BOISE, Idaho —
Idaho LGBTQ advocates were standing out and proud at the state Capitol steps for International Transgender Visibility Day. People around the Treasure Valley came with flags, signs and gave speeches about the importance of transgender representation in the community.
"People go, 'Why do we have to do this?' Well, we have to until this isn't an issue anymore," said Luke Anorak-Neill, a co-organizer of Thursday's rally.
Anorak-Neill, who identifies as a transgender man, said he and others have tried for a few years to make a Transgender Visibility Day rally. He said the importance of the event is to show others in the state the resources and community transgender people have.He noted there has been progress made around Idaho thanks to education, but said there is still more work to be done.
"In the last couple of legislative sessions, we've seen some really awful, what we would call transphobic, bills," Anorak-Neill said. He added that lawmakers got involved with issues that did not concern them.
In the 2022 legislative session, House Bill 675 was introduced. It would have prohibited gender confirmation medical treatment for anyone under the age of 18. The bill would place a ban on surgery, puberty blockers and hormone treatments that are used to assist in gender transition. It passed through the House by a vote of 55-13, but died in the Idaho Senate.
The Republican Senate Majority Caucus said it strongly opposes gender reassignment for minors, but the legislation undermines parental rights and allows the government to interfere.
Even though the bill did not pass, Anorak-Neill said it was still a harmful discussion.
"It's exhausting to have to keep going through this," Anorak-Neill said.
However, he said he's inspired by the other transgender people and allies that came out to the statehouse. Groups like Interfaith Equality Coalition believe it is important to show love and support for all, especially people who identify as LGBTQ.
"I think a lot of people don't realize how many transgender people there are in our community, it's much higher than you think," said Debbie Mallis, the coordinator for Interfaith Equality Coalition. "They shouldn't be hiding, they need to be proud of who they are and accepted for who they are."
With that support, Anorak-Neill said he and others alongside will continue to live out loud.
"We want to be visible and show people that we're not just five people in the blue Ada County. We are a lot of people."
Transgender Visibility Day has been internationally recognized for 13 years and is honored each March 31st.
The City of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean also showed support for the day by writing online, "Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness for transgender people in our community. On this day, and every day, we see you, we value you, and you are welcome in Boise."
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