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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Teens protest culture war bills by Elaine Morgan and far-right legislators

LGBTQ students decry anti-trans legislation at State House protest

By Steve Ahlquist in UpRiseRI

Nearly three dozen high school students from across Rhode Island left their schools and gathered in  in downtown Providence on March 25 to march on the Rhode Island State House in protest of anti-trans youth legislation introduced by conservative legislators.

The protest was organized by Sabrina, an 18-year old senior at Bayview Academy. Sabrina is a member of the LGBTQ community, and came out to her family in 7th grade. Sabrina’s motivation for the rally flows from her connection to her community and her first hand experience of seeing a trans friend kicked out of his home when he came out.

“He lived with us for a couple day… until he got himself sorted out,” said Sabrina. “Watching what he had to go through, and watching [his family] be so heartless as to kick out their own flesh and blood out just because of their gender identity broke my heart into a million little pieces.

“And when I saw what happened in Florida with the Don’t Say Gay bill, obviously I was really upset, but then I saw it come to my state, which I never, ever thought was even possible…”

What Sabrina is talking about are two bills, S2501 from Senators Elaine Morgan (Republican, District 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) and Senator Frank Lombardo (Democrat, District 25, Johnston), and H7539 from Representative Patricia Morgan (Republican, District 26, West Warwick).

In the House bill, (which is mostly about outlawing critical race theory that Representative Morgan falsely claims is being taught in public schools), there is a clause that reads, “Children shall be addressed using their common names and the pronouns associated with their biological gender unless parental or guardian permission to do otherwise is obtained.” 

This is a direct attack on the gender identity of children who might not have their parent’s support when coming out, like the friend Sabrina talks about above.

The Senate bill bars trans youth from participating in sports that don’t match their assigned gender at birth. Under this bill trans and non-binary youth would have to play on teams that match the gender they were assigned at birth, or not play at all.

“Nobody thinks that a ‘blue’ state would even consider a bill like this,” said Sabrina. “It broke my heart. That’s the only way I can describe it. It broke my heart.

“I know that if we allow curriculum that is inclusive and teaches people, the next generation of parents won’t kick their kids out for coming out. The next generation of parents will understand when their kids come out of the closet, will understand when their kids are trans, will understand when their kids are gay.

“I’m hoping to let some people that work in our State house know that this is not okay. I want them to be able to see the faces of the people they’re going to be affecting,” said Sabrina. “I want them to see us standing out here and realize that these are the faces of the people standing behind the papers that they’re signing and that these are the people who are going to be directly affected.”

“This is insanely horrific, what Rhode Island is trying to pass right now,” said Reilly, who feels fortunate that the sport they participate is non-gendered. That made their participation feel like a safe space as a non-binary individual.

“But now with this new bill, that’s going to take this right away from other kids.”

“Today I read through H5739, one of the bills we’re fighting against today,” said David. “And I am distraught. I am afraid. But boiling on top of all of that, more than anything else, I am angry…”

There are lots of videos in Steve's original article on UpRiseRI.