November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, has for years been a somber day for the transgender community, a day to honor those whose lives were lost to illness or violence.
But the theme grew “a little excessive,” observed Ava Pipitone, executive director of the the Baltimore Transgender Alliance (BTA).
Four years ago, a group of African American transgender women in Texas flipped the narrative and created the Transgender Day of Resilience.
And so celebration was the message last week that drew about 100 transgender men and women and non-binary people, along with allies, to the Ynot Lot at Charles Street and North Avenue.
“It’s about re-centering thriving trans lives – re-centering and celebrating us,” Pipotone told The Brew at Baltimore’s third annual Trans March of Resilience.
The Baltimore event still retains the memorial element. Several attendees held posters with names of transgender people whose lives were claimed by violence.
Ty Alston’s poster honored Mya Hall, a 27-year-old sex worker who was shot and killed by police in 2015 after the car she was driving allegedly crashed into a guard post at the National Security Agency.
2017 has been a particularly violent year for transgender people nationwide.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, there have already been at least 25 transgender people fatally shot or killed, including 38-year-old Alphonza Watson, fatally shot in Baltimore on March 22.
Still, in Baltimore, a defiant celebration of life was the main message.
The group marched down Charles Street to the 2640 Space on St. Paul Street chanting “Trans Lives Matter” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, transphobia has got to go!”
“This is about honoring the dead, by honoring their lives,” Pipitone said.
At the 2640 Space, there was a new feature this year, a community banquet. The event was conceived as an opportunity for people to eat, laugh, watch live music and poetry performances and let loose and be themselves.
“This is about celebrating ourselves,” BTA writer Jamie Grace Alexander said, “despite our hardships.”