Pride a word that recognizes the ongoing struggle for equality within the LGBTQ community. It’s not all rainbows, the Human Rights Campaign calls violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people an epidemic.
So far this year, 29 trans and gender nonconforming people have been killed. And the majority are people of color who lived in the south. Statistics show that more and more lawyers are saying it’s high time to do more for all trans lives.
It’s June 5th at Bryant Park in Lake Worth Beach and the Pride Market is billed as “fun for everyone”.
“I think it’s great – I’m proud and we have to normalize this because people are people and love is love,” said Irene Murphy, Pride Market participant.
But take a good look. There is a purpose behind these festivities.
“I really think black trans women definitely gave us the basics and did all the hard work and died and literally put sweat and tears in our blood to be able to have the rights that we have today,” said Austin “Oliver Legacy” Wayne, Pride Market Participant.
Wayne talks about the trans women of color who helped spark the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and the political and cultural contributions that followed. A story which, according to some, should be more recognized. And all year round.
“It would be a lot better if our voices were heard a lot more than they are now,” said Mary Jayne Petrone, Pride Market participant. “They created this. They are the reason we can be free like this.
Others also point to education and stigma.
“They are so much more marginalized than anyone else in the queer community. And I think they’re the bravest people in this culture because they rock what nobody really wants you to do – the kind, ”Murphy said.
And there is data to back it up. So far this year, the Human Rights Campaign has documented at least 29 transgender or gender non-conforming deaths.
Last year was “the most violent year”, with a total of 44 deaths recorded. Deadly violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people disproportionately affects transgender women, people of color, people under 35 and people of the south. Like Bee Love Slater, a native of Pahokee, murdered in September 2019, in Clewiston, Florida.
Regularly, Wunda Williams drops balloons, buttons, lights, wood chips and flowers at Foreverglades Cemetery. Even her fingernails honor her second child and that’s how she keeps her memory alive. But time has not healed the wound it left behind.
“Just like they put their knee on George Floyd’s neck – and they made them pay, I want the killer to pay too, the way he hurt me,” Williams said. “They destroyed my family. I can never get the love of bees back. But do me some kind of justice.
Last year, on the anniversary of Slater’s death, Sheriff Steve Whidden said detectives had interviewed several hundred people, drafted and executed more than 40 search warrants, and as of this week, the investigation into Slater’s death is still ongoing and they continue to follow on the leads. A reward of $ 10,000 is still available for information leading to an arrest.
“I worry night and day that my son’s killer is walking the streets looking in the face of other people. You don’t know who he is or who she is or where they are, ”Williams said.
In September, Williams plans to take to the streets in honor of Bee Love and she demands the same boost for trans lives that the area has seen for black lives.
“They also need a voice to be heard in this situation,” said Williams.
But is walking enough? Some say no.
“If we legislate with the most marginalized in mind – and that’s a black trans woman.” And so if we do this, who is missing? This is what I say I want our elected officials to do. There is an epidemic of violence, ”said Nik Harris, lawyer and activist.
Harris said lawmakers at all levels should invest their time and energy in laws and policies that protect all Americans.
“There are people who really can’t seem to tell the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s not and that has real fatal consequences,” Harris said. “So we shouldn’t have to tell people how not to hate other people. But I say it’s really hard to hate people up close.
Harris says the equality law that was passed in the US House in 2019 but stuck in the Senate would do just that. It would amend the current civil rights law by providing explicit protections against discrimination to LGBTQ people in the areas of employment, housing, health care, education, public spaces and housing.
“It’s not about ‘well, we have a difference of opinion’. It’s beyond that because we’re talking about people losing their lives. So in that it’s hard to have a debate where we talk about your potential comfort over a ‘problem’ that doesn’t even really exist.victing someone’s life or livelihood when unable to find a job when denied l ‘access to housing – when it can be kicked out of restaurants,’ said Harris.
In the meantime, community centers like Lake Worth’s Compass are filling a void by providing resources to engage, empower and enrich the lives of all members of the LGBTQ community.
“It’s not a question of whether companies have transgender and non-binary employees working for them, but a question of when. Because it’s going to happen and they need to be ready, ”said Julie Seaver, Executive Director and CEO of the Compass Community Center.
This spring alone, the center launched a transgender economic empowerment program to tackle discrimination in employment and housing.
“We need to elevate some of our most marginalized members of the community to the same level as we all are,” Seaver said.
The program offers a work placement but also educates the employer.
“There are still a lot of questions surrounding the trans experience,” Seaver said.
It’s programming that is ahead of what Compass offered 30 years ago, according to trans activist Velvet Lenore Smith.
“I live my life thanks to Compass,” said Smith.
Smith says Compass advocates and normalizes trans lives 12 months a year and also empowers those marginalized who need it most. Even a Miss Palm Beach Pride like her.
“I’m happy. I do what you do,” Smith said. “I pay my taxes. I pay my bills. I have a wonderful husband. I have a wonderful house – let me live. I shouldn’t. not having to go out and always feel like I have to protect myself.
Smith also has advice for anyone struggling with their own identity.
“My solution is more visibility and education,” Smith said.
Obviously and education that is not regulated at one month.
“Pride is not just a party. It’s always been a party with a purpose, ”Seaver said.
To learn more about Compass’ Transgender Economic Empowerment Program, Click here.