Hundreds of Transgender and Non-Conforming (TGnC) community members and advocates united alongside City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Carlos Menchaca (Sunset Park, Red Hook) Friday evening to strategize on how to resist any current and future policies by President Donald Trump that could severely impacted the community.
Menchaca, an openly gay City Council member, organized the forum held at the YMCA of Brooklyn, 30 Third Avenue in Boerum Hill.
“Look at this point, I think everyone is vulnerable and we in the Council have been very consistent about the work that we do. About being embracing and inclusive of everyone and we are trying to hear the challenges that certain communities have and how government can try to address it. We have been creating safe spaces to have conversations with the transgender and the transgender non-conforming communities. In light of the reality that we are living in now, I think it assumes more importance in how do we build solidarity, how do we build support amongst communities, how do we stand up and push back against these reactionary policies that just want to strip communities of their rights,” said Mark-Viverito.
The Council has made some policy progress, according to Mark-Viverito, for the TGnC community which includes, in 2014 the council voted to allow individuals to change their gender marker on birth certificates, starting the LGBTQ Mental Health Initiative, introducing legislation to improve data collection regarding sexual orientation and gender identity city-wide, and in 2016 passing legislation to ensure TGnC community members have the right to use a single-occupant restroom.
At the forum members from the TGnC community highlighted particular areas of concern that are still lacking in policy and accessibility, specifically in healthcare, housing, education & employment, immigration and safety & policing.
In particular, one member of the community, non-conforming teenager Isaiah Quinones, from GLOBE (Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered) Bushwick, brought up the fact that the Department of Education (DOE) just last year appointed Jared Fox as the first LGBTQ Community Liaison for New York City Public Schools, according to the Huffington Post. Quinones stressed the need for more transparency between the city and the TGnC Community by increasing visibility and awareness of their needs through borough-specific community liaisons and outreach.
Nico Fonseca, from the Audre Lorde Project, who focuses her advocacy work on safety and policing for people of the LGBTQ and TGnC communities, cited the lack of acceptance of TGnC people due to a traditional sense of gender identity. “I think that the Transgender and Trans-Variant communities have been under attack for years and I think that it stems back to the colonial construct of gender. Part of the way that colonialism has happened overtime in particular to people of color and indigenous people is that they have attributed gender to being a binary gender [system]. When you attribute gender to only two, binary genders then all the other genders that were indigenous to black people and indigenous people become demonized and become criminalized and that perpetuates the violence that TGnC people experience from elected officials, police and the system.”
Currently, no particular legislation has come out of the Trump Administration that has specifically targeted the LGBTQ and TGnC communities but changes could be on the horizon. A draft for an new executive order regarding religious freedom is being proposed that could allow people, employers and organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on moral beliefs, according to Fusion.
The executive order is just circulating the White House for now but could eventually be signed by the 45th President into law and bring many setbacks to the LGBTQ and TGnC communities.
“It’s about community and coming together and experiencing the struggles as one and one family. When I think about the things [policies] that are going to hit [affect] us and are hitting [affecting] us right now, the one thing that we fight back with is the sense of family, “familia”. One thing that is driving this administration [Trump administration] is the hate and the fears and the attack is that they don’t understand. This community [TGnC community] is one that already struggles to have a real understanding from the community [non-TGnC community]. Even when we want to understand the transgender and gender non-conforming community we often fail. Institutions don’t let us create that sense of education and understanding,” said Menchaca.
Many in attendance vowed that the LGBTQ and TGnC communities in the city are ready to fight and stand against any policies that may discriminate against them and have committed themselves to resisting any attempt by the current President to discriminate against their community.
“The fact that Donald Trump says that he’s going to take away our rights and every right that we have fought for since stonewall. People need to support us, come out to rallies and press conferences. Stand alongside us, not just one person from the trans community but all of them,” said Xena Grandichelli, daughter of Sylvia Rivera (an American Liberation and Transgender Activist), and a veteran of the Stonewall Riots.
President Trump so far has upheld President Barack Obama’s legislation on workplace protections for LGBTQ individuals which was passed back in 2014, according to USA Today.
There are still TGnC forums planned for the remaining boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island within the near future.