Photojournalism: Trans Rights Walk Out

Spring 2023 – DART 268: Intro to Digital Photography

On March 31, 2023, transgender and non-binary people and their allies gathered at City Hall in Philadelphia for a Trans Day of Visibility demonstration organized by Philly Trans March. They focused on boosting the voices of trans and non-binary youth, who are the target of the majority of recent surge in anti-trans legislature in the last few years.

A few weeks after, on April 25, students all over the city walked out and met at City Hall to rally for trans rights. The organizers posted on social media and encouraged supporters to share their demands: 1. All PA House member oppose PA HB 138, 216, and 319), 2. Gov. Shapiro sign into law an executive order declaring Pennsylvania a sanctuary state or Philadelphia a sanctuary city for transgender people, and 3. Allocate more funding for the Philadelphia School District’s Diversity Staff education programs and the construction of gender neutral facilities. This event, followed by a march up Broad Street to the School District of Philadelphia’s administration building. Students from at least 6 Philly high schools walked out of class to participate among several teachers and others of all ages who walked out of work to show their support.

I joined the walk out to photograph how—although people swear that it’s safe in Pennsylvania, that it’s safe in Philadelphia, that we’re not in the south so it’s fine—we are still very much affected by the dramatic increase in anti-trans legislature. The Trans Rights Walk Out was organized by high school students, one of the lead organizers being a senior at Central High School, and I wanted to capture these students’ emotions primarily. You’ll see in some of the photos that they’re joking around and having a fun time, but they’re also angry, hurt, and determined to be heard. Some have criticized the smiles and laughs as proof that these students only participated as an excuse to skip class, but I would argue it just shows that they’re strong enough to both feel the negative emotions and not let it get them down.

Several local news outlets covered the walkout in more depth than I do here, including WHYYABC6, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Naturally, the public had plenty of comments on it. Many were insulting the students’ intelligence and morals in response to the Inquirer’s tweet about the walkout, but a few saw the students standing up for what they believe in and commented “the kids are alright.” But the kids aren’t alright. They’re crying for help.

Philadelphia Gay News named the Trans Youth Activists honorable mentions in their 2023 Person of the Year feature, and I got the chance to share a few of my thoughts on how proud I am to see the generation behind me standing up for themselves and others.