CINCINNATI — The City of Cincinnati raised the transgender pride flag at city hall to show solidarity and support for the local trans community.

What You Need To Know

  • Thursday was International Transgender Day of Visibility

  • To mark the event, the City of Cincinnati hoisted the trans pride flag at City Hall

  • The event aims to raise awareness about being transgender and highlight accomplishments of those in the trans community

  • Advocates continue to face challenges ranging from legal issues to physical threats

The event was at Plum Street plaza Thursday, March 31, also known International Transgender Day of Visibility. 

Transgender Day of Remembrance originated more than 20 years ago to commemorate trans people who’d lost their lives to violence. About a decade ago, advocates decided changed the name to the Transgender Day of Visibility to commemorate trans people and their achievements as well.

The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners declared it Transgender Visibility Day across the county. Other events Thursday included an information and resource session at the downtown branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library.

Council member Reggie Harris joins of group of advocates to raise a trans pride flag at Cincinnati City Hall. (Casey Weldon/Spectrum News 1)
Council member Reggie Harris joins of group of advocates to raise a trans pride flag at Cincinnati City Hall. (Casey Weldon/Spectrum News 1)

Steps away from the flagpole at city hall, a roster of speakers, ranging from politicians to advocates, referenced common themes including love and acceptance.

“A city government standing up for the transgender community is hugely important,” said Jen Scott, a regional organizer for Equality Ohio. “It sends a statement that Cincinnati is a safe, welcoming environment for everyone.”

Events like those Thursday help raise visibility of the transgender community, Scott said.

“Trans folks have been with us forever in society and they’re not going anywhere,” she said. “It’s important to talk about the issues that continue to affect, and sometimes hurt trans people.”

Cincinnati made “great strides’’ toward improving equality, Scott said. The city regularly receives a “100” score on the Municipal Equality Index, which scores a city’s laws and policies based on its support of LGBTQ+ people.

City council member Reggie Harris, who is openly gay, said there’s a lot to be proud of about Cincinnati’s current track record. But recent legislation at the state and national levels affects that.

He specifically mentioned the proposed Ohio House Bill 454, which would prohibit specific medical coverage for LGBTQ+ youth, specifically trans or nonbinary young people.

“What we are doing here to do today is to take a symbolic step to say, while the rest of our state may be interested in moving backwards, here in Cincinnati, we are moving forward,” said Harris.

The council member described the current political landscape as a juxtaposition between “progress and fear, progress and regression.”

“Despite the advances we’ve made, both nationally and in the city in LGBTQIA equality, we find ourselves beating back a barrage of anti-LGBTQIA legislation around the state that specifically targets and seeks to erase trans people,” said Harris, who advocated for the flag raising at city hall.

Cathy Allison, of the Transgender Advocacy Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, felt a law like HB 454 would increase the likelihood of younger trans and gay people becoming depressed and potentially harming themselves.

“It’s been really sad because while we’ve been banned from gathering [because of COVID-19], politicians have chosen trans people as easy targets to pick on,” said Allison, who is a transgender woman. “It’s unfair to the kids because they can’t really do anything about it. They can’t even vote, not yet least at least.”

Several speakers, including Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, mentioned Thursday that those types of laws are hurtful. Not only might they lead to discrimination and harassment, but possibly physical harm as well.

Last year alone, at least 57 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy organization that strives to end discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. They used “at least’’ because often trans deaths go unreported — or misreported.

The previous record year had 44 deaths in 2020. HRC has compiled data since 2013.

Most trans people killed are Black and Latinx transgender women, per HRC.

It was the first time the trans pride flag has flown at Cincinnati City Hall in recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility.

Part of the issue is a lack of education, Scott said. She feels there’s a lot of misinformation about being transgender. One recent example is the attack on transgender athletes, such as college swimmer Lia Thomas who is a transgender woman.

Scott’s organization, Equity Ohio, launched the #OhioCanPlay, campaign to raise awareness and show support for transgender and non-binary youth in Ohio athletics. 

“A lot of the hate and the fear around LGBTQ issues and the transgender community is based on misinformation,” Scott said.

She said education is key and events like those Thursday can help.

“If you’re not comfortable with the topic, learn a little bit about it,” she said.

Council member Mark Jeffreys said he’s always supported trans people, but even he needed education after his eldest child, Emery, 20, came out as trans about nine months ago.

“As parents, we have expectations for our children and expect things to be a certain way based on a societal norm,” he said. “But when a child, or really anyone really, realizes who they’ve been living as is not who they are, your expectations have to shift.”

While there may be a transition period for parents and loved ones of trans people, it’s important to continue to “love and embrace who they are,” Jeffreys said. 

“We need to make sure that they’re living their authentic selves,” he added. “We tell Emery that it’s not about us and our emotions.”