By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Approximately 75 people gathered outside the U.S. Steel Tower downtown on July 31 to protest for the civil rights of the trans community. The march was organized by Trans YOUniting, a trans-led nonprofit that works to provide resources to trans people and root out institutional transphobia, and True T Pittsburgh, a community platform for LGBTQ resource sharing. The crowd included organizers with grassroots group Pittsburgh I Can’t Breathe, as well as Delta Foundation interim president Jim Sheppard.
The march came about in response to moves by the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era healthcare protections for trans folks. Members of Trans YOUniting wrote letters to UPMC, Gateway, and Highmark, asking for them to publicly affirm that the trans community would not face discrimination at their facilities.
“What we got back was silence,” said one speaker. “We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and you’re telling us…that we can’t be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. That should not be happening.”
From Steel Tower, the rally proceeded down Grant Street to the Pittsburgh City-County Building. There, from the top of the outside stairs, members of the black queer and trans community addressed the crowd.
They spoke of the fear that they will be turned away from a hospital if they need emergency assistance. They talked of the profound impact of President Trump’s actions on themselves and their community. They listed the names of trans people no longer with us, including Aaliyah Johnson, who was found dead outside her McKeesport apartment in May.
Dena Stanley, the founder of Trans YOUniting, and Nique Craft, an organizer with Pittsburgh I Can’t Breathe, were the day’s final speakers. Stanley and Craft are among several local activists who are facing charges of rioting and terroristic threats over a June 24 protest at 941 Saloon.
Craft spoke pointedly about this treatment, saying she spent eight hours in the Allegheny County Jail over a protest that, when compared to recent events in Minneapolis or Portland, was relatively insignificant.
“This is Mickey Mouse bullshit, and I sat in ACJ over it,” said Craft. “That’s completely wild to me.”
In her speech, Stanley addressed how the actions of our leaders have tangible effects on the everyday lives of trans people.
“It is insane that we can’t go into an emergency room without feeling anxiety,” said Stanley. “It is insane that a trans person can’t go to a shelter without feeling anxiety.”
Stanley also spoke on the importance of being proactive when addressing these issues.
“Why does it take for someone to be violated…in order for folks to take action. We should be taking action before all of that happens,” said Stanley. “Legislation has to be passed without people being traumatized.”