By Susan Jordan
Over 240 people attended a rally sponsored by the Gay Alliance, Action Together Rochester, Open Arms MCC, Trillium Health, The MOCHA Center and Transgender Association of Greater Rochester (TAGR) in support of trans students, on Feb. 24 at the School of the Arts. Earlier in the week, the Trump administration had erased President Obama’s protections for transgender and gender expansive students.
A SOTA student told The Empty Closet, “I think it’s wrong that Trump decided against trans rights. He’s not really accomplishing anything.”
Rowan Collins, Gay Alliance Education Coordinator, welcomed the crowd. He said, “I was a trans kid. I am a proud transgender man.” He spoke about the silence around gender when he was a student and how he felt he had to remain silent and invisible. A trans student also spoke about his experiences, saying, “It is time to be afraid but also to be unified and brave… Do not let bigotry go unchallenged!”
James Smith, director of communications for the city, represented Mayor Warren. He read a letter from her, saying in part, “This week the city of Rochester passed a resolution affirming our status as a sanctuary city… The fight for equality is nothing new to us… Discrimination has no place or part in the American dream… This is not who we are. Rochester will not stand for this!”
Gay Alliance Board President Colleen Raimond said, “Another day, another attack on a community, another attack on our youth. Today it’s trans youth, who are so often bullied… and who deserve to be protected and loved as their beautiful selves… We are just getting started! We the people will not back down, we will fight for our vision of America and we will be successful!”
Trans woman Julia Acosta, president of TAGR, talked about her struggle as a youth with bullying, the loneliness and shame, and her decision to commit suicide. A supportive teacher was able to save her life. “Government at all levels must be committed to the dignity of all people,” she said.
Brae Adams, pastor of Open Arms MCC, and mother of a trans youth, spoke about her son’s experiences with harassment. “We can all do better,” she said. “Make your voices heard!”
Olivia Page, a 20-year-old trans woman, said, “I was the first in Hilton to advocate for myself. This garnered me as a teenager a lot of opposition. I became a target…” If it hadn’t been for the Obama protections, Olivia said, she would never have made her voice heard.
Trans activist activist Shauna O’Toole said, “We have the right to live as we choose, not as someone dictates to us. That’s what freedom is. We’ve seen an increase in racism, homophobia, transphobia – we have an administration falsely accusing us of being predators. Public schools are being encouraged to ignore the law protecting trans students. The Constitution provides equal protection under the law. Trump and his administration are on the wrong side of history.”
Emma Forbes-Jones, a Brighton psychologist who works with hundreds of trans youth and families, said, “The executive order signed by Trump is absolutely unacceptable. Shame on you, President Trump!” She suggested that we all need a “nest” where we are safe to be ourselves.
Bill Moehle, Brighton Town Supervisor, said, “In 2014 the Town of Brighton got tired waiting for the state legislature to pass GENDA… The State Senate didn’t have the guts to bring it to the floor.” So Brighton went ahead to declare its status as a Safe Place for LGTBQ people, including trans students in Brighton schools. He added, “Trans kids are just kids and equality shouldn’t be difficult. It’s what we all deserve… We cannot be silent because when equal rights are denied to one, they are denied to all.”
School administrators have begun speaking out. On Feb. 24,Kevin McGowan, Ed. D., Superintendent of Schools, Brighton CSD, sent a message to students, staff and the school community on Feb. 24. He said in part:
“Simply put, the actions taken by the federal government on Wednesday will have no practical impact here in Brighton. Although we certainly recognize and empathize with the emotional impact that can be felt, we wanted you to know that our practice here will remain unchanged. As we have said here for quite some time, you are who you say you are. We will love, support, and embrace you for being you, in every way, without exception.”
RGMC Artistic Director Robert Strauss calls this “a concert about being a light in the darkness — a call to be a beacon of hope for those who feel hopeless.” The show includes familiar songs from both points of view, including “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The Sound of Silence,” “Creep,” and “Light” from Next to Normal.
The concert will also feature the Rochester premiere of Tyler’s Suite, which includes songs by nine composers, including Stephen Schwartz, Ann Hampton Callaway, and Jake Heggie. The song cycle is a reflection on the life and death of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old gay man who took his own life after being cyber-bullied by his college roommate, as well as the response of his family.
Tyler’s Suite will feature violinist Perrin Yang, baritone Daniel Ihasz, mezzo-soprano Chandra Downs, tenor Alex Kosmowski, and Rochester native Tyler Hecht in the title role.
Together, the program speaks to the need for social change, inclusion, respect, and creating a culture of kindness.
This performance is generously supported by a grant from the LGBT Giving Circle of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
Tickets are $20, $17 for seniors and students, and $8 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at www.thergmc.org or by calling (585) 423-0650. They also can be purchased in person at Parkleigh, at Equal=Grounds, or from RGMC members. All adult tickets, including seniors and students, will be $25 at the door.
Please note that some language during this show may not be suitable for children.
Matthew Rodriguez posts on mic.com: On Tuesday, Feb. 21, 24-year-old trans woman Keke Collier was shot and killed in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, according to WLS-TV. Early reports misgendered Collier as male.
Shasha Lauren, a friend of Collier’s who has known her for two years, confirmed that the person described in the WLS report is Collier. Lauren works as a peer navigator at Chicago House where she helps transgender women access services like housing, health care and legal services.
According to LaSaia Wade, founder and director of trans justice organization TNTJ Project, Collier also went by the name Tiara Richmond.
Lauren told Mic that according to witnesses who spoke with her, she got in a car with a man who later shot her. According to WLS-TV, Collier was found in the street and pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Hospital.
-Read more on mic.com