My First March: Marching for Damien Lopez

Parker Hawley

Trigger Warning: This article mentions mental health struggles, bullying, and suicide.

 

“He should be here right now,” yelled Jamie Vicaro, mother of Damien Lopez, “…you shouldn’t have to bury your kids!” Jamie was one of the many voices who were chanting pro-trans messages during a trans-rights march in late October.

 

I participated in Bloomfield’s The March to Protect Trans Youth on October 22nd. The march was organized by Damien’s Voice, a group dedicated to remembering Damien Lopez, a transgender pre-teen who committed suicide in 2021.

 

In a speech, Jamie Vicaro described Damien Lopez as a young and kind boy who always saw the best in everyone. When he was bullied to his death, his mother vowed not to let his death be in vain. “I lost my son and my best friend,” said Jamie Vicaro in her speech.

 

Damien Lopez was only in sixth grade when he committed suicide. Ms. Vicaro/explained that Damien knew he was trans from a very young age and his parents always supported him. However, his peers did not. Damien was pushed out of group activities and bullied in person and online. This led to a constant mental health struggle that Damien faced. Jamie said that Damien was in seven different mental hospitals because of his anxiety and depression in his last year alive. The hospitals did not care for Damien in the way that Jamie had hoped and two weeks before he died he was released from a mental hospital that claimed Damien was “fine.”

 

When Damien did commit suicide, Jamie did not want his message and his love to die with him. Jamie made a social media post that would earn 800+ reactions and would start the Damien’s Voice movement. Because of the popularity that Damien’s Voice gained, the march was organized and would attempt to spread awareness in the town of Bloomfield and all of New Jersey.

 

Chants such as, “When trans rights are under attack what do we do? Stand up and fight back!” and others rang through the streets of Bloomfield on that Saturday morning and I was at the center of it all. Marching with Jamie, and other speakers/protestors, felt special. We were not only honoring the passing of Damien Lopez but also informing Bloomfield and New Jersey that trans youth is here and we are not going away.

Parker Hawley

As a person whose identity falls under the transgender umbrella (non-binary) the march and event felt even closer to home. Every time we were booed, which was plenty of times, I felt as if a dagger of hate was entering my heart. However, when people ran off the sidewalk to join us, I felt supported more. But the support did not stop after the march. The event and speeches afterward made me feel more in the LGBTQIAP+ community than ever before. 

 

After the mile walk, we all grouped at the entrance of Bloomfield Public Library. Speeches from Jamie Vicaro, trans author Damien Alan Lopez, Councilwoman Davis, library director Holly Bell, and more inspired me and many others. The speeches and music sung by trans singer DANE were so powerful that they brought many (including me) to tears. 

 

The event lasted about two and a half hours from 2:00 to 4:30 pm and was the most inspirational moment of my life. I feel proud to have participated in it. I have always dreamt of creating change in the world, and being able to march not just for trans rights but also for the memory of an amazing kid, who was gone too soon, was a special moment I will never forget.

 

To find out more information about Damien Lopez, and support the family and the foundation, visit Damien’s Voice’s Instagram page (@damiensvoice) and use the hashtag #damiensvoice.

Parker Hawley