By Danielle K
“We deserve to grow old!” The chant rang out on darkened Center City Philadelphia streets. The 12th annual Philly Trans March, sponsored by long-running activist group Act Up, was held on March 31st, 2023, the Trans Day of Visibility.
This year the march felt dire, with 492 anti-trans bills being introduced across 47 states by the conservative right. There is a pointed attack in this country on the trans community, holding them up as a unifying lightning rod for fear-mongering, in order to gain votes from christian fundamentalists. While this country has never been a safe place for transgender people, the ire of the right is focused directly on them now.
The march began with calls for place and for Indigenous members of the crowd to step forward and lead the march and start the chants. A handful of impassioned speakers came up to the podium to address the audience, one of whom was Zack, a 17 year old student who queried, “Am I now a banned topic? Is my sibling not allowed to bring me up in school?,” referring to bills like the “don’t say gay law” being passed in Florida. There were calls to criticize the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) movement across corporate America, as well as derision expressed toward companies that are eager to advertise during Pride marches to collect rainbow dollars, but who won’t hire transgender folks who aren’t performing gender to perfection.
The march was robustly attended with an estimate of roughly 500 trans people and trans allies. The crowd marched down Market Street from City Hall, eventually looping around to Broad Street. Along the way, fellow Philadelphians hung out of windows and doorways showing support and waving flags. A woman with her hand to her chest as she stood in her doorway called to the passing marchers, “I love you, be careful;” a young man ran up, offering a box of pizza; cars honked; and most drivers smiled in support to chants of “Drag is not a crime!”
As the march made its way back to City Hall it stopped at the Union League, a hotbed of the city’s wealthiest Republicans, who were holding a formal event. The crowd yelled a hearty chorus of “Fuck you” to the smug, affluent party-goers dressed in suits and formal gowns. A particularly flippant gentleman in a blue suit came to the crest of the double-terminated stone stairs and flashed the Nixon double peace sign, seeming to delight in the anger of the protesters.
Philadelphia is the self-proclaimed city of “Fuck around and find out,” and the energy of the Philly Trans March this year said that Philly’s queers are very ready to help everyone find out what happens when you threaten our trans community.