The First 100 Days in the LGBTQ South

During the first 100 days of the Trump administration we’ve seen a whirlwind of discriminatory bills crop up at the state level, a number of individuals with anti-LGBTQ records appointed to office, and a sentiment of uneasiness spreading through our communities. Over the next two weeks, CSE staff will tell their stories of what these first 100 days have been like on the ground and what they are hopeful about moving forward.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director
One feature of the First 100 Days has been a degree of chaos. In February, for example, it appeared imminent that the White House was going to sign an executive order allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people. Then at the last minute, they didn’t. But the drafted executive order still sits there and we stand here, ready.

This is a difficult period and for so many, a frightening one. But every time I see a community attacked or threatened, I also see us standing up in greater number. I hear a new story of bravery – a trans community college student in a rural NC county fights for his right to use the appropriate restroom, a community coming together to support a youth at risk for deportation, the hundreds of thousands who have rallied at airports and in the streets to make clear that resistance and love are alive in America. This is what’s keeping me going right now.

Chloe Stuber, Hometown Organizing Project Director

It is no new statement to say that Trans folks are resilient. In these first 100 days I have witnessed this especially in the participants of our Trans Leadership Initiative (TLI). Every time I get the opportunity to share time with them and hear about their work, I continue to be humbled by how unshaken they are — this adversity is nothing new. What is more, goals before Trump was elected are still the goals today. Bathrooms were not the single answer to being able to thrive and be their authentic selves free from fear, and that has not changed. TLI leaders continue to fight – and make steady progress – to provide shelter for their homeless trans siblings, host legal clinics, change hearts and minds in their faith communities, fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and provide critical information and resources that help to keep their trans siblings safe and healthy. During this first 100 days, what I already knew has been reaffirmed over and over again. The beautiful and resilient trans individuals in our movement are leading the way to full lived equality for all of us, and for cis folks, it’s our imperative to start listening if we haven’t been listening before, listen more deeply, and get behind trans leadership with all that we have.

Ivy Hill, LGBTQ Rights Toolkit Coordinator
Much of my work with our Toolkit programing since the election has been centered around direct services pop-up clinics. But the series of clinics we’re running right now feels more important than any we’ve done before.

We’re traveling across the South running free Protect Yourself Clinics organized by and for trans people. The clinics feature a basic self defense course, HIV testing, personal safety planning, training in how to install and use safety apps on your phone, and practice using pepper spray.

This feels particularly important because trans people, and more specifically trans women of color, are under attack in our country. I could write about the devastating effects of transphobia, misogyny, racism, and violence on our community at length, but it would do nothing to help the next trans person who is attacked. Conversely, this basic self defense knowledge, and pepper spray may give them enough time to get away, and save their lives.

So, dearest Chay Reed, Alphonza Watson, Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Keke Collier, Jojo Striker, and all those who have been misgendered and misnamed in death: We will honor your memory by working to empower trans people with tools for staying safe, and to keep our people alive.

Lindsey Wilson, Director of Engagement and Operations

The first 100 days of the Trump administration have seen public engagement in the political process like we haven’t seen in decades. Millions of Americans took to the streets in places ranging from our nation’s Capital to small towns in deeply red states. The message of these marches, rallies, and meetings has been inspiring and uniting – saying what happens to any of us happens to all of us. That people of color, women, trans folks, LGBTQ people, and immigrants will stand shoulder to shoulder and fight these regressive policies. That we will have each other’s back.

Beyond marching, one critical tool to support each other is to put financial skin in the game. To dig deep and give to the causes and organizations that are supporting individuals as they struggle to survive on a daily level, fight unconstitutional laws in courts, and train up the next generation of grassroots leaders.

At the Campaign for Southern Equality, we have seen our supporter base invest in the continued work of helping shape a future where LGBTQ Southerners can live free from fear and in a world where they are treated with dignity and respect. This level of financial support of our work and of the work of hundreds of organizations around the country is one of the factors that fills me with hope as this first 100 days draws to an end.

Fletcher Page, LGBTQ Rights Navigator
The world changed on November 8, 2016, no doubt about that. In the weeks following, we saw hate seemingly emblazoned by this election, with Jewish Community Centers being attacked and threatened, LGBTQ Centers being vandalized, folks being attacked for just existing…the list goes on.

Since early December, CSE has traveled across the South, hosting a variety of free clinics and workshops for LGBTQ folks. We’ve been connecting people with family law and immigration attorneys, helping folks change their name and gender marker, and empowering folks to apply for grants to pay for their medical transition. In our newest series, the “Protect Yourself Clinics,” we have trans-led self defense classes, HIV testing, and we write and develop individual safety plans. We even helped folks sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Traveling the South and meeting other members of the trans and LGBQ community has been an incredible reminder of the resiliency and power of this community. From Gulfport, Mississippi to Henderson, North Carolina, I have been shown just how deep our roots go and just how big and bold our community is, stretching across intersections of identity.

No matter what happens at 1600 Pennsylvania, I believe with every fiber of my being that trans and LGBQ folks in the South can and will make it through.

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