It is safe to say that 2020 was one of the largest global social and economic recessions since the Great Depression. Communities of all kinds experienced massive losses from Kobe Bryant to Chadwick Boseman to Monica Roberts. We, as a human race, experienced a mental breakdown. The last four years under the Trump Administration had been embarrassing, malicious, and foolish, marking Donald Trump as the worst president in US History. 2020 was our final straw!
The transgender community being one of the most affected groups in this era. The transgender community was constantly being attacked with discriminatory actions in employment, education, housing and healthcare (a full list can be found at hrc.org). Many community members felt we had nothing left as a country, as the world began to look down upon the United States. However, it was activists like the late Monica Roberts that fought and reminded us of our rights and purpose.
I sat one night and reminisced about the last Transgender Community Briefing held at the White House on November 17, 2016 under the Obama Administration. I remember the joy that filled the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Building. Intelligent and powerful conversations, networking and friendships being built. Our community thriving and rising like a phoenix from the ashes. It was simply, “we ain’t come this far to give up now,” my mother once told me at an NAACP protest in Milwaukee, WI. My mother did everything possible to make sure I attended Obama’s historical inauguration in 2009. I remember what it felt like to be a black person in America that day, standing on soil that was never intended for me. I remember Monica Roberts telling me, “if you learn nothing from me, learn the importance of your vote as a black transgender man”. It was at that moment I told my wife we were headed to Washington D.C. for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
With strong COVID-19 restrictions in place, I had to plan strategically. Requests were submitted to Congress for attendance, locked in flights, hotel and itinerary. We prepared for semi-large crowds, lots of masks and limited leisure activities amid the pandemic. It was not until the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, that things actually became complicated. Not only did we have COVID restrictions, we now had high alert security restrictions. Our flights from Reagan International Airport were immediately cancelled just days before the inauguration. After huge hassle to fly into BWI instead, nearby hotels became unavailable. Feeling determined, I managed to get everything rebooked and cleared for attendance.
As I stated security was heightened for every flight going anywhere close to Washington D.C. At the TSA checkpoint we were prompted with the reason for our travel in the area. As well as all passengers verifying identification and K-9 detection at the gate. Upon our arrival into BWI, our hotel prompted us with additional questions about reasons for our travel into the area and company affiliated with business travel. Note that these were questions outside of the scope of COVID travel requirements.
After scouting out the area; seeing how blocked off and secure (thousands of National Guard troops) the Mall area was, I decided a better and warmer view would be from my hotel. On the morning of January 20, 2021, I put on my suit, sat at my desk with my ipad and TV tuned to CNN. I joined hundreds of celebrities who virtually attended the inaugural events, and millions watching across media outlets.
This inauguration came with so many changes and distance but this inauguration was well thought out and healing. Everything was selected and done with purpose. Tears of relief ran down my cheek as Rent’s “Seasons of Love” was performed by Broadway cast members across the country. It was most important to me to be able to say that I WAS PRESENT and REPRESENTED my people that day. A black transgender man stood here for YOU! That WE ARE HERE and our fight for equality continues! I stood on my hotel balcony hearing the rumble of fireworks as Katy Perry ended the “Celebrating America” virtual showcase. And as I stood back in 2009, I stood vigorously looking over a district built by my enslaved ancestors; “We will rebuild, reconcile and recover…For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it” – ‘The Hill We Climb’ Amanda Gorman.
Dezjorn Gauthier (He/Him/His)