Nikk Selik was one of the speakers at the rally. BTL photo: Paulette Niemie

Time Is Right For Transgender Rally At Ferndale Pride

By Paulette Niemiec

The time was right. In fact, the time couldn't have been any more perfect than now for a rally for transgender rights at Ferndale Pride in downtown Ferndale last Saturday. The first ever Pride rally for transgender rights, sponsored by Transgender Michigan, came one day after Laverne Cox made history as the first transgender woman on the cover of TIME magazine, and people were excited.

"This is the time for transgender rights, right now!" screamed Rachel Crandall-Crocker, founder of the well known organization which gives support and provides counseling and resources for those who consider themselves to be gender non-conforming. Crandall-Crocker started the rally at 6:05 p.m. on the main stage located near Woodward Ave. A crowd of approximately 100 people gathered to hear speeches given by Crandal-Crocker and two others who wanted to rouse up support for the transgender community.

"When I came out as transsexual at work, I got fired because they didn't want a transsexual. Nobody would hire me. I was pissed. I was real pissed," yelled Crandall-Crocker who explained to those in attendance, "I was so angry, I decided to found Transgender Michigan and help others like myself who are suffering simply because of their gender identity."

Crandall-Crocker referenced Cox's appearance on the cover of TIME and the decision last week by Medicare to lift the 25-year ban on providing medical coverage for sexual reassignment surgery for the transgender population. The audience responded with rousing cheers and applause. With the crowd emotionally charged, she handed the microphone to Jay Elbrecht a trans-man, who along with his wife Carla Manion, attend transgender rallies and events all over southeastern Michigan to demonstrate support for the transgender community.

Standing on stage wearing a cowboy hat and waving the pink and white striped transgender flag, Elbrecht told the crowd, "It takes all of us to make this community." He urged the mostly gay and lesbian crowd, "Please don't throw the transgender (community) under the bus. We need to stand together so all of us can get the equal rights we need. We are a community that is united. Not divided!"

With people literally dancing in the street, shouting and yelling statements of support, Elbrecht turned things over to another trans-man, Nikk Selik. Selik, 25, continued to energize the already vocal crowd with emotional pleas to those in attendance to accept themselves. Selik's message was for people who are transgender not to get discouraged from expressing their gender identity and completing their transition if they couldn't have genital surgery. "It's not what's in your pants that counts, it's about who you are inside," he said, while explaining how he's been transitioning for five years and has had three surgeries on his chest, but can't afford the very expensive female to male genital surgery.

"This is why what Medicare has done is so important," explained Crandall-Crocker afterwards. "Now people who can't afford surgery may be able to if other insurance companies, including Medicaid, follow the lead of Medicare."

"This is an exciting time to be transgender," Crandal-Crocker reminded the audience. "With all that is happening, it's important that you stand up with pride for who you are." As all three representatives of the transgender community left the stage, one couldn't help but feel perhaps the time has come for all of America to recognize the rights of those who are trans.

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