Western Massachusetts students rally community against Trump’s transphobic attacks
Northampton, MA – Western Massachusetts Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a rally and speak out for transgender rights, October 26, in downtown Northampton’s Pulaski Park. Pulaski Park is a block from Smith College, and a short trip from Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, and UMass Amherst.
This event was inspired by SDS actions in Tampa Bay and Tallahassee earlier this week. Joining a national SDS call for students to protest the Trump administration’s proposals to change Title IX to include an unwavering definition of gender, based on genetics and a binary idea of biological sex. These policies would roll back the small number of protections currently afforded to trans people in the United States. It will put 1.4million citizens at risk of losing their jobs; homes, medical care, and already weak ability to prosecute hate crimes.
Over 50 people, both students and community members, gathered together in the park at 11 a.m. Friday morning with signs reading, “Fire transphobes in our schools, police and government.” The rally called to, “Support the Yes on 3” campaign, a Massachusetts bill to provide legal protections to transgender people and the first of its kind for any state.
Organizers were clear in telling people that just voting wasn’t enough. “We are at a point where our identities alone are not revolutionary enough,” said Mod Behrens, an SDS organizer who gave the opening statements at the event. “Our existence is not revolutionary enough because they’ve shown us that if we don’t act, there’s a whole lot they can do to hurt us.” Donations of $50 for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, a non-profit offering legal help for trans people, including those incarcerated, were collected at the event.
Anna Secino, an SDS member who helped organize the event, said after the rally, “Reversals on Senate Bill 2407 [Massachusetts Transgender Anti-Discrimination Legislation] and on Roe v. Wade would act in tandem to restrict individual autonomy on the most personal matters and to deny vulnerable groups equal access to public goods and services.”
Western Mass SDS invited Sky Karp, a Smith College student and member of the college’s Trans Diversity Committee who spoke about being transgender on a women’s campus. “The way we all felt when Trump’s new policy came out, is the same way I feel, on a smaller level, every day.”
Smith College, which only began accepting trans women in 2015, does not allow students to change their names on their IDs or in their student portals, and has refused to let students continue leading campus tours after they have begun transitioning. “Part of the reason Trump’s policy is so fucking scary for me is because I know I can’t count on Smith to stand by trans students,” they explained.
Other speakers included Lorelei Erisis, local activist and former Miss Trans New England, Karl Tonge with the “Yes on 3” campaign, and N Kohchi, a Trans Lifeline worker and member of PSL.
As the rally continued and people began chanting for trans rights now, even more people trickled in from the sidewalk, grabbing handmade signs and joining the crowd. “In SDS, we have a motto: ‘Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win,’” organizers told the audience through a megaphone. “Well when our rights are under attack, we say ‘Stand up, fight back!” The whole crowd shouted it back in return.
This event precedes other SDS rallies in Salt Lake City and Wisconsin, encouraging students to stand up against oppression from the Trump White House.