Samira Burnside's Trans Day of Visibility Speech
Good evening everybody! It’s great to see so many people out here, it really is. A lot of people like to pay lip service to trans issues, but not a lot of people actually come out to support us, so thank you.
These last few months have been hard, hard for all of us. As republicans swept into more seats than they held last year and another election cycle begins, transgenderism has become the battleground through which the culture war finds itself reborn- more violent, more angry, more terrible.
One side would like to act as if we do not exist, as if we are not real, as if we are products of a social trend and not every bit as human, as valuable and deserving of freedom as every other American. Some even suggest we should be eradicated, shunned into the quiet corners of society and silenced. Look at SB 254, the “Treatment for sex reassignments” bill in Florida where I am from, which would take us from our parents, which would make those that give us the care we need felons. They cloak their disdain for us in phrases like “save the children” and moral grandstanding, but they truly only seek to save their positions of power by stirring up their voter base. And the other side? The Democrat Party, the side that held control of the legislative and executive branch for two whole years, the side that said they would pass the equality act in the first 100 days of the current administration, the side that EXPECTS us to keep voting for them without putting in the work to EARN our votes? They say things like, “Pass the equality act immediately” yet don’t put their words into action when they have the power to do so. They say things like, “I support my trans family” yet sit idly by when we are legislatively attacked.
But we deserve better, and it is up to us to make that “better” a reality.
Close your eyes. Feel the air around you, feel it ready to burst with energy, feel each breath, yours, and the people around you. Breathing that same energy. And beyond that, feel us, all around the United States feel the march of our transgender siblings in the hundreds, hear their voices raised in protest, feel their voices raised in protest, feel the will of the people who couldn’t be here with us and know that we deserve so much better than false prophets and empty promises.
We spend so much of our time, so much of our energy pointing fingers at the people who hate us, calling them names and attacking them directly, but at LEAST THAT group of people is being honest with us, at least we know what to expect from them. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be called a slur to my face by someone who hates me than be told I’m loved and done wrong behind my back by someone who I trusted to care for me.
Our enemies are honest enough to spew their thoughts to all who will listen. It is time for us to demand the same level of honesty from those who call themselves our allies! We don’t need sympathetic sentiment. We don’t need messages of pity. We don’t need complacent disgust. We need ACTION! Organized, Focused, Committed ACTION!
If we keep going as we have been, we’ll be caught in a self fulfilling prophecy, a cycle that will only ever hurt us. If we keep voting as we have been, with no expectation of representation then there’s no incentive to make anything change, BUT if we don’t vote them in then the people who want us shunned and swept away get to have power. There’s only so much that biding our time and voting faithfully will get us. Look how long it’s taken them to pass the Equality Act, a rather simple and inoffensive piece of legislation with broad support that nonetheless has gone without signature for years. It’s time that we stop asking and we start demanding.
We have been on the defensive for too long, desperately voting to keep things stationary for too long, but nothing can be stationary forever, something must break. We shouldn’t be holding protests outside the houses of supreme court judges or Board of Medicine meetings, we should be loud in the streets around the places of legislature and the representatives who TOLD us they would help us, who SAID they would represent us and haven’t. They are the people who can actually change things, who instead have opted to “stand in solidarity with us” and cry crocodile tears rather than stand up for us as we die!
They pit us against each other, they make a war for basic human rights look like a war on the soul of America. But really, it doesn’t matter what names you want to call us, what pronouns you defer to use or what cruel words you deign to say, it matters that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What matters is that the law recognizes that we exist and protects us in our existence. It’s high time we see through their smoke and mirrors and demand change, demand protection under law, demand the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, demand our rights, demand our seat at their table.
And I know, I know it’s so, so hard. I know most trans people just want to live. I know that so many of you have fought so hard just to get to live the life you have now, I know so many of you are fighting for that life right now, and I know that after all of that you just want to live. But we can’t. We can’t just live and I am so, so sorry that the world has taken that away from us. They have made it so that to be trans is to be a renegade, a political statement, a chess piece in an ever-changing game, and if we aren’t making the moves then someone else is making them for us. To be trans and to not be an activist is ignorance, it’s living in a burning house and ignoring the smoke. The fire will reach all of us, and when it comes we all have to fight it. And maybe, maybe when that’s done, when the laws of hate and ignorance have been put down, when our lives are no longer threatened by those in power, maybe then we can just live.. Maybe then the trans children after us can JUST….LIVE.., and play, and dream, and grow and plan for a future in a world they will be safe in. Maybe then.
But for NOW I HAVE to fight. And YOU. you Have to fight! WE HAVE TO FIGHT! For now you have to put aside those dreams of just being a normal young person with normal young people issues and you have to fight for your right to EXIST! WE fight to provide a future much different than the present, a future that will allow for the lives we deserve. And it will not be easy but it WILL be worth it.
This fight has many faces, too. It’s important to be in the streets, to be loud and hold signs, and it’s important, too, to email your representatives and ask them for comment, and it’s important, too, to labor over spreadsheets for hours and organize events like these and it’s important, too, to reach out to those who disagree with you and understand them and make inroads, and above all, it is important to fight! And to never give up and fight! in any way you can. Because the opposition is fighting, and They are organized and they are many and right now, we are small and we are fractured but we are not just here today to be loud. We are here today to be formidable! We are here today to be strong! We must be organized, like Dr. Martin Luther King (jr) once said, “those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”. And we can, we will learn to organize.
And I believe that yes, but I also believe it will be hard.
But, I also believe in transgender militants and transgender peaceful protesters, and I believe in transgender history and transgender ancestors, and I believe in transgender stories and transgender fiction.
I believe in transgender parents, mothers and fathers. I believe in transgender teenagers and young adults. I believe in transgender elders and transgender cousins, aunts, uncles.
I don’t believe in Politics but I do believe in people,
I believe in Transgender joy and transgender strife, I believe in long nights planning the fight and long days celebrating our victories, I believe in trans rights not as a phrase but as a call to action, I believe in false allies but also in true friends, I believe in flags that fly pink, blue and white, I believe in Transgender not as a group or a title but as a movement, I believe that our cause is just and we are right and I believe in transgender people in the daylight.
But most of all, I believe in you
Because we’re going to win
All you need to do is try.
So, will you? Will you fight?
Tell me, will you fight?
(wait for response)
Say it with me, I will fight!
Say it with me, I will be free!
Say it with me, It will be hard!
Say it with me, but I will win!
Thankyou for your time and your energy. Trans Rights forever.
Samira Burnside (She/her) is a youth activist and journalist based in Tampa, Florida.