By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
Last month my Springfield, Mass. trans support group, UniTy, was asked to march with Baystate Health in the 2014 Springfield Puerto Rican Day Parade. Of course, UniTy Moderator Keri Stebbins and I happily accepted the invitation, and we sent out information in our Yahoo and Facebook groups about the event. We talked it up at our UniTy monthly meeting hoping to have a good showing in the parade.
On the day of the parade we got there early. I walked around taking pictures of the other marchers and briefly chatted with some of them. It was a nice day, everyone was in good spirits and there was nothing but positivity in the air. When the parade began we unfolded our UniTy banner and carried it as we set out on the two mile walk to downtown Springfield.
It wasn’t long before we received some clapping and encouraging words from the crowd. Quite a few times there was a “woo hoo!” and big smiles meeting us during the march. Dozens and dozens of people took our picture, and some even motioned for us to stop and pose so they could get our photo with the banner. One young woman shouted “You’re beautiful!” to us. It was very nice to hear and feel the love and support for us. As far as I know, we were the only LGBT group in the parade, and we may have been the first LGBT group ever to march.
After the parade, Keri and I talked about how the people were warm to us and very supportive. It felt exceptionally good. Before the march we honestly didn’t know what to expect from the parade crowd. We thought maybe we would get polite claps but many, many times the response was very positive. The crowd’s love and support made us smile and feel like maybe things are beginning to change.
How do you bring about change? How do people begin to accept trans folks and support them? [pullquote]Can you guess how many trans people came out and marched in the Puerto Rican Day Parade? Two. It was only Keri and I. It was very disappointing because besides giving the information to our group, I also put it on my Facebook page and asked anyone who wanted to march to come march with us. No one came.[/pullquote]
It’s a process, but it is best accomplished by being visible. Everyone who is visible is helping to change minds about trans folk. Being visible puts us in the norm, right alongside of everybody else. It does take time though. The first ones who were visible, unfortunately, took quite a few hits. Many were ridiculed, beaten, and in some cases they even lost their lives. It was a very brave thing for them to do and I thank these folks from the bottom of my heart. They helped pave the way to make it better for us trans folks today. If they never went visible we would not have it any better today than they did. That’s why I thank them and I appreciate what they did to make it better for us.
Today, I believe we should keep the ball rolling for the coming generations of trans folk. We can do this by simply being visible. Since Chaz Bono, Kristin Beck, Laverne Cox and others became visible, suddenly the world got better for us and it helped the cause.
I realize that some trans folks cannot be visible because they will still be ridiculed, beaten, and maybe even murdered. They must remain on the down low for the time being. I can’t blame them for keeping a low profile and agree that it’s safety first.
However, there are others who won’t be ridiculed, beaten or murdered. They could be visible and help keep the ball rolling to make it better for all of us. Why aren’t they visible? Lots of times it’s because they are just thinking of themselves. They’ll take the gains made by those who are visible but won’t help the cause. Sadly, they put themselves in the position of takers, not givers.
Can you guess how many trans people came out and marched in the Puerto Rican Day Parade? Two. It was only Keri and I. It was very disappointing because besides giving the information to our group, I also put it on my Facebook page and asked anyone who wanted to march to come march with us. No one came.
Why can’t they see that being visible in that parade is a good thing that will benefit everyone? Don’t they want things to change for the better? It would have been nice to see the visibility of more than two trans people there.
Sometimes we need to look outside of ourselves and act for the good of us all.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.