After a summer of canceled pride events because of the coronavirus pandemic, the second London Trans+ Pride went ahead Saturday.
“None of us want to be out during lockdown, but we have to be,” founder Lucia Blayke told NBC News. “We have no choice.”
Blayke said nearly 4,000 transgender people and their allies took to the streets of London to celebrate their pride in their identity and, according to a demonstration press release, urge the government of the United Kingdom to “move towards better trans rights” and “take a stand globally on trans rights and transphobic violence.”
The organizers’ demands included legal recognition for nonbinary people, access to restrooms that align with their gender identities and the right to self-identify using their chosen names and pronouns without a medical diagnosis as currently required under the country’s Gender Recognition Act.
“Coming to a march and seeing thousands of people who are just like you and having the same experience as you reminds you you're not alone,” Blayke said. “It really gives trans people that space, which we never have, to celebrate our identities.”
Blayke said she chose London to host the annual demonstration because legislation that impacts trans people across the U.K. is made in the city.
The protesters also came out to memorialize Elie Che. Che, a black trans activist who was well-known among London Trans+ Pride organizers, died by suicide recently, according to Blayke.
“The last conversation I had with her was about how she was afraid to use [sex-segregated] bathrooms,” Blayke recalled. “She was the most beautiful, feminine person I probably know, and she still couldn’t use public bathrooms.”
Flora Parkin, who attended Saturday’s march, said she and other participants were grieving the loss of Che and expressing frustration over a lack of recognition as trans people.
“It’s quite rare to see that many trans people coming together in one moment to share space and speak with one voice and congregate around common feelings and issues,” Parkin, 30, said.
Parkin, a transgender woman living in London, said she attended the event to mark a newfound understanding and confidence about her gender identity. The decision to protest amid a pandemic was weighed very carefully by Parkin and her partner, who has an underlying condition making them more susceptible to a severe reaction should they contract COVID-19.
“We both felt it was important to make an exception,” Parkin said. “It’s something we didn’t take lightly.”
Because of COVID-19, organizers asked protesters to be socially distant and wear masks. Blayke said the protest was necessary for trans rights and because of that ensured demonstrators followed coronavirus safety precautions to stop the virus’ spread.
“There’s nothing more powerful than bringing our community together at times like this,” Blayke added. “It reminds me I’m not alone.”
If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.