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Trans activists hold protest outside police, U.S. Attorney offices

Protesters call for immediate steps to curtail anti-trans violence and ‘police bias’

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Gay News, Washington Blade, Transgender
Transgender Day of Action

Transgender Day of Action protests. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 35 transgender activists and their supporters walked in picket lines on Thursday outside the headquarters of the D.C. Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to draw attention to what they say is an unacceptably high rate of violence against transgender people in the city.

Participants in the two protests, which organizers called a Transgender Day of Action, presented a list of demands to District Police Chief Cathy Lanier and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Mechan calling for immediate steps to address the problem.

“This past summer we were able to report 20 incidents where [transgender] people were beaten, stabbed, shot — and this is something that really concerns us,” said Ruby Corado of the D.C. Trans Coalition, who spoke to the gathering through a bull horn.

“The call that we want to make is that people remember that this is happening in your own back yard,” she said. “There’s no way that people in this city can ignore that this is happening to their own brothers and sisters, and we need to take action.”

Corado and others who spoke at the protests have said existing city laws and police department policies that prohibit discrimination against transgender people are among the strongest in the in the nation. But the activists say the city in general and police in particular haven’t adequately implemented those laws and policies.

“This is coming after the terrible outbreak of anti-trans violence in this city this past summer,” said Dana Beyer, executive director of the transgender advocacy group Gender Rights Maryland.

Transgender Day of Action

Day of Action supporters marching. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Beyer, who participated in the D.C. protest on Thursday, said some of the recent violent attacks against transgender women, including the July shooting murder of trans woman Lashay Mclean, 23, have taken place in a section of Northeast D.C. next to the D.C.-Prince George’s County, Md., border. She said the developments have had an impact on the trans community in Maryland.

“The leadership in this city is committed to our community but for some reason they simply have not been able to implement that commitment,” Beyer said. “And we’re just here to remind them that they need to take that next step.”

Activists have expressed concern in recent months that the U.S. Attorney’s office, which serves as the city’s prosecutor in criminal cases, has reduced the charges against men arrested for violent crimes, including murders, against transgender people in an effort to persuade the men to plead guilty and avoid the need for a trial.

In meetings with LGBT activists, representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s office have said they only lower charges in cases where they believe the available evidence and circumstances surrounding the cases would prevent the office from obtaining a conviction from a jury if the case goes to trial.

LGBT advocacy groups, including the D.C. Trans Coalition and Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) dispute that explanation. They argue that the U.S. Attorney’s office has been too quick to reduce charges against violence criminals who target the LGBT community, and the office should bring more cases to trial.

Xion Lopez

Xion Lopez. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Xion Lopez, 20, a transgender woman, told the gathering outside the U.S. Attorney’s office on 4th Street, N.W., less than two blocks from police headquarters, she was speaking on behalf of transgender crime victims who lost their lives to violence.

“I stand here today with the hope and knowing that the crime will stop, something will be done we’ll be able to move forward,” she said.

Janelle Mungo, an official with the D.C. chapter of the national direct action group Get Equal and an organizer of Thursday’s protest, said details of the demands and background on the issues surrounding anti-trans violence in the city can be viewed at www.TLGBpolicewatch.tumblr.com.

In statement responding to the protest, Lanier said, “MPD is committed to protecting and working with all members of our communities. I have demonstrated my personal commitment to this community from the beginning of my tenure, when I issued the department’s first directive on handling interactions with transgender individuals, to now, when I have been meeting with the GLBT community at least monthly since this summer.”

Lanier said she has just organized a series of town hall meetings to allow members of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to meet LGBT community members. She said she was disappointed that no one from the LGBT community showed up at one of those meetings on Wednesday night of this week.

Jason Terry, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition who participated in the protest, called Lanier’s statement “insulting,” saying police failed to adequately publicize the police meetings with GLLU members. He said many transgender community members also are reluctant to attend an event at a police station, where the GLLU meetings are being held, following two recent incidents in which a police officer has assaulted transgender people. In one of the incidents, an off duty police officer was arrested for firing his gun into a car in which three trans women were sitting.

“MPD’s failure to attract people to their events is their failure, not the community’s,” Terry said.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables three anti-transgender bills

Measures would have banned trans athletes from school teams

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled three bills that would ban transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

The Senate Education and Health Committee’s Public Education Committee tabled state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Louisa County)’s Senate Bill 1186 and state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 962.

“We’re one step closer to these bills being gone for good,” said Equality Virginia in a tweet.

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District of Columbia

‘Talking Trans History’ explores lives of D.C. advocates

Rainbow History Project holds first panel for city-funded Trans History Initiative

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Seated from left panelists Earline Budd, Rayceen Pendarvis, and Gabrielle ‘Gibby’ Thomas are joined by Rainbow History Project officials and supporters. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Longtime D.C. transgender rights advocates Earline Budd and Gabrielle ‘Gibby’ Thomas gave personal accounts of their transition as transgender women and their work as trans rights advocates Tuesday night, Jan. 24, at a “Talking Trans History” panel discussion organized by D.C.’s Rainbow History Project.

Joining them as a panelist was Rayceen Pendarvis, the acclaimed local event host, public speaker, and LGBTQ community advocate. Pendarvis, among other things, told of being nurtured and taught by dynamic transgender women who proudly affirmed their identity not only as trans people but productive citizens in the community at large.

Vincent Slatt, Rainbow History Project’s director of archiving, served as moderator of the panel discussion. He told the audience of about 25 people who gathered at the Southwest Branch of the D.C. Public Library that the event was the first of many such panels planned by the project’s recently launched Trans History Initiative.

Slatt noted that Rainbow History Project received a $15,000 grant for fiscal year 2023 from the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to conduct the Trans History Initiative. The initiative plans to “better integrate the often-under-represented histories of trans people into our programming,” according to a RHP statement.

Budd, 64, who has been a trans-identified activist since the 1970s, became involved in the 1980s with supporting people with HIV/AIDS before founding the D.C. organizations Trans Health Empowerment and Empowering the Transgender Community (ETC), for which she currently serves as executive director. She has received numerous awards for her work in support of the trans community and her self-proclaimed role as “the advocate” for the trans and LGBTQ community.

In her remarks at the panel discussion, Budd told of her childhood upbringing in a religious family where, like many trans people, her parents didn’t approve of her early identity as a girl.

“I want to say that around eight or nine my mother found me to be different,” Budd said. “The difference was she would lay my clothes out, my sister’s clothes and my clothes for us to go to school. And when I would come downstairs, I would always have on my sister’s clothes,” Budd told the gathering.

“And she would say why do you have on your sister’s clothes?” Budd continued. “I said mommy, it fits. No, it does not, you’re a boy,” Budd quoted her mother as responding. “And let me tell you, that went on and on and on,” said Budd, who told how she eventually parted ways with her parents and left the house to embark on her role as one of D.C.’s leading trans advocates.

Among her many endeavors was successful discrimination complaints, including one against a D.C. skating rink and another against the D.C. Jail for discrimination based on gender identity. Budd told how she won in both cases, with strong backing from the D.C. Office of Human Rights. 

Pendarvis, among other things, spoke about how an association with trans women as a young adult helped to shape Pendarvis’s longstanding and award-winning role as co-founder of Team Rayceen Productions, including 10 years as leading host of “The Ask Rayceen Show,” which highlighted topics promoting the LGBTQ and trans community in D.C.

Similar to Budd, Pendarvis has received numerous awards and honors, including recognition from the D.C. City Council, for work as a host and speaker at LGBTQ-related festivals, fundraisers and other events.

“As an activist and host, I have been blessed to do many things,” Pendarvis told the panel discussion gathering. “For many who do not quite know how to identify or ask me to identify, first of all, I’m a human being,” Pendarvis said. “I am a father of five and a mother of many.”

Pendarvis added, “I’m a human being first and foremost, a child of God. And my trans sisters uplifted me first, embraced me first. I came out in a community where our transgender sisters were always on the front line.”

Thomas, 65, told the panel session she is a native of North Brentwood, Md., located just outside D.C., but D.C. became her home since shortly after finishing high school. She began her work in the LGBTQ community in 1989 as a caregiver for people with HIV. She has since worked for the local organizations Us Helping Us, Transgender Health Empowerment, and Terrific, Inc. She currently works for Damien Ministries and its “Trans Specific” programming called Shugg’s Place that, among other things, focuses on providing services for transgender older adults.

She told of her growing up as one of seven children in a family whose mother and father, she said ‘were very loving.” But like other trans kids, Thomas said her parents were uncomfortable over her desire to identify as a girl. A more understanding next door neighbor allowed Thomas to spend time in her house as Thomas helped with household errands.

 “I would go to the store and things like that for her,” Thomas said. “But what’s most important, I could dress as I wanted to in her house. She would give me dresses that I could wear. And I could go up there and put on my dresses and watch TV,” Thomas continued. “And then I would get to take my dress off and go home because mom and daddy wasn’t standing for that.”

At around the age of 10, Thomas said, she was aware of current events and observed that her father was a strong supporter and admirer of Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights leadership. “I said you can march with Martin Luther King for everybody else’s rights but you are going to deny me mine,” she recalled telling her father.

Thomas said she initially began patronizing D.C. gay bars after befriending gay men from her high school. A short time later, after realizing that the gay scene was not who she was, she discovered the then D.C. gay drag bars Louis’ and The Rogue and had a chance to meet “people like me.” But she said someone she met at one of those two bars introduced her to the then D.C. Black gay bar called the Brass Rail, where transgender women hung out.

“And I said, oh my God, I am home. This is heaven,” Thomas told the panel gathering. “When I came to the Brass Rail I felt like I was home” as a trans person, Thomas said. “I met so many terrific people.”

She went on to tell about the trials and tribulations of fully transitioning as a trans woman and her growth as a transgender activist with a career dedicated to supporting the trans and LGBTQ community.

Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, spoke briefly at the start of the Talking Trans History panel discussion. He said the mayor’s office was excited to be supporting the Rainbow History Project’s newly launched Trans History Initiative.

“I’m really, really excited to work for a mayor who not only is fighting for things for our community, but truly funding these opportunities,” Bowles said. “This is about you and our trans communities. So, I’m here to listen.”

Slatt also announced at the panel session that Rainbow History Project has a paid job opening for one or more positions to help run the city funded Trans History Initiative. He said information about the job opening for people interested in applying can be obtained through RHP’s website. He said a video recording of the panel session would be posted on the website in a week or two.

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Virginia

Va. House subcommittee kills anti-transgender bill

Committee members unanimously rejected HB 1434

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Wednesday killed a bill that would have required transgender students to obtain a court order to update their name in school records.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the House Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee voted unanimously to kill state Del. Jason Ballard (R-Giles County)’s House Bill 1434.

“This bill served no educational purpose and was entirely unnecessary,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a statement. “LGBTQ+ students thrive when they are provided safe, affirming and supportive learning spaces, which includes allowing them to go by their chosen name without jumping through legal hoops.” 

“HB 1434 would have run counter to that by creating a hostile school environment,” added Rahaman. “By tabling this bill the subcommittee has sent a strong message that LGBTQ+ students belong in Virginia.” 

“Trans and nonbinary students should be able to go to school and be called by their chosen names, without fear of being outed,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote.

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