Despite Tuesday evening’s dismal weather, approximately 100 New Haven residents and Yale students rallied outside the New Haven Superior Court in support of transgender rights.
The rally was a response to anti-transgender policies from President Donald Trump’s administration and the United States Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student from Virginia barred from using the bathroom matching his gender identity. Over 20 activist groups from New Haven and Yale, including Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and Connecticut’s Industrial Workers of the World, endorsed the event. Attendees listened to speeches from 5:30 p.m. until 6:50 p.m. before marching through downtown New Haven.
IV Staklo, one of the event coordinators, said demonstrations such as these are one of the few means transgender people such as themselves have to express their grievances.
“We [in the trans community] know we don’t get our rights from courts,” said Staklo, also an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “We get our rights ourselves by marching in the streets. We get our rights by having rallies like this and by holding politicians accountable.”
Staklo said organizers held the rally on Tuesday because it was the day Grimm’s lawsuit would have been heard, had the Supreme Court not remanded the case. They also spoke about the suicide risk for transgender community members and their experience working with Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline for the transgender community.
Staklo also discussed the risk of assault and arrest that transgender people face. They added that when transgender people are pathologized by society, they begin to believe they deserve bad things happening to them.
Chardonnay Merlot, an event coordinator from the PSL, told the crowd about her experience as an African-American transgender person. She said people of color, LBGTQ people and members of the working class must not allow racism and sexism to divide them in a “race to the bottom.”
Members of Trans at Yale, Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale and Voke Spoken Word Group were also among those that spoke at the event.
Lindsey Hogg ’17, a member of USAY’s board, told the crowd that members of the transgender community face disproportionately high rates of sexual assault. Hogg added that those fighting for transgender rights and to end sexual assault are all fighting for bodily autonomy and respect.
Kari Keyl, a pastor at the Luther House Campus Ministry at Yale and the parent of a genderqueer 23-year-old, discussed the importance of supportive teachers for transgender youth, while Reed Miller GRD ’22, who created large banners featured at the event, spoke about his work with Black and Pink, an organization that works with LGBTQ prisoners.
Miller pointed out that many transgender people are targeted for arrest, or arrested for engaging in sex work when their gender identity prevents them from finding other work.
“If you watch ‘Orange is the New Black’ you might think trans women end up in women’s prisons,” Miller said. “They do not.”