Sunday, October 6, 2019


Photo Credit: Diamond Stylz


This past weekend I had the honor of being invited as a photographer to the inaugural National Trans Visibility March. I was equipped with a camera and the cultural competency needed to showcase the beauty and the magic my community has to offer the world. What better way to serve that gift than through images from this groundbreaking event that brought together over 3000 people of trans experiences and their allies. My hometown friend, Marissa Miller and her nationwide trans leadership team worked tirelessly to coordinate the Torch Gala that honors long-time organizers and new emerging powerhouse activists. They brought some of the brightest trans minds to speak at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC to inspire and ignite awareness and set the groundwork for the future.

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Queer people have gathered here amongst these monuments and plazas decades before strategizing to speak truth to power and step even farther toward the freedom this country owes us. Bayard Rustin showed us how to do marches and non-violence like a pro resulting with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. With homophobia and respectability politics hanging over the culture like smog, he had to step back from the spotlight of his own creation so that his mere sexuality wouldn’t undermine its effectiveness. By stepping back into the shadows, he let his work and dedication set the stage for King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech and subsequently King’s martyrdom. That was in 1963. 20 years later in 1983, another March on Washington for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom was organized again. That homophobic smog had cleared very little. So little that in the last hours just before the march they decide to let a lesbian speaker take the stage after a tooth and nail fight between Black Christian conservatives like the then 23-year-old Donna Brazil and the National Black Coalition of Gays and Lesbians to get this woman 3 minutes of talking time. From the shadows of this battle behind the scenes emerged the late great Audre Lorde. Some people in the crowd booed her, but as soon as she began to speak the undeniable truth, they shut up and listened. Here is a link to Nikeeta and Money of the QueerWOC podcast discussing the account in detail. Other marches followed. The Million Man March of the 90s and the most recent Women’s march being the most notable. So it was only a matter of time before the trans children and grandchildren of these crowds followed in their footsteps and create our own.

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I must be honest. We are in an era where white male terrorism is a common occurrence in America. The lives of citizens don’t matter to these bereft vigilantes petrified in racism, bigotry and patriarchy. These murderous mindsets are being reignited by the current occupant of the White House and the long legacy of hate. So I had a level of anxiety gathering in mass in one location. This would have been a perfect opportunity for some lunatic to get us right together. I found myself looking for suspicious people who didn't look like they belonged. As I scanned rooftops, there was a moment my heart pounding because I saw somebody on a rooftop with what I thought could've been a rifle but it was a person with a long lens camera capturing the event as I was. I wish that I could say that I was being irrational letting my paranoia get the best of me, but then I remember Charlottesville, El Paso, Dayton, and the Pulse night club massacre. With the courage and protection of our ancestors on our side, we marched and gathered in defiance of fear because we knew and chanted in unison “We have nothing to lose but our chains.” Assata Shakur would be proud.

There was a star-studded list of speakers employed to kick the march off. The event was hosted by Tiq Milan and Mia Satya. The opening was powerfully delivered by Reverend Valerie Spencer followed by a slew of community activist such as Pose actress Angelica Ross, new HRC president Alphonso David, congressional delegates Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sheila Alexander-Reid, activist supermom Jodie Patterson, and cultural commentator Ashlee Marie Preston to name a few. I was in awe by the care taken to choose the diversity of the speakers. After two hours of oratory delights, we began to march down Pennsylvania Ave and 13th lead by the young and vibrant Toni Michelle Williams of Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative. We chanted “No Justice, No Peace” while carrying a 25 ft trans flag passed the Trump hotel, then we switched to “Stop It, stop killing our girls” or “We will not be erased” as we walked passed monumental statues of white slave owners revered by this society that perfectly fine with throwing our trans soldiers away. We were there to bring awareness to the landmark case the will be brought to the Supreme Court on Oct. 8th to ultimately decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, also covers discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We were there as Americans utilizing our right to critique our government and to say that we will never be delegated to the shadows and that our lives matter. While this event included all trans lives, there was a resounding emphasis on Black trans women's lives needing more focus and protection due to the epidemic of deaths around our country. For most of the event, I was mingling in the speaker’s tent soaking up the community love. When the march started, I was on the front line carrying a sign with the face of Tracey Single, a black trans woman murder and found dead on a gas station parking lot on July 30th in my current residence of Houston, Texas. I could not see the crowd in its totality. I was disappointed by what I thought was a low turnout nut I was wrong. When I got to the location where the march ended four blocks from the capitol on 4th and Pennsylvania, I turned around in awe because the street was still filled with people blocks down the road. My eyes swelled with tears of joy and affirmation. Seeing this trans collective of diverse people on one accord was soul shifting. This was a moment I will never forget.

If you would like to see all the photos from the march and gala, go over to Marsha’s Plates facebook page



 Check out Diamond Stylz and more of her amazing work by following her on twitter @Diamondstylz

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