In the wake of Trump’s election, photographer Ethan James Green joined thousands of protesters lining the streets of New York, while writer Diana Tourjee penned a document of LGBT defiance
Part of Dazed's Activism Week, focusing on a new generation of creatives rising up in a post-Trump world
On a weekend in mid-December, LGBT people and their allies gathered in Washington Square Park to protest the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency. The sky was cold and grey and the ground was wet with melting ice and glassy mounds of dirt and snow. Several thousand had pledged their attendance in a Facebook event page online, but only a hundred or two had actually come. I understood that. Accomplishing even small things has felt overwhelming this year, let alone public acts of political protest. More than a dozen police officers stood nearby.
There were young people with dyed hair and shaved heads, wearing pink fuzzy onesies or fluffy hoods shaped like cat faces – others were less distinct, in narrow slacks with flannel shirts or tortoise-shell glasses. There were older people, too – women with straight or curly grey bobs, in turtlenecks, wearing political pins and holding signs rejecting fascist America.
The 24-year-old in the tortoise-shell frames is straight. His name is Jesse, and when I saw him he was standing awkwardly alone. The election of Trump mobilised him; he wasn’t politically active before the 2016 presidential race. “As a straight white man, I feel like it’s necessary to come out for people who aren’t in the privileged position that I’m in,” said Jesse, adding that the issue is personal because his father is gay. He feels people in his position need to fight against complacency. “Instead of just talking about taking a stand, I’m actually going to take a stand.”
“Instead of just talking about taking a stand, I’m actually going to take a stand” - Anti-Trump protester
Four best friends, queer female college students, stood huddled in a circle. They’re 18 and grew up together in New York City. “I felt very isolated when the election results came out,” one said. “We were all collectively in grief.” Protest feels meaningful.
“Racist! Sexist! Anti-gay! Donald Trump, sashay away!”
The day was quickly becoming darker, and colder. The protesters, led by several young activists, were preparing to march north to Trump Tower. Two tendril-like paws hung down from the head of Annalyn, the girl in the fluffy cat hood. A 19-year-old transgender woman, she was born and raised in the south of the country. “I know what discrimination is,” Annalyn told me as we marched under Washington Square’s triumphal arch and out of the park.
March to the tower!” the crowd yelled, reciting the first half of a chant.
“I was attacked at the age of 11,” Annalyn continues. She can’t see out of her right eye, and one of her ankles is permanently damaged. “Because I’m queer, the case was never prosecuted.” Her story reminded me that whatever freedom we have as queer people is thanks only to those who seized it from the fist of authority. Our rights have not been freely given.
“Don’t let them take power!”
As we marched forth through the wet streets, I was reminded of another scene at this site, 46 years ago. In 1970, a trans Latina activist named Sylvia Rivera stood under the Washington Square arch. She screamed against injustice, demanding that people see her. Rivera implored the crowd gathered that day to consider the people who are “trying to do something for all of us, and not men and women that belong to a white middle-class club.”
“I felt very isolated when the election results came out. We were all collectively in grief” - Anti-Trump protester
The world has come a long way since then, but the sound of Rivera’s cry can still be heard today. “We are people,” says Annalyn, explaining what she’d like politicians to understand about her and the LGBT population. “We work in coffee shops, we work in bars, we work as taxi drivers. We’re American citizens.”