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Advocates, performers stand up for trans rights at TransLatinx March

Jul. 18, 2023 By Emily Sawaked

More than 600 marchers and countless vendors and guests flocked to the annual TransLatinx March on July 15 in Queens, where organizers brought attention to the experience of trans Latinx individuals and called for an end to employment discrimination and other injustices.

The 12th annual march proceeded through the Jackson Heights section of Queens and passed by Woodside Avenue and Junction Boulevard before getting back to the heart of the celebration at Corona Plaza. The Latinx community’s strong presence in the area was on display during the march, which was highlighted by the vibrant colors of the Trans Flag and other traditional decorations against the backdrop of vendors who sold food, clothing, and more. 

From Corona Plaza, the crowd was carried into joy and celebration by two MCs, Nirvana and Cynthia. 

“They’re happy. They’re mobile, they’re fast, they’re powerful, they have their stories about discrimination they’re facing in employment, and how they have to now do different types of jobs to survive,” said Make the Road NY program manager Mateo Guerrero, who was ecstatic and active throughout the entire event. Make the Road NY leads the organizing effort behind the annual march. A range of other groups participated, too, including the Caribbean Equality Project. 

Make the Road NY's colorful banner leads the way.

Make the Road NY’s colorful banner leads the way.Adrian Childress

Guerrero, sporting a headband with the colors of the Trans Flag, helped out at different booths, assisted speakers, distributed awards, and marched through the streets.

This year’s march, as previously reported by Gay City News, intended to combat employment inequalities for trans individuals as well as inequality and mistreatment faced by trans customers. These inequalities also impact the Latinx community more broadly, including immigrants. 

The marchers fought for the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, a comprehensive sex work decriminalization bill in New York State, as part of the broader effort to  protect trans sex workers from discrimination, violence, and other atrocities and crimes, while also shielding them from issues with police — particularly the NYPD’s VICE squad, which has long faced criticism for its treatment of sex workers.

Guerrero originally believed there would be 500 marchers, but was pleasantly surprised that their assumption was outdone by the support. 

“It’s an honor to be a trans person and to be living in this community,” he said, showing emotion as he spoke.

Multiple large-scale Trans Flags are carried through the TransLatinx March.

Multiple large-scale Trans Flags are carried through the TransLatinx March.Adrian Childress

The highlight of the day for Guerrero was not just the support during the march and the celebration in the plaza, but actually what came before it. 

“There’s this group of young kids who are the sons and daughters of people who work the market in Corona Plaza, and they were here early to help us paint the space,” Guerrero said. “They helped us put the chalk, with the Trans Flags everywhere. They were so excited to be a part of this march, and I think that’s what gives me so much hope. To see young kids really giving their heart and being a community with us. This is what we need. We need young people to feel that they belong.”

Indeed, there was colorful chalk emblazoned on the blacktop, including the colors of the Trans Flag.

The crowd gathers for speeches at Corona Plaza.

The crowd gathers for speeches at Corona Plaza.Adrian Childress

While Guerrero was worried about backlash from counter protestors, these concerns subsided thanks to an overwhelmingly positive community response, from trans individuals to supportive families and more. 

The crowd was brought into song by different performers, including drag artists. Laura Martinez, a Mexican trans rights activist, was among the performers.

“She started this fight back in the day,” Guerrero said. “She started as an entertainer, but her entertainment is all about visualizing trans women. She’s been doing this for decades, and right now she’s giving a show, and it’s an honor to see her here.”

Performers joined marchers and activists at the TransLatinx March.

Performers joined marchers and activists at the TransLatinx March.Adrian Childress

Awards were distributed for outstanding work and activism in the trans community. The first, Trayectoria de Activismo Trans, was given to Laura Martinez, Jennifer Orellana, and Migdalia Colon; the second, Nuevo Activismo Trans, was given to Amy Antonella Mendez, Nirvana Garcia, and Salma Marmolejo.

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