By Patrick Saunders with Georgia Voice
LGBT activists and supporters gathered for a rally in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday to call attention to a rash of anti-trans violence, with a reported 17 transgender people being killed across the country so far this year.
The #BlackTransLivesMatter rally was the culmination of a national day of action and drew roughly 100 people to the entrance of Underground Atlanta and the Five Points MARTA station. The location was significant as MARTA has faced heavy criticism for failing to protect trans riders following an assault on two trans women in May 2014.
Speakers mourned the loss of the trans murder victims and pleaded with onlookers to respect the trans community.
“Believe people when they tell you who they are. It doesn't matter how they dress, their tone of voice, their mannerisms, their pronoun, their name,” said Holiday Simmons, community education and advocacy director for Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office. “Respect peoples' pronouns and practice. I love when people are like, 'Well, I just haven't had that experience' or 'I've known you for so long.' When people get married, they never say 'Well I've never gotten married so I can't call you by your new name anymore.'”
Others noted the prevalence of phrases like “Girl, what's the T?” and “throwing shade” among cisgender men in popular culture, with activist Mickyel Bradford saying, “It bothers me to see these things become mainstream culture and get lifted up but me and my sisters are not lifted up. We sit here on the ground. Started from the bottom and we're still here.”
Other speakers included Toni-Michelle Williams of the Racial Justice Action Center and activist Raquel Willis.
One supporter wore a shirt referencing the ongoing saga of Ashley Diamond, the trans woman who has been beaten and sexually assaulted by male inmates while serving time in Georgia prisons. Diamond filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year against the Georgia Department of Corrections claiming that prison officials have denied her hormone treatment and failed to protect her from threats and assaults. The latest update came earlier this month with a court filing claiming that the warden of Diamond's prison leaked information to inmates that led to further threats.