MN Lobby Day for Trans and Black Lives Matter a Success

#translivesmatter and #blacklivesmatter team up on Lobby Day to be heard

IMG_0040MN Lobby Day 2015 was this week at the Minnesota Capitol and this year it was an intersection of LGBTQ issues, racial and economic justice. The introduction of anti-transgender bills in both the Minnesota House and Senate this has put a focus on people who are transgender, transgender youth and bathroom usage. One of the key focuses this year for Lobby Day was the intersection of #translivesmatter/#blacklivesmatter working together for a common cause, which is equal rights for all.

The day included key note speaker was 25-year-old, queer fluid, trans artist and athlete Kye Allums, is the first Division I openly transgender athlete in NCAA history and a proud member of the Brown Boi Project; they are on the All Star board for Go! Athletes, and also on this year’s 100 to watch list for the National Black Justice Coalition. Entertainment by One Voice Mixed Chorus, the largest LGBT mixed choir and Sankophoenix, a song writer and vocalist based out of Minnesota.

Workshops this year included:

  • School Push-Out: From Sitting Alone at Lunch to Being Expelled: an exploration of the intersections of queerphobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, mental health and autism
  • Creating Safe Spaces for Transgender People: A panel discussion about making spaces trans safe.
  • Black Lives Matter & the Movement for LGBTQ Equity: A workshop that talked about the intersections of identity and the intersection of racism and transphobia
  • Trans Meet Up: A caucus for trans identified people with discussion on our own political and social agendas
  • What is School Really Like for LGB Students?

Jessica Banks, former St Paul School Board Candidate and Rights Activist said, “Today means that marriage equality is not the end, it’s not even the beginning, there are so many more basic rights that are denied by their LGBTQ status. I’m really excited for years and I’ve been fighting to get us to de-silo some of the power and throw down with the racial justice folks and support them so when our rights are on the line, they are more likely to come out and support us. I’m so excited by the intersections I am seeing and being activated.”

Alison Yocom of Transforming Families MN, a collection of families that provides safe and inclusive spaces for families of transgender and questioning youth, was also at the Capitol, “This is Transforming Families first Lobby Day and the energy in the crowd is really exciting to us.” Alison continued, “The thing that matters to us and our youth is to been as regular kids doing regular things and they come here and see all these people supporting them…and it feels really great to them. To have my son go and speak with his legislator and say “I’m your constituent” and “My life matters” is something that I think he will remember for the rest of his life.”

Monica Meyer, Executive Director of OutfrontMN, the leading and largest LGBTQ rights group in the state said, “We are coming together and connecting with each other and creating positive change so that we can become strong at the broken places. we are coming together to create the Minnesota we know that it can be. A state where LGBTQ people are free to be who they are, love who they love and live without fear of violence harassment or discrimination.”

Earlier in the week, House Republicans attached and passed an anti-transgender amendment to the Education Omnibus bill HF844 called the Student Physical Privacy Act. Representative Miller spoke about his reasons for bringing forward the Student Physical Privacy Act: “Public schools have a duty to protect the privacy, comfort, and safety of their students. I bring this forward because I am the father of seven children and grandfather of three. This amendment is for all children.”

Predictably, this bill failed [40-25] in the DFL controlled Senate and will now go to committee, however, Republican Senator Julianne Ortman voted ‘no’ on the amendment stating, “This amendment makes me incredibly sad…I encourage members to be brave and vote ‘no’.” Ortman was immediately called out by the Minnesota Hate group Child Protection League PAC in an email that said, “Senator Ortman is willing to leave every one of our children openly exposed by taking a vote that requires no bravery whatsoever.”

At Lobby Day, Senator Scott Dibble commented, “This movement rolls forward because we leave no one behind, unless you have any doubts, we need to keep the pressure on and stay engaged at the capitol.”

“Last week the house voted on a bill that would bring unconscionable indignity on our own MN transgender children in our schools forcing them to use facilities contrary to their actual gender identity. Well I’m happy to report that yesterday the Senate voted down the same provision.” Dibble continued, ” But that vote yesterday did not come until after we had a very troubling and disturbing debate in which lawmakers showed a willingness to close their eyes to all medical and scientific evidence, the bill even contained out right falsehood in its own text, not to mention a total disregard of the real and lived experiences of children in our own MN schools. A denial of their essential humanity.”

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Protests were held at the State Building outside of a Republican committee meeting forcing them to lock down the meeting doors and slip out the back while both #translivesmatter and #blacklivesmatter loudly chanted that our rights mattered and our concerns should be heard. Another protest was held outside Senator Kurt Daudt’s office. Daudt, one of the key bill authors would not come out to address the protester’s questions and Capitol police and security were called making for a few tense moments.

bathroom01Unfortunately, the day was also marred by isolated incidences of transphobia and hate. The portable bathroom stalls at the event were gender specific, marked with ‘women’ and ‘men’ symbols. The women’s stall was hand written marked with the word “only” so the sign read “Only Women” giving participants the feeling that trans women are not women.

According to Lucrecia Belmont, a trans woman that notified me of the bathroom signs stated, “I don’t think that[the word ‘only’] was on there when I first saw it. I think it was added when one of us used it.”

Cisism was also alive and well at the #translivesmatter/#blacklivesmatter rally. This seems to be a running problem with “allies” in that they want to dictate the agenda of an oppressed class of people while hiding behind their cis-gender privilege by constantly trying to align themselves with a community they have no identification with and no ability to even assimilate to. You are not an “ally” when you dictate our agenda and systematically silence our voices for the sake of you feeling better about yourself, especially after you have just chanted, “Trans Lives Matter!”

Despite these few issues, MN Lobby Day was a successful event that reached across our collective intersectionality to bridge a gap and to form an alliance of both friendship and power to achieve our common goals of social and economic justice.  Both trans lives and black lives matter, and with the overwhelming amount of violence directed specifically at P.O.C. trans women, it’s imperative that we work together as communities to better our lives and create positive change for the next generation of people who are transgender.

My name is Claire-Renee Kohner and in January of 2014, I came out as transgender. My family fully supports my transition and, along with the Minneapolis trans community, my transition has been extremely positive. My journey should be fun, so keep your arms and legs inside the cart, it's going to be a wild ride.

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