Once again, transgender students and their families and allies made their way to the Ohio State Board of Education last month to plead for their humanity. And once again, the opposition showed up, looking for that humanity to be denied.
Over two days, the board discussed whether to resist federal Title IX protections for trans students in Ohio. Just as my co-workers and I headed home, drained, on the second day, the board decided to postpone the vote once again, this time until its December meeting. The next day, we headed to the Statehouse to testify against HB 454, which bans gender-affirming care for minors. This was a three-day gauntlet of trying to keep Ohio decision-makers from finding ways to make being transgender illegal in our state.
If you aren’t from or familiar with Ohio, let me break down some things. In Columbus, many low-income and/or BIPOC students attend schools that don’t have proper heating and cooling. Critical Race Theory is a constant lightning rod even though it’s never actually been part of K-8 curricula. Books that mention gender and/or sexuality in plain terms are being banned. It’s almost if lawmakers and their supporters know a simple book can be a kid’s lifeline. Instead of helping kids, lawmakers here seem to look for ways to cut that lifeline.
At the Statehouse hearing on HB 454, we sat in an overflow room while mostly white, cis men spoke. Their testimonies were simply disappointing and skewed. Only a small handful of people who identify as trans were allowed to speak. The powers that be started the meeting late and cut off how many people got to actually speak. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear from many individuals who would be directly impacted by this law, nor trans elders who remember the days before gender-affirming care existed. When that day ended, I was glad that three days of emotional drain were done, for now. The fight continues.
Ohio is amazing state, beautiful in a lot of spots. But banning trans children from protection and a lifeline is unnecessarily cruel.
We know that hateful rhetoric and legislation can radicalize people who would cause harm to the LGBTQIA+ community. Sadly, we got more proof of that when someone opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs last month. That weekend, I hoped to breathe and rest after three days of fighting for trans rights. I hoped that tough week would lead into a great weekend. Instead, we woke up to more sadness. I say “more” because this isn’t new. We have been targeted for violence in our safe spaces again and again:
There are so many other examples, as well. The LGBTQIA+ community has always been scapegoated and deemed new. We have always existed; laws have never stopped us because we have never been the issue. The issue is the repeated violation and exclusion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Laws have always been set up to make us invisible, so when we push through, they pretend we are somehow new. The community has not and will never go away.
In just a short amount of time, much of my community has felt unguarded, unshielded and exposed. My community doesn’t want to feel terror anymore. We literally want the same things any human being wants. Sadly, we are told no loudly and repeatedly. I cannot and will not accept that no, and I don’t know anyone who can.
As members and allies of the community, we can stand up and speak out. Vote if you can. Run for office if you can. They can’t cut all the lifelines at once. CeCe McDonald said, “We are all stronger, smarter, talented, beautiful, and more resilient than we were told.” Sometimes our presence is enough, so that somewhere, a Rainbow Kid will see you, hear you, or read about you and think to themselves, “me too.”