Austinite Joseph Hendricks did not expect to see a large turnout Saturday at a Transgender Visibility Day rally on the South Steps of the Capitol.
The area has flourished with community members holding flags and signs in support of transgender children, especially transgender teens, after Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state’s child welfare agency to investigate the families authorizing gender-affirming medical care for their transgender youth.
“Actually, I was afraid we were the only ones here,” said Hendricks, who came with their wife, Sara Hendricks. “I’m glad there’s a good turnout.”
Hendricks, who identifies as non-binary transgender, said too many transgender people die by suicide because they believe they can’t fit into the world.
“Letting people know that other people believe that, yes, we have a place. That there’s nothing particularly strange about what we want, which is to say: let’s be people,” he said. said Hendricks. “Like everyone.”
Transgender Awareness Day, observed annually on March 31, came this year as Texas courts consider whether Abbott can order gender-affirming medical care to be treated as child abuse.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, who called gender-affirming care child abuse under state law before the governor’s order, said investigations into parents providing gender-affirming medical care to their children should continue. These investigations could result in criminal charges against the parents or the removal of the children from their homes.
Can child abuse investigations continue? :Next step in the legal fight for transgender care in Texas
The Associated Press reported that Texas social workers say allegations about transgender children have been given high status and differ from normal investigative protocols. The Texas Supreme Court is expected to decide whether the state can resume those investigations.
Medical experts, including the Pediatric Society of Texas and Texas Medical Associationopposed state actions against transgender youth. LGBTQ advocates said Abbott and Paxton twist state law to suit personal political goals and biases.
Saturday’s rally celebrated transgender Texans and reassured them that they are safe and valued. The rally also served as a protest against legislation and ordinances against transgender people.
“The attacks on the transgender community are appalling and it’s really traumatic for them. We planned this event because it’s more important than ever to make sure we show them our support and know how beautiful they are.” , said the organizer of the rally. Carisa Lopez, Texas Freedom Network senior political director.
The event was organized by members of the All in For Equality Coalition: Texas Freedom Network, human rights campaign, ACLU Texas, Texas Equality, Texas Transgender Education Network and Legal Lambda.
At the rally, speakers from organizations and transgender creatives, activists and leaders spoke about their journeys and showed their support for members of the transgender community. Some of the big names in the speaker lineup included TransLash Media founder Imara Jones, “Queer Eye” star and athlete Angel Flores, athlete Andraya Yearwood of Hulu’s “Changing the Game” and “Big Sky” actor Jesse James Keitel.
Flores said she meant possibility: the ability for transgender people to be recognized for who they are, to go to high school, college, and their jobs as they are.
“But here in Texas, kids, they sit in classrooms scared of their possibility. They walk the field, or want to walk the field now, scared of the possibilities,” Flores said.
“Growing up, I didn’t plan for the years to come,” Flores said. “It was always, see you tomorrow. Because for me, something was missing, there was something about a part of me that I couldn’t – I was struggling.”
Many speakers read – sometimes in the form of a letter or poem – of the experiences of parents of young transgender people who wanted to be there but couldn’t due to ongoing actions to investigate and possibly charge criminally. parents of transgender youth. Two children – a brother of a transgender girl and a young transgender presented by the executive director of the Texas Transgender Education Network – also spoke to the public.
Social workers :Texas order on trans children is handled differently
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Texas Equality, read a poem dated March 2 by the mother of a transgender child after having a “What are we going to do?” talk with her husband. The mother described how she wants to live here, but she does not want to compromise her child’s right to health care and her child’s right to exist as herself.
“‘When you tell me, or when I think you think, that maybe we should stay here, I feel like I’m going to vomit. Yes, I want to live here, in this community, with your work, their l’ school, our home, her new vegetable garden and neighbors, with friends from all walks of life just a short walk, drive away or at a coffee shop,” Martinez read.
North Austin resident Mackenzie Mullens said it was “heartbreaking” as a parent to learn of the governor’s order against parents of transgender youth.
“I’m a mother. So as a parent, it was really heartbreaking to know that I could make decisions for my child that are the best decisions I feel for my child, and they could potentially lead me to bring my kids swept away,” Mullens said. “It’s aberrant.”
Maddie Kennedy, Community Affairs Manager at San Antonio LGBTQ Homeless Shelter Prosperous Youth Centersaid they brought six young people to Austin to participate in the rally.
“What we do know is that family rejection and unsafe home environments are one of the leading causes of homelessness among LGBTQ youth, and so it’s very important to work to reduce this cause,” said Kennedy.
Queen, 23, who identifies as non-binary and was one of the young people from Thrive, said they came out as non-binary a few months ago and it was liberating to be at the rally.
“A lot of times people try to pretend you’re crazy or you don’t know what you’re talking about or it’s just a phase, and it’s a really good platform to see people who look like you and who look like you,” said the queen.
Selina Franke, pastry chef at Patika Coffee, said it was important for her to present herself as an ally.
“After this presentation, I feel amazing,” Franke said. “I feel like as a community here in Texas, we’re showing up. Maybe not in huge numbers, but we’re here and we’re showing up.”
Speakers led rally attendees through chants such as “Trans Texans Are Texas Strong” and “Trans Rights Are Human Rights.”