Dozens of community members endured rain and wind in celebration and protest as they rallied in front of the state capitol building to support transgender youth. March 31 was International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual celebration created by Michigander Rachel Crandall-Crocker in 2009.
LGBTQ+ members and allies across the country rallied to protest legislators’ attempt to prevent transgender people from being legally recognized and from receiving gender-affirming care.
Cameron Carmicheal, 20, organized the rally with the help of BAMN. (By Any Means Necessary)
“I heard there was something going on in Detroit and I heard it was organized by BAMN so I contacted them first. I came into this completely blind and they gave me the kick to get started,” Carmicheal said. “To see people persevere even through Michigan weather shows that we have the courage to go through whatever means necessary for our own livelihood.”
Protestor Riley Korus a transgender man, expressed the anger he feels for his community and why he needs to come out and protest.
“It’s very frustrating how my community has become a political target, so it’s important to speak against that,” Korus said. “Trans rights are human rights. We are not going anywhere. That’s kind of the general statement that everyone is trying to make here.”
Korus explained his struggle growing up without the proper care he needed.
“I am a transgender man and although I am not a minor anymore, I know what the effects of not having this care have,” Korus said. “Because of my parents, I had to wait until I was 18 to have any medical intervention. I really don’t think that I was living for that time. If I wasn’t able to get that care I truly don’t know what my life would be if anything at this point.”
In Michigan, two proposed anti-trans bills would prevent trans kids from accessing school bathrooms that align with their gender identity, and classify gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth as child abuse.
“Even if you don’t live in a state where these bans are happening. Knowing that this is going to happen to this community and having empathy for the people that this will affect is really all that matters,” Korus said. “We’re just trying to educate and ensure people know that this is a huge deal and this is going to negatively affect and possibly in my opinion kill people.”
Claire Veraluz and her family attended the rally with hand-made signs supporting the youth.
“My kids wanted to come out today. Even though it’s raining, it’s important, so here we are,” Veraluz said. “I think kids get left out of the conversation. That’s what brought me here today, to support the youth. I think anybody of a not oppressed class can be an ally.”
Veraluz’s kids asked ‘‘Where are all the kids?’’ and Veraluz agreed there should have been more kids there.
“As a parent, I’m just enabling showing up and empowering. Trans rights and LGBTQ+ are close to my heart as a cause. I think it’s important to listen to the kids when they say it’s important. Show up and do what’s important and set an example that they can take forward,” Veraluz said. “They might not remember this particular day or this rally but they can grow up knowing they can advocate for what matters.”
During the rally, Michigan Democratic State Rep. Emily Dievendorf, Michigan’s first out non-binary and bisexual representative, spoke to the crowd about her and activist Kat Hammons creating legislation that protects transgender youth in Michigan.
“I didn’t get here by accident. I’ve been working in the movement for decades and decades, so when we finally passed Elliot-Larsen [Civil Rights Act] to amend and include protection based on gender identity and gender expression; it was a game changer for our community and my life,” Dievendorf said.
At the end of her speech, she recognized transgender youth.
“I know today is focused on the youth because you are everything for these possibilities. Your stories, your lives, you matter. You have value and you will be free. You will be safe. You are and will always be loved.”