Yesterday dozens of #TransLivesMatter activists took over the stage at the U.S. Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC, to draw attention to HIV-positive trans women and men as well as gender nonconforming people.
Spokeswoman Bamby Salcedo, a Latina trans woman, activist, and subject of the documentary TransVisible, wore combat boots and looked ready for battle as she grabbed the microphone during the unexpected protest at the lunch-time plenary.
The activists were applauded by the audience and welcomed by Paul Kawata, the executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council.
In fact, Salcedo was allowed to speak for nearly 20 minutes as she outlined a list of actions the group called for, including a demand that the federal government set aside research money to study trans women and HIV. Despite the fact that trans women represent one of the highest at-risk populations they are rarely included in HIV studies, and when included they are frequently misgendered as men who have sex with men.
To articulate their dissatisfaction with these research practices, the trans women on stage — most of them women of color — broke into a rousing chant, repeating, "We are not gay men! We are not gay men!"
Salcedo’s passionate speech and well-reasoned recommendations brought many of the attendees to their feet in appreciation.
As the group left the stage, Kawata returned to the mic and again stated support, demanding the audience stand up and show their support too.
"We’re a vast community of diverse people who we don't always understand but love anyway,” Kawata said. “It's that courage to stand up to put your ass on line. If you’re not willing to put your ass on the line, this is not the movement for you."
Former Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy Jeffrey Crowley addressed Salcedo, saying, "Bamby, watching your anger and your passion nearly brought me to tears"
The plenary, “Mind the Gap: From Vision to Reality,” was sponsored by Gilead Sciences and featured these speakers: Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, Director of The Dr. James J. Rahal, Jr. Division of Infectious Diseases at New York-Presbyterian/Queens; Noël Gordon, Foundation Project Manager at the
Human Rights Campaign (HRC); and Bryan Stevenson, JD, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Gordon, who is heading HRC’s new HIV program, called on the audience — and those involved in fighting HIV — to do more for the trans community, saying, "I challenge all of us to do something to help end the epidemic of HIV and the violence affecting the transgender community in this country and around the world.”