A Mission Accomplished

We are pleased to report the DC TLGB Watch’s Transgender Day of Action in Washington, DC, was, and continues to be, a notable success by any standard.

Even a few days ago, when elected/appointed officials became a little nervous on rumors that street demonstrations and set of demands with deadlines were coming to their doorsteps, the Trans community leaders were offered some coordinated face-time with the Office of Mayor Vincent Gray together with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the US Attorney for Washington, DC (USAO), a fresh approach to replace their usual divide and conquer strategy to make these problems magically disappear. (Because we still do not have statehood in Washington, DC, our justice system is federally administered by the USAO, and this causes obstacles of its own that interfere with bringing justice and equality to the Trans community.)

So, even before the first boot hit the ground or the first demand leapt from our bullhorn, we saw a new willingness among these officials to start responding proactively on a level this crisis of anti-Trans violence and police bias warrants. But that was just the beginning.

After marching in front of the MPD with 40+ Trans victims, activists, and allies, with chants like “Hey, Hey, Ho Ho, Transphobia has got to go,” and delivering our demands in writing directly to MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier, we read each demand out loud from the sidewalk as a media scrum pressed in to interview spokespeople in the Trans community. Minutes later, while headed over to the federal building a few blocks away that houses the USAO, to rally again and deliver our demands to the US Attorney, we were chased down in the street by a press aide from Police Chief Lanier’s office with a an official statement.

Lanier’s incredible “rebuttal” of our demands was an insult and misrepresentation of the countless hours and years community leaders have spent in meetings with her and her predecessor with little to show for it except for increasing anti-Trans violence and murder. With just a few sentences, she tried to blame the Trans community for its failure to send representatives to an unannounced, hastily organized MPD meet-and-greet last week, a sign, in her mind at least, that we were the ones not being serious about working in partnership with them to bring about change. This was at once ironic, ludicrous, and infuriating because this defensive statement was so obviously hastily prepared a few floors up simultaneous with our street demonstration, and at the same time, indisputably and so sadly demonstrates to everyone who can read how unserious and off the page she and her department have been.

We’re talking about a spike in anti-Trans murders, two in the last 4 months, rampant anti-trans violence, including attempted murders at the hands of police, and police bias and police profiling especially within DC’s highly questionable and indeed unconstitutional “Prostitution Free Zones.” What are they focused on? They want to argue with us about who came out for a coffee, a completely cynical deflection carried out in the most petty, amateurish, and self-disclosing way. The Chief cannot help but fail each time she approaches these important issues because she first must change her own very bad attitudes, and then be in a position to get serious about the gravity and urgency this shame in the nation’s capital deserves.

Today, the emails to our community are buzzing back and forth from Chief Lanier and her commanders. They are scrambling to reach out now that we have taken to direct action to bring this crisis to the attention of every American and established what their priorities must be. Maybe now they can begin to change the situation by changing themselves and understanding just how they discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and, especially, Trans people by offering public relations tricks in place of honest dialogue. At least now, they are on notice that they must turn that corner and rise to their responsibilities.

We have come together in coalition with a set of demands we all agree on and we have set dates for completion. Now it is up to the Trans community leaders to press them in high level meetings with our elected/appointed officials, telling these decision-makers that they can keep the street activists at bay only if and when real progress starts and continues. We are a strong coalition representing a dozen prominent organizations dedicated to improving life for DC Trans residents. Now, at a moment’s notice, we can put boots on the ground, again and again, until real, systemic, and sustainable change comes to Washington, DC. We will do this until the anti-Trans violence and police bias in DC comes to an end, including the harmful Prostitution Free Zones.