Venus Selenite, 25, moved to D.C. from Louisiana seven months ago to begin her transition to a woman. Selenite, a black queer trans woman, says that since that time, she has been harassed on the streets and the Metro. One time, a man on a bike chased her for two blocks in Columbia Heights, trying to make sexual advances on her.
“I’ve been harassed on the street and the Metro. I’ve started to carry a knife in my purse,” said Selenite. “Every time a trans woman has been killed, I have fallen on my bedroom floor in tears.”
Selenite was one of about 150 people who participated in a rally on Franklin Square downtown Tuesday evening, calling for an end to the violence of transgender women in the country, particularly black transgender women. Nearly 20 transgender women have been murdered across the country in 2015, most of them women of color.
The idea of the rally, which was organized by Black Lives Matter activists, was to call on black men to join the fight to stop violence against transgender women in the country. Queer and transgender women, the protesters emphasized at the rally, have been at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter fight nationwide.
“Black men need to to show up. We have to do more, we have to do better,” said Aaron Goggans, a black male and member of the regional chapter of Black Lives Matter, noting that only a small portion of the rally attendees were black men. “We need to put ourselves on the line like they put themselves on the line for us.”
The event in D.C. was one of a handful of Trans Liberation Tuesday rallies throughout the country. Supporters also gathered in Houston, Brooklyn, Dayton, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco.
In D.C., protesters carried signs with the names and faces of murdered transgender women under the hashtag #sayhername. Together, they said the names of Elisha Walker, Islan Nettles, Kandis Kapri and the other transgender women who have been murdered, releasing balloons for each of them. Afterward, participants moved from the park and rallied in downtown streets.
“We don’t give [trans women] the same decency and respect to even uplift their names in the same ways they have uplifted our names and our stories,” said Preston Mitchum, one of the co-organizers of the rally who serves as the policy co-chair at the Black Youth Project 100. “We want people to recognize that black trans women exist and that they should not experience violence. ”