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March In Support of LGBTQ Rights Draws Hundreds of Supporters

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The State of Florida is contemplating legislation that tightly control which flags would be allowed to be flown on government buildings. Proposed House Bill 1011 specifies six acceptable flags, none of which are the Pride flag. For now, HB1011 and its attendant counterpart, SB668, are weaving their way through the Florida Senate, but for the LGBTQ community it was no time for rest or complacency – it was time to put on your best pair of heels and take action!

March in Heels

Wilton Manors City Commissioner and activist Chris Caputo was the driving force behind the organization of the March. Through Facebook Caputo invited the community to “drag up the drive” to support that action oriented “March in Heels”. The goal of the March was to protest HB1011 and another anti-LGBTQ leglislation. Caputo ended his convocation by saying, “This is way more than just a March!”.

Caputo acknowledges that while he was the tip of the spear, the march was made a reality through not only his efforts but those of Gary Van Horn, Bud Beehler, the volunteers and of course, the marchers.

At the March, Caputo shared his thoughts with Living in Oakland Park.

Listen to the audio of Chris Caputo’s statement at the March in Heels:

 

"Hey, Chris Caputo here Wilton Manors City Commissioner, and I'm excited to be here at the start of the March in Heels. This time that we're in is unprecedented in the state of Florida. Between the governor and his legislators they are attacking and marginalizing the LGBTQ community on every front, everything from drag performances, which is a part of our culture, to trying to ban Pride flags from flying on City Hall property. And perhaps the craziest is what's happening in schools, right, with the expansion of don't gay to eighth grade, it's going to prevent the use of pronouns, it's going to stop HIV education potentially. And reality is it's going to lead to an increase in suicides among LGBTQ youth, which is frustrating because in the last year 45%, of LGBTQ youth have considered suicide. And one of the biggest indicators or drivers of that is if they feel supported, whether at home or at school. So when we're removing that support at school, when we're making them go back in the closet, we're just directly increasing suicides, or I should say, legislators are, so that's really upsetting. And then it continues that has been for years to be an assault on trans rights. You know, what's so frustrating about all this is there are so many real issues that we face as Floridians from lack of affordable housing to jobs to transportation is an issue, you know, inflation. There's a laundry list, I can go on all day. And these are real issues, but those are hard to solve. So instead, they find issues like attacking the LGBTQ community, because those are easier for them to get a win on. We've got to start marching and we've got to start marching not just here, but in Tallahassee, we have to sort of Awaken the Giant that was the LGBTQ community and its advocacy efforts because they're definitely going to do everything they can to make things difficult for us".

The purpose of the March was to change the hearts and minds of elected officials, to register voters, to register mail-in ballot voters and to educate the community on the actions in Tallahassee that are aimed at circumscribing LGBTQ rights.

Van Horn and Beehler were on site, at the Pride Center, early in the morning. They worked with a team of dedicated volunteers to ensure they were ready for the marchers and that the march achieved its purpose. They also organized each action step that marchers would take along the way.

Taking Action at Every Step

Volunteers were on site at the Pride Center by 9am, getting everything ready for the marchers. Bud Beehler, a former high school principal, guided and directed volunteers so they would be ready to do direct the marchers.

Beehler explained that there were 4 action steps that would be taken at each action stop. Marchers would be given a QR code and asked to take action. The action included writing elected officials and businesses that support policies that put LGBTQ rights at risk. The action steps were aimed at the following:

  1. Stand up for trans rights in Florida
  2. Fight back against “Don’t Say Gay”
  3. Ensure your vote is counted and your voice is heard.
  4.  Drag Queens and Pride Flags are at risk in Florida.

Marchers were given clear instructions on each action step at the gathering preceding the March. They were also instructed to not engage with anyone who was trying to cause trouble and to drag up the drive peacefully.

Bud Beehler instructs volunteers.

A Matter of Life and Death

Teenagers are, by virtue of their age, an impressionable and vulnerable demographic. They are no longer children but young adults trying to figure themselves out and where they belong. I can say this with confidence, because I am the mother of a teenager!  Mix the complexity of the age with being a trans or gay teen and you have a portion of the teen population that deeply wants and needs acceptance. Rather than feel supported these teens struggle deeply with who they are. This suffering can be compounded by rejection by their family and/or friends. The suffering they experience is so intense that nearly half of them contemplate suicide. Unfortunately, many attempt it and succeed.

Tatiana Williams, a transwoman, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Transinclusive Group spoke passionately about this. She spoke about how one time she had to be strong for others while losing a friend just hours before. For Tatiana this fight is about rights, it is about acceptance and understanding, but it is also a matter of life and death. Tatiana is the voice for a group of young people that deserve to be nurtured, love and supported in being who they are but who don’t have the strength to yet have a voice of their own. Her shirt read “Trans Rights are Human Rights”.

Tatiana Williams Executive Director of the Transinclusive Group is a voice for the voiceless.

Why Everyone Should Be Marching

The United States was founded on the ideal that every person has certain unalienable rights.  However as our very history has shown us, those unalienable rights are not a given for everyone. For this reason the LGBTQ community is in a fierce fight for their rights, rights that should be unalienable but are not. It is important to stand side-by-side with LGBTQ community in this fight because they are the ones under attack. Laws and policies that marginalize one group can just as easy be extended to include another group and another and another. It cannot be allowed to take root.

In history there are many examples of how repressive regimes test the waters with what seems like insignificant policies and then expands them. Once these policies are in place, they push for more and more. There is no telling how far a government can go, how many victims it can claim, how many tragedies it can perpetrate until it is too late. Policies that deny people their very right to be who they are, must be stemmed at the root. Make no mistake, this is not an LGBTQ only fight, this is a fight for what it means to be free, to be American. While the LGBTQ community fights this fight, everyone should be marching with them.

It Was a Gay March

Once attendees had been instructed on the reason for the March, it was time to get Marching and drag on up Wilton Drive. The marchers proceeded along the sidewalks, north on Dixie Highway and then south on the Drive. They chanted for a part of the walk but soon the chanting died down but by no means did their spirits. They cheered as people drove by, honking their horns in support of the March In Heels.

Groups stopped at the different action stops along the way. They completed the prescribed actions and then headed to the next action stop. Finally they headed toward Hunter’s where the march ended with various speakers and, of course, a drag show!

The March drew approximately 800 attendees, a success by any measure. It was a colorful action-oriented march packed with purpose. It was filled with rainbow flags, people in drag, heels, wigs and more. Marchers spread joy and love all up and down the drive, but more than anything it was very GAY occassion!

Check Out the Photos of The March In Heels Below

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