OPINION: Trans People of Color Must Be Centered at Philly Gay Pride 2017

Owens: It's about time we gave proper respect to a segment of the community who have fought for us since the very beginning.

Transgender pride flag.

Transgender pride flag.

On Monday night, I posted a viral tweet acknowledging the six transgender women of color who have already been reported murdered in 2017:

By the time I woke up the next morning, it appears as though a seventh victim had been discovered: Jaquarrius Holland, 18, of Louisiana:

Some have even suggested that part of the reason why we hadn’t known about Holland’s death earlier is that she was misgendered:

Surveying my large LGBTQ social media following, it seems as though the only people discussing these tragedies locally were transgender individuals and their closest allies. There has not been an abundance of statements from the community at large, like there was last week when the Trump administration set back state schools allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their preferred gender.

I called out the lack of attention on Facebook:

But as I begin to reflect on this situation personally and socially, it seems as though transgender people of color in the Gayborhood have never really had a moment of full acknowledgement. Sure, there is Philly Black Pride — but much of the programming and socializing is centered around cis-gender black gay men (and sometimes women). Historically, Philadelphia Gay Pride, and many prides across America, has had a hard time of including the transgender community as whole during the planning of the event. This is ridiculous considering the fact that there would be no Pride month or celebration without the transgender community, especially transwomen of color.

Sylvia Rivera, a Latinx transgender women, played a significant role in making June the official Pride month by speaking out on Christopher Street after the Stonewall Inn riots, a historic moment that was propelled by diverse transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, such as Marsha P. Johnson, on June 28, 1969. This date would be credited with sparking the gay-rights movement that has since given us marriage equality, major citywide protections, and a more integrated society. But now it appears as though our current LGBTQ generation has forgotten about who was present in that fight, and it’s about damn time we fix that.

Given all of the current issues affecting the transgender community, especially those of color, Philly Gay Pride and Philly Black Pride should shift their events this year to paying homage and acknowledging the continuous contributions of transgender people of color. A transgender person of color should be this year’s Grand Marshal, with the parades and socials honoring the achievements made across the board. If we are to show the current Trump administration that LGBTQ community will stand united, it will only come from protecting and defending some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Amplifying transgender voices of color during Pride in our city is not simply a kind gesture, but a legitimate thing to do. I must reiterate that none of these Pride parades and celebrations would be going on if it weren’t for the countless transgender and gender-nonconforming activists who made the personal sacrifices that took us one leap closer to full equality. Now that they are faced with continuous cycles of senseless violence and discrimination, the rest of the community needs to show them how much they matter — to our history, our movement, and our survival.

If transgender people of color are not elevated at this year’s Pride celebration, expect me not to attend. I will not continue to forget where we’ve come from, and I hope the rest of the community doesn’t either.