WNY Trans Civil Rights Rally Speech 2-26-17

Below is the text from Bridge’s speech today at the WNY Trans Civil Rights Rally at Niagara Square. Thanks to everyone who helped them work on it and to especially to everyone who came out today!


Hello beautiful Buffalonians! Thank you so much for being here today- I love each and every one of you!

 

My name is Bridge Rauch and I am the founding member owner of No Labels Clothing Cooperative, located at 224 Allen Street. #shamelessplug


I speak today because we’re in the middle of not only a national crisis but also a transgender revolution.


I’m very proudly and defiantly genderqueer and queer and I very proudly and defiantly raise a finger to each and every fascist conservative who spends more time worrying about ridiculous binary constructs and where trans people pee and how trans people quote unquote pass than worrying about the massive wealth inequality and how to feed the starving people of this nation or whether or not this planet will even remain habitable for much longer.

 

I’m also 31- that makes me a millennial, and technically also part of the generation of young adults currently in middle and high school and who come into my shop seeking lgbtq pride swag, binders, and guidance.

 

However, as an older millennial, my experiences are very different than theirs.

 

One of my first strong memories I carry is a family trip to Youngstown OH to visit my mom’s cousin, dying in hospice care from complications related to AIDS.

 

I remember the Republican Revolution in the 90’s and the feeble support the democratic party offered for all marginalized people during the era.

 

I remember as a middle school student, by then questioning my own gender and sexuality myself, watching in horror on the news as Peter Jennings dourly spoke of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard.

 

I remember throughout high school the debate over Lawrence v. Texas.

 

And all throughout school, I remember the terror of conversion therapy.


I remember when I first saw the videos which proclaimed “it gets better” and feeling ill at ease with the message.


Certainly during the 2000s we saw progress, and young adults today have grown up amid this- recently headlines proclaimed that states which had marriage equality prior to the national decision also had lower teen suicide rates.

 

The advances in HIV/AIDS medications have been nothing less than miraculous and I have very dear people in my life whose lives have been saved by these medications.

 

Under the Obama administration, we saw unprecedented wins- we would not even be here today if Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pence and Donald Trump had not decided to undo advances for trans students that we won under the Obama administration.

 

These experiences that younger LGBTQ millennials have had, particularly trans millennials, have been ground shattering- they are leading this revolution because they have seen their rights expanded throughout their life and they have been able to explore their sexuality and gender in a way those of us who are older did not have an opportunity to.

 

At the same time, though, it cannot be understated the challenges that this generation has had to confront.

 

The number of homeless teens, disproportionately queer and trans youth, rose to record highs, correlated to marriage equality- young adults, excited by the advances our nation was making, came out to families and were kicked out.

 

Many of the terrible laws that Trump’s administration passing are built on laws passed under Bush II- so please stop asking me if I’m nostalgic for his administration.

 

The Pulse nightclub shooting rocked the LGBTQ community, the first time in a generation that LGBTQ folks had been attacked at such a large scale in the US.

 

However, I remember at the time feeling less shock so much as exhaustion- I keep a bag of memorial candles handy because of the distressingly high number of Trans and Gender nonconforming deaths, particularly of black trans women.

 

Raise your hand if you have attended a funeral or memorial for a trans or gender non-conforming person under the age of 50 in the last 3 years.

 

Here’s your Bowling Green, Mr President, Ms. Kelly-Ann Conway. Here’s your terrorized community.

 

Black trans lives matter!

Black trans lives matter!

Black trans lives matter!

 

There’s an important distinction that we should make here today:

 

Tolerance is telling young adults in your life that you will love them no matter what.

 

Acceptance is telling young adults that it’s ok to be trans and queer.

 

Affirmation is telling young adults that you love them for every aspect of their life including who they love and how they identify and that you will fight with them every step of the way.

 

Affirmation is recognizing microgressions that hit from every direction and speaking up whenever and whereever you see them.

 

Affirmation is fighting with students for a GSA at your local high school- a gender and sexuality alliance. Affrimation is demanding LGBTQ history be integrated into the curriculum.

 

Affirmation is when LGBTQ folk no longer need to be stealth or closeted in any part of their lives because cisgender straight people understand that to be stealth or closeted is to deny our whole selves and fight to prevent such toxicity.

 

I feel ill at ease telling young adults that “it gets better” because every day is a goddamn fight, and it shifts the need for action away from those who are most affected, when in fact they should be the people who should be organized to act.

 

Hopelessness is derived from inaction.

 

Teens still fear the same conversion therapy I feared when I was their age and are bullied by the same slurs I endured. Most workplaces do not have equal opportunity statements protecting trans employees as NYS requires, much less trans inclusive healthcare plans.

 

But, again, here’s the exciting part.

 

We are in a revolution. And we have learned from our past experiences.

 

I will not tell young adults here that it gets better- I say instead that I will continue to fight tooth and nail with you and that Carl Paladino will not stay on the school board.

 

I will not tell a young undocumented trans person that it will get better- I say instead that I fight for sanctuary in solidarity with you and your family.

 

I will not tell a young black trans person that it gets better- I say instead that I fight with you against racist and transphobic policing practices. Sheriff Howard, we will see you face justice!

 

I will not tell fellow trans people who have benefited from the ACA that it will get better- I say instead that I fight tooth and nail with you to preserve and improve it.

 

I will not tell trans women that it gets better- I say instead that I fight with you against terfs who still unfortunately lead in many of our so-called feminist spaces and direct transmisogynist violence in our community.

 

I will not tell any trans people here today that it gets better because those of us assembled here damn well know better.

 

We have been betrayed by mainstream liberal institutions and cisgender leaders time and again- I say that as a fellow genderqueer person that this is the time to organize and demand our rights.

 

I stand here today ready to fight with all my fellow “us’es” in solidarity because that is how we win.

 

Say it with me. I need help with this.

 

I.

I believe.

I believe that.

I believe that we.

I believe that we will.

I believe that we will win.

I believe that we will win.

I believe that we will win.

I believe that we will win.

(Thank you, I love you.)

 

 

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