There are no spaces created exclusively to support the trans, two-spirit and genderqueer communities in Spokane. So organizers are making one with a community building event.
By Adir Blüm
From the initial push for LGBTQ+ rights at Stonewall Inn — a gay bar in New York where the queer community fought back against a police raid — to recent movements for gender equality and bodily autonomy, trans, two-spirit and genderqueer people have been at the forefront of queer activism. However, that has not stopped political rhetoric, even within our own queer communities, from becoming increasingly violent.
I’m a non-binary transmasculine person who uses they/them or he/him pronouns. For those who might not be aware, that means I was assigned female at birth, but I do not identify as a woman, thus I have transitioned to a more androgynous presentation through top surgery and gender-affirming hormone therapy.
Coming from California’s more-diverse Bay Area, living in Spokane has been difficult. While the rent is cheaper than in my hometown, I have heard derisive comments about my community from landlords, employers and healthcare providers. There are spaces in this city where I have been harassed on the street, and I’ve heard that same story from so many of my friends.
In this city, I don’t even feel safe among other gay people. The reactions I have gotten from cisgender gay men have ranged from flagrant disgust to a non-consensual fetishization of my gender identity. It’s a challenge to be in a city where I cannot live and love without being treated like a circus attraction.
And, I’m one of the lucky folks who have only been verbally harassed. I cannot speak for the entire gender-diverse community in Spokane, but I have heard far too many accounts of people I care for being physically assaulted. Both by cisgender/heterosexual people and by our fellow queer people. When people such as I are asking for safe spaces, we’re not just talking about emotional safety — we’re talking about physical safety.
Attacks on trans people from within the queer community and in the general discourse have become louder in recent years.
In the United Kingdom, there is a growing movement led by the LGB Alliance which advocates for both detransitioning trans people and for the complete removal of trans people from the queer community. One of their slogans is “LGB without the T.”
In the United States, public figures have grown more and more brazen with their attacks on our community. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 3rd, right- wing political commentator Michael Knowles said, “for the good of society... transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
The issue doesn’t end with rhetoric. Politicians across the country have introduced hundreds of legislative actions that target the trans community, often under the guise of “protecting minors” (AR SB199) or restricting “adult-oriented performance” (TN SB0003). Nationwide, there have been 463 anti-trans bills introduced in 43 different states, including in Washington. Thirteen of those bills have already passed.
Outside of legislative spheres, trans, two-spirit and genderqueer people face threats to our lives, livelihoods and health. Six transgender people have been murdered so far this year. We face discrimination in our workplaces: one in four trans people have lost a job due to discrimination. We face discrimination when seeking housing: one in five trans people experience homelessness at some point in their lives. We face discrimination when seeking healthcare: one in five trans people have reported that they were denied healthcare due to their gender identity.
While the state of Washington is one of the safest places in the country for gender-diverse individuals, Spokane leaves much to be desired. With Proud Boys from Idaho only a half-hour away and with conservative politicians influencing policy, we face threats from many angles.
Here in Spokane, there are no spaces created exclusively to support the trans, two-spirit and genderqueer communities. We’ve decided it’s time to make space for ourselves. This Saturday, March 18th, we’re gathering in the Cracker Building (304 W Pacific, Spokane, WA) from 12 to 4 p.m.
Our purpose is primarily to provide resources to other trans, two-spirit and genderqueer people in this city. We also want to provide education, a place to network, and a platform from which we can begin radical systemic change. We want to provide intersectional community building within communities of gender-divergent individuals, within the Spokane queer community at large, and with any cisgender/heterosexual individuals who believe in unconditional equality.
In addition to hearing from some gender-diverse speakers, there will be music, art, free food, a clothing swap with free clothes and free zines. This event is open to all trans, two-spirit and genderqueer individuals. Allies to the trans community are also welcome, and those who are accomplices in advocating for the trans community are highly encouraged to attend. Masks will be both required and provided for the safety of all our community members.
Adir Blüm (he/they) is a freelance writer originally from Santa Cruz, California who moved to Spokane in 2017 to attend Whitworth University, where he graduated in 2020. In their free time, they enjoy volunteering with a local mutual aid group, writing poetry and spending time with their large, black cat.