Last year I went to my first Pride Parade in a big city. This was a big step for me. Large crowds have always made me feel anxious, and as I get older, the anxiety increases. When in a big group, I ask myself the following questions: how do I get out the fastest, where can I take cover, who is near me, and are they armed? 

When my wife and I got in our Uber to take us to Pride, the driver asked if that was where we were headed. I hesitated to answer – Are we safe with this stranger? My wife lives fearlessly though. She smiled enthusiastically and said, “Yes! It’s my wife’s first in a big city.” The driver was kind and said we would have a great time. That Austin is full of wonderful people who will welcome me in. That I’ll love it and won’t want to leave. The driver said those statements but I heard, You are safe here. 

We walked hand in hand down Congress Avenue to get to the beginning of the parade. Sometimes we don’t hold hands in public because I am always asking, Are we safe here? But at Pride, I didn’t need to worry about that. When the parade started we were standing back from the crowd a little bit and we began to see people gather in closer, getting a little more excited. We were curious about what was happening. Looking over my shoulder as we went, we got a little closer, eventually to the barricade outlining the parade. Pete Buttigieg and his husband were leading the parade. My wife and I both shook hands with Mayor Pete and I joked with my sister later about how it was the most intense eye contact I had ever had. Do politicians take a class on that? 

Pete and Chasten

Then, a marching band from the Austin Independent School District followed behind Mayor Pete. It took a few notes for the song to register – “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. I kid you not when I say the tears were immediate. I couldn’t believe it was happening. It took a few moments for my wife to realize what was happening to me, and she put her arm around me and asked if I was okay. All I could do was nod and cry. I cried for minutes without stopping. It was slightly embarrassing, but I was beginning to think that anything went at Pride. 

Before the marching band.

Slowly I composed myself, and we walked around a bit. Our evening ended with dinner on the patio of a restaurant so we could continue to watch the parade. We drank cocktails with rainbow-dyed dried lemons while we wore rainbow beads. My wife eventually asked, “So what happened back there when the band played?” 

I mean, c’mon.

I tried my best to explain whatever overwhelmingly sensation came over me. I said that it was one thing to have students, meaning children, play that song, but also, think of the parents. All of those kids must have had their parents sign off on them playing “Born This Way” at the Pride Parade in Austin, Texas. That song at that moment represented a fearless supporting community that I didn’t think existed. 

Pride this year looks different, but I think it looks so authentic, rebellious, and powerful. We are not watching a parade this year because there is more work to be done. Pride was only made possible because of Black trans lives. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do your research and know what happened at Stonewall. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch this. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I am begging you to listen to the trans community. Their deaths are a crisis in this country, and the LGBTQ+ community has not done enough to protect them. 

I have the privilege to walk down the street with my wife and assume I am safe if I am not holding her hand. Some of you may think it’s sad to see it that way, but it is undeniably true. I am a white, cisgender woman who passes as straight. I can snuggle safely in secret. Black people, specifically Black trans people, do not have this ability. 

If you feel moved to do more about this crisis in America today, and I hope you do, I’ve included some resources below. The validation I got when the marching band played should be felt by everyone, however, I have a very deep sense that trans people, specifically Black trans women, don’t feel it like I do.

Will you help these sisters to answer their question, Are we safe here? 

This is the list of trans or gender non-confirming people that have been killed in 2020. Say their names: 

  • Dustin Parker 
  • Neulisa Luciano Ruiz
  • Yampi Méndez Arocho
  • Monika Diamond
  • Lexi
  • Johanna Metzger
  • Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos
  • Layla Pelaez Sánchez
  • Penélope Díaz Ramírez
  • Nina Pop
  • Helle Jae O’Regan
  • Tony McDade
  • Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells
  • Riah Milton
  • Jayne Thompson
  • Selena Reyes-Hernandez

A third of this list identifies as Black. 

Their lives matter. 

Support this community in ways you haven’t before because what we have been doing is not working. 

Follow this link to see a list of incredible organizations that need your support. 

Read more here:

And here:

And here:

Lastly, please read about the LGBTQ+ Panic Defense Legal Strategy. Talk to your local representatives to have this legal strategy banned so murderers of trans and queer people will be held fully accountable.

Photo by Erik McGregor

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