Sam Davis.
Davis said the two controversial themes of the rally and march have energized and help pull together the transgender community. More than ever before trans people are finding their voices and demanding to be heard and have their needs met.
“When the Human Rights Campaign in D.C. and Representative Barney Frank in Massachusetts removed transgender protections from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, many people stood up to say that that was wrong and that transgender people deserve the same protections as LGB people,” said Davis. “Recently it’s come to our attention there is a committee formed by the American Psychiatric Association to revise the new version of the DSM. That committee contains certain members who are noted to be homophobic and definitely transphobic. As a result, the trans community is outraged.”
The keynote speaker for this year’s event will be Donna Rose, the former HRC board member who resigned over the exclusion of transpeople in ENDA. Also set to speak is San Francisco Police Commission President Theresa Sparks, the transgender woman named as this year’s lifetime achievement grand marshal at Pride. During a meeting earlier this year with HRC President Joe Solmonese, Sparks returned to him the Equality Award she had been given by the national LGBT lobbying group.
The Trans March has always had a political edge to it. It began in 2003 as a grassroots community gathering in response to the mistrial of the murderers of East Bay transgender teen Gwen Araujo. The concept has now been exported to at least three other North American cities, according to march organizers.
“The other Trans marches I know of are in New York, Toronto, and western Massachusetts in Northampton. They all happen around those cities’ Prides,” said Davis. “We are sort of a model for other Trans marches that are springing up. We are happy to support these other marches as needed.”
The local event is fiscally sponsored by the National Queer Arts Festival and relies on the support of community-based organizations and donations to pay for the event. The city’s Grants for the Arts program awarded it $5,000 this year.
“The first year didn’t cost anything. It was all done by grassroots efforts,” said Davis. “It was a real show of the community having a need for an event promoting trans rights and visibility.”
As costs rise each year, organizers have begun holding additional fundraising events to cover their expenses. Unlike Pride, the Trans March does not accept corporate sponsors or make money off vendors at the event.
“We don’t want it to become like Pride, a great big display primarily for advertising from corporations. We don’t allow corporations to put banners on our stage. We don’t want it to look like an event thrown by Bud Light,” said Davis. “If Skyy Vodka wanted to give us $10,000 it would be hard to say no, but at the same time, it would go against all of our values. I think people who have seen it grow from the beginning really respect our desire to maintain its political values and its roots as a community event.”
Unlike the Dyke March, which restricts men from marching in its event Saturday night, anyone is allowed to participate in the Trans March.
“It is open not only to trans, intersex, and gender variant people but our allies as well. Everyone is welcome to march and participate in any way, including joining the organizing committee,” said Davis.
Initially the march went from Dolores Park to Civic Center but the route was changed last year so that it took marchers into the heart of the Castro and back to the park.
“We decided it was too long and people would drop out, especially if it was cold and rainy,” said Davis.
The Trans March festivities start at 3 p.m. in Dolores Park. Thirty different trans and gender-variant live bands, artists, and performers are scheduled to perform this year. The march itself begins at 7 p.m. and circles through the Castro, down Market Street, and back to Dolores Park for additional music and performances.
With costs rising to $11,000 this year, attendees are asked to give what they can in donations at the event. For more information visit http://www.transmarch.org.