At least 100 people gathered at the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico on Thursday afternoon for the first transgender march in the state.
The event was intended to strengthen ties between individuals within the transgender community and reach out to those not yet involved, said Paula Kaski, a community member involved in organizing the march.
“The goal of this march is to build a sense of community with the transgender community of Albuquerque and greater New Mexico,” Kaski said.
She said the event’s organizers meant to “raise awareness of issues that are of concern to the transgender community: employment discrimination, disparities in healthcare and violence against transgender people.”
Transgender marches have occurred in cities across the United States, Kaski said, and they inspired her to host one in Albuquerque.
“I had seen on Facebook that several cities were organizing their trans marches for pride month, which is June, and I thought it was time — or past time — for Albuquerque to have a trans march,” she said.
Kaski contacted various organizations that work with transgender individuals, and they helped get the word out, she said.
The march began at the TGRCNM on the corner of Morningside Drive and Copper Avenue, and ended at Morningside Park, where it joined the ABQ Pride candlelight vigil.
City Councilman Rey Garduño attended the march and said he was there to support the transgender community, which often struggles to find an effective voice in reaching a broader audience.
“Many of the folks that I’ve talked to and many of the folks that are here tonight are folks who have, for many years, tried to get the attention of both citizens and elected officials,” Garduño said. “I’m an elected official and I’m here to support anyone who feels they have been either left out or not been listened to.”
Adrien Lawyer, co-founder of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, said marches like this are necessary to raise awareness of the transgender movement, which he said is far behind the gay and lesbian movements of the state and nation.
“When we look at the LGBTQ movement — which is not very aptly named, unfortunately, but here we are all lumped together — when we look at that, the ‘L’ and the ‘G’ part of the movement is about 30 or 40 years ahead of the Trans part of the movement,” Lawyer said.
This is one of the reasons for the founding of the TGRCNM in 2008, he said.
The center not only acts as a resource center for transgender individuals of the state, but it also supplies ‘Trans 101’ educational courses across the state, he said.
Some have found the transgender movement to be hard to understand because of its differences from the gay and lesbian movements, Lawyer said.
“If you don’t have a transgender experience, it is very hard to imagine what it feels like,” he said. “All I would say to folks that don’t understand is, ‘Try harder. Try harder to understand. Think if it was you; think if it was your child.’”
Lawyer said the greatest misconception that those outside the transgender community may have is that it is an illness that demands psychiatric treatment.
Mattee Jim, board member of the TGRCNM, said many people confuse transgender with sexual orientation. However, being transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but is instead a matter of gender identity, she said.
Jim said she attended the march to increase visibility of the transgender movement and to offer support to any individuals in the community who might not yet be comfortable with their identities.
“I am here at the march because I am not just a board member for TGRCNM — I’m also a community member and a trans woman,” Jim said. “Visibility, I feel, is a big part of what we need to do.”
Zach Pavlik is assistant news editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpavlik.