This year marks the first nationwide March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy, sponsored by Queer Youth Assemble, a queer youth-led non-profit with the stated mission of working to bring joy and autonomy to queer youth under 25 in the United States and territories. Seven Ohio cities are set to participate in the march, including three in the Cleveland area.
One goal of the marches, big or small, is to spread the visibility of transgender and non-binary communities.
“Spread visibility and letting people know that we are not hiding anymore, us as a group: We’re not hiding,” says Kayla, an organizer of the Lakewood march. “We deserve as many rights as everybody else. Just because we are asking for our rights to be heard doesn’t mean we are taking rights away from anybody else.”
The marches also draw attention to a list of demands collected through two months of listening sessions, social media interactions and in-person conversations, collected by the QYA. The general demands include strengthening Safe Schools Programs for LGBTQ+ students in the state and codifying Title IX to include sexuality, gender identity and gender expression, along with calls for an end to violence against groups.
“The point of the protest [Friday] is to call on our local leaders to not just say, ‘Oh, we love our queer community, friends and family members,’ because that just feels like it’s paper thin,” says Kei, an organizer of the Cleveland Heights march.
Kei noted that rainbow flags are flown every June, yet the country fails to include LGBTQ+ people in protected status against employment and housing discrimination.
The organizers hope the protests will increase community notoriety and be a way to gain help where needed, while also making the presence of the LGBTQ+ community known across the state.
“People tend to assume that the queer community is only located in Ohio City, Lakewood — that area,” Kei says. “It’s important to help people understand that there are LGBT folks spread throughout the area, just as we are spread throughout the state.”
Here are the Cleveland marches being held on March 31:
Cleveland: 4 p.m. march from Willard Park, the corner of East Ninth Street and Lakeside Avenue, to City Hall, 601 Lakeside Avenue E.
Cleveland Heights: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. march from the community center main entrance, 1 Monticello Blvd., to the front of city hall, 40 Severance Cir.
Lakewood: 4 to 7 p.m., Lakewood Park, 14532 Lake Ave.