Raymond Arke and Zachary Landau | The Duquesne Duke
On Feb. 22, President Donald Trump rolled back protections for transgender students in public schools, which advised school administrators that transgender students’ rights to use the restrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity were protected under Title IX. In response, many civil rights activists across the country staged rallies, marches and protests against the decision — including one recently in Pittsburgh.
On Feb. 24, LGBT activists staged a rally and march in Downtown Pittsburgh at the City-County Building, protesting the removal of the measures with some Duquesne students in attendance.
The Departments of Justice and Education reversed transgender protections Feb. 22, however, claiming that the advisements publicized by the Obama administration do not “contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did they undergo any formal public process,” according to NPR.
Judy Suh, an English professor at Duquesne, emphasized the importance of coming to the rally to support students.
“I’m here for my students, my trans and gay students,” she said. “There’s a lot of fear amongst young people, especially.”
Grace Cochran and Rebecca Pratt, both Duquesne students, showed up in support of the rally. Cochran, a junior digital media arts major, decided to attend the rally to show support for transgender people.
“[We came out] just to be allies … and at least say we were standing up for something that we thought was just,” she said.
Pratt, a junior integrated marketing communications major, echoed this sentiment, claiming that showing solidarity is “important.”
The rally featured a variety of speakers, including several prominent politicians. Jordan Ball, a staff member for U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), represented the senator’s office at the event and called Casey an “ally” of the transgender community.
Ball delivered a message from Casey: “[Transgender youths] are beautiful. There is a place for you in America.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also spoke at the event in front of tri-colored transgender flags flying behind him. Peduto announced this was the first time that the transgender pride flag had flown at City Hall.
“The fight to be able to end discrimination and bigotry will continue,” he said. “It was never about the water fountains and it’s not about the bathrooms.”
Peduto praised Pittsburgh residents for their acceptance and for attending the rally.
“[Pittsburgh is] a city with a heart,” Peduto said. “We protect all of our neighbors.”
Pittsburgh Councilman Daniel Gilman of the Eighth District gave a speech supporting to the protestors.
“Gender discrimination is not a state right,” he said.
Gilman encouraged continued advocacy.
“We will not stand quietly. All of us need to know we could be next,” he warned.
Other speakers included transgender activists such as Jezebel Bebbington D’Opulence, a transgender woman who grew up in Pittsburgh.
D’Opulence was encouraged by the crowd that showed up in support.
“We are rising up for the [transgender] youth of America. We got your back right here in Pittsburgh,” she said.
In an interview with The Duke, after her speech, she said transgender activists are not asking for much.
“We want equal rights,” she said. “We don’t want any special treatment.”
D’Opulence also advised people on how they can help be an advocate and ally.
“Definitely volunteer. Come out and educate yourself,” she said. “Find out what it’s all about before you make a horrible judgment. People fear what they don’t know.”