With Concerns and Accusations Swirling, Cleveland Trans Rights Protest Was Postponed Then Canceled

With Concerns and Accusations Swirling, Cleveland Trans Rights Protest Was Postponed Then Canceled.

A protest entitled “Take It To The Streets for Trans Lives” was set to take place on Saturday, October 3 in Cleveland, but–in the days and hours leading up to the event–was postponed to November, then canceled, and now might be back on for as-yet-determined date.

The grassroots event was to feature a march from the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland to downtown Cleveland and culminate with a dance party in the streets. The organizers put forth a list of demands in connection with the event:

1. Reopen all Cold Cases of Trans deaths.
2. Decriminalize HIV and Sex Work.
3. Prevent State & City housing/employment discrimination.
4. Provide State & City public accommodation protections.
5. Establish Trans affirming and supportive shelters including expansion on social service resources for the Trans Community.
6. Eliminate Conversion Therapy.
7. Eliminate Racism and Transphobic prison disparities.
8. Implement Trans affirming support for 6th – 12th graders.
9. Hold Transphobic and Trans-Antagonistic reporting accountable.
10. Expand Medicaid and Transgender healthcare.
“Take It To The Streets! was originally created in an effort to shed light on the plights of one of Cleveland’s most underserved and blatantly discriminated against communities, the Trans Community, with a specific emphasis on the Black Trans Community,” wrote Stephanie Thomas, one of the organization’s leaders, in a prepared statement.
Sponsors listed on the event advertisement included the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Black Lives Matter Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Protest organizers say that many LGBTQ+ organizations originally signed on to support the event, but then pulled their support due to  “perceived personal conflicts between the larger and smaller organizations.” 
“These more established organizations…went on a concerted effort to break ties between Take It To The Streets! and every one of those that had previously agreed to join us in solidarity with the Trans Community that we are attempting to uplift,” wrote Thomas. “Meetings were held, issues were discussed, but at every turn it became more and more apparent that these organizations were trying to awfulize our event and had no intention of supporting it.”
Leaders from Ohio LGBTQ+ organizations disagree with that statement and instead cite a list of reasons for not supporting the event, including a lack of both trans representation with the event’s leadership, questions about whether trained legal observers would be present, and a lack of clarity about core safety measures for participants at the protest.
“They didn’t have a safety plan and every time we asked, their lack of planning became more apparent,” says James Knapp, Board Chair of TransOhio, a statewide nonprofit serving the trans and ally community. “First they told us [the event’s safety plan]  would be an armed person with a concealed carry, then it was a couple of armed people, then it was lesbians on bicycles flanking trans people, and then it was everyone for themselves.”
On October 1, TransOhio issued a statement denouncing the protest, stating that the event would be “putting transgender and nonbinary people in attendance at risk of direct harm.”

Other organizations echoed these concerns.

“We do not support or encourage participation with Take it to the Streets tomorrow,” read a statement on the Facebook page of TransFamily, a Cleveland-area trans support group. “Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of trans* lives.”

On October 1, organizers postponed the event to Nov 1 “due to the increased police presence in Cleveland” as a result of the Presidential debate. On October 2, the day before the protest was set to convene, the event was canceled altogether.

“We have no interest in group in-fighting and therefore have decided to cancel the event,” wrote Thomas. “We look forward to supporting the Trans Community in any way we can now and in the future.”

In communication to The Buckeye Flame late Friday, Thomas indicated that the event may still have a future and that more information would be available this week.

For now, event organizers say they are left questioning the climate within the LGBTQ+ community for start-up events.

“This was all evidence that the LGBT community has a huge lack of support for grassroots organizations,” says Tony Correa, listed as the ‘Lead Organizer’ on the event’s page, and founder/executive director of B. Riley Sober House. “This is exactly what happened when B. Riley Center was started and no one stepped up to help.”

For their part, representatives from TransOhio are quick to refute that assessment.

“TransOhio is a grassroots org. We are legit a small working board of trans volunteers,” explains Darius Stubbs, a Board member of TransOhio. “It’s just really clear that the event was not for the community. If it were, they would have sought out local trans leadership early in their planning and not only after folks reached out to them with questions. It all has the feeling of staging an action for personal clout.” 🔥

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