On Monday, protests broke out across the nation in response to a Trump administration memo that proposed a federal re-interpretation of the word “sex.” If accepted, the strict definition would base individuals’ gender on the genitalia they were assigned at birth, essentially eliminating civil rights protections for trans and non-binary individuals. To combat the palpable fear that many trans Angelenos and their allies felt, the Los Angeles rally—which took place at City Hall on Monday night—kicked off with a calm moment of meditation.
As sage smoke curled through a crowd of people wielding picket signs and pink, white, and blue transgender flags, Ezak Perez, executive director of Gender Justice LA, reminded trans folks to take care of themselves in this stressful and scary time. “There’s a lot of healing that we need to do in our communities right now,” said Perez. “Remembering to use our medicine before crisis, during crisis, and after crisis is important to our survival.”
Organized by the TransLatin@ Coalition, the long lineup of speakers that followed urged trans and non-binary Angelenos to stay strong, and asked cisgender allies to show up for community members in the coming months by with both their wallets and their votes. “For my cis allies who are here: You have the privilege. You have the influence to change the policies and the system,” said speaker Diana Feliz Oliva. “We hold you accountable tonight.”
Many also called on local politicians to help protect the city’s trans residents, particularly those who are undocumented or homeless and may already have trouble receiving social services. Queen Victoria Ortega, a Boyle Heights-based LGBTQ organizer, said council members that have voiced support for trans Angelenos in the past need to step up their game. “Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mitch O’Farrell, Nury Martinez, Monica Rodriguez: You need to hire us in your offices, you need to reach into your pockets and create legislation,” she said. “We don’t need resolutions anymore—the time for paper has passed, honey.”
This isn’t he first time the Trump administration has attempted to revoke transgender rights. In March of this year, the president announced that he intended to ban trans people from serving in the military (a plan that has yet to come to fruition). Keegan Smeza, a former service member who attended the City Hall rally, came out as transgender on the same day as that announcement, and said news of the redefinition gave her a familiar feeling in her stomach. “It was a punch to the gut,” she said. “I had to do something physical today, and this was the perfect opportunity.”
Smeza said seeing the queer community come together around this issue has helped her feel safe in a time where she would have otherwise been vulnerable. Now, she hopes that camaraderie will be translated into action. “There were so many trans, cis, and gender-non conforming people wrapping around this one idea tonight, which was really cool,” she said. “I’m thinking about this election season, and how L.A.’s trans community can activate our allies and get these voices amplified.”
Stay up to date with everything you need to know about L.A. by following us on Facebook.