By: Audrey Cole/TRT Reporter—
SALEM, Mass.—The transgender flag soared in front of Salem City Hall earlier this week as a visible sign of solidarity for the transgender community, marking the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
“I think March 31st represents an opportunity to express support for the trans community and to raise awareness of the discrimination and inequality the community still faces on a regular basis,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. “We have work to do to ensure that the transgender community is supported and respected.”
Project Out, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating bias against the trans community and empowering trans people to live authentically produced the impromptu transgender flag-raising event in collaboration with the City of Salem.
“Visibility must include allies, supporters and anyone willing to stand up in solidarity with the trans community,” said Nicole Lashomb, Co-Founder, and Co-Executive Director, Project Out. “This flag raising is about sending a clear and proactive public message to our family, friends and the broader community that we honor and celebrate the lives of trans individuals and recognize the struggle that still exists in the fight for equality. We stand with the trans community in proactive action to create a more just society and value their existence.”
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a veteran of the Stonewall Rebellion, a long time community leader and activist, challenges the need for trans-specific visibility but calls on allies to step up to the plate and own their part in making trans lives count.
“I really don’t understand why we need a Day of Visibility since for most of us, especially us black girls, we are as visible as we need to be,” said Miss Major via a Facebook video. “Our visibility is getting us killed. So, it’s not that we [trans people] need to be visible. I think the people who care about us, who are involved in our lives, and who know us, they’re the people who need to become more visible. They need to acknowledge that we exist, claim and show that they support us, and the best way to do that is talk about us in a positive light on our day of visibility.”
Standing in support at the flag raising were members of the trans community and allies that lined the sidewalk during the afternoon event at City Hall. Once mast, the flag’s bright colors were a poignant contrast to City Hall’s gray brick backdrop.
Shantel Alix, a trans woman, Salem resident, and Community Engagement Coordinator at the North Shore Community Development Coalition shared the impact the event had on her personally.
“Seeing the flag in front of the City Hall makes me feel counted, included, proud, peaceful, and secure,” said Alix.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s website, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. “due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women in 2018. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare, and other necessities—barriers that make them vulnerable.”
Concerns regarding safety continue to plague some members of the trans community, according to the Co-Ed of Project Out.
“While as many transgender people as possible should be proudly visible, the reality is it isn’t always safe to do so,” said Graysen M. Ocasio, who is also The Rainbow Times’ publisher. “Circumstances beyond our control like societal acceptance, racism, sexism, family conditions, ageism, ableism, religion, or even the part of the country in which someone resides, greatly impacts their decision or ability to be visible. We are grateful to those who are able to be ‘out and visible’ and for those that cannot, we will be.”
Alix encourages others to consider the impact societal discrimination has on trans identity.
“We’re not born in the wrong body. If anything, we were born in the wrong society that being our authentic self has to be questioned,” added Alix.
Like Miss Major, Alix sends a message to her fellow trans sisters.
“To all trans sisters … it doesn’t matter where you come from, please love yourself, find ways to the common ground within ourselves and support each other as much as possible to be even more united,” she said.
Education is critical to eradicating bias against the trans community, Lashomb added.
“At the very least, we hope that this flag will shine a positive spotlight on the transgender community and give passersby pause to reflect on why it is hung there in the first place,” Project Out’s Co-Ed said.
In attendance at the flag raising ceremony were representatives from various city organizations and businesses such as Salem’s No Place for Hate Committee, Creative Collective, North Shore Pride, HAWC, Salem Chamber of Commerce, the North Shore Community Development Coalition, and the LGBT Youth Commission, among others.
“I hope [that] having the trans flag flying in front of City Hall illustrates that we are a community that recognizes the contributions of our trans friends and neighbors and that we stand together in solidarity to support greater protections and equal treatment for our trans citizens,” the lauded LGBTQ champion and Salem Mayor said.
Project Out was founded in 2018 and is headquartered in Salem, Mass.
“That flag streaming in front of city hall helps to give a voice and visible recognition to those that are the most vulnerable among us and who aren’t or can’t be visible at this time,” Lashomb added. “We at Project Out are so appreciative of the Mayor’s truly inclusive leadership and are fortunate to have this organization here in Salem with her at the city’s helm.”
For more information about Project Out, visit projectout.org.