Equality

“This is More Than a Bathroom Issue”: New Yorkers Rally Outside Stonewall In Support of Trans Youth

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The day after the Trump administration ended a federal guideline instructing public schools to allow students to use bathrooms appropriate to their gender identity, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered last night outside the historic Stonewall Inn to rally in support of trans and gender-nonconforming youth.

Advocates contend that the shift doesn’t negate the underlying protections conferred by Title IX of the Civil Rights Act – a position that will likely soon be tested in a case brought by 17-year-old Gavin Grimm from Virginia – but they say the government’s move sends a chilling message. “It’s a direct and sweeping emotional attack on our trans youth,” Mel Wymore, the executive director of Trans PAC, told the crowd last night. “It sends a message to all youth, not just trans youth, that they cannot grow up who they are.”

“An attack on one LGBT person is an attack on the whole LGBT community,” said Tanya Walker, co-founder of the New York Trans Advocacy Group. “This is more than a bathroom issue; this is a human and civil-rights issue that needs to be addressed in our country.”

A woman who introduced herself as Mariko told the crowd she is the mother of a 17-year-old trans daughter at Harvey Milk High School. “I have never been so scared of the hate that has been given permission by this administration to exist,” she said. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary DeVos believe that my child’s civil rights should be left to the states. Does anyone think my child should live under Jim-Crow-type laws depending on what state she lives in?”

“This is not a choice,” said Cecilia Gentili, a trans woman and assistant director of policy at GMHC. “What they are doing is a hateful choice. They choose to do this to us. They’re choosing it. So let’s be smart, and choose them better.”

The rally was also attended by a host of politicians, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, City Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Jimmy Vacca, and Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick.

“This administration is a fascist regime,” Glick said. “It is carving out people, setting them aside, turning others against them. That is how it begins. We cannot allow it. We must resist every day, in every way. First it was undocumented immigrants, it’ll be documented immigrants. It’s transgender youth, it’s going to be all LGBT people…In the end, if we don’t stand together, we will hang separately.”

After more than an hour of speeches, the official rally concluded. But the throngs of people gathered outside the Stonewall Inn were still energized, and soon, the chant of “March! March! March!” began to pass through the crowd. Hundreds of them did.

Chanting “Trans rights are human rights,” they streamed north along Eighth Avenue, earning stares and applause from passersby. The marchers turned east past Penn Station, then suddenly veered into Macy’s. Commandeering the makeup section, they gave speeches about their experiences as trans people and the dangers posed by the new administration. “Macy’s!” they chanted. “Why the fuck are you still selling Trump products?”