a crowd in a park
Crowd at Trans March performances. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken June 23, 2023.

Amid nationwide waves of anti-transgender sentiments and legislation, the Trans March kicked off its 20th anniversary this morning at Dolores Park.

“This year, because of the political climate that we’re in, it’s really important we show up today and just express to everybody that trans people deserve joy,” said Niko Storment, a spokesperson for the Trans March, referring to the fact that more than 500 anti-trans bills were introduced this year. Over 80 of them passed. Storment expected this year’s Trans March to be the “biggest one yet.”

By 1 p.m., hundreds of participants had settled themselves on the grass under the bright, warm sun of the late-coming summer. Friends, partners, families and puppies visited and awaited the afternoon performances and the evening march.

two people and a dog
Robby Sternin-Moser (left) was sitting on a large orange blanket with his partner Paavo Allen (right) and their puppy, Conor.

Robby Sternin-Moser was sitting on a large orange blanket with his partner Paavo Allen and their puppy, Conor. Sternin-Moser has been coming to the Trans March for 15 of its 20 years.

This year’s event is special to Sternin-Moser because of “all the LGBT violence and laws specifically targeting trans youth,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of spaces or events where there are this many trans and nonbinary and gender nonconforming people.” 

Moser lives in the neighborhood where Banko Brown was shot and killed by a security guard in Walgreens in April. The death of Brown remains disheartening for Moser: “He was young, Black, trans.”

A person with neon color hair before the Trans March
Kelly Hensley. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken June 23, 2023.

Before the Trans March, Kelly Hensley picked two hair colors for his Pride style: Neon pink and neon green. As a gender-affirming hairstylist and barber, “Why not be bright for Pride?” he asked.

He posted a photo of himself on Instagram: “I look like this, and now they can find me.”

Hensley has been a professional hairstylist for 11 years. He started in the Marina and now runs a studio, Kelly the Barber, in San Jose.

Recently, he went through a divorce: “Everything that I focused on previously is no longer there.” As his vulnerability drove him to spend more time with clients and friends, Hensley said, “I started to understand how big my community was down there, and that I actually did have roots there.”

Hensley called Pride celebrations “awesome and often exhausting,” and this year he plans to be only here for one of the days. “One day of crowds is great, and I choose the trans day.”

a person sitting on a pink blanket before the Trans March
Trish Elizabeth Osterhout. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken June 23,2023.

Trish Elizabeth Osterhout drove 2.5 hours from Merced this morning and called coming “super important” to celebrate with “people like me and people that accept me.”

She added that the protest portion — the Trans March —would “show the bigoted people out there that we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere, and they’re going to have to learn to get along with us.”

“I came out of the closet as trans in 2018,” Osterhout said. “Today I don’t feel the world is as inclusive as it was when I came out.”

But she remains hopeful, and pointed to the federal ruling earlier this week against an Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors

“So, things will get better,” Osterhout said, and smiled.

For the weekend in San Francisco, Osterhout’s plan was simple: “I am finding a comfy spot on the beach. Or just going to crash in my car.”

An adult and some kids on the ground in a park before the Trans March
Shayna Cureton and children of Abundant Beginnings. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken June 23, 2023.

Shayna Cureton brought 30 children, between nine months and 10 years old, to Dolores Park at 9:30 a.m. together with her colleagues from Abundant Beginnings, an education nonprofit based in Oakland.

“A lot of our youth are trans youth and gender-fabulous youth themselves,” said Cureton. “They get to feel celebrated.”

one adult holding two children before the Trans March
Shayna Cureton and her two kids. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken June 23, 2023.

Cureton said the children were “making sage bundles and some stickers that say why they love themselves.” They also had colorful face paint and made Pride flags to show love and support. And, of course, they played and ran around.

As the day went on, a huge crowd formed, and by 4 p.m. people were cheering and laughing. Intermittently during the performances, a person wearing black chanted through a loudspeaker walking in the crowd, “Justice for Banko Brown!”

Around 5 p.m., the host introduced Juju Pikes-Prince, described as a trans auntie at the Young Women’s Freedom Center to other youths, including Banko Brown. Brown was an organizer at the center.

“I’m the auntie of Banko Brown,” she said. “I want everyone to come together to fight for this cause, because we’re not free until all of our people are free, y’all.”

As the speech went on, the person with the loudspeaker shouted repeatedly, “It was murder! It was murder!”

“We’re not doing that because my nephew wouldn’t want that,” Pikes-Prince responded, trying to stop the person.

“I know our biggest attended aspect of Trans March is, of course, the march,” said Storment, the march’s spokesperson, as the clock moved toward 6 p.m., when the march was set to start. “It’s just a sea of people and everybody’s so colorful. It’s so beautiful.”

Around 5:30 p.m., a family of four from Oakley was getting ready with Pride outfits and signs on 19th Street, which deadends at Dolores Park. The actual Trans March was coming.

a family of four standing on the street for the Trans March
The Hicks family of Oakley, photo by Lingzi Chen, taken June 23, 2023.

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Lingzi is our newest reporting intern. She covered essential workers in New York City during the pandemic and wrote about China’s healthcare and women’s rights back in college. Before coming to America to pursue her dream in journalism, Lingzi taught in the Department of Chinese Studies in National University of Singapore.

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