Ferndale's Geary Park was packed with members of Metro Detroit's transgender community on Saturday, August 11. Six hours of intense sun, vendors, and food welcomed trans folks and allies at the annual Trans Pride in the Park picnic event. Guests were invited to bring dishes to share in addition to the free hotdogs provided by the organizers.
Susan Crocker, operations director for Transgender Michigan, said that she and her partner Rachel Crandall-Crocker, executive director and co-founder, have been hosting this event for 18 years. "It gets bigger every year. This is the largest event of its kind in the area," Crocker told Between the Lines. "When it started out it was just a picnic, and it was a part of Michigan Pride. Then we moved it here. Now we have all these vendors and sponsors, so it's becoming a real Pride now."
For some participants, the event was the only place where they could come out and be themselves. Many attendees, however, were regulars in the Metro Detroit LGBTQ+ scene who fit their schedules around all the local events, including June's multiple Pride celebrations and the Black queer community's Hotter than July.
Booths dotted the open spaces between trees, featuring vendors, sponsors, and activist groups. Planned Parenthood and HRC were familiar staples, along with an art therapy booth, Trans Stellar Film Festival, and Rosemary A. Jozwiak, PC & Associates. Representing Jozwiak & Associates, a holistic psychotherapy clinic, was John McDowell, who was attending the event for the first time.
Of the experience, McDowell said, "I feel good knowing I can come to an event and feel safe and see others feeling safe and supported – knowing that we can do this together and not alone."
Further away from the gazebo filled with mingling and snacking picnickers sat a smaller table draped with bright political signs. The Workers World Party is a Marxist-Leninist political party that was founded in 1959. Workers World activists passionately celebrate the LGBTQ+ members making up a rich amount of their history, including Leslie Feinberg, who was the transgender butch lesbian author of Stone Butch Blues.
Among the two people representing the booth was Takiyah Thompson, an activist from North Carolina who was arrested after participating in tearing down a Confederate statue during a protest in Durham. She had traveled North to support WWP at this event. "Worker's World Party has always been known as 'the gay one,'" she said. "It's the party of lesbian women […] and transgender people in the now." She explained that she sought to raise awareness of how capitalist oppression and LGBTQ+ oppression are entwined.
Kids ran around the nearby play set and dogs lounged in the shade. As with all of Metro Detroit's LGBTQ+ events, Affirmations had a booth front-and-center with information about how to get further involved and where supportive resources could be found for those in need. Other stations around the park featured similar literature, particularly informational pamphlets about transgender topics, from the basics (What is transgender?) to the more nuanced (Help for Significant Others).
While standing at the Transcend the Binary booth sorting through pins sporting pronouns and Pokémon-themed pride flags, Tobi, a genderfluid androgynous person, told Between the Lines, "Pride events [allow] you to be who you are, find people who you can connect with, and find resources to help support."
For more information about Transgender Michigan, visit transgendermichigan.org.