Courtesy of the New Haven Pride Center

New Haven’s Transgender Awareness Week kicked off on Sunday afternoon with both in-person and virtual programming.

On Sunday, community members participated in a hike to East Rock and more than a dozen people later joined a virtual “celebration of art” hosted on Twitch. The events launched a week of programming building up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance this Friday. First celebrated in 1999, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a nationally commemorated day that looks to spread awareness about deaths within the transgender community due to violence and discrimination. New Haven Pride Center organized all of the week’s events, including talks by trans artists, sessions about being trans in the workplace and a set of virtual panels on mental health and identity, among others.

“My hope is to create a space for trans folk to feel appreciated, voices elevated and feel the recognition that they deserve as a vital part of the larger community,” said Patrick Dunn, executive director of New Haven Pride Center.

The first trans individuals honored this week included those at the “Celebrating Trans Artists” virtual performance last Sunday. Dolores Dégagé Hopkins, who sits on the center’s board of directors, hosted the show and featured eight artists who shared their original scores, poems and stage performances.

Visual artist Tia Lynn “Bublicious” Waters was one of the first artists to perform. During her performance, Waters danced and sang to “No Matter What They Say,” a song by Lil’ Kim. According to Hopkins, Waters is a Black transgender woman who aims to bring visibility to trans members of color through her performance and activism. Waters helped found the New Haven drag scene and has been a constant presence in the city’s LGBTQ venues.

“I believe while you are here on this earth you need to make some voice,” Waters said during the performance.

Another performer at the event, Karleigh Webb, shared her prose poetry and singing. Webb, a freelance broadcast journalist, activist and athlete, told those at the event that “art needs to be truth-telling.” In the spoken word poem that she performed, Webb shared her personal reasons for transitioning, stressed the importance of pronouns to members of the trans community and urged broader recognition of the community.

Webb dedicated her performance to Monica Roberts, an African American blogger, writer and trans rights advocate who lost her life this October because of a medical emergency.

“We love ourselves. That’s why we remember, but we continue to resist especially this time. She’s not forgotten. Her charge is now our charge,” Webb said.

On Friday, event participants plan to gather to commemorate the lives of those like Roberts with a vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event, which will take place on the New Haven Green, is a commemoration of trans individuals who have died due to violence or discrimination.

While the end of the week will be a “sad, heavy, mournful” day, according to Dunn, he hopes that many of the week’s events can celebrate the lives transgender individuals are living.

“A queer person, especially a trans person, is resilient, just existing is resilient and resistant to discrimination. So, I think when we talk about ‘How do we honor the community?’ [it] is also about celebrating them and all the things they do to make our community better,” Dunn said.

Dunn added that this year’s Trans Awareness Week attempted to increase the visibility of Black trans individuals. This focus, he told the News, is a result of the center’s conversations on equity, which have been ongoing since the onset of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Dunn said that the center looked to “create space” for Black trans people to come together, communicate their needs with the broader community and find more support. Half of the artists at Sunday’s “Celebrating Trans Artists” event identified as Black.

“Trans Black folk don’t feel invited to the table, don’t feel a part of mainstream queer community, and are also one of the most vulnerable members of the community,” Dunn said.

This year, the “Black & Trans Intersectionality” panel is set to stream live on Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Event panelists plan to discuss existing at the intersection of both communities and the unique challenges they face.

New Haven Pride Center was founded in 1993.

Gamze Kazakoglu | gamze.kazakoglu@yale.edu