It’s been 20 years since Indigenous activist Marcus Arana, also known as Holy Old Man Bull, participated in the first San Francisco Trans March.
“It was a lovely ragtag group of a couple hundred people, maybe, who just wrote up signs and had a gathering at Dolores Park and then marched down to City Hall,” Arana remembered.
Now, two decades on, Arana said, the march is reminiscent of a family reunion.
“It's gotten so much more beautiful,” Arana said in the hours leading up to the 2023 event Friday as organizers prepared Dolores Park for performances and a resource fair to kick off the march. “I saw a bunch of little kids with their parents, all with rainbow flags, ready to celebrate. And I thought, ‘How beautiful is it that we can all be here today and celebrate what it is to live an authentic life.’”
While the specter of more than 550 anti-trans pieces of legislation nationwide looms in the political background, Trans March spokesperson Niko Storment said that organizers want the 20th anniversary of the march to uplift and celebrate trans identity.
“I think with the political climate right now, it's really important that we provide the visibility of joyful stories,” Storment said. “So we're really excited this year to be able to be a great voice for that.”
Before the march began its procession from Dolores Park toward Taylor and Turk streets on Friday night, a range of performers entertained a crowd of hundreds assembled at the park.
Poet Cal Calamia read verses speaking to the challenges of living in America as a trans person. Reigning Drag King of San Francisco Helixir made an appearance in a sparkly bomber jacket. Jiggly Caliente, a RuPaul’s Drag Race alum lip-synced to Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul.”
Activists also took the mic to call attention to the killing of Banko Brown, a Black trans man fatally shot by a San Francisco Walgreens security guard in April. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ decision to not pursue charges against the security guard has sparked outcry. Juju Pikes, who identified herself as Brown’s aunt and a co-founder of the Justice for Banko Brown coalition, urged the trans and Black communities to come together to demand accountability for Brown’s death.
“We’re not free until all of our people are free,” Pikes said.
While this year’s Trans March had no specific theme or slogan, organizers and activists involved with the milestone event said the fate of trans children is weighing heavily on their minds—specifically legislation and policies that could impact health care and gender-affirming procedures for minors.
“This is not just a trans issue,” Storment said. “People should be able to get health care that they need to to feel like themselves. And I think really the question is bodily autonomy, right? [...] There's no liberation for any of us without liberation for us all.”
Activists like Arana ultimately hope that, with time, being trans will no longer be a label but a normal part of a number of identities.
“I'm looking for a world where we're not known for our strength and resilience, but rather for our works of art and community service and being teachers and lawyers and artists and everything else that we do other than being transgender,” Arana said.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org