Last week I attended an educational and informative lecture by transgender panelists in Bozeman, Montana. A group of organizations working on the local non-discrimination ordinance campaign, including the Montana Human Rights Network, Forward Montana, the ACLU of Montana, and local Montana State University student groups, worked together to bring Kelley Winters to MSU. The event was organized to provide an opportunity for Bozeman area community members, students, and City Commission members to hear the challenges and hardships that members of the transgender community face on a daily basis.
Kelley Winters is a Ph.D. and the author of Gender Madness in American Psychiatry: Essays from the Struggle for Dignity. She was joined by a panel of Montana transgender activists and leaders, including Bree Sutherland, Cassidy Medicine Horse, and Bobbie Zenker.
As efforts to pass a non-discrimination ordinance heat up in Bozeman, the opposition has come out in full swing. Using public comment at City Commission hearings as an opportunity to spread their discriminatory and biased views, many of their statements have focused on inciting bathroom phobia and locker room hysteria targeted at transgender and gender non-conforming communities. Click here for a great resource that debunks the transgender bathroom myth.
Due to these baseless fear tactics, Bozeman groups wanted to hold a public forum to educate the Bozeman community and share the facts. With the non-discrimination ordinance being introduced to Bozeman City Commission on April 28th, and a hearing on the ordinance on May 12th, it felt like a critical time to talk about the issues facing the transgender community, and directly address the harmful and hateful stereotypes that opponents are propagating.
The key takeaway from the event was that transgender individuals are no different than anyone else in the Gallatin Valley. They wish to live their lives genuinely and authentically, while receiving equal and fair treatment under the law. If anything, it is even more important that they are protected under the law, as they are highly vulnerable to discrimination, physical attacks, and prejudice.
We hope this event helps dispel myths and fears about the transgender community, and leads to the successful passage of a Bozeman non-discrimination ordinance. If you are interested in helping engage in the Bozeman non-discrimination ordinance campaign, please email Kim. The policy will be introduced on Monday, April 28th at 6PM.
Kim Leighton is Pride Foundation’s regional development organizer in Montana. Email Kim.