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12 Activists on the Future They Envision for Trans Youth

Last June, a crowd gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum—one so large that even amid a summer defined by protest, organizers were shocked. The occasion was Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth, an event inspired by the 1917 Silent Parade, when 10,000 people outfitted in all white silently marched down Fifth Avenue protesting anti-Black violence. More than a century later, the 15,000 in white who gathered in 2020 and thousands who reconvened this past Sunday got a bit more specific, issuing a call to action specifically for Black trans and gender-nonconforming youth.

Both this year and last, the crowd was anything but silent (apart from a moment of recognition for the current humanitarian crisis in Palestine this past weekend.) There’s no question about why they made noise: More than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills, primarily targeting youth, are currently up for legislation in the U.S., which is also an all-time record—more than in the past decade combined. (Seventeen have already been passed, many of which are state-wide anti-trans sports bans.) Meanwhile, just halfway through 2021, more murders of trans people have been officially confirmed than in all of 2019. Keep in mind: That estimated death toll solely accounts for those in the U.S., and does not include the countless who have disproportionately died by suicide. (A recent survey found that last year, 52 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves.)

Raising signs with slogans like “God Is Trans,” “Worry About Your Own Genitals,” and “Ban Gender Reveals,” attendees paid homage to pillars of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion like Marsha P. Johnson. They emphasized the fact that they were only there because of not only their elders nor peers, but the youth that has long given them hope. Among the speakers were Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer; Raquel Willis, an activist and key organizer of last year’s action, and Lafi Melo, a Palestinian artist and activist.

So, as some speakers repeatedly asked, what would the future of true trans liberation look like? Photographer Serichai Traipoom asked a number of those who gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum and marched to Fort Greene Park. Read their takes alongside views of the overall scene, here. (Perhaps, as organizers hope, after donating to advocacy groups like Black Excellence Collective, Trans Lifeline, Magic City Acceptance Center, TAKE, Stonewall Protests, and For The Gworls.)

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“A truly liberated trans future is one in which trans joy and trans euphoria are familiar—are common, are a standard. Right now, joy is so scarce for trans youth that I think often, we even reject it. I want a future in which trans joy is familiar and abundant.” —Schuyler Bailar, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“For me, in the future, trans liberation looks like equal positions of power, and more so than in the aspects that we [usually] think about. Not just in schools, not just in areas of employment, but in every tier of society. That we see ourselves represented, and that it’s consistent. And hopefully working toward it being permanent. That, to me, is liberation. And for me, honestly, part of my liberation is a world without the public terrorists that are the police. Maybe ‘terrorist’ isn’t the right word, but that’s what they do—they really terrorize the community. They brutalize us; they make it so that we actually aren’t safe; they allow for us to continually be diminished. And that, to me, is the irony—that public safety is now really publicly bringing more harm to marginalized communities. That includes all the intersectionalities of race, gender identity, and economic status.” —Qween Jean, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“I think it’s different for different people. But the freedom to not only survive, but to thrive, to have access to fresh water, housing, healthcare—all the basic fundamental needs of every human being.” —Joshua Allen, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“Trans liberation is everyone being able to express themselves freely, without other people’s restrictions. It is no police, no prisons. It is us living in abundance, with healthcare, food, safety, housing, joy, love, and everything else.” —Raquel Willis, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“To me, true trans liberation in the future means being open to listening, being open to sacrifice. Being open to put the people who are listened to the least all the way in the front.” —Lafi Melo, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“A world where trans young people can live their free, authentic selves, and feel supported and part of the movement. It’s where we can wake up every day and not worry about the existential fear of genocide.” —Shéár Avory, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“Just being everywhere. Being a part of everything.” —Parker Kit Hill, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“For me, a trans liberation future is simply being privileged and living in luxury. A future where we no longer have to be in the street. A future where we no longer have to say ‘Black trans lives matter.’” —Joel Rivera, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“For us to just breathe. In every space, everywhere we go. Never stop breathing, never stop believing. Literally just living.” —Leyna Bloom, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“A truly liberated trans future is one in which people get to walk in their authentic truth without being brutalized. Without being demonized, without being ridiculed. It is trans youth getting the jobs that they deserve.” —Neptunite, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“The future is tomorrow. These kids are gonna change the world, and we need their change to be powerful. Movements like this show the world our youth are important. They have value. And they’re gonna again and again and again, ‘cause we should never be erased. We should uplift our youth—help them get everything they need in life. Education, housing, all of it.” —Ceyenne Doroshow, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

On the ground at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

“A future where kids can be unapologetically themselves. Where they don’t have to question why what happens with their body is someone’s business.” —Basit, photographed by Serichai Traipoom at Brooklyn Liberation: An Action For Trans Youth on June 13, 2021.

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