Openly gay state lawmaker, State Sen. Mark Leno, was at first plagued by technical problems with his microphone as he attempted to address the crowd in Dolores Park, then got entangled in a debate with some of the transgender people hollering at him from right in front of the stage, according to Evelyn Rios, a local transgender woman in attendance.
“And why am I a piece of shit?” Leno was heard to ask by Rios, who sat on the lawn surrounding the stage.
“It was cringe-worthy,” Rios told LGBTQ Nation, adding that it was clear Leno chose to engage rather than ignore his hecklers.
Leno was introduced by Human Rights Commission Executive Director Theresa Sparks, a transgender woman appointed last week by Mayor Ed Lee as his senior advisor on transgender initiatives.
After Leno, the city supervisor Scott Wiener and the mayor, who was carrying a proclamation, were supposed to speak, but Leno was still trying to win back control of the crowd, telling them there is a time and place for everything and that this should be a time for unity.
“We may have disagreements with Ed Lee, I’ve got disagreements with Ed Lee, that’s not the point. A mayor had never come to this event before he became mayor,” Leno said, referring to Lee’s historic appearance at Trans March in 2011 and ever since. At this point, a majority of the crowd turned against him, demanding with their boos that he and the others leave.
“Though this has not been a warm welcome or one of respect, I will continue to fight for transgender rights, equality, and the respect that your’re not giving us today,” Leno said, defiantly.
And without saying a word, Mayor Lee was then escorted off the stage, with Leno and Wiener, their heads bowed. Lee was rushed to his car, as the crowd chanted “house keys, not handcuffs,” said Rios. That she said was apparently in response to Wiener’s proposed legislation to criminalize homeless camping on sidewalks in the city. In 2014, it was reported 29 percent of San Francisco’s homeless identified as LGBTQ.
Ashley Love, a visiting transgender activist from Los Angeles saw an opportunity to speak from the stage, uninvited, and went on camera with local reporters to denounce the politicians. “I’m upset because I’m a trans woman who has a lot of trans friends who are homeless and I’m tired of people using our community as a prop,” Love was reported to have said.
That was not the only outburst at the Trans March event. When marchers reached the intersection of Turk and Taylor streets, a sign was unveiled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Riot at that location, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported was an uprising of oppressed transgender women considered by many the precursor to the LGBT rights movement, even before Stonewall.
Some marchers belonging to a group known as Bash Back erupted in protests, said Rios. “I heard one person yell, ‘Gene Compton was a racist who called the police on trans people.’ So some are unhappy that the street was called ‘Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Way,'” she said.
Others focused on the parallels between oppression five decades ago, and today.
“I honor right now our brothers and sisters from Orlando. We honor you,” said Felicia Elizondo, a 69-year-old transgender woman who has lived with AIDS for 29 years who spoke to the Chronicle. “We were murdered, killed, raped and thrown in jail because of who we were. And today I see an array of support and recognition.”
Politics likely had something to do with all the animosity among some marchers. Elizondo invited City Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the district where the new street sign is, to address the crowd. Kim is Wiener’s rival in the November race for the State Senate seat being vacated by Leno, who has endorsed Wiener.
“I have the distinct honor of representing the Tenderloin neighborhood. I can’t tell you how much I love representing this community,” Kim said, according to the newspaper. “This is our space. I am not safe if you are not safe.”
Watch a video of the trouble prior to the march in a video posted to YouTube, below: