Over the past month, President Donald Trump’s slew of controversial executive orders have emboldened thousands across the country to take to the streets in protest.
His administration’s latest actions on Wednesday – removing federal protections for transgender students – inspired more than 50 community members to gather at Main Plaza Thursday evening and rally against the effort that they said targets transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
The rally was organized by Pride Center San Antonio, which connects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV communities and their families to local resources and organizations related to health, support, education, and advocacy, among other things.
“After claiming he would be our friend, a friend to the LGBT community, it only took [Trump] 34 days to go back on his word,” said Robert Salcido, Pride Center San Antonio executive director/board chair. “All students, including transgender students, should have a fair opportunity to participate fully and succeed in school.”
A number of those standing in front of San Fernando Cathedral in solidarity with the entire LGBTQIA community Thursday night said that Trump’s recent action was concerning and angering. Despite how uncertain the future is for the LGBTQIA community, they will continue to fight to preserve the rights of all LGBTQIA people.
“We must resist and oppose any attempts to bully or single out transgender youth and their families,” Salcido said.
The federal protections, or guidelines, that the Trump administration rescinded were issued by former President Obama in 2016 and refer to Title IX, a statute that prohibits sex-based discrimination at federally-funded institutions. Obama said those guidelines extended to transgender individuals, thus giving them the right to use the bathrooms that match their gender identities.
The protections were removed because of the Trump administration’s “legal and procedural” concerns about how they were implemented, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX,” Sessions stated. “Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue. The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
The removal of the guidelines concerns local LGBTQIA advocates and allies since it opens the door for local and state officials to place policies related to the topic in place. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Senate Bill 6, the so-called “bathroom bill,” is one such policy that is going through the legislature and would restrict transgender individuals from using the restroom of their choice.
Those in attendance Thursday night said that such legislation threatens the wellbeing of all transgender individuals, especially children in school who are already vulnerable to ridicule.
Proponents of SB6, such as Texas Values, a Judeo-Christian organization that works to “preserve and advance a culture of family values in the state of Texas,” say the bill “protects the privacy and safety of our schoolchildren,” among other things.
Other have said it also can help ward off male, sexual predators from entering women’s bathrooms. Police Chief William McManus has said that the San Antonio Police Department has not received any complaints of sexual assaults in public restrooms.
Ashley Smith, an architect, parent, and transgender woman, called on school leaders – “the people standing in between us and violent bullies”– to be tireless in their efforts opposing any legislation that threatens the freedoms of trans youth.
“Many of you are our protectors, but if you cannot protect trans kids from harm, we will hold you responsible,” she said.
Local comedian and transgender woman Joan Riviera emphatically spoke out against Trump’s actions and against all those who discriminate against the LGBTQIA community. She shared her experience growing up in Del Rio where she was verbally and physically abused by her family, and later by local law enforcement officers, based on her gender identity.
Riviera encouraged all transgender children to not be afraid and to remember they have a strong community supporting them.
“I beg you do not be afraid and if your mom and your dad don’t accept you, look me up,” she said, to applause from the audience. “… Be proud, because I was once homeless and I was once hungry, and I am hungry and homeless no more.”
Jazz, an 8-year-old transgender girl at the rally, put a face to the issue that so many across the nation are discussing. She is on the road to living a life supported by her loving family, which is made up of members of the LGBTQIA community.
“The road will be longer and rougher but know that we will win,” Salcido said. “The best way to fight back is to share our stories as transgender Americans and of the people who love them.”