On Nov. 3, the transgender community of Cleveland gathered together for a rally by the Free Stamp downtown in response to President Donald Trump’s leaked memo on the definition of gender. I learned about the Rally Against Erasure of the Trans+ Community from the Feminist Collective at CWRU group chat, and I accompanied my friends who learned about the event from the CWRU Radical Student Union. Everyone gathered by the bus stop in front of Thwing Center and went downtown as a group, wearing pins and transgender flag capes and carrying protest signs.
The rally in Willard Park started off nicely, with thoughtful speakers sharing powerful stories about their experience and responding to Trump’s memo. There was a small wooden stage and microphones set up. Only, the man who had set up the stage, I’m guessing some sort of politician, had an agenda. He came up and began talking about his issues, spitting conspiracy theories about Trump, trying to garner pity and admiration at the same time and yelling at people to shut up.
It was amusing, but completely inappropriate for him to try to take over a community who came together in order to not be erased. Despite being a so-called supporter of the trans community, he spoke over the actual, invited speakers.
A chant started up in the crowd. “We will not be erased.” #WeWontBeErased was the Twitter hashtag that the trans community had taken up to spread their stories. The man refused to come off the stage, and the chant grew louder, gaining traction. He yelled, talking about how he had set the whole thing up and that we owed it to him to listen.
We moved across the park to face Lake Erie and left him. The rally continued with the speakers standing on top of a picnic table and using a megaphone to reach the ever-growing crowd.
As far as power moves go, the move was plenty powerful. Walking away can be a formidable response to hatred. Not reacting changes the power dynamic between the abuser and the victim. First, it creates distance between the two parties, which makes it easier to move on from whatever words of hate were spoken. Secondly, it leaves a strong impression on the abuser, who wants to provoke a response. It makes it so that you leave a greater effect on them than they leave on you.
Basically, you don’t have to listen to people who hurt you. The rally demonstrated something powerful: that when people are being hateful, the real answer is to ignore them and walk away.
Won Hee Kim is a third year English major with minors in creative writing and economics.