Trans residents, members of the Baltimore Trans Alliance and other organizations, and their allies will take part in a one-mile march this evening to promote unity and bring attention to the faults of the Baltimore Police Department.
Monica Stevens, organizer of the march and founder of Sistas of the "t," a support network for transgender women, says many women, especially women of color, are arrested for "walking while trans." Oftentimes, they are accused of engaging in sex work, something she has been accused of herself.
"[The BPD] are not doing their jobs. And in a lot of cases, the misconduct and the violence is committed by them," Stevens says.
Called the Baltimore Trans Uprising, the march will go from the Ynot Lot at North Avenue and North Charles Street to Mount Vernon's Washington Monument. The route itself is symbolic—the Old Goucher neighborhood is where many black transgender women, Stevens says, experience a great deal of harassment and discrimination.
Stevens recalls three separate occasions where she tried to voice concerns to former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.
In 2011, she attended a planning meeting with members of the BPD in an attempt to create new training for the department. After she recounted an exchange in which she was harassed by a police officer due to her clothing, the police major at the meeting tried to justify the response to Stevens, who attended wearing business attire—a blazer, gray slacks, and loafers. "I was living in a high-crime area where there was a lot of prostitution by transgender women," she recalls as the police response.
During a 2014 LGBTQ crime forum, Batts went on record questioning the relationship between the BPD and the LGBTQ community during his tenure, noting that "I realized we may have an organization that doesn't have the sensitivity to the LGBT community that it should," he said.
More than a year later, Stevens notes that the BPD "isn't protecting us."
"It won't be addressed unless we address it. Because they'll continue to operate with impunity unless somebody pulls them up on it and makes them accountable," Stevens says.
Since 2012, five trans women—Mia Henderson, Kandy Hall, Kelly Young, Mya Hall, and another woman simply known as Tracy—have been killed. Many of their deaths remain unsolved.
Systemic failures to protect transgender folks in Baltimore contribute to a sense of erasure and an inability to speak out. The march, one of many protests the Baltimore Trans Alliance has organized, will feature eight speakers as well as a list of 13 points to be released at the Washington Monument.
"A lot of the reasons for the march is a call for unity, and a call for black women in general, but especially black trans women to find our voices," Stevens says.
The march will take place on Friday, July 24, beginning at 5 p.m. from the Ynot Lot, located at West North Avenue and North Charles Street near Red Emma’s. Follow the hashtag #BaltimoreTransUprising or visit the event's Facebook page for more information.