Cries for equality echoed through the Tower District as the Fresno LGBT community marched Friday night in honor of Transgender Awareness Week.
The march began around 7 p.m. at the Fresno LGBT Community Center, 1067 N. Fulton St., when 50 people walked in honor of those who lost their lives to homicide or suicide.
Jess Fitzpatrick, vice chair of Trans-E-Motion, a Fresno support group for the transgender community, said the movement started 17 years ago after Rita Hester, a transgender woman, was killed in her apartment in Massachusetts in a hate crime.
Transgender Remembrance Day was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in honor of Hester and since then has been used to recognize other transgender people who have lost their lives to hate crimes.
Trans people exist and they need equal rights.
Chris Jarvis, president of Gay Central Valley
Lives lost to suicide are acknowledged because it’s believed they are the victims of hatred, said Fitzpatrick. He says hate crimes happen due to misunderstanding and bigotry.
“Just because people may not understand us doesn’t mean people should kill us,” he said.
Last year, a transgender woman, K.C. Haggard, was stabbed to death in central Fresno. Haggard is one of three who lost their lives in the Central Valley in recent years.
“We want to be recognized as blood-and-flesh people that have family and friends,” Fitzpatrick said.
Karen Adell Scot, executive director of TransCare, a support organization for transgender people, said she was marching to bring awareness.
“We’re adding emphasis that we’re alive!” she said.
The recent presidential election is causing worry to those within the community. Scot is uncertain about what the election means for people like her.
“I’m hopeful that Donald Trump … will be fair,” Scot said.
I’m hopeful that Donald Trump
Karen Adell Scot, executive director of TransCare
Fitzpatrick said having events like Friday’s march gives people the chance to gather and share their stories in a safe place. It also is a way for the LGBT community to strategize how crimes can be prevented.
Chris Jarvis, president of Gay Central Valley, a Fresno nonprofit, said a way to stop hate crimes is for trans people to come out of the shadows.
“They need to come out and be visible,” he said. “Unless people realize they are there, they aren’t going to understand they need to accept it and be welcoming of it.”
They are a part of the community, just like everyone else, Fitzpatrick said.