In a time when legislative, cultural, and physical attacks on transgender and nonbinary Americans are everywhere, it can be hard to maintain hope and resilience. To help you sustain yourself, FORGE is sharing actions people are taking across the country to counter what is happening and build up our community. Some of these are offered as inspiration and reassurance that we are not alone. Others are actions that any one of us could take to strengthen both individual and collective hope and resilience. A few are controversial in that some people would not agree they are helpful. We offer these anyway to help you “think outside the box” when you generate your own responses.
#30 Days of Action
In honor of Trans Awareness Month and in recognition of the current assaults on trans and nonbinary people, FORGE has identified #30 days of action that people can take to counter the attacks and build hope and resilience.
#1 Send words of support to trans youth
Lambda Legal will help you send words of support to trans youth, although you are limited to 225 characters and you will be signing up for Lambda Legal emails at the same time. Go to https://support.lambdalegal.org/site/SSurvey?amp%3BACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=15326&fbclid=IwAR1raL-vWeWi7eXC0j2aa7Mz_vlao7RcUB1m10luVVLqqdM60mHavLLH79g
#2 Tail a politician to distribute books they’ve banned
MoveOn has created a “Banned Bookmobile” filled with books Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has banned from schools in Florida. They’re driving “it around the state handing those books out, for free, in highly trafficked areas that will attract media attention.“ They may follow him cross-country as he campaigns, giving out banned books, hosting events with authors and advocates, and making sure the press covers it as much as possible. You’d probably have to run a GoFundMe to raise the funds, but MoveOn was really successful at that. Another possibility: ask a bookstore to donate books in exchange for publicity.
Reference: Direct email from MoveOn, May 24, 2023.
#3 Block protesters from being seen
“Parasol Patrol” members have protected participants in Drag Storytime events in D.C., and Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland. With colorful large rainbow umbrellas, they form a “wall” between participants and protesters, which have included the Proud Boys. Sometimes they’ve also played Disney songs and Broadway music to drown out the protesters and escorted attendees to their cars. An elected official at one event announced, “The hate failed. We won and we always will.”
References: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2023/02/25/dc-drag-storytime-proud-boys-crazy-aunt-helens/; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/01/protesters-drag-queen-story-hour-met-rainbow-wall-protecting-attendees; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/02/police-promise-protection-after-proud-boys-shout-slurs-at-drag-story-hour-participants
#4 Run for office
Zooey Zephyr, the first out transgender woman elected to the Montana Legislature, was inspired to run after her state passed three pieces of legislation targeting the LGBTQ community. Key West drag performer Michael Elgin Travis has filed to run against incumbent state Rep. Jim Mooney, a two-term Republican who represents Florida House District 1220. A ghost tour guide and bartender at Key West’s 801 Bourbon Bar, Travis also performs two nights each week in drag as Erika Rose at the Duval Street LGBTQ+ bar. Travis says of the run, “Either way, I win. I’ll either win the election or inspire others and let them know they are valued.” These aren’t the only ones; Wikipedia says that as of 2021, there are 77 transgender nonbinary, intersex, and otherwise non-cisgender elected officials.
References: https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/recently-elected-trans-lawmakers-say-anti-lgbtq-bills-inspired-run-rcna59188; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/07/this-drag-performer-is-running-to-unseat-a-florida-state-republican/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transgender_political_office-holders
#5 Create and disseminate a video comparing drag queens and protesters
Protesters everywhere have acted in kid-unfriendly ways, including calling them names and threatening them. Compare that behavior – literally – with how drag queens act by creating, editing, and disseminating a video. New York City Council member Erik Bottcher is distributing such a video of a Manhattan Drag Story Hour that intercuts calm and friendly scenes from the event with expletive-laden, threatening and violent rants from outside protesters.
#6 Ask an elected official what bathroom they think you should use
At a public event in Virginia, a student asked Governor Glenn Youngkin, “Look at me. I am a transgender man. Do you really think that the girls in my high school would feel comfortable sharing a restroom with me?” The governor did not answer directly, reiterating that there should be more gender-neutral facilities and that families should be “engaged with their children, [so] you can make good decisions together.” [Youngkin’s policies do not let families choose to have a trans boy use the boys’ facilities in schools.] Similarly, two transgender fathers in Iowa asked lawmakers who had just passed a school bathroom ban which bathroom they should use when attending school events. The lawmakers responded along the lines of don’t tell anyone and go to the men’s room.
Reference: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/glenn-younkin-trans-rights-virginia-b2298299.html; https://www.weareiowa.com/article/news/local/iowa-bathroom-bill-transgender-students-lgbtq-parents-controversy-impact-implications/524-78924d49-e001-4ba2-b076-87b2744eba80
#7 Support a trans financial assistance fund
Many organizations and individuals have established funds to help trans individuals and families access the care they need. Campaign for Southern Equality gives out $250 emergency grants to cover legal services, emergency planning, mental health support, and other needs. The LGBT+ Center Orlando, in partnership with Contigo Fund and other community organizations, has launched Central Florida Emergency Trans Care Fund to provide rapid response support directly to trans youth and adults impacted by the anti-trans healthcare bans in Florida. The Transgender Law Center has established a specific legal defense fund to provide resource for trans people facing investigation, arrest or prosecution for seeking healthcare.
When Idaho passed HB 71, a bill that banned gender-affirming care for minors, a group of Idaho students responding by creating the Eve Devitt Fund (Eve is a beloved trans Idahoan). The Fund will give an annual scholarship of $2500 to Idaho students who have done “significant work to advance human rights” and provide funding to trans youth and their families who have to travel out of state for gender-affirming care. One of the four students who sit on the board pledged $10,000 from his own college savings over the next four years.
#8 Print and distribute stickers
Printing stickers can be fairly inexpensive, can be ordered off the internet, and can give a far reach to your message. MoveOne did “protect trans youth” stickers. Do be careful, however. A sticker company warns, “Putting stickers on personal property without obtaining the property owner’s permission is generally considered trespassing and can result in legal consequences. So unless you are told it is okay to do so, make sure that you keep your stickers to yourself on your own vehicle, or water bottle.”
The performers in a weekly drag brunch in Memphis, Tennessee educate audiences by featuring a song set to the tune of Celine Dion’s ‘That’s the Way It Is’ that explains how a bill becomes law and how a federal judge can stop it. The “dragapella group, The Kinsey Sicks, has written and is performing a parody of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’” Their version however, has Poof triumphing in the end.
“We’ve created something that’s far more beautiful than our bullies are ugly,” Benjamin Schatz, who wrote the lyrics and is one of the group’s co-founders, said. “Because that’s what queer folks have long done – taken our attackers’ ugliness and transformed it into humor, joy, love and beauty.”
A protest at the Arkansas Capitol featured protesters singing “Seasons of Love.” Clergy leaders from several churches marched into the Indiana Governor’s office singing ‘This little light of mine,’ to encourage the governor to veto a gender affirming care ban. Singing can also be cathartic: one person said that joining an LGBTQ+ choir was transformative for them. “It gives us a place to just open up and let everything out that we’ve ever felt. We have these traumas from so many other places and only this family really gets the totality of that.”
References: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2023/04/14/tennessee-drag-show-laws-00091459?cid=apn; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/07/poof-the-magic-drag-queen-is-taking-over-the-internet/; https://erininthemorn.substack.com/p/the-anti-trans-state-of-the-states; https://erininthemorn.substack.com/p/stand-up-fight-back-trans-day-of; https://www.koaa.com/news/national/lgbtq-choirs-help-their-community-heal-from-trauma-through-music
#10 Put it on a billboard
The Instagram account Rupublicans (a nod to RuPaul) used GoFundMe to raise funds for a billboard saying, “Mind your wigs, not our gigs, Greg!” It was posted near the Texas state capitol to protest the anti-drag bill signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Billboards in Texas and Florida now invite LGBTQ+ people from those states to move to Massachusetts, promising “Massachusetts For Us All,” and featuring queer people. State governor Maura Healey says of the billboards, “At a time when other states are misguidedly restricting LGBTQIA+ rights, we are pleased to send the message that Massachusetts is a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for all. To anyone considering where they want to live, raise a family, visit or build a business – we want you to join us here in Massachusetts.”
The LGBTQ alumni group at Milligan College, a small Christian college in Tennessee, is working to make the college a queer friendly place. It recently designed and bought a billboard that proclaims that trans, drag, queer, and “you” are holy, citing supportive biblical verses.
References: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/08/instagram-rupublicans-drag-texas-governor-with-billboard-near-state-capitol/; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/06/massachusetts-trolls-texas-florida-by-putting-up-pride-billboards-in-their-states/; https://christianstandard.com/2023/05/lgbtq-group-pushes-for-change-at-milligan/
#11 Post your story on Instagram
A person harassed by a coordinated online hate campaign posted about her experience on Instagram. “The response was amazing,” she said. “We had a flood of support messages, and a ton of trans people reached out to thank me for what I was doing – to keep going, because it’s important to just be present – to be public right now. And that very quickly overwhelmed all the hate – just all of those well-thought-out, crafted messages of love and support.”
#12 Recruit an organized group
Consider beefing up your counterprotest by tapping existing groups. In West Virginia, after hearing that a drag event was cancelled due to threats “made against the venue, performers, and patrons,” a mixed martial arts coach and his fighters offered to provide security when it was rescheduled. In Parkhill, Ontario, it was a women’s biker club that helped protect kids from protesters at a drag queen event.
References: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/02/mma-coach-his-fighters-volunteer-to-provide-security-for-drag-show/; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/05/womens-biker-club-protects-kids-from-conservative-protestors-at-drag-queen-story-hour/
#13 Create a pro-drag video
It helps if you’re a celebrity, but you can do your part even if you’re not! Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick recorded and distributed a video in which they swayed while wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan, “Drag is an art and drag is a right.” The video got over 14 million views on Twitter and nearly four million views on TikTok. Proceeds from sales of the shirt and other merchandise with the same image and slogan (designed by trans author Mason Kaye), benefit the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drag Defense Fund.
#14 Organize free weddings
It’s not something you see every day, but that’s part of its power. A minister, grieving the current anti-LGBTQ environment, recruited two florists, a photographer, baker, and venue to provide a day of free weddings to local LGBTQ couples. Two local LGBT centers handled advertising and sign-up. Each wedding party was given 30 minutes, plus corsages and boutonnieres.
Reference: Personal email, June 26, 2023.
#15 Organize a letter campaign
More than 180 New York Times contributors and over 100 organizations and leaders sent separate letters to the New York Times complaining about its biased treatment of trans issues. The NYT responses were found lacking, but the letters garnered a lot of media for the issue. An alternative strategy was utilized by Trans Pride Initiative. They organized a letter-writing campaign for Texans concerned about efforts to criminalize trans children and youth, their families, and those who support them.
#16 Tie ribbon messages to the trees
Two progressive Seattle churches had flyers put on all car windshields in their parking lots. The flyers contained “a garish collection of far-right, anti-LGBTQ memes…” and obscene photos and alleged that government officials kidnap and “transgenderify” children. Over 300 people attended the responding vigil, at which vigil attendees were given rainbow-colored ribbons, candles, and printed programs bearing the words, “We Side With Love.” Attendees were encouraged to write hopeful messages on the ribbons so that volunteers could tie them to tree branches outside of the church where passers-by could see them.
#17 Be outrageous
These ideas are more “out there” than many of us want to be, but these actions attracted attention (including, sometimes, punishment). Forward Montana, a youth-led organization focusing on anti-discrimination, held a die-in in the Capitol Building on Trans Day of Visibility. The die-in included singing and “sometimes screaming so that their voices would be heard.” To protest S.B. 270, called “the most extreme anti-transgender law in America,” 50 advocates sang, heard from speakers and put toilet paper with photos of lawmakers in a wastebasket decorated as a toilet at Arkansas’s Capitol. The bill would make it a crime for a person to knowingly remain in a bathroom of the opposite sex while a minor is present. The sponsor, Sen. John Payton, said the measure would cover both “transgender” and “heterosexual” people. Adult and youth observers in the Florida legislative gallery pelted legislators with underwear bearing slogans like ‘leave my genitals alone’ and ‘fascism has no place in Florida/Stop trans genocide.’” It earned them a one-year ban from the Texas Capitol, but a trans activist unfurled a massive banner saying “Let trans kids grow up” from the Capitol’s second floor rotunda.
References: https://erininthemorn.substack.com/p/stand-up-fight-back-trans-day-of; https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/mar/03/transgender-rights-advocates-protest-bathroom-bill-at-state-capitol/; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/04/trans-kids-throw-underwear-with-slogans-like-leave-my-genitals-alone-at-florida-gop-lawmakers/; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/05/cops-tackle-protestors-after-gop-orders-removal-of-trans-rights-activists-from-texas-house/
#18 Make a message quilt
Not everyone is a quilter, but a 100-year-old Florida woman is, and she created a large yellow quilt that included dozens of commonly banned books, symbols like a Pride flag and a frame with the words “Love is Love.” She displayed it before 500 people at a Florida Martin County School Board meeting, where she noted that the Nazis banned books and said her late husband fought and died for the freedom to read.
#19 Organize the drag queens
On Easter weekend, thousands of drag queens and allies marched in back-to-back marches through San Francisco and West Hollywood. In Florida, activists organized three hundred drag queens and their allies to create “The Queens’ March” rally at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee to protest the state’s recently passed anti-drag bill.
References: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/04/dont-mess-with-drag-queens-thousands-march-against-anti-lgbtq-bills/; https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/04/hundreds-of-drag-queens-rallied-at-the-florida-capitol-to-protest-the-states-anti-drag-bill/
#20 Put on a trans youth prom
Dozens of transgender children, teens and their families from more than 17 states gathered in Washington, D.C. May 21, 2023, to celebrate their identities at a prom organized specifically for trans youth. The prom was organized by Chase Strangio, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, and two trans teenagers from Texas and Arizona.
Strangio reports them saying, “We’re done. We’re done going and saying the same thing to legislators over and over and spending our childhoods just begging to be seen even in the most minimally human way.” Donors and supporters included actor Elliot Page, director and producer Lilly Wachowski, and musicians Demi Lobato and Ariana Grande. The event was intended to “center joy and celebration and the stories we want to tell, not the ones the other side wants us to be engaged in.”
References: https://thehill.com/homenews/lgbtq/4015583-teens-organize-transgender-youth-prom-to-fight-against-anti-trans-legislation/; https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2023/05/24/trans-teens-prom-capitol-activism/; https://www.them.us/story/trans-prom-dc-photos (Lots of pics in last two)
#21 Twerk it!
Sometimes an unexpected response to protesters can do wonders. Neo-Nazi members of the Evergreen Active Club and Rose City Nationalists, most of them wearing masks to conceal their identity, showed up early at Centralia’s (Washington) Lewis County Pride to spout white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda.
They didn’t last long, however. After accepting a challenge to a pushup contest by one attendee, one bigot lost and surrendered. Another gave up after another attendee twerked behind him. The men then tried to go to several nearby restaurants and bars, but were refused service everywhere. One attendee followed them back to their cars and got all the tags, “despite…goofy attempts to block them from view.”
#22 Play copyrighted music during protesters’ videos
If protesters are videotaping their actions, loudly playing copyrighted music may limit the videos’ spread. Social media platforms may remove the videos because of copyright infringement.
#23 Honor a trans graduate
Have trans members in your community ever been prevented from graduating with their correct names and/or clothing? A Mississippi trans teen had to skip her high school graduation when a judge ruled her school could require her to wear “men’s” clothes to the ceremony. Biloxi Pride stepped in and gave her her very own stage on which to wear the dress and heels she and her mother had picked out for her graduation. She crossed the stage to the tune of “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga and made everyone teary-eyed.
#24 Make care packages
The Mexican Consulate in Orange County, Florida was the site where LGBTQ people and allies gathered to write letters and make care packages for trans people. They sent the packages to both local and national organizations for distribution.
#25 Hold a TikTok-a-Thon
You may not raise the $2.25 million that the Trans Handy Ma’am raised on her 30-hour live stream TikTok-a-Thon, but don’t let that stop you! Her funds were sent to Point of Pride to underwrite HRT, surgery, and binders, but you can choose any trans charity to support.
#26 Start a Flash Dance Mob
The “Flash Bobs” didn’t start out explicitly framing their performances and videos as activism (they were founded in 2017, before the current legislative avalanche), but they are doing so now. Always grounded in LGBTQ culture, the pop-up “Flash Bobs” say they were always very much inspired by the queer community and the drag community, including voguing and lip-syncing. Now they recruit members of the general public to join them in quickly-rehearsed flash mob dances to “flood those areas with as much joy as you can.” They once even got Paula Abdul to join them! (Check her and them out here: “Le Freak” Flash Bob with @bobsdanceshop ✨ – YouTube}
#27 Hold a roundtable discussion with trans kids
Daniel Radcliffe, a longtime supporter of Trevor Project, hosted a roundtable conversation with trans kids as part of Trevor’s Sharing Space program. He said, “At the end of the day, if you’re going to talk about trans kids, it might be useful to actually listen to trans kids.”
#28 Help people move
A Place for Marsha is recruiting volunteers who can provide a room in a safe state, transportation, casework, professional expertise, or donations to help trans youth age 18+ get asylum. A Place for Marsha can be reached here: https://www.aplaceformarshaofficial.org/. The Trans and Non-Binary Sanctuary Program is working to move 15 families to Palm Springs. Info on the Sanctuary Program can be accessed here: https://www.queerworks.org/tgnbsafety.
#29 Reclaim the meme
The original T-shirt image, reportedly posted to the Facebook page of Christian publisher Sword-In-Hand Publishing in June 2021, featured a stack of the word “Pridemonth” with successive letters fading to reveal “demon” at the bottom. “A little hint at what dwells at the heart of ‘pride month’”…text above the graphic reads in the original Sword-in-Hand meme.” Not anymore! Artist Veya repurposed the meme so “demon” ends in rainbow colors. Veya explained, “When bigots try to paint us as demons, we will embrace our new identities. Prith demons unite! And be free!” (“Prith” are the “leftover” letters from pridemonth.)
#30 Call for help
It doesn’t matter how many great coping and action ideas FORGE or others give you; sometimes what our community is experiencing is just TOO MUCH. If that describes you, call for help. If you feel suicidal, you can call 988 and dial the number “3” to talk to a counselor who has been specifically trained to support LGBTQ+ people. If you have a nagging voice telling you you can’t take a respite from what’s going on, consider making a donation to any red-state, trans-led or any national trans legal organization (any amount helps). Then inform the voice that you have done your part for now, and save yourself for future actions.