Gainesville declared July 20 as Black Lives Matter and Trans Inclusive Movement Day. Trans and ally voices rang in the proclamation with chants and speeches on the steps of City Hall Monday.
It was everything Natalia Dupree could’ve hoped for as a Gainesville native and trans rights advocate, she said.
Dupree, a 48-year-old event organizer, is also the founder of the Unspoken Treasure Society — a trans advocacy group founded in Gainesville in 2018. The disproportionate rates of violence, which often lead to death, in the trans community as well as lack of representation inspired her to orchestrate at Monday’s Black Trans Lives Matter candlelight vigil, she said.
“The Black Lives Matter movement was huge, but I didn’t feel like it represented my trans community,” she said. “I needed to make a point to be one of the trans people that spoke out to let them know, the Black community has trans people in it as well.”
To Dupree, Unspoken Treasure Society was founded to create a space for people like her. Though not everyone in the crowd of more than 100 people was trans, she said she hoped the vigil helped educate them about the myths and stigmas the trans community is forced to debunk every day.
“We are loving,” Dupree said. “We are kind. We are peaceful people, and all we want to do is just simply exist.”
Tyree Williams, a 31-year-old director of operations at Unspoken Treasure Society, said he witnessed the spark of the Black Lives Matter movement ignite into a flame when George Floyd’s murder first began to circulate the internet. However, Williams said knowing that some people who claimed Black Lives Matter excluded the trans community made it difficult to protest.
“These are also the same individuals that would not stand behind me if something happened to me once they found out that I’m a trans man,” he said. “Take away me being a man, and being a Black man, It’s like, ‘Oh you’re trans? Never mind, you don’t make the cut.’”
The vigil was a call-to-action for allies of the trans community, William said. More voices are needed to raise awareness so the next generation can look back on all the progress that will be made, he said.
“Everything we’re trying to build is not for right now,” Williams said. “It’s for tomorrow.”
The concept for Monday’s vigil was inspired by Tony McDade’s murder and Unspoken Treasure Society’s desire to elevate the voices of Black trans men, Williams said. He added that he was proud to see people wearing masks and feeling safe enough to express themselves at the event.
“To have a black trans organization come in and say, ‘Hey, we need your support, we need your help’, and to get a proclamation passed?” Williams said. “I think we’re doing something right.”
For Melanie Murillo, a 20-year-old UF marriage and counseling graduate student, seeing the Dream Defenders, Unspoken Treasure Society and the Gainesville Socialist Alternative celebrate of Black trans lives reminded her just how important activism is to the culture of Gainesville.
“That’s the part of the community that I want to be in,” Murillo said. “The part that’s progressive, doing the work out in the streets, getting the word out and giving back to the community.”
As an ally, Murillo said she can’t imagine threatening someone because of who they are. She said she is enraged that trans people live every day in fear, which is why she uses her privilege to protect and uplift their voices.
“It’s not my place to be hurt,” she said. “It’s my place just to show out for those people, be physical out in the streets and be there for my friends who are non-binary, who are trans women and men.”
Williams said he believes the movement will persist even when the hashtags stop trending on social media. To Williams, it’s time for Black trans people to have a seat at the table.
“It’s time for us to take seats on school boards, take seats on councils,” Williams said. “It’s time for us to take more seats in the senate. It’s not about equality. It’s about equity.”
At the end of the vigil, a proclamation from Mayor Lauren Poe was read which named July 20, 2020 as the Black Lives Matter Trans Inclusive Movement Day in the CIty of Gainesville.