PHOTOS: ‘We won’t be erased’ rally held at Orlando City Hall after Trump administration’s anti-trans memo leaked

ABOVE: An audience gathers on the steps of City Hall Plaza in Downtown Orlando for the Orlando We Won’t Be Erased Transgender and Allies Support Rally on Oct. 27. Photo by Melanie Ararat

ORLANDO | Colorful flags and posters waved in the air as people chanted “We won’t be erased” outside City Hall Plaza in Downtown Orlando on Oct. 27. The chant was led by Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality.

“We send this message to the White House saying that the Orlando transgender and gender nonconforming communities will not be erased,” Duncan says. “We will not be defined out of existence.”

Orlando’s We Won’t Be Erased Transgender and Allies Support Rally was hosted by Duncan, One Orlando Alliance’s Executive Director Jennifer Foster and TransAction Florida’s Nikole Parker. They were encouraging everyone in attendance to use the hashtag #WeWontBeErased across all of their social media accounts.

Notable speakers for the event included Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, QLatinx Executive Director Christopher Cuevas, outreach coordinator for UCF Restores Nancy Rosado and Bliss Health Care Services’ Ashley Figueroa. A special appearance was made by Carlos Guillermo Smith, the first openly gay legislator from Florida.

The rally was created after it was announced by the New York Times that the Department of Health and Human Services is being called upon to remove protections for and recognition of transgender people under U.S. civil rights laws in the military, schools and health care according to a memo that they obtained.

“An effect is trying to reduce the definition of gender to a gender binary that your gender is determined by your biological sex and in doing so it dismisses the concept of gender identity and it erases two million Americans that genders do not align with their designated sex,” Duncan says.

At present time, the proposed policy affects Title IX and health care, according to Duncan.

Throughout the rally, speakers reassured the transgender community that they are not alone and discussed what Orlando had accomplished so far in regards to the transgender community. Duncan mentioned that the first “multi-stall, all user, all gender” restroom in the state of Florida was being built within City Hall.

However, voting was one of the main messages that all the speakers touched on.

“You know what? Y’all don’t get to not vote,” Sheehan says. “This is not like, ‘Oh, I just don’t know if I feel passionate enough.’ No, you have to care, you have to vote, you have to do your civic duty and we have to be in this together. One Orlando, Orlando United!”

All through the event, the audience was notified that change starts at the polls and it is the main way to be seen and get heard by the Trump administration.

“The reality is that people have an opportunity to have their voice heard on election day, which is happening now through early vote all the way up until Tuesday, November 6,” Guillermo Smith says. “I can’t think of a better way to register their opposition to the divisiveness, the bigotry and the hatred that’s coming from the White House than by voting.”

Ally and licensed mental health counselor Kim Murphy has friends, family and clients that are in the trans community. To show support, she decided to show up with signs she made with her friend and hand them out to people at the rally.

“We just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that there was a lot of support,” Murphy says. “I just wanted to do it for the people that were not ready to come out, too shy to be here or afraid because of what’s happening right now. I wanted to come out and be brave for the people that can’t.”

UCF student and member of the transgender community Arren Huckleberry admitted he was afraid when he heard the news of the proposed policy; however, it did not stop him from adding his voice to the fight.

“Every single voice, so if you can get out there, get out there,” Huckleberry says. “When one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked, so I think coming out here is something that everyone should do whether it involves you or not.”

For Guillermo Smith, that is what he saw when he took a glance at the audience and it gave him hope.

“Orlando has shown its character and its values, time and time again, as an inclusive and accepting community, a pro-equality community,” Guillermo Smith says. “I feel like right now the response is being led in part to this attack right here from Orlando. This community is having their voices heard and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Photos by Melanie Ararat.

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