On October 10th, 2019, CNN with the Human Rights Campaign hosted the “Equality Town Hall” focused on LGBTQ+ rights in the 2020 presidential campaign. Earlier in the year, GLAAD hosted an LGBTQ Forum. These events have been important as coverage of LGBTQ+ topics has dramatically dropped in the Trump era.

Themes through the night that were addressed were: immigration, hate violence, healthcare access and discrimination, nonbinary gender markers, international relations with anti-gay/anti-trans countries, conversion therapy, rights for sex workers, and the Equality Act. Candidates who attended were Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren.

Several times throughout the event, protestors stood up for trans lives, and specifically trans communities of color. Every time protestors disrupted, candidates and hosts appeared to listen to the protestors and validate and address their concerns. References were made to the Stonewall Riots, ACT UP, and other historic protests.

During Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s session, a few came bearing a Trans Pride flag chanting “trans people are dying, do something”. CNN attempted to cut the cameras away when they appeared. Some members of the audience became upset, then host Anderson Cooper calmly reminded them that protest is a central part of the LGBTQ+ community’s history. 

Later Blossom, a black trans woman, requested the mic from someone addressing Beto O’Rourke in order that she could confront CNN for not having a single black trans man or woman who has gotten to address a candidate. Beto appeared at 10pm EST; the event started at 730pm EST. At 11pm EST, Shea Diamond appeared and was the first black trans woman to ask a question.

I’m pulling out of the lgbtq presidential town hall tonight. I was part of the program & CNN scrapped my participation last minute. I was going to bring attention to the terror TSA inflicts on trans & non-binary bodies while traveling.

Ashlee Marie Preston

Before the show began, Ashlee Marie Preston, journalist, activist, and a trans woman of color, remarked how CNN scrapped her part addressing how trans women of color are treated by TSA. Indya Moore, trans actress known for her role in Pose also responded.

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