A Pride Trans-formation

D.C.'s trans community organizes its first dedicated Capital Pride event

With new protections for transgender people going into effect in October 2006, Washington has the distinction of leading the country in protecting the transgender community from discrimination, according to the D.C. Trans Coalition.

Among the protections offered by the city, transgender people cannot be prevented from using gender-specific facilities, such as restrooms; employers must treat transgender medical needs as they would any other legitimate medical need; and neither businesses nor city agencies can require a person to disclose information about gender transition.

But on June 3, D.C.’s trans community will achieve another milestone, this time outside of the legal realm. On that Sunday, the community will celebrate the first Trans Pride.

”It’s very, very, very important,” says SaVanna Wanzer, chair of Capital Pride’s transgender committee, a board member at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, and a self-identified trans woman. ”It’s been a terrible fight just getting this event together, with budget issues. The transgender community needs its own event, rather than just using us as entertainment. That’s all we’ve been allowed to do.”

The Sunday event, the first specifically transgender pride offering in Capital Pride’s 32-year history, will run from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 400 I St. SW. Admission is free till 6 p.m., with the first five hours dedicated to forums with topics such as social justice and religion, and a health fair.

Transitioning into the evening events, Trans Pride 2007 offers a dinner, an award ceremony and dancing. Tickets for the alcohol and drug-free evening events are $20. With the Engendered Spirit Awards, organizers will be honoring six members of the community, some transgender and some not: D.C. congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D); D.C. City Councilmember David Catania (I-At large); Dr. Bruce Furness, who heads Whitman-Walker’s transgender clinic; Dr. Patrick Hughes of Whitman-Walker’s dental unit; trans activist Jessica Xavier; and G.G. Thomas, client advocate at Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS).

The addition of Trans Pride to the official Capital Pride slate of events in one of the positive results of this year’s change in how Pride is planned, says Capital Pride Director David Mallory.

Mallory’s job with Capital Pride is a full-time position with Whitman-Walker Clinic, the lead organization on Pride for the past few years. This year, 13 ”community partners” joined the clinic in the process, resulting, says Mallory, in a reenergized and active structure of committees that made such additions as Trans Pride possible.

”It brings new thought and creativity to the table,” he says. ”This year Capital Pride really is created by the community and not one particular organization.

By adding a Trans Pride event to district’s Capital Pride offerings, D.C. joins a select few cities with similar offerings. New York City, for example, will hold the Trans Day of Action rally on June 22. In San Francisco, the Trans Pride celebration runs from June 18-23, with readings, displays, performances and a march. But trans-specific pride events remain relatively rare. With events like the Dyke March, D.C. Black Pride, Youth Pride or the Latino LGBT History Project’s ”20 Años de Lucha! — 20 Years of Struggle!” presentation of memorabilia, it may seem to be about time, if not overdue, for more transgender pride events.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality has fond memories of her time at a New York transgender pride event.

”It was really amazing to see hundreds of transgender people getting together and expressing their voice. It’s very empowering to be in the middle of it,” she says. ”Everybody could learn from it.”

Says Wanzer, ”We’re not accepted greatly. We’re overlooked in a lot of areas. We’re not freaks of nature. We’re human beings and we deserve to shine. Now is our time. Please support the transgender community and our events.”

To that end, Wanzer says she hopes that Trans Pride 2007 attracts members of all communities, rather than transgender participants alone. And with broad community support, she expects the future of D.C.’s Trans Pride will be bright.

”This is a step for everyone,” she says. ”You don’t have to be transgender to support transgenders. This is also for people who love the transgender community. And we want it to be bigger and better every year. That’s our goal.”

For more information about tickets for Trans Pride 2007, see the Official Capital Pride Guide, available wherever Metro Weekly is distributed, or on-line at www.metroweekly.com.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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