Guest Commentary: How Cincinnati Embraced Trans Day of Visibility

The sacred, the colorful and the power of community came together for a Trans Day of Visibility event at the Cincinnati library downtown.

click to enlarge “None of us walk the same path, but when we walk together, we hold each other up.” - Photo: Katie Rainbow, Pexels
“None of us walk the same path, but when we walk together, we hold each other up.”

When zebras know that they are being targeted by hungry lions, they will disappear into the herd so that they become a blur of stripes. Likewise, for trans people – who are keenly aware that they are prime targets in the Culture Wars – there is a feeling of safety among their own.

This was the vibe on Saturday, March 25, at the recent Trans Day of Visibility held at the Cincinnati Downtown Public Library. The event hosted multiple speakers and drag performers as well as outreach tables for interested groups.

Originally scheduled outside the library doors, the event was nearly blown away by blustery winds and a brief shower. Fortunately, library staff acted quickly to move the event indoors, and the ball got rolling in spite of the hiccups.

The first speaker was Elliot Draznin (they/them) of Elech, Cincinnati’s Queer minyan/Jewish community. Draznin, who recently produced a dragPurim spiel, “Glitter, Groggers & Glam,” said that the trans community could learn a lot from the Jewish experience. They noted how the Jewish holiday of Purim speaks of a failed effort to wipe out Jewish identity. Jews commemorate this attempted genocide not with ashes and sackcloth, but with a colorful celebration. This is how the LGBTQ+ community should respond to the current trend of hostile legislation: with colorful defiance, they said.

Draznin also shared a prayer called “Twilight People” by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, which reads in part:

"We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities and loves, many genders and none. … We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all. May the sacred in-between of this evening suspend our certainties, soften our judgments, and widen our vision. … May the in-between people who have come to pray be lifted up into this twilight. … Blessed are You, God of all, who brings on the twilight."

Melachi Carroll (he/him), a prevention worker for LGBTQ+ healthcare provider Equitas Health, told the group that his name means “Messenger of God” in Hebrew. Carroll further noted that not all religions condemn Queer people. In some societies, they are spiritual leaders. His advice was this: “When you don’t have a place at the table, build your own table and invite others to join you.”

Key Beck (they/them), also from Equitas, quoted the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Beck is committed to being authentic and visible in the village square, giving young people the hope, encouragement and mentorship they need to thrive. “It’s not just about showing up when the cameras are there,” they said. “It’s about showing up in the minutiae. … It’s not about forcing anyone out of the closet. It’s about being there when they’re ready to emerge.”

Dr. G. Patterson (they/them), a professor at Kent State University, shared that they have a complicated relationship with trans visibility because gender is not necessarily one or the other. There are those who exist in the gray spaces in between. Many trans people are visible, but how are they being seen? How often are they tokenized for DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives without being genuinely heard? And how often are they targeted for attack? Proposed anti-trans legislation could prevent professors at colleges and universities from even discussing issues of gender identity. So, it’s clearly not about “protecting the children,” they said. It’s about silencing dissent.

At the outreach tables, Vincenzo Volpe (he/him) of Human Rights Campaign was working hard to “galvanize the troops” against Ohio bills like HB6, which would ban trans girls from participating in girls’ sports. HRC activists are making phone calls and sending emails to elected officials as well as bringing people to Columbus to testify against the bills when they hit the floor.

To end on an upbeat note, performer Mister Guadalupe presented a funky drag routine and there were smiles all around. It should be noted that there were minors in attendance, and the performance was not “sexualized” in any way.

The event’s chair, Cathy Allison (she/her) got in the last word, saying, “None of us walk the same path, but when we walk together, we hold each other up.”

My only downbeat note is that the vast majority of attendees identified as trans.

Where were the allies? We all have skin in this game whether the threat feels imminent or not. Just as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Rev. ML King, the effort to hold one another up will take a lot more shoulders to carry the load.

This article was originally published by the Buckeye Flame and is republished here with permission.

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