Hundreds of transgendered people and their allies took to the streets of East Vancouver Aug 2 to show community solidarity and to demand equal rights, in a march that started at Clark Park and headed north along Commercial Drive to Victoria Park.
Now in its fourth year, the Trans and Genderqueer March kicked off Pride weekend in Vancouver under a rainbow of placards as participants chanted and onlookers honked or shouted support.
Organizer Shannon Blatt tells Xtra the march is part celebration, part protest against issues impacting trans and genderqueer people such as harassment, violence, denial of express protections against discrimination, and a prison system that places trans people in solitary confinement.
"We are a fucking fierce, beautiful group of people," Blatt told the crowd as the march began. "We demand respect for our dignity."
"This community deserves some love," Blatt continued to cheers from the crowd. "Let's give ourselves some love."
"It's important to have this march because we need to send a message of love and solidarity to the community and to each other," Blatt tells Xtra. It’s about claiming public space for the trans and genderqueer community.
Blatt says the community's voice will not be denied or silenced.
"We are here to celebrate ourselves and to send a message to the world at large that we have issues that need addressing," Blatt says, adding, "it is important for the youth in our community to know they are part of a community that loves them."
The annual march is a celebration of trans and genderqueer people's lives, their struggles, strength and resilience, Blatt says.
Ally Kelsey Trimler says it's important for people to come out and show support for their friends.
"It's just so obviously important," she says. "Transphobia kills. It's not okay.
"Vancouver sells itself as a very open city and it is in a way, but there's a lot of work to be done."
"Binaries in general are just so flawed," she adds.
Trans Alliance Society chair and long-time activist Marie Little was among those at the march.
Little says it's important to support human rights for trans people around the world, "including Moscow."
Asked why Moscow, Little refers to the regressive anti-gay law that Russian President Vladmir Putin has instituted.
Calls to boycott the 2014 Sochi Olympics continued to grow last week after a Russian sports minister announced athletes and tourists would be punished for breaking the country’s controversial new law criminalizing gay “propaganda.” (Though in an apparent about-face the legislative Duma later issued assurances that visiting athletes and guests would be exempt.)
Little, who has spent four months total in Moscow over several visits, says the situation was more relaxed during the Soviet era.
She says she spoke with a Russian queer activist recently who said queers now must once again meet discretely.
"Putin isn't taking it back to the Stalinist days," Little says. "He's taking it back to tsarist days."
(The tsars were Russian kings prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917 that brought the Communists to power).
Following the march, an all-ages cabaret and dance party was held at Gallery Gachet with proceeds from the event going to PACE (Providing Alternatives and Counselling Education Society), a sex worker advocacy and support organization.