SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Thousands marched Friday night from Dolores Park to San Francisco's Tenderloin to a newly designated Transgender Cultural District at Turk and Taylor streets.
It was a kickoff event and part of the annual Trans March for this year's Pride festivities. The city just approved the new transgender district, but it comes during a year when many say that trans people have been under attack nationwide.
Many marchers could be seen waving the pink and baby blue colors of the transgender flag high on the hills of Dolores Park, overlooking San Francisco from the Mission District. Thousands joined in a pride week celebration of trans identity and community. For some, it was a rare chance to be out and to not be an outsider.
"There's a lot more people around here like me, you know. It's a real good feeling. Honestly," said Amy Digiovani of Oakland. "It's been a hard year."
Jae Maldonado from the Trans March Committee is one of the event's organizers who says trans communities nationwide have been facing difficult fights.
On Friday, U.S. military chiefs called for a delay in a policy allowing transgender troops to openly enlist.
The past year brought a wave of bathroom bills in 16 states that sought to limit transgender people's access to restrooms.
"Our theme this year is resilience and resistance and how the two have to be part of our movement as we move forward and challenge the decisions in Washington and really make our lives visible," said Maldonado.
Anthony Broxterman came to San Francisco from San Antonio, Texas where he says a new law prohibits him from using bathrooms at his high school.
"They were like, well you can't go in the boy's bathroom and you can't go in the girls' bathroom. so you can just use the teachers' lounge."
But some point to North Carolina where a bathroom bill was passed and then repealed after mainstream groups such as the NBA, NCAA and large companies boycotted the state.
"I think we're going to continue to make progress. I think people are fighting back against us now just because we've made a lot of progress and I think we just need to continue to fight back and educate people," said Connie Rutelege from Salem Oregon.
Signs said it all as the crowd left Dolores Park for the two-mile Trans March down Market Street. Their message was one of pride.
"We're really strong, resilient and really smart people and as long as we stick together, we're going to be free," said Danielle Castro of Oakland, a Trans March Committee member.
"I really like how Trans March out of all the days of Pride doesn't feel as corporate as Saturday and Sunday and it just feels like the community getting together," said Samuel Moore of San Francisco.
The march concluded in the new transgender district in the Tenderloin, which will be a place for trans people to build businesses and their lives.
"We're looking forward to creating a safe space for trans people to be, opportunities for trans people to be gainfully employed and just create as many wonderful opportunities within the district," said Janetta Johnson, executive director for the Transgender Gender, Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project.
The funding for the Transgender Cultural District was passed by the city this week. Many hope it will become a model for the rest of the nation.