Just being out in public, openly and unashamedly, takes guts when you belong to a community that is misunderstood, overlooked or met with outright prejudice. But on Oct. 8, the day before Outfest, two local activists are putting together an event that will bring together transgender people and gender nonconformists of all stripes to create visibility and awareness for social equality.
The Philly Trans March is the brainchild of Jess Kalup, a graphic designer and social-justice activist, and Christian Axavier Lovehall, a transgender man, organizer and hip-hop artist. They’ve put together the march to protest the hate, social injustice and inequality faced by the transgender community.
Kalup got involved in the transgender scene a few summers ago after befriending a number of trans-identified people whom she met while participating in a Soulforce Equality Ride, which brings LGBT people and their allies to conservative Christian colleges. Kalup met Lovehall after his performance at an event sponsored by Original Plumbing, a lifestyle magazine devoted to female-to-male trans guys, and they kept running into one another at various LGBT get-togethers.
It was participating in all these meetings and rallies that got Lovehall to thinking. “There have been a lot of marches in the city that I attended,” he says. “Considering all the issues the trans community is facing, I felt we needed a movement of our own.”
So when Lovehall was ready to make his idea a reality, the first person he contacted was Kalup. “I felt an overwhelming certainty that the march needed to happen and was confident I had to help make it happen,” Kalup says.
In short order, they planned the route, secured the proper permits and booked a variety of performers, ranging from drag artist Dynasty Escada Ross to singer-songwriter Susan Collins.
The march begins with a brief rally at Love Park, then winds its way around City Hall and through the Gayborhood. After the march and performances end, participants can head over to the William Way Community Center for a meet-and-greet designed as an opportunity for younger LGBT folks to mix and mingle with the organizers and performers. The festivities conclude with a booty-shaking after-party at Sisters.
The dynamic pair has organized the event through a Facebook page and website and has recruited an enthusiastic committee of organizers and allies, including Joe Ippolito of the Gender Reel film festival and the sassy sex-education collective, ScrewSmart.
Kalup isn’t at all surprised by the positive response they’ve received so far. She feels the local trans community is growing and is also creating its own institutions, like the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which held its 10th annual meeting in June, and the Gender Reel film festival, which screened two days’ worth of film and video work by trans-artists this past August.
Of course, life isn’t uniformly positive for Philadelphia’s transgender community. Lovehall is quick to point out the many challenges his peers still face, such as job discrimination and the daily hassle of dealing with the absurdity of SEPTA’s gender stickers.
But facing up to those dispiriting rebuffs is an important motivation for the march. “I’d rather it got better now than worse later,” Lovehall says. “Suicide, hate crimes, violence, going to all these memorials for trans women—what’s a better time than now?”
Philly Trans March: Sat., Oct. 8, 3pm. Love Park. phillytransmarch.com
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide