The Gay Pride festival has become a tradition that spans the globe and has helped to push LGBT issues into mainstream acceptance. Even while it challenges the conservative mores of American society, within the culture of Pride there is often a focus on cis-gendered queer issues at the cost of trans visibility. 2016 has had an unprecedented number of violent incidents directed towards transgender people, primarily trans youth and people of color, that has given many community organizations the impetus to highlight the ongoing struggles for trans equality.
The Portland Trans Pride March has become an annual event from PDX Trans Pride, a Portland, Oregon-area advocacy group founded in 2012. Starting in 2014, they began bringing a transgender specific march into the weekend-long Portland Pride festivities. This year’s march, which took to the streets on June 17th, had a special eye towards on-the-ground community organizing as a response to the recent tragedies in Orlando and the string of deaths surrounding trans youth.
Groups like Portland Jobs With Justice and Greater Portland Trans Unity took the stage to speak to the crowd of hundreds about the intersecting issues of race, class, and sexual orientation. They were joined by NARAL, the ACLU, and other civil rights organizations standing against trans persecution, while groups like the Portland Solidarity Network and Portland Tenants United joined the rally to highlight the ongoing issues with transgender discrimination in housing. Portland Black Rose joined the march, bringing forward the issues of trans inclusion that are often missed in mainstream Pride events.
Only a few counter-protesters hovered on the outskirts of the North Park Blocks where the rally was held, mainly held off by the theatrical street-theater antics of The Ladies of Perpetual Indulgence.
The group took to the streets under chants like “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us!” This led to the spirit of militancy the filtered through the crowd as many were sending a message that transgender issues must be taken seriously by the larger gay rights movement. The organizers set up a community-security group, where volunteers came to provide a buffer between the diverse crowd and those who may want to disrupt them. The march came through the “entertainment district” of town, which hosts a number of LGBT bars and nightclubs, ending in the larger Pride festival at the Portland Waterfront Park.
This annual march provides an interesting solution for organizers looking to bring trans issues front and center during pride festivals that are becoming more inundated with corporate sponsors and large queer non-profits that are focusing on issues like gay marriage. For Trans Pride PDX, this means raising the voices of trans people and putting special importance on the issues that affect them most, from housing and job insecurity to the threat of violence in the communities they call home.