On Friday, in the midst of a cold afternoon shrouded in snow, a large trail of students could be seen bundled up in their scarves and jackets making their way to the civil war monument on College Green. They gathered there for the Rally for Trans and Queer Justice, hosted by the Ohio University LGBT Center, in support of justice and equality for those who identify as transgender within the LGBT community.
The rally started off with a speech from the current director of the LGBT center, delfin bautista, who expressed the need for not only equal legal protection and health care rights for those who identify as transgender, but for those who belong to the transgender community to be recognized as real people.
bautista’s speech was met with positive reception from the crowd, who chanted, “When trans people are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” That chant was repeated many times throughout the rally.
Natalie Hansen, who recently graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Specialized Studies and Biomedical Engineering, and who identifies as a trans polysexual lesbian, expressed the reason why she felt it was important for her to be present at the rally.
“It’s important for me to be here because 42 percent of all trans women have attempted suicide,” Hansen said. “It’s important for me to be here because 41 percent of all trans people in general have attempted suicide. It’s important for me to be here because society at large has oppressed trans people and we are dying in droves.”
That sentiment was common throughout the rally. Several student speakers spoke about the death rate of trans people, especially in the wake of Leelah Alcorn’s death, a young teen from Ohio who committed suicide because of her rejected identity as a trans woman.
“Obviously it was a tragedy that should have not happened, and I believe that it is part of the reason why everyone is rallying today,” said Stefan Koob, a freshman studying specialized studies who identifies as human, expressed his thoughts on the Leelah Alcorn situation. “It’s time for the people at OU to realize what issues matter to us, and that we are very much a part of the Bobcat family.”
The rally also focused on issues of racism that exist within and outside of the LGBT community. Various individuals belonging to the trans community read poems and delivered testimonials that expressed their struggles and hopes as trans issues have become more prominent in the media. Voices rang out across College Green as individuals talked about trans pride and the families that they have created on campus.
Many attendees of the rally agreed that while it’s hard for them to face rejection from their families; it’s helpful to know that the people who belong to their new family accept them for who they are.
“We are people; we have real issues, dreams and hopes. But too many people have had their light snuffed out,” said Ana Schmitt, a fifth-year student who identifies as a woman, when asked what she wanted the world to know about the queer and trans movement.
Students can expect similar rallies in the future in order to address the injustices that continue to happen not only within the trans community, but also within the LGBT community as a whole. Those rallies serve as a reminder that there are oppressed communities of people who demand to have their voices heard.