Philadelphia City Council chambers were packed last week for the introduction — and swift, unanimous adoption — of a resolution celebrating the transgender community.
The legislation, passed March 30, declared the next day Transgender Day of Visibility, an international occurrence since 2009. Past city efforts have included proclamations about the day, but this was the first time Council adopted a resolution in honor of the occasion.
The text of the resolution noted an estimated 1-million transgender Americans, who it said have “bravely overcome significant hardships to build vibrant and thriving communities, often in the face of systemic and interpersonal prejudice, discrimination, and violence.” The measure highlighted the vibrant history of the trans community, from early pioneers like Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major and Marsha P. Johnson to recent civil-rights efforts led by trans activists.
The measure emphasized that, despite growing visibility, trans individuals, particularly women of color, continue to face violence, and listed the names of eight trans women of color murdered this year.
“The trans community has been very visible and powerful, working on a number of different issues, such as how the community is valued in our city establishments,” lead sponsor Councilwoman Helen Gym told PGN. “I was thinking how we could do something to show more support and this [resolution] came up.”
Gym said she worked closely with local community members, including Commission of LGBT Affairs Chair Sharron Cooks, to develop the resolution.
“I really wanted it to be about community members,” Gym said about the atmosphere at last Thursday’s resolution adoption. “It wasn’t just folks there representing city agencies but there were so many community members, members of Morris Home who held the flag, out there in front of City Council. I was very deeply moved to be a part of the whole process and to talk about what it means for the community to have visibility. Visibility isn’t a substitute for justice, but it’s a good first step toward the city really taking that road together with our communities.”
Gym said the event also provided a good opportunity for the community to meet members of the Commission on LGBT Affairs and Amber Hikes, the new director of the Office of LGBT Affairs. The office was among the collaborators on the counter-protest the day after Trans Day of Visibility in response to an anti-transgender bus tour.
“It was great to join with the trans community and the broader community of advocates to stop that hate bus coming through Philadelphia. We were glad to be the first city to actually be able to stop it from parking in front of City Hall.”