In a first for the Las Vegas Valley, gay community activists are planning Trans Pride Week.
Using the model for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride celebrations elsewhere, the event begins on Wednesday night with a pride march from the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada on Maryland Parkway near Charleston Boulevard to City Hall downtown. Events continue through Sunday.
“Trans Pride Week is incredibly important because the transgender community has historically been excluded from broader pride celebrations and continues to be underrepresented in pride organizations and at parades and festivals, including here in Southern Nevada,” The Center’s program director Mel Goodwin said. “Las Vegas Trans Pride Week has been organized for and by the transgender community with support from some wonderful allies.”
Event organizer Jamie Lee Sprage said the idea for the week has been around for a few years.
“I decided it would be good to have a week to empower our community a bit more,” she said.
Sprague, a transgendered woman, has led an event for the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, which raises awareness of transgender hate-crime victims, in Las Vegas for the last six years. This year she wanted to develop the observance into a much bigger event and teamed up with The Center, Gender Justice Nevada, Mary Magdalene Friends United Christian Church, Northwest Community Church and Get EQUAL Nevada.
The week of events features a Transgender Day of Remembrance Thursday and a vigil Friday night. At the vigil, Sprague will read the names of transgender men and women who have died in hate-crime attacks motivated by their gender identity.
“So far I have 75 names that I’ll be reading this year,” Sprague said. “We have a lot of hatred towards us still.”
At the end of the week events are centered around music, entertainment and spirituality. The Center is hosting a worship service at 2 p.m. Sunday. Sprague is a leader in the Mary Magdalene Friends church, and is working towards getting ordained. She wants everyone to feel welcome when worshiping.
“So many transgendered people have been hurt by churches, and a lot of churches out here are accepting of transgender people,” she says. “But most of them will not walk into a church themselves.”
Lady Jazmynne Daria is a transgender entertainer and activist. She is on the planning committee for Trans Pride Week and is performing with transgender youths at Sunday night’s festivities at The Center, and later at the after party at Club Metro on Sahara Avenue near Maryland.
“I’m excited because it’s historical and it brings awareness,” she said.
Daria said she thinks the transgender community is comparable in size to the communities of big cities traditionally thought of as being gay-friendly like San Francisco, but lacks similar resources.
“The truth is there are a lot of trans people, male and female here, but Las Vegas isn’t that trans-aware,” she said. “We’re pretty good, but we still have our divisions, with the working girls and stuff.”
In addition to her role as an entertainer, Daria is leading workshops with health care professionals about resources for transgender people. She worries about people taking black-market hormones and getting bad medical advice.
“They can’t afford the doctors here,” she said.
Organizers began planning the event in October. Proceeds will go to making next year’s planned event bigger and better, they say.
“I identify as genderqueer, which many people don’t realize,” Goodwin said. “Being a part of Las Vegas Trans Pride week has been very special on a personal level as well as a staff member of The Center and a volunteer with Gender Justice Nevada.
“Nevada’s transgender community has a rich history of activism that spans more than 15 years, and it’s truly a privilege to be a part of organizing the first ever Trans Pride Week in the state of Nevada,” she said.
Sprague said the events are not about changing people, but education and personal rights.CL
Contact reporter Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesJuhl.