Two people lie still on the University of Connecticut seal on Fairfield Way, wrapped in transgender pride flags and wearing sunglasses. A third person, dressed in all black, stands silently in the middle of the seal, arms raised.
Students stop walking, look at the protestors, whisper to each other. A lot of them ask each other if they know what the flags are for or if they know what’s going on.
Suddenly, a UConn student’s voice cuts through the silence.
“On Oct. 21, the Trump administration released a statement/memo indicating that trans folk in the United States will be removed from various measures that will protect things like their healthcare, their right to getting married, their access to housing and other key provisions that the United States government provides to people that are living in the United States as citizens,” Omar Taweh, organizer of yesterday’s rally and seventh-semester physiology and neurobiology major, said at the rally for transgender rights on Fairfield Way. “Legislative measures like these will hurt trans folk disproportionately compared to other folk and other minorities.”
Taweh urged the crowd to educate themselves on the struggles faced by transgender people in the United States.
“We are standing here today in solidarity to show you that trans lives are continuing to be lost and will be lost further with further enactment of this legislation,” Taweh said. “Please take time to educate yourself on the struggles faced by trans folk in the United States. They are not going to go away. They are here to stay.”
When Taweh finished speaking, Ace Ricker, a seventh-semester individualized major in gender in the workplace, began to speak.
“For individuals who may think that they’ve never met someone who is trans, congratulations, I am; I was born female and I identify as male,” Ricker said. “I walk through life being harassed just because of this simple thing. Whether I go to the bathroom, whether I want to get a job, I am discriminated against. I have been assaulted, verbally and physically, just based on how I identify.”
Ricker told the crowd that transgender people as young as elementary school students commit suicide due to the bullying of trans community members.
“Teachers are not protecting individuals in schools (and) parents (are) disowning their own kids based on this simple thing,” Ricker said. “We’re not asking for monumental things, we’re asking for you to respect and accept that we identify this certain way.”
Ricker told students they should be aware that the policies proposed by the Trump administration could harm their families and friends.
“This demonstration is showing that trans rights are being threatened,” Ricker said. “My rights are being threatened, you friends’ rights are being threatened. There are people that are trans all around you just trying to survive, just like myself, being a trans man trying to walk through campus and get a simple degree to prosper and be part of the great world that we’re trying to make.”
Ricker said he has been educating the public and advocating for transgender and LGBT rights for 12 years.
“We wanted to put this demonstration on today because there are still so many people that are ignorant to certain policies and procedures that are trying to be enforced by our political climate and who is in office right now, and can affect individuals to the point where they might die if these bills get passed,” Ricker said.
Fifth-semester applied mathematics and economics double major Christina Wesnofske said she was walking by the rally and stopped by to see how other students reacted to it.
“I think it’s really interesting, seeing the campus culture and the reaction to it,” Wesnofske said. “It’s kind of surprising how many people aren’t stopping, like are just walking away, or some guy even walked right through it.”
Third-semester environmental science major Mara Tu was walking with Wesnofske and also stopped to listen to the demonstrators.
“Any time there’s a demonstration or someone wants their voice to be heard, I think if you have time, it’s worth the time to stop and listen to hear the reasons why and what’s going on, especially if they’re putting the time in their day to make a demonstration and put this out,” Tu said.
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.