Trans community rallies at Michigan Capitol

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:31 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - On this year’s Trans Day of Visibility, dozens of trans community members and LGBTQ+ allies gathered to rally on the state Capitol steps.

Though Trans Day of Visibility is about the celebration of the trans community, it was also an opportunity for organizers to raise awareness of the discrimination trans people say they continue to face.

Lead organizer Cameron Carmichael said Michigan is considered to be a privileged state when it comes to the treatment of its trans residents. He said Michigan lawmakers have yet to pass legislation that could potentially be of harm to trans youth, but that anti-trans legislation is actively being passed in other states still has an effect.

“This legislation is affecting us, even if we’re not seeing it in our state,” he said. “It hits somewhere towards any single sibling who is transgender.”

Each person at the Capitol had their own unique story to tell. When Carmichael opened up the floor for people to share, several came forward to tell the crowd what they went through to become the people they are today, including Juliette Cayao.

“My livelihood, and the pain that I’ve felt through the years of being in the closet, it’s something that was meant to be shown,” she said. “But shown in a way where pain was then turned into relief.”

Cayao said she re-wrote her speech several times before coming to the rally. She was finally given the chance to speak her truth and said it had to be done her way.

For Essex Brooks, Friday’s rally was about more than just trans rights; it was about raising awareness of the rights of trans people of color, a group Brooks said often goes unheard, because it’s so small. Brooks is also a drag performer who leads a drag culture group on Michigan State University’s campus.

While being trans and doing drag are not the same thing, Brooks said it’s an art form that’s helped them discover who they truly are.

“My drag is what I do. It’s just a bigger expression of myself, but my transness is who I am, and I think those two things have always gone so hand-in-hand for me, because it just gives me so much more space to be like, you can be and look like anything as a trans person.”

Lily Kessen said some people realize they’re trans in their teens, but she didn’t know she was trans until the pandemic. During the lockdown, she had the time and the space to start exploring more feminine fashion and connect with other trans women in her community.

Now having taken steps to transition, Kessen said it feels like she’s finally alive. She came to the Capitol to send a message that all trans people deserve to be themselves without judgment.

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