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Trans Pride Seattle celebrates 10th anniversary: Rep. Zooey Zephyr on anti-Trans legislation and hope

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Photo by Lauren Vasatka
Photo by Lauren Vasatka

On Friday, June 23, in Volunteer Park, Trans Pride Seattle (TPS) was held, just a bit smaller than Pride in the Park only a few weeks prior. There were only two food trucks, one offering Mexican and the other Thai. The obligatory booths promoted many businesses and organizations, but they were clustered in two sets of three long rows on either side of the grass.

Is this to say that the booths were lacking? On the contrary, they only lacked the same overt rainbow capitalism that permeates our Pride events more and more every year.

The only large corporate booth was Starbucks, which offered free drinks kitty-corner from the Starbucks Workers United location. The union members found this funny when an attendee pointed it out, and joked that they ought to speak to the Starbucks baristas about the benefits of supporting workers' rights.

Most booths were mainly small business owners selling their crafts or charitable and activist organizations promoting their work. These organizations included Lambert House, ACLU Washington, AgePride, Undead Voice, Surge Reproductive Justice, and the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network.

TPS, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, is produced by the Gender Justice League. Founded in 2012, the organization focuses on "elevating the rights of the Trans and gender-diverse communities in Washington State and beyond." For a decade, TPS has been "celebrating Trans joy, life, and love."

As stated on TPS's 2023 program site, "In a year of 450+ proposed anti-Trans bills, spaces like Trans Pride Seattle are more important than ever. TPS continues to honor and carry the torch of our Translators who created Pride as a means of cultural communion and social dissent."

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

Spreading Trans joy
TPS succeeded in spreading Trans joy last Friday; the attendees flowing in wore all the colors of the rainbow and bright smiles. While they waved fans and perused the vendors' wares, the stage at the park's far end was being prepped for the show. Several rows of chairs were lined up for those who would find it difficult to sit on the grass, and large blankets were laid out for people to lounge on. As Britney Spears played over the speakers, an American Sign Language interpreter on stage signed the lyrics while bobbing to the music.

The show was hosted by the gorgeous genderqueer drag performer Aleksa Manila. She called attendees to approach the stage and stated, "We are celebrating a decade of Trans joy," joking that her pronouns are "she and single." She thanked Mixx America, the DJ for the event, then turning to the recent attacks on Trans Rights, saying, "An attack on one is an attack on all of us." Manila emphasized the importance of supporting the people fighting for the community, adding, "This is why it's important to vote for the right people."

With that, Manila introduced the first speaker, the board president of the Gender Justice League, Sarah Moran.

Moran briefly spoke on the "unprecedented attack on the community" in the form of recent proposed legislation across the country targeting Trans people's rights, Queer books, and drag queens.

Sen. Marko Liias (D-21) was next to take the mic. "I'm Mark Liias, state senator from south Snohomish County," he said, "but I'm also proud to co-chair our legislative LGBTQ caucus in our Washington state legislature. We have eight openly LGBTQ legislators fighting every day for you, your families, and our community.

"We've had a huge year for advancing the rights of our community in the legislature this session. We passed important protections to make sure that our medical records and our digital data are safe from intrusion. To make sure that what we share online, what we share with our friends is not the subject of searches in those terrible states [proposing anti-Trans laws]. We passed laws to say medical providers here are protected from any legal action for providing gender-affirming care and reproductive care. The most controversial to the right wing, but commonsense bills we passed say we're going to provide shelter for Trans youth when they're homeless."

He continued to speak on the fight ahead but also emphasized enjoying Pride month to "recharge."

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

The next speaker, Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr walked onto the stage and said, "It's good to be back here: the place I went to high school, the place I went to college, and for a long time felt like home." The audience cheered her as she pivoted: "I will start with the question that has been the most common [one] I have received since my censure in the legislature. That question was 'Are you okay?'"

Rep. Zephyr was unjustly silenced by the Montana legislature in April for standing up to a bill that would restrict gender-affirming care. Her story spread and reminded people that we still are a long way still from having a say in our society.

Her answer to the question posed to her was "I feel light. I feel a joy in the work. And I feel, quite frankly, a sense of hope that I did not think possible two years ago. That can be weird to say in the face of a year where we've had 530 pieces of legislation targeting the Queer community.

"The first step of hope is acknowledging the reality of the attacks against us. We see these attacks for what they are. They are an attempt by the far right to paint a very narrow vision of America. One that is built on exclusion. One that is built on hate.

"Why do I have hope, despite the fact that I see the litany of attacks? It's because I see the response. I see the way those attacks have been rejected in my community and in my group in the legislature."

She also spoke about how the first ones to defend her were her local union and the American Indian caucus. She talked about how the young pages thanked her for what she was fighting for, how a Trans Montana citizen said that seeing Zephyr fighting had given her courage, and how a security guard assigned to her in a hotel whispered to her, "The National Guard has your back." She even told the story of a self-described "Republican through and through'' who said, "I want you to know: I'd sit on that bench for you every day."

She closed her speech by saying, "Our joy is a part of that resistance. So I want to feel the joy tonight. I want to be in the community with each and every one of you tonight. I want to thank you for doing the work, here and in every room that you are a part of."

The program also included a speech from young activist and advocate Stella Keating.

Then the festivities commenced, with performers taking the stage. The crowd danced with Penny Ly, punk band Gender Envy, Angel Bonilla from The Voice, the Stance Choir, Ganesha, Ariyah Jane, the drag troupe T4T, the House of Ada, and DJ Excessive.