“This is the last [protest] to be outside, but it’s not going to stop any work that’s being done,” said Dena Stanley, founder of trans nonprofit organization Trans YOUniting, which has organized the weekly marches since August. “We’re still going to be advocating, we’re still going to be educating.”
Stanley said that trans issues tend to get pushed to the side and silenced, adding that the low turnout for the march was an indication of how the trans community is ignored, compared to other marginalized groups and causes.
“When it comes to trans folks, we don’t have that respect that we should. So that’s basically what we’re fighting for — not only the respect, not only to be seen and to be heard, but to have respect,” said Stanley.
Stanley said that in Allegheny County there’s an ordinance in place to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination, “but it’s only goes so far. I was in Allegheny County and I was discriminated against and there’s barely anything we could do because there was so much to prove.”
Protester Jess Dillon says she has showed up to each Trans YOUniting march over the course of the last six weeks. Dillon, a Pittsburgh student from Philadelphia, said that while she’s here in Pittsburgh, she wants to use her voice about the injustices she has seen.
“Me being a non-binary person when I was just walking to Market Square and I stumbled upon people screaming about trans lives matter I was like, ‘What?’ I think it just feels nice to be represented and to be vocalized about and to be stood up for,” said Dillon.
In addition to amplifying trans voices, the march also served as a remembrance of Walter Wallace Jr., a recent victim of police violence in Philadelphia.
“My sisters are dying in these streets. Every week except for last week, a trans woman was killed,” Stanley told the crowd from the steps of the City-County Building. “This week, a Black man was shot while he was in the middle of having a [mental health] crisis.”
Stanley expressed her exasperation with the inaction from local government about the bigotry, hatred, and cycle of violence she says has been perpetrated onto trans and Black people.
Another protester and speaker, Jalina McClarin, echoed Stanley’s sentiments. She opened up to the crowd about her first experience with systemic racism as a child, drawing comparisons to the late Wallace.
“I was in the fourth grade, and I had brought to school a butterknife and to do a science experience with some fucking magnets. On my way back from school on the school bus, it fell out of my pocket. Some kid said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Jalina’s,’ and I almost got expelled. I was in fourth grade. I was ten years old,” said McClarin.
McClarin said she was perceived as a threat as a child, and Wallace was a man seeking help in the middle of a mental health crisis who was also perceived as a threat. In this regard, she stated there is no way the system in place isn’t seeking to harm Black people.
Terrance McGeorge, a local organizer from Project Matters, stood in support of Stanley and trans visibility, but he also expressed grief and sadness for Black men, the community, and the violence they face.
“Watching that footage,” he continued, “I can’t ingest the killing of Black people anymore. I can’t do it. I’m tired. It’s so fucking draining. It comes out so much, we see it so much. We’re around it so much, it’s normalized. If you go on fucking YouTube, all you have to type in is ‘police shot a black man,’ there are hundreds of fucking videos. What does that do for my humanity? What does that do to my father’s humanity? What does that do to my friends’?”
After the speeches, the crowd marched onto Grant Street in the rain and cold, until it reached Market Square for the final moments of the demonstration.
In the final speeches of the march, protester Chrissy Carter vocalized more frustrations with the lack of policy change in Pittsburgh.
“I’m so tired of marching. We have been marching since May 31 and what fucking legislation has changed? They don’t fucking care about us. They don’t care about our lives. They don’t care about our safety. Y’all want to come down to these marches every fucking Thursday and hear us rant and hear us talk about our trauma but where is the actual change?”
Market Square 📍— Dannys Marrero (@DannysMarrero) October 29, 2020
Chrissy delivers powerful remarks to the crowd of protesters in Market Square.#PittsburghProtest @PghProtests #PGHNews @transyouniting #TransRightsAreHumanRights #ACAB pic.twitter.com/aXNaahysSg
Moreover, Carter strongly urged that people in positions of power, like white allies, make necessary changes in their lives to help combat pervasive systemic racism.
“It shouldn’t take the death of a Black person to get you out here marching. When is enough going to be fucking enough? It’s not about respectability because respectability gets us nowhere,” said Carter. “When has ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no sir’ ever not gotten no one shot? When has actually putting your hands on a steering wheel actually never gotten somebody shot? They don’t care about us.”