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Ukraine police protect trans rights parade from repeat of violence as right-wing protesters pelt eggs at participants

Josh Milton November 24, 2019
Participants hold drawings reading 'Transphobia kills, humanity saves' during an anti-transphobia rally in Kyiv, on November 23, 2019. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Participants hold drawings reading 'Transphobia kills, humanity saves' during an anti-transphobia rally in Kyiv, on November 23, 2019. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Trans rights groups in Ukraine celebrated a milestone on Saturday – holding a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil without being attacked by right-wing opponents.

Kyiv police surrounded a square in the capital city as dozens of trans folk and allies came out to commemorate those who lost their lives to transphobic attacks across the world.

Other than the odd egg tossed by passersby, the event, organised by Trans* Generation and Insight, was “successful”, activists proclaimed, estimating that around 100 people showed.

A remarkable feat in a country where queer refugees displaced by the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia are often met with hostility from locals.

Trans people ‘speak out in defiance of threats of violence’ in moving vigil. 

In the lead-up to the vigil, human rights organisations expressed weary olive branches to Kyiv law enforcement, pleading for them to protect vigil-goers.

Amnesty International issued a statement demanding that Ukranian authorities “ensure the safety” of trans marchers, who are “at serious risk of violent attacks”.

The outcome was a striking contrast to last year’s vigil, when police failed to shield those participating in a similar march from transphobic attacks.

Lines of officers bracket Mykhailivs’ka Square as trans folk gather to mourn their losses. (Matthew Schaaf)

Trans and gender-diverse folk kept warm by wrapping up in Trans Pride flags, holding placards detailing their defiance against a war-torn country where LGBT+ people – notably refugees – become targets.

In the crowds was Matthew Schaaf. The director of the Ukraine branch of Freedom House told PinkNews his relief that authorities sent a clear message that they will stand up for the community.

“The TDOR event today was a somber though successful event to honor and remember the people affected by violence against trans people,” he told PinkNews.

“About 100 people braved the bitter cold to speak out in defiance of threats of violence.

Two different scenes captures a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Kyiv, Ukraine: (L) trans folk raise flags up high while (R) a vigil-goer stands next to an egg lobbed by counter-protester. (Matthew Schaaf)
Two different scenes captures a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Kyiv, Ukraine: (L) trans folk raise flags up high while (R) a vigil-goer stands next to an egg lobbed by counter-protester. (Matthew Schaaf)

“While opponents threw eggs, hitting several TDOR participants, the event was largely without incident due in large part to the efforts of the organisers and the police.

“This is a major improvement from last year, when the police seriously fumbled and failed to protect the event from violence.”

Policemen detain an individual who was protesting against the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Kyiv. (Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Police detain an individual who was protesting against the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Kyiv. (Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

According to witnesses and photographs, some arrests of far-right individuals were made during the vigil.

LGBT+ groups proclaim trans parade ‘another victory’ for the community. 

Weaving through the midtown Kyiv, local LGBT+ groups called the day a “victory” for the community and thanked police and organisers for their combined efforts to protect.

Insight LGBTQ thanked the “brave people” who participated in the event and for standing up “in support of trans people against violence and murders, torture and discrimination,” the group wrote in a Facebook statement.

A victory indeed, considering that just last month, the organisation announced it had been forced to shutter the doors of the only LGBT+ shelter in Kyiv.

What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Held on November 20, the day is dedicated to paying respect for trans murder victims across the world.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was first held on November 20, 1998, following the murder of Rita Hester, a trans African-American woman in Massachusetts.

A man holds an Rainbow flag during an anti-transphobia rally in Kiev on November 23, 2019.. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
A man holds an Rainbow flag during the Transgender Day of Remembrance parade in Kyiv on November 23, 2019. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Organised by volunteers from the trans community, it has since grown into an international commemoration.

Vigils are held across the world to mark the day, at events where the full list of victims is read.

 

More: Trans, transgender day of remembrance, ukraine

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