anti-trans violence

How Days of Action Work in Addressing Police Bias and Anti-Transgender Violence

Today in hundreds of cities and towns across the world transgender and gender-nonconforming people and their allies pause to honor our fallen heroes. The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith—a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist—to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. It occurs annually on (or around) November 20, and its overarching goal is to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community with the hope that together we can end such violence and intolerance.

Not long ago, Washington, DC, found itself in the midst of an epidemic of violence and murders against transgender people. The rates had been steadily growing over 10 years and suddenly we suffered 4 murders in less than 3 months. (The increase in discrimination was perhaps due to a backlash against the migration of many transgender people to DC, from Virginia and elsewhere, wanting to live in a city that had, and still has, the country’s most comprehensive human rights protections for gender-nonconforming people.)

Transgender Day of Action  Washington, DC November 21, 2011

Transgender Day of Action
Washington, DC
November 21, 2011

Vigil followed vigil and soon it was time for our annual TDOR. But we decided to add on a more immediate and visible Transgender Day of Action to bring this outrageous state of affairs to the forefront of public consciousness and the media and put the police, city officials, and the U.S. Attorney for Washington, DC, on notice.

In 2011, we started with just 5 people who met once or twice a week to hear directly from survivors of anti-trans violence and police harassment because any action to be effective would have to be grounded in real-world circumstances. We called ourselves the TLGB Police Watch, and eventually represented a coalition that included more than a dozen local organizations which turned these community concerns into goals, a set of demands, and a plan for a day of non-violence civil disobedience.

Within 24 hours after putting boots on the ground, at the Metropolitan Police Headquarters to City Hall and the offices of the U.S. Attorney of Washington, cold cases were reopened, the constitutionality of Prostitution Free Zones was questioned, police training efforts changed, and conference rooms once closed to transgender issues were opened wide.

At an international trans health conference the following spring, we reported out to trans activists from other cities, providing training and materials based on our success in effectively slowing the rates of violent incidents and murders.

Subsequent DC days of actions started popping up at other times during the year, fighting for healthcare access, employment opportunities, and housing nondiscrimination. The number of activists working directly on trans issues in DC right now includes more than 100 people and most of the organizations that were originally part of the TLGB Police Watch coalition.

The important take away is that days of action work and will continue work in visibly fighting this scourge of our community. It is an educational and effective way to make your demands heard and bring about change. The only requirement is your determination to organize across a spectrum of stakeholders, and then show up to do the work. Anyone who wants help in organizing a Transgender Day of Action in their community anytime of the year can tap into our resources and/or contact us for assistance and support.

DC was home city up until about 18 months ago, and tonight my heart and soul (and continuing support) are with all my friends there. Love is what it is all about because it has the power to extinguish hate in our world. Let’s work together to make world a place that is safe for everyone and human rights reign.

George Larcher image Flickr/creative commons

George Larcher image
Flickr/creative commons



A “how-to kit” at Philly Trans Health Conference

Dan Massey and I are here at the 11th Annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference with 2500 trans and genderqueer folk and their allies. On the conference’s last day, we will be presenting, “Ending Police Bias and Anti-Trans Violence: A Grassroots Approach.” We will be joined by Ruby Corado and Kiefer Paterson in outlining our successful approach to bringing about substantial and substantive change in DC through our work with the DC TLGB Police Watch coalition. Here are some the materials we are providing at our workshop as a “how-to kit” for use in your community if you are suffering and similar epidemic.

For further information: DC TLGB Police Watch, 202-290-7077.

The steps we took . . .

  1. Identify community concerns including interviewing victims of police bias and anti-trans violence.
  2. Identify local and national stakeholders, organizations and individuals, too form coalition willing to remain as a continuing presence after the first action (more actions are planned if demands are not met). Continue to add new coalition partners after work on action begins.
  3. Tabulate community concerns, including especially victim’s concerns. This can be a long list.
  4. Assay goals that articulate these community concerns. Again, could be a long list.
  5. Select 3-4 goals that address most of the top community concerns.
  6. Identify change-agents with power to change the status quo (Mayor, City Council, Police Chief, Attorney General, for example), the same people who have to date have refused to make substantial and sustainable changes to end police bias and anti-trans violence.
  7. Discuss strategies that might be used to force implementation of changes and achievement of the selected goals (street protests with list of demands, visits to change-agents’ offices, letter-writing campaign, petitions, media exposure, etc.). Select the strategies that come closest to representing and start planning action/s.
  8. Fully vet and finalize set of demands with all coalition partners, and implement chosen representative action.
  9. After the action, debrief with the coalition partners and tabulate results, especially lessons learned.
  10. Continue to work with coalition partners to monitor response and actions, or lack thereof, by change-agents; re-organize and take to the streets again when necessary.

Our Call To Action, here and here.

Our Poster

Our Action

Our Demands


Sample PR

Sample media results, here and here.

Sample results from change-agents, here and here.

Testimony by DCTC member Jason A. Terry before the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary Oversight Hearing on Hate Crimes and Police Response July 6, 2011.

Testimony by DCTC member Jason A. Terry before the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary Oversight Hearing on Hate Crimes and Police Response November 2, 2011.

Testimony by DCTC member Alison M. Gill before the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary Opposing Bill 19-­567, the Prostitution Free Zone Amendment Act of 2011 Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

Jason Terry-Mayor Vincent Gray Letter, February 29, 2011

Testimony by DCTC member Jason A. Terry before the DC Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary Oversight Hearing on the Metropolitan Police Department March 18, 2011