Standing Up To Trump

'We Will Not Be Erased’ Detroit Rally Sends Clear Message

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-10-31T16:00:24-04:00 October 31st, 2018|Michigan, News|

The rally was called We Will Not Be Erased and the message was clear: no matter what he tries to do, Donald Trump cannot redefine the transgender community out of existence. The rally, which drew a crowd of about 120 to the Ruth Ellis Center parking lot Friday, was organized after The New York Times reported on a leaked memo from the Trump administration that revealed its desire to define gender as a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.”
This plan to narrowly define gender is the latest effort by the administration to diminish protections for the trans community. Previously, Trump attempted to bar transgender people from serving in the military – the issue is now in federal court – and challenged portions of the nation’s health care law that protects trans individuals.
“To feel that you’re being erased and dismantled, bit by bit, piece by piece, dignity by dignity is really something hard to swallow,” said Jey’nce Poindexter Mizrahi, a co-organizer of the rally and the transgender advocate for Equality Michigan and a founding mother of the Trans Sistas of Color Project. “And it’s a reality that some of us face more than others on a day-to-day basis. In this country, as we all know, of course, there is hatred and discrimination against the LGBT community as a whole. But trans women of color are even more on the end of the totem pole. We are slaughtered. We are killed. We are dismembered. And no one is called into action.”
The rally’s other co-organizer, Michelle Fox-Phillips, executive director of the Gender Identity Network Alliance, shared a similar message.
“We will not be erased,” she said. “We are just like any other human beings on this earth. We will not let No. 45, we will not let [Vice President Mike] Pence, we will not let the [Department of Health and Human Services] erase this community. We are marginalized, as Jey’nce said, people of color, who I have advocated for for the past 20 years, are the most marginalized,” Fox-Phillips said. “They face more obstacles than I did. A lot more. And bless them. Bless them all.”
Jojess Fournier from the Metro Detroit Political Action Network said the news of the memo made her think of pre-World War II Germany.
“The actions of the Trump administration harken back to 1933 in Berlin when fascist thugs in plain clothes took to the streets and burned down the Institute for Sexual Research,” Fournier said. “We know what this kind of thing does to our community. We know it correlates to violence against our community.”
Protest organizers said that President Barack Obama understood this. And following years of favorable court decisions for LGBTQ support under his administration, federal agencies, more often than not, supported the trans and gender non-conforming communities.
“Please be assured that despite the efforts of the Trump administration to deny the protections under federal civil rights laws that prohibit sex discrimination, the administration can’t re-write federal civil rights laws and they can’t undo what many federal courts have been doing for more than 20 years,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project. “We have a strong very consistent body of federal law that has held that when you discriminate against transgender people you are doing it on the basis of sex.”
Giving the crowd a bit of a history lesson, Equality Michigan Executive Director Stephanie White said the LGB community owed the trans community a debt of gratitude and said that it’s time they paid up.
“This LGBT movement was built with trans people, particularly trans women of color, who refused to back down,” White said. “A good friend of mine likes to say we have come a long way in the movement for LGBT rights. But we have come too far to not go any further. We are not going back. This community will not be erased regardless of anything Trump tries to write on a piece of paper.”
Karen Wierman came out to the rally to support her son, who is trans.
“He lives out of state, but I try to do whatever I can to show my support for my other sons and daughters that are trans,” she said. “I try to let them know there is a mama bear out there looking out for them and fighting for them.”
Noel Larkin, another rally attendee, said he came because he needed the community support.
“Being a person who identifies as trans, I’m concerned, and it’s been a rough week,” he said. “I felt like I wanted to be around other community members to kind of feel supported.”
Santiago Marino came out for similar reasons, too.
“I identify as a trans man, also queer, and I feel it’s important to just come together as a group,” Marino said. “It’s not often that we have chances for our community to build together and grow together.
“They’re not going to stop us,” Marino continued. “We’re already here. And that’s the only thing I can keep saying, I’m still here. Obviously, it triggers some fear and anxiety, but it just encourages me to want to fight harder.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.