On Sunday afternoon, around 150 people gathered on the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse in downtown Bloomington, for a celebration of the Transgender Day of Visibility.
Melanie Davis, with the LGBTIQ+ Community Center of Bloomington, kicked off the the event by telling the crowd “There’s a lot of scary stuff going on. We all know, we’ve all felt it.”
The “scary stuff” that Davis was talking about includes some legislation now pending in the state legislature.
Yoder described HB 1608 as Indiana’s version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Yoder said that the bill had been inaccurately characterized as “just making sure that there’s a bridge between parents and schools to help trans youth.”
About that description, Yoder said, “We’re gonna have to call BS on that.” Teachers, parents and the medical community had come out to say that HB 1608 is the opposite of what needs to happen, in order to build bridges between parents and teachers, Yoder said.
When Indiana’s Own Dana Black took the mic, she alluded to HB 1608, when she exhorted the crowd: “Just ’cause they don’t wanna say ‘gay,’ we’re gonna say ‘gay’ real loud. Everybody, one time, say it! [crowd: GAY!] They don’t wanna hear it, you say it! [crowd: GAY!] They don’t wanna hear it, you say it! [crowd: GAY!]”
As for SB 480, Yoder said the bill had been described as serving to “protect people from themselves” because gender-affirming care was claimed not to be effective. That description was undercut, Yoder said, by the fact that those who receive gender-affirming care describe it as saving their life.
Yoder alluded to a recent Dutch study, which found that 98 percent of those who started gender-affirming treatment before puberty continued the treatment into adulthood.
Countering the idea that those before puberty might easily change their minds about getting gender affirming treatment was Beth Clawson, who took the mic to describe her transgender child: “I have a child who changes her mind 17 times a day—it’s between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.—about what she’s going to wear to school. But the one thing that she has not wavered in, is who she is.”
The crowd had already met Clawson’s “amazing kiddo” when the three Monroe County commissioners (Penny Githens, Lee Jones and Julie Thomas) invited Kirin Clawson to the stage to give her a copy of a proclamation they had issued at their regular meeting this past Wednesday. The proclamation designated March 31, 2023 Transgender Visibility Day in Monroe County.
Kirin Clawson took the mic to say that adults are “stupid” if they think they should decide whether kids can get gender affirming health care. “That’s not their decision. It’s our body,” she said.
During her remarks, Dana Black described herself “the same gender that [Bloomington city] clerk Nicole Bolden is lovin’ on.” She added, “I am so fortunate to have such an amazing and smart life partner!”
Bolden had spoken a few minutes before. Bolden noted that she was the first, and still is the only Black LGBTQ+ elected official in the state of Indiana. “Now more than ever, we have to stand up, and we have to fight for our rights, we have to fight to be seen,” Bolden said. She added, “We have to fight to have our humanity recognized by those who do not want to do so.”
Also addressing the crowd was MCCSC school board member April Hennessey, who said the club that she and Bolden make up—out, queer elected officials in the state of Indiana—needs to get bigger.
Several speakers called on people in the crowd to run for office.
Black assigned a task to adults: “Each parent, each adult that can hear my voice right now, you have a job to do when you leave this rally today. Your job is to sit down with an LGBTQ+ youth and say: You can run for office. You can be the governor. You can be a state rep. You can be a state senator.”
Black summed up that point like this: “You don’t have to let policy happen to you. You can happen to policy.”