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Michiganders rally for acceptance on transgender day of visibility

March 31, 2023

Braving the rain and wind, a group of LGBTQ+ advocates and allies took to the steps of the Capitol Friday morning to both celebrate transgender people and demand justice for members of the transgender communities.

Transgender Day of Visibility, an international holiday, provided a backdrop for the event, and speakers emphasized the importance of protecting transgender youth in the face of several bills that have been introduced in multiple states across the nation which target transgender people.

Cassandra Harding, a transgender woman who spoke at the rally, said efforts around the country to criminalize gender-affirming healthcare are equivalent to child abuse

“Like everybody else in America, trans youth and trans people have the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Harding said

Harding shared her obstacles with the health care system as a trans adult. She said that many doctors did not know how to prescribe her hormone medications and she would often wait months to receive gender-affirming care

The American Civil Liberties Union maps states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws both in action and that is a pending passage. The map has bills and laws in 27 states that would restrict or ban access to gender-affirming healthcare services, including access to puberty blockers or gender reassignment surgeries

Organizers of the rally in Lansing said these types of regulations, even if they’re still stuck in state legislatures, can be harmful to the mental and physical well-being of transgender people, especially youth

Kat Hammons is an activist who’s been working alongside State Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Lansing, to develop legislation protecting transgender youth in Michigan. They said watching various anti-trans bills find footing in state legislatures across the country has been demoralizing

“I have been crying every day for months as I've watched these bills be introduced to be debated over and passed," Hammons said

Dievendorf, who is Michigan’s first out non-binary and bisexual state representative, said they are hopeful the state can continue to expand LGBTQ+ protections.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed additions to the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights act or ELCRA. This will protect Michiganders from housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“Together we are building a world that is not just safer than Florida,” Dievendorf said. “Today we are building a world that is not just tolerant. Today we are building a world together that is accepting and where we move past safe to sanctuary.” 

Dievendorf said that when the ELCRA expansions passed, it was a “game-changer” after years of advocacy

“I didn't get here by accident,” Dievendorf said. “I've been working in the movement for decades and decades.” 

Speakers at the rally said even though bills threatening transgender rights may not be on the table in Michigan because of the Democratic majorities in both chambers, they still pose a danger to transgender people throughout the country.

Hammons said that it’s exhausting to feel like “the whole world hates you,” but that they’re still trying to focus on positive stories that remind members of the trans community they’re not alone.

Hammons said that despite the struggles that come with being trans, they’re finding joy in participating in community activities, like a recent transgender clothing swap. Hammond recalled dropping off clothes from before their transition that no longer felt like they fit and passing them along to another young trans person affirming their identity. 

“I later heard that a nine-year-old trans kid picked up one of the skirts I sewed for 4-H years ago,” Hammons said. “And it made that kid so happy.” 

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