On September 13th, an uncharacteristically cool Friday night, a small but mighty group of LGBT community members and their allies gathered on the side of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel. They gathered to protest President Trump’s arrival in Baltimore and the GOP congressional retreat that took place within the confines of the hotel. The group was part of the “LGBTQ+ / Allies Dance Party” scheduled that night in conjunction with the union, immigrants’ rights, and climate change demos planned for that weekend. Both protesters and organizers said that they are against Trump’s racist policies and want to show Republican leaders that their existence will not be stymied by anti-LGBT law and rhetoric.
Tensions in the city flared against President Trump following his remarks on Twitter in July when he claimed that Baltimore is a “disgusting rat-and-rodent infested mess.” The post was aimed at the district’s representative, Elijah Cummings. It was no secret that the president’s online rhetoric stoked the fires of protest. Demonstrators came out in droves with signs and, most notably, a giant rat dressed like Mr. Trump. The programming was organized by the Baltimore Welcoming Committee, a coalition of activists who came together to make their voices heard when Republican leaders arrived.
During a press conference that Wednesday, lead organizer Cristi Linn said, “We are not here simply to protest Republicans, but rather, to call attention to the greed, selfishness, racism, and xenophobia that has taken hold of our country, eroding our democracy and destroying our world.” Among other demands – such as severing ties with the National Rifle Association – Linn called for all members of Congress to protect the rights of the LGBT community and use their influence to “stop the Trump White House from any further attacks.”
Abbey Sea and Opal Phoenix of Baltimore for Border Justice held the dance party, an event, they said, was inspired by their visit to the border at El Paso and Clint, Texas, and the injustice they witnessed there. Their organization strives to “provide tangible material support through mutual aid efforts, to address the crisis of inhumanity at the southern border.” In conversation with the community leaders, Phoenix and Sea said that the treatment of immigrants at the border was horrific, but that the treatment of marginalized groups within the immigrant group was even worse.
“It’s hard enough to get around as a refugee without being trans – and then to have that on top of it. Generally they but trans people in solitary confinement, refuse them healthcare – it’s almost an impossible environment for a trans person.”
Phoenix also described the story of Johana Medina Leon, a trans woman from El Salvador who could not find employment in her homeland as a nurse because of discrimination. She ventured to the American border in search for a new life, and when Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained her, she was denied lifesaving healthcare for a month. The day she was released, she died.
The two reiterated that the struggles in the camps at the border are not dissimilar to the struggles that many people with intersectional identities have in detention centers in Charm City. Phoenix said, “All of these injustices are connected. Most marginalized people – trans, queer, black – are facing this.”
The dance party served to celebrate differences in identity and culture despite Republican-lead efforts to deny marginalized groups their rights. After Sea joked about yelling at Mitch McConnell in person, the organizer said that the object of the dance party was to make the Baltimore LGBT community visible and to let conservative lawmakers know that we are not afraid to be open about our identities.
When asked about why they attended the dance party, many of the participants uttered expletives, invoking the president’s name and unabashedly celebrating their defiance of conformity.
Lauren Vella is a journalist based out of Baltimore, MD. Currently, she is a remote editor for Providence Media, a publishing company that produces five regional monthly magazines for different parts of Rhode Island. When she's not viciously typing away at her laptop to meet a deadline, Lauren enjoys getting lost in a New Yorker magazine, trying new beers, eating all the bread and pasta in existence, and doing outdoors-y things with her girlfriend. She's also a HUGE television fan and could talk for hours about the way that media, books, and music converge to influence our American culture. You can find her on social media here:
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