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Marching across downtown Los Angeles for transgender rights

  • On Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, people marched to Los Angeles City Hall in support of transgender rights. All photos by Bastian Mendez.

  • The march coincided with a leaked memo from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to define sex as either male or female, based on what's written on one's birth certificate.

  • The new definition would threaten the civil rights of 1.4 million people in the United States who do not recognize themselves by the sex they were born into.

  • "When the memo came out there was an article blast from the LA Times," said organizer and Alhambra resident Arlene Campa. "There’s a lot of trans people in Get Lit. It was difficult seeing that a whole identity could be erased."

  • "Once I processed it, I was like, 'Where are we going with this?'" Campa concluded.

  • The logistics were difficult to manage on such short notice. All the while, Campa was nervous about attendance and the police presence at the march. "What if the police don’t like what we’re doing? What if spectators don’t like what we’re doing?"

  • "Also, I’m bad at directions."

  • “I thought nobody was going to show up. Just a couple of people from Get Lit. I'm grateful that people cared -- trans people, cis people, allies, kids, friends, mentors," says Arlene Campa, an organizer of the Los Angeles Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Rights March in early November. Campa is also an Alhambra resident. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • About what's next, Campa said, "I don’t think it’s going to stop with this march we just did. I think we’re going to keep organizing more events. It's about building a community."


Alhambra , CA United States

In late October, a memo that would legally define sex as based on what’s written on one’s birth certificate leaked from the Department of Health and Human Services. The change would roll back civil rights protections for around 1.4 million transgender and nonconforming people in the United States.

In response, the Los Angeles Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Rights March was held on Friday downtown. One of the organizers was Alhambra resident Arlene Campa. With the help of other teens who she knew from the poetry organization Get Lit, as well connections made through social justice organization Gender Justice LA, Campa helped secure and lead a route for the march as well as recruit speakers for the rally.

“When the memo came out there was an article blast from the LA Times,” she said. “There’s a lot of trans people in Get Lit, and it was difficult seeing that a whole identity could be erased,”

“Once I processed it, I was like, ‘Where are we going with this?'”

Campa managed several aspects of the event’s logistics. She and a few other organizers were able to find a connection that helped them avoid conflict with the city of Los Angeles and quickly acquire a police escort. While she was nervous about the police presence and encountered opposition from some people she spoke to while organizing the march, she was gratified by how inclusive the march was.

“[The march] brought a lot of light to portions of the trans community that aren’t typically portrayed,” she said. “Typically when you see a trans person in media it’s a white person, you don’t typically hear about, for example, trans people of color or trans women in prisons and their stories.”

Campa said that this march is the start of a larger movement. “I don’t think it’s going to stop with this march we just did. I think we’re going to keep organizing more events. It’s about building a community,”

“If you feel like your voice doesn’t matter, it does. If you can change the mind of one person you’ve done your job. If you have a difficult conversation with someone you’ve done your job. Community organizing doesn’t start on a large scale.”

To her, this goes beyond organizing just for the LGBTQ community. “Last year DACA and TPS were being revoked and I was marching for that too,” she said. “If you’re not aware or vigilant there won’t be anyone left to help you.”

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