Following the recent passing of anti-transgender legislation in several states, LGBTQ people have expressed their fears of losing access to gender-affirming healthcare. On Transgender Day of Visibility, people showed up nationwide to demand the protection of queer youth. 

In Arizona, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1040, which would allow students to take action against transgender people using a bathroom other than the one for their assigned gender. If passed in the Arizona House, the state would become one of four to ban transgender students from using the bathroom of their preferred gender. 

Sen. John Kavanagh, the sponsor of SB 1040, also attempted and failed to pass legislation in January that would require educators to receive parental consent before using a transgender student’s preferred pronouns. 

On Saturday, the day after Transgender Day of Visibility, the “We’re Still Here” protest was organized on the Flagstaff City Hall lawn to show support for transgender visibility. NAU Senior Alison Crane said she organized the protest after being disappointed when she saw people planning to organize in Phoenix and Tucson, but not in Flagstaff. 

During her experience at NAU, Crane said she has noticed a consistent lack of LGBTQ organizing. In November 2022, Crane planned a candlelight vigil for victims of the Colorado Springs Club Q shooting also after not hearing of any other events being hosted. 

“We’ve missed a huge number of high-profile attacks on the queer community, especially on the queer community over these past few years,” Crane said. “So we missed the opportunity to oppose those just because it would have to be entirely spontaneous.”

While Crane said she appreciates spontaneous action, she would like to work further on building a community of queer organizers in Flagstaff. Without a group of people to help organize events, Crane said it often becomes difficult for people to translate their desire into action. When steps are made to push plans along, Crane added, she rarely struggles with attendance.

“Something I’ve noticed, both this time and last time, is the sheer amount of energy behind queer events once they are put forward,” Crane said. “It’s just really impressive.”

Crane said if only 10 protestors showed up she would be happy, so long as at least a few of them were able to make a friend. On Saturday, around 100 people attended the protest in support of transgender rights. 

Facing West Route 66, protestors held signs with slogans that read “Trans rights are human rights” and “Protect trans youth.” Additionally, the crowd gathered to hear from queer speakers about the importance of community. 

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation on March 22 to restrict children from accessing gender-affirming healthcare. Consequentially, transgender youths currently undergoing treatment would have to stop. With the recent wave of anti-transgender legislation, some of the protestors expressed concern about a bill like this coming to Arizona. 

Kas Escobar is a Flagstaff resident who recently reached his two-month anniversary of taking testosterone. Escobar said receiving gender-affirming healthcare makes him feel euphoric.

“I had to struggle for the better part of my life, wondering and fighting myself as to why I felt the way I felt and then I found the answer,” Escobar said. “I’m getting all the resources I need in order to feel better.”

Taking away access to gender-affirming treatments and medications, Escobar said, would threaten the lives of many because of how intense the depression caused by gender dysphoria can be. 

Escobar said he still gets excited thinking about a customer he had recently who correctly gendered him when asking a question. After the interaction, Escobar went to the break room and celebrated with his coworker. If he lost access to testosterone, Escobar said he worries how much of his identity would be taken away from him. 

“I feel like the goal for everyone is to be happy, and no matter how you end up getting there, someone should be there to support it not to take it away from you,” Escobar said.

Although Escobar said he often finds it intimidating to stand against the discrimination of queer people on his own, being a part of a group makes it easier. Outside Flagstaff City Hall, Escobar said he just wanted to be heard. 

Former Indigenous Student Ambassador Kaly Arvizu also attended the protest Saturday and helped run a station for people to make their own signs. Arvizu was one of the people who signed up to speak and talked about the intersectionality between being an Indigenous and a nonbinary person. In Diné culture, Arvizu said transgender people are thought of as holy, divine and sacred. 

“In my culture, we had more than two genders, that was very well known,” Arvizu said. “Each gender had its own role. They were very inclusive and trans people were the pillars of our communities.”

In the movement for transgender rights in the United States, the argument has been raised that we should be looking for solutions in how gender was treated during pre-colonial times. Arvizu has organized several protests for Indigenous rights in Flagstaff and said they were happy to be there supporting Crane. 

“Oppression against Indigenous people is the same oppression that LGBTQ people face, it’s all intersectional,” Arvizu said. “So their fight is our fight, and our fight is their fight.”

While the protest was originally set to end around 4 p.m., Crane said she shortened it to 2:30 because of safety concerns. When queer people are out in the open unapologetically being themselves, Crane said there will always be people upset by that. 

During April, The Office of Inclusion: Multicultural and LGBTQIA Student Services (IMQ) will be celebrating Pride Month because many students will be gone in June when it is recognized in the U.S. People looking to celebrate can check IMQ’s Instagram for information on events throughout the month. 

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