'I can’t leave all the people who can’t leave'
A Montana trans activist shows solidarity with trans youth & siblings in Florida—& vice versa
We stan Florida Man showing solidarity. 🏳️⚧️ Note the words in the bullhorn.
In September I was offered a chance to speak at a grassroots rally via organizer Melinda Butterfield in Orlando on October 7th.
Florida has been a ground zero in passing unconstitutional, discriminatory laws targeting LGBTQ people.
So to be able to go right at a snake’s head that is the DeSantis administration, so to speak, I eagerly accepted because I wanted to show solidarity to my trans siblings in Florida as we in other red states always feel that ripple effect of bigotry.
Fascism is an accelerationist ideology and has to keep fueling its bigotry flames with more hatred fuel.
This always means escalation.
For instance, while authoritarians claimed "don't say gay bills" would only apply to young children, now they want to ban banning history that isn't told from a white nationalist perspective under the guise of being anti-critical race theory.
While it must be noted Judges have harshly shot down this bill, saying it is the, “First Amendment upside down,” they're going to keep clawing away at free speech they don't approve of.
While many might say calling this sort of far-right authoritarianism “fascism” is hyperbolic…
…ask yourself, why isn't any reporter ever asking DeSantis why he had a Nazi speechwriter, Nate Hotchman?
Tired if dog Nazi dog whistles, DeSantis campaign went full Nazi foghorn.
They claimed they just wanted to target trans children's healthcare and social transitioning, but of course that targeting quickly moves onto adults to because the fire must be fed as they care more about culture war nonsense than actually governing.
“We're not book banning Nazis! The penguins are!” is the worst projection ever.
So, when we rallied for our trans youth in Flordia, we want to protect the most vulnerable these fascists want to erase first while regurgitating BS stories about all kinds of children being ‘mutilated,’ or there being millions of children on puberty blockers to justify petty bigotry.
Even Joe Brogan could smell that horse deworm…er…horse shit from the transohobic hero of chuds everywhere, Matt Walsh.
And amongst those fighting back are youths themselves like 17-year-old Samira Burnside—already a battle hardened activist.
People like her—like us—we are forced into trans activism as a means of self-defense for our lives.
Via Stars Wars, A New Hope novel.
I first met her at the Hamburger Mary's bar & grill restaurant that sued the Florida for the right to host family friendly drag shows and would win a few days later.
Hey, I've been there!
Right away, one gets a vibe of someone wise beyond her years when you meet her. Someone must have mentioned the vast numbers of LGBTQ people leaving or wanting to leave Florida, and asked if she ever considered it.
She matter-of-factly said some people like herself don't have the means to move out, to which we all understood. (I oft get asked the same question, but what am I going to do, go move somewhere else just to be homeless there?)
But people like Samira were exactly why we were there in solidarity—for her struggle and other locals who looked up to this extraordinary young woman.
Into the Lion's Den of bigotry to make something beautiful.
Anyway, while I don't know her medical status, I presume she was on Hormone Replacement Therapy and transitioning, and probably isn't allowed to do so now.
As trans woman myself, imagining being forcefully detransitioned medically is a gender dysphoria nightmare scenario—especially if you're younger.
As Montana transgender representative put it (and then was banned from the Montana House chambers for saying this), this constant targeting of a marginalized populace causes death, and the blood will be on those theocrat's hands.
The homegirl Rep. Zoey Zephyr standing against theocrats and standing up for trans youth in Montana in the 2023 Legislative Session.
You'd not only see yourself lose all your “transition gains,” but quickly grow into adulthood as the opposite gender of what you are. It'd be disconcerting and terrifying as fuck.
Samira Burnside lives this reality with her peers and has no choice but to relentlessly to make her voice heard. I walked next to her as we marched around the Orlando downtown city hall area holding a “Protect Trans Youth & Trans Lives National March On Florida” banner.
Fucking A right, we did. (Bottom pic by Adria Jawort).
When you have nothing to lose because they're taking it away and trying to make illegal even the mention of you being trans, you fight like hell when you become cornered.
Florida conservatives, wake up, wash their face, look at the mirror and ask the timeless question of fascists everywhere, "What can I do to make life harder for others today and be the most bigoted person in the room?"
After we marched, Samira spoke.
I can’t leave this place. To be trans and to not be an activist is to live in a burning house and to ignore the smoke. I’ve said it before: I can’t leave all the people who can’t leave; I can’t leave all the people who can’t get their medicine; I can’t leave all the poor trans people who could never just pack up and go; I can’t leave all the people—like me—who have known and loved this place since before they were even born.
Among other speakers was the uber respected trans elder, Ms. Major, a "Stonewall Veteran."
She always makes it a point to say it was the "Ts" out of the LGBTQ that did Stonewall, even though the gays get all the credit.
Did I say trans elder, Ms. Major? I meant legend.
Ms. Major once said to some young people:
"If self-hatred was hammered into you when you were young, Miss Major wants you to know that you're important—that being an outsider helps you develop skin that's both tough and pliable in social situations. You are a stronger person because of the shit you've gone through."
And that quote always hit me hard as I recall my artsy queer self sitting in a church camp, sobbing at a prayer bench, literally trying to pray my being inherently trans away because of the Evangelical guilt around me.
I roomed with the grandmotherly Christynne Wood, or “Nana”—perhaps the sweetest woman I met in 2023—who had a wicked sense of humor.
In reference to Florida's anti-trans bathroom bill, she said, “The first thing I did when I got got off the plane in Florida from California was a take a big ol’ dookie in honor of Ron DeSantis!”
You better put Nana's dookie on your precious poop map, DeSantis.
Christynne Wood's story made me sad on various levels. Here, a far-right wing group found out she was trans and did aquatic aerobics at a local YMCA. So they had some 17-year-old girl tearfully testify to the city council that she saw a man's penis in the gym.
There was only one problem with her story: Christynne had had gender affirmation surgery back in 2016 and literally has no penis.
So the girl was a stonecold liar.
Still, that didn't stop the conservatives as big as Tucker Carlson calling for Christynne's arrest after lil Ms. Thou Shalt Bear False Witness went on his program.
Exodus 20:16, amirite? riiiite, Tucker?
When I came out trans, I was very alone sometimes navigating a hostile world, and my own mother has passed away.
But whenever I was at my lowest, there’s always a few women behind the scenes who always reached out when I wanted to like shut down.
And maybe it was just once or twice, but regardless, it was very important to me even if just an after thought and natural to them. Christynne became one of these women.
Looking stylish, Nana, and beautiful inside and out.❤️ Miss your kindness! 🏳️⚧️
So, knowing someone so sweet, and so kind who was just minding her own businesss being viciously attacked on the basis of lies, it makes me sad—and I relate to it, too.
What's up with conservatives purposefully lying about us? Like, why?
Anyway, in my speech I explained I’d also made national news after my Indigenous LGBTQ history lecture was canceled based on the fact I was transgender, and my being so could fall under the drag show ban in Montana.
Fun fact: this pic was taken in Orlando after the trans youth rally.
I told the crowd I recently spoke to a group of activist teens back in my home state of Montana, and they appreciated I didn't try to placate them with generic feel-good statements, but acknowledged the reality of it going to be hard.
I basically told them:
Progress comes being scrappy as fuck, and not presuming brain rotted, meme-brained, power hungry fascists who worship people like Matt Walsh ever want to be "civil."
Every trans obsessed conservative loves to listen to these people.
They want you erased from public if not dead if you're trans. Remember when the Club Q shooting happened? Popular right-wing pundits openly celebrated and blamed on the LGBTQ community rather than just denouncing it.
Tim Pool isn't fringe or even considered extremist in online conservative circles. He's got 1.35 million YouTube subscribers who will straight up claim he is a moderate.
They are persistent, and will use "state's rights" abortion laws to attack trans people, so you must be persistent, too.
While Martin Luther King Jr noted, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," it came from a long, hard fought struggle.
King Jr was shot four days after that speech.
Sure, it's a slough and everything seems to go backward sometimes in red states to the point where even small victories almost seem pyrrhic, but remember, you are in the trenches, so carry that fuck you swag like those old Nazi resistance fighters, ya know?
Pictured: me, 2nd from right, on vacation in France circa 1943. Jokes, those are Maquis aka French Resistance aka antifascists af.
There's a rebellion manifesto quote from the Star Wars show Andor—which I just watched the other day. It said, "Tyranny requires constant effort. It breaks, it leaks. Authority is brittle. Oppression is the mask of fear. Remember that."
Know some day, we'll all just sit together–proud of the struggle we collectively made it through.
It was tough, but we made it.
Do not give up, and know you are valued.
There was more said, but I mostly spoke from the heart. I recall telling a story an Indigenous lesbian elder who years ago told me of times they were beaten severely by police after Harvey Milk was murdered.
The next day, Sunday, was my birthday, and I had to hang out in by myself in Orlando until I could catch my flight early Monday.
I came across an unexpected expense, and was already on a tight budget so I was sort of sad I was going to have to sit in a motel room all day and night away from the downtown area. Broke.
A trans sibling activist I'd been chatting with who lived in Tampa who couldn't make it to the rally just so happened to ask if I needed anything. Kind of embarrassed, I aked if there was any way I could get a $20 spot so I could celebrate my birthday.
They said they could it, and I waited. They got back, and sent more than $20, with reasoning of “Fuck it, we're trans I don't know lmao!”
I ❤️ all of us🏳️⚧️, too.🥲
“That was, oddly, beautifully stated,” I said.
Because if you know, you know. We may have lived 2,300 miles apart, but we fucking knew.
Miss Major wanted us to know “we’re important—that being an outsider helps you develop skin that's both tough and pliable in social situations. You are a stronger person because of the shit you've gone through.”
And, that we are. But…god damn…not gonna lie; shit is hard sometimes. And exhausting.
A bit later, I was finally ended up where I wanted to go while in Orlando: the Pulse Nightclub Memorial.
This was the scene of the June 2, 2016 massacre were 49 people were murdered with 51 being seriously injured after a gunman pumped 211 rounds into the popular LGBTQ hangout.
I hung out there for a good hour in silent solitude, visiting ghosts on my birthday.
On the back wall you can see a holes bullet holes that punched through the concrete cinder blocks and wall. It felt crude to take the pics of them, so I just stared at them until my vision became blurry with tears.
I left a cigarette offering in front of some memorial art that caught my attention.
Hello, friends. ❤️ you.🏳️🌈😪 Pics by Adria L. Jawort
As I mentally prepared to leave the memorial and get ready to go back Montana, the words writer Jeramey Kraatz wrote, just days after the Pulse incident, hung in the air:
“If you can't wrap your head around a bar or club as a sanctuary, you've probably never been afraid to hold someone's hand in public.”
❤️ you, & stay safe out there, fam.🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈
Adria L. Jawort is the Director of Indigenous Transilience. www.indigenoustransilience.org