PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s International Transgender Day of Visibility- a day designed to shine a light on the discrimination faced by Transgenders worldwide. Events were held in five locations across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Thursday, including a rally in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
Nearly two dozens Trans men, women, and allies, including city officials, police representatives, and others gathered in Norris Square Park Thursday. They held signs and stood proudly, declaring their sexual identity.
But the Day of Visibility is about more than pride, it’s also a day to underscore the need for greater protections for the most abused population within the LGBT community.
“You know what, we’re here, we’re real people,” declared Deja Alvarez, who runs the Divine Light. She spoke out against the violence and discrimination at work, in housing and on the streets experienced by the Trans community.
“We’ve had to hide who we were or be ashamed of who we were,” she says.
Transgender issues have made headlines in recent months after Olympian Bruce Jenner publicly transitioned to Caitlin Jenner, declaring her Transgender status via a reality show.
At today’s rally, the men and women took turns telling stores of the fear and humiliation of being turned away from jobs after an interview or being fired because of their status.
A Trans man told stories of health insurance discrimination when trying to give birth to his daughter. Others told stories of trepidation brought on by aggressive strangers who take issue with their gender identity.
“Many Pennsylvanians are shocked to learn that it is legal to discriminate against gay and Transgender Pennsylvanians,” says Jessica Brooke, a who works with Equality Pennsylvania, the group that organized the event in partnership with Galaei.
The advocacy group reports that 74 percent of Transgenders in Pennsylvania say they’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace. Their goal is to rally the LGBT community and allies to pass the Pa Fairness Act, which would make such discrimination illegal.
“Nobody should live in fear,” she says.
The demonstrators also released seven black balloons, symbolic of the seven Trans women of color murdered in Philadelphia.
“We are shunned out from the schools because of who we are, we are shunned out and pushed out from our jobs,” says Naiymah Sanchez, a Trans Latina activist. She says lack of employment and health insurance coverage forces Transgenders to engage in dangerous, unsavory work to make money to survive.
“We do not choose to be murdered, we do not choose to take these extreme measures,” she says.
Pennsylvania is home to more than a quarter million lesbian, gay and Transgender individuals, so it will take allies to build the political pressure necessary to pass laws that make change. The Transgender Day of Visibility is just step one.
“We need more than visibility, we need justice,” declared Kenzie Thorpe of Equality Pa.
Currently, there is no state law against LGBT discrimination in Pennsylvania.