Philadelphia's transgender community members and supporters rallied Saturday afternoon in LOVE Park and then marched down Broad Street, packing more than a block, chanting for justice, carrying signs — "Trans is beautiful" and "Trans women are women" and "Trans men are men, period" — in a bid to shine a light on violence and discrimination.
The march, held annually since 2011, has taken on a particular urgency this year in the wake of the death of Shantee Tucker, 30, an African American trans woman who was gunned down Sept. 5 on Old York Road near Hunting Park.
Police have said they do not suspect a hate crime, but those who participated in Saturday's march consider Tucker's death one more instance of deadly violence against trans people of color, particularly women.
Diane Smith of Philadelphia, Tucker's aunt, was at the march with many other members of Tucker's family because, she said, "it's so important to have the opportunity to meet some of her community members."
She said the family was "very supportive" of Tucker as she journeyed through her gender transition.
"Her loss meant so much to us," Smith said. "We're taking it one day at a time."
>> PHOTO GALLERY: Eighth annual Philly Trans March
Activist Andrea Harrington told the crowd that "we must have justice for Shantee."
"We must have justice for all the trans lives being lost," she said.
Organizers of the event said that at least 22 transgender people, including Tucker, have been killed in 2018 nationwide; in Philadelphia, the death toll is five since 2013.
Malik Moorer, whose trans partner, Stacey Blahnik, was murdered in South Philadelphia in 2010, said he still feels "the hurt and the pain, but I'm dealing with it a little better" with the passage of time.
Moorer, who now lives in Atlanta, said Philadelphia is seeking to portray itself as "a little more trans-friendly" than in the past, but "statistics say otherwise."
He urged members of the highly diverse, and sometimes fractious, trans community to support one another.
Jackie Reyes, 30, said the march was critically important.
"As transgender I believe deeply in human dignity," Reyes said.
Elizabeth Gaillard, 67, who came late to her transgender identity — "I didn't come out until I was 50 or so," she said — said broader cultural perceptions of transgender issues are changing, but very, very slowly.
"I come from a generation where it was really difficult," she said. "It's easier now. Younger people are more accepting. But if I go to West Virginia, will they be more accepting?"