Feb 28, 2022

After Statements From Texas Leaders, Protesters Take to the Streets for Transgender Rights

Reporting Texas

Demonstrators march down Congress Avenue in support of transgender rights on Feb. 27, 2022, in Austin. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

A student-led march for transgender rights briefly turned violent Sunday when a state trooper slammed a protester to the ground.

“I’m protesting against the continued state-enacted violence against trans kids in Texas,” said Jessie, a 25-year-old former student who asked that their last name not be used. “Gender-affirming care is the opposite of child abuse.”  

Jessie was “appalled” at the lack of conversation surrounding trans rights and said their number one goal was to spread information.

Transgender rights demonstrators alternated between protesting in front of the Texas State Capitol and marching down Congress Avenue. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

Students for Revolution of the University of Texas at Austin organized the rally at the Capitol and nearby streets, which was attended by about 100 people. They rallied in support of trans rights, women’s rights and worker’s rights and against racism and “capitalist and imperialist violence.”

They cited Senate Bill 8, the Legislature’s 2021 restrictions on abortion, and recent statements by Attorney General Ken Paxton likening gender-affirming care to child abuse and Gov. Greg Abbott’s letter asking professionals, including teachers and doctors, to report parents who give their children gender-affirming care. The protesters also spoke against Abbott’s statement that he could pardon 19 Austin police officers charged this month with excessive force during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. 

The protesters shared the south steps of the Capitol with a group protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Transgender rights activists march past pro-Ukraine demonstrators in front of the Texas State Capitol Building in Austin. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

Protesters held signs reading, “Transphobia is abuse,” “The Gold Standard of parenting is supporting your kids as they are” and “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” borrowing a quote from the French existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. 

Ralph Brockman, a 20-year-old UT physics student, said Texas officials’ attack on trans youth shows an obsession with the “unnatural binary.” 

“Conservatives want everything to be black and white,” Brockman said. “They don’t want to see the full spectrum of humanity.” 

Protesters blamed both parties for using trans people as political tools. 

“Republicans take away our rights to rile up their base and Democrats virtue signal while doing nothing to actually help us,” said Sydney, 19, a UT Plan II math student and trans woman. She was one of the organizers and asked that her last name not be used. 

Sydney leads a march for transgender rights down Congress Avenue. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

Sydney told the crowd her parents were unsupportive of her trans identity growing up, so she had to wait until she was 18 to receive gender-affirming care. “Now there are parts I don’t like about my body,” she said. 

Organizers and protesters chanted in a call-and-response style, “Every two years, the ruling class choses. No matter who wins, the working class loses” and “One solution: Revolution!” 

At one point, several protesters became agitated with Sterling Mosley, a correspondent for the conservative website Campus Reform, who was trying to record footage on his phone. They tried blocking his phone with their signs. 

After several organizers spoke on the steps for half an hour, protesters began to march. At the intersection of Congress Avenue and 11th Street, a Texas state trooper threw one protester to the ground and handcuffed him. Witnesses said the protester had either kicked an officer’s bike or brushed shoulders with an officer.

Texas state troopers take a protestor into custody during a march for transgender rights on Congress Avenue. Laura Ullman/Reporting Texas

The Texas Department of Public Safety said it made one arrest at the protest, charging a 19-year-old protester with assaulting a public servant and resisting arrest.

The march continued with heightened emotion from protesters as they chanted, “How do you spell racist? APD!” 

Protesters marched through several blocks of downtown before finishing back at the Capitol where the rally for Ukraine remained. 

Students for Revolution’s profile picture on Instagram features a hammer and sickle, originally a symbol to represent solidarity between agricultural and industrial workers during the Russian Revolution. Today, the symbol is widely associated negatively with communism.  

In spite of the branding, a Ukrainian American man came over to one of the organizers to show his support. Greg Antonichuk, 65, told Students for Revolution, “One thing that unites us is our belief in human rights, to be able to practice who you are and who you want to be.”