By: Jennifer Ward
Protestors stand at the Clock Tower demanding change (Photo by Jennifer Ward)
Members in and outside of the Purchase community marched for queer and trans rights, vocalizing and advocating for change not only on campus but in the country.
Queer People of Color (QPOC) hosted a march that was led around campus. The march was held on March 31, also known as Transgender Visibility Day. Participants chanted in unison as they walked all over the campus, ending at the Clock Tower. Ralliers were encouraged to share stories, lead chants, and shout demands to the faculty and administration on campus.
Many people, both on and off campus, attended this march to show their support– from students to faculty members, to those who just live in the Westchester area, the march was filled with people fighting for change.
This march, however, was bigger than just the Purchase campus. It was part of a larger, national movement led by the Queer Youth Assemble. Colleges across the United States participated in this march as a fight against recent legislation in the government that was deemed transphobic. They are rallying for the safety, happiness, and autonomy of queer youth under the age of 25.
“Whatever happens on larger levels has a direct effect on us and vice versa,” said Sam Joseph, a Latin American/Caribbean
The flyer for the march for queer and trans
youth autonomy (Photo via @qpocatpurchase
studies and gender studies major, as well as an e-board member for QPOC.
“It’s important that we're bringing awareness to inform, educate and alert our community when it’s failing us,” they continued. “It’s simply not enough to depend on larger systems to hold us accountable while we lay idly by. That’s exactly how they got to initiate this genocide in the first place.”
Students yelled out demands to faculty members and administrators on how to make the community a better environment. They called for more faculty members of color, as well as more queer faculty members. Topics of performativity, funding, and representation were also brought up. Members of the march yelled out to the crowd to hold faculty members accountable. Many outside of the campus community also called out government officials, demanding equality.
Also in attendance was a witness of the riots at Stonewall Inn in 1969, Donald Woods. Invited by clients in the area to attend, Woods marched along, chanting outcries of “Black Lives Matter,” “Queer Lives Matter,” and “Trans Lives Matter.” Woods was also allowed the opportunity to speak at the Clock Tower to those in attendance.
“Seeing all of this, when I was a kid, homosexuality was a mental illness. I had friends who were getting shock treatments, I had a friend who told people he was gay and they held him out the window by his feet, and when he got back into the house he was forced to run away,” said Woods. “I use to cry and ask God to change me.”
Woods spoke on his experience as a witness of Stonewall. At only 15 years old and frequenting these bars, he witnessed queer history in the making. Woods spoke on the importance of those spaces at the time, as they were some of the only safe havens for many queer people. He also spoke on the constant raidings that would take place.
“The dirty cops would come in there and do payoffs anytime they felt like harassing us, and they would. There just happened to be one night when we had enough. They didn’t want to take it anymore,” said Woods.
Participants marching through The
Olde (Photo by Jennifer Ward)
Hearing the story of a real Stonewall witness who can speak today and share his story shifted the tone of the protest. Everyone shared the hope that they feel when it comes to the future and the change that the upcoming generation can make.
“Being able to interact with so many other queer people as well as a survivor of the Stonewall protest was so inspiring,” said Kaylie Mancino, a sophomore creative writing major. “I felt everyone’s anger and frustration, as well as their sadness, and it was all-encompassing.”
Although many voiced their exhaustion from having to consistently protest for their rights, they promised that they will be there as long as it takes for equality.