Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #99, Fall 2002.

by Diane Dale

On Saturday May 4, two dozen transgender principals
and activists from all over the U.S. met in Atlanta to
begin the planning of what promises to be a seminal
event in the history of our transgender movement?The March
For Gender Rights.
This initial planning was facilitated by Sabrina Marcus of
the Southern Comfort Conference and Rory Gould of the
Washington Gender Alliance. The purpose was not to detail the
event itself, but rather to begin to explore the principal
theme(s) of the March and to set up a preliminary organizational
structure that will help develop and deploy it.
The one philosophy that was universally acknowledged
was that the March must represent our entire transgender community.

Indeed, the diversity of our movement is our strength,
and every sector will not only be welcomed but expected and
urged to play a prominent role in the March.
Debate arose over an appropriate theme for the March.
Suggestions ranged from transgender pride; to fostering transgender
awareness; to education; community unity and community
building; equality under the law and ENDA; respect and
acceptance; and freedom of gender expression.

Much of the discussion, too, centered upon identifying the
various components that would make up the event, as well as
answering some very fundamental questions:

? Who should be responsible for the overall management of the March?

? What should take place during the event?

? When should it be held?

? Where should it be held?

? Why have the March in the first place?

? How are we going to pull it off successfully?

Five participants were elected to a non-partisan committee
to establish communication with various gender leadership
communities. Having broad-based and proper representation at
every planning meeting is of paramount importance to ensure
an inclusive and successful March.

As you can imagine, the scope of such a project as this is
immense. It is not only the March per se that has to be dealt
with, but the myriad of other activities and facilities that make
up and add to the entire experience. Areas to be addressed
include such things as: mission and theme; community liaison;
travel and accommodations; security; financing; programs,
speakers and special invitees; marketing, promotion and media
relations; legal and accounting; ancillary events; legislative
relations; and follow-up. Perhaps you have expertise in one or
more of these functional areas and will want to help out when
the time comes. Stay tuned for forthcoming information on
how you can participate.

While no specific date has been set for the March, it was
clear that it would be at least a year in the making?possibly
two. This will give everyone and every group enough time to
prepare. Naturally, financial considerations are critical. Money
is needed to produce the March and its related activities.
photograph by Mariette Pathy Allen
On the steps of The Capitol, First Lobby Day
Transgender Tapestry #99 ? 13

The Transgender Fund was designated
as the chief financial arm of the March. The Fund has set up a
select initiative on its website to receive contributions that will
be invested in the event. To get things going, the TG Fund has
provided a $1,000 grant to the March?s organizers.

Another important aspect of planning is dealing with the
personal costs associated with participating in the March.
Transportation, housing, and meals are but three things that
require money. The good news is that everyone has enough
time to save. Here?s a suggestion: Set up a March For Gender
Rights Fishbowl at your group?s monthly meetings. Place half
the donations in an account earmarked to help cover the
expenses of those from your organization attending the event.
Send the balance to the TG Fund?s March for Gender Rights?
Select Initiative.

Let?s make this march a transgender milestone?an event
with purpose, pride, and promise. We have a choice of making
a statement or a STATEMENT. With your help and support, we
indeed will be heard.


Some seven years ago, when 100-plus transsexual and transgendered
activists assembled on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, the transgender
community was shocked and surprised by what was transpiring. Most of
us had never even imagined we would be able to lobby in Washington,
or that we would be treated with respect in senators? and representatives?
offices if we did. And yet there we were, lobbying en masse!

Now it?s 2002. Transgender lobbyists work Capitol Hill every
spring, with surprising success. GenderPAC has offices in D.C., and
is well on the way to a $1M budget. Transgender inclusion, or the lack
thereof, has become a serious topic of concern for the Employment
Nondiscrimination and Hate Crimes acts.

Comes now a proposal for a transgender march for gender
rights?to be held, according to rumor, in Washington?in the style of
of the 1963 Civil Rights March of 1963 (250,000 attendees), the
Millennium March for GLBT Civil Rights (200,000 attendees), and the
Million Man March of 1995 (875,000). Some time in the next two years
we can expect vast numbers of transgendered and transsexual people
and their advocates to assemble in Washington, filling the National
Mall beyond its capacity, choking the Metro, creating traffic jams, and
overflowing hotels from Richmond to Baltimore.

One can only hope.

The largest North American transgender event to date was
Southern Comfort 2000, with about 800 attendees. While the upcoming
GenderPAC and Southern Comfort conferences may yield slightly
higher numbers, there is nothing to suggest the March for Transgender
Rights will draw a crowd much larger. A thousand or so people would
be invisible in the immensity of the National Mall. Pah! The Mall spits
on a thousand people! The Mall spits on ten thousand!

It will take several hundred thousand attendees to have an
impact in Washington D.C., to get us noticed, to attract the attention
of the media or our elected officials. The organizers of the
march cannot possibly expect to get such numbers.

The true significance of the first transgender lobby day was not
what it accomplished externally, but what it meant to the community.
It gave us pride, a sense of what was possible. the March for Gender
Rights has the potential to build upon that pride. If the organizers are
smart, they?ll elect not to have the march in Washington, D.C., where
it will have zero impact outside of our own community, but in a place
where a thousand people will fill the streets and frighten the horses.
Might we suggest Provincetown or Key West?