The Vermillion Protect Trans Kids Rally was held on Jan. 16 at the Platz. The event was hosted by the South Dakota Transformation Project Trans Advocacy Program calling to protect trans people amidst new South Dakota legislation of HB 1005, HB 1006 and SB 46.
The event was a collaborative statewide effort by the ACLU of South Dakota, Transformation Project Advocacy Network, Human Rights Campaign and a few other organizations. They hosted multiple rallies across the state including ones in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen.
Mike Phelan, owner and manager of Outside of a Dog Books & Games, helped host the Vermillion event and was one of six speakers. These speakers shared personal stories and prepared speeches in opposition to the bills.
“This is about letting trans people know that they have the support of their community here in Vermillion and letting our legislators know that we want them to oppose anti-trans legislation,” Phelan said.
Members of USD’s Spectrum also attended the event to show their support for trans people and opposition to the bills. Phelan said there are lots of trans people across South Dakota and in Vermillion. He said there are also lots of people who love trans people.
“We want all of these people to know that they’re not alone, that there are resources available to help with figuring out what it means to be trans, what it means to be questioning their identity,” Phelan said.
Graduate student Mason “Beanie” Luttig also spoke at the rally to share his story as a trans athlete. Luttig said he has been checked physically at softball tournaments and even been asked to show his birth certificate.
“It’s really frustrating as an athlete and I know growing up, we just want to play sports because there’s no escape and it’s a good way for us to burn off energy and be able to be successful because we get taught how to be good teammates, we get taught to be good leaders and how to guide other people in the community,” Luttig said.
Phelan said that trans people often just want to be left alone to live their lives, but are instead misunderstood or mistreated by those who don’t support them.
“A couple of our speakers today mentioned that there are bad mental health outcomes associated with discrimination towards trans and LGBTQ+ people and we want those individuals to know that there are resources available, that your community supports you and that there is a lot of love here in Vermillion,” Phelan said.
For people who are looking for someone to talk to, Luttig said there are different resources out there with people who are fighting a similar situation. Luttig said students can be whoever they are without anybody else validating their situation.
“If you aren’t able to come here and show your voice, to be able to speak out, that you’re not alone…and that at the end of the day, if you’re yourself or you aren’t out to people and stuff like that, that doesn’t take away your identity, that doesn’t take away from who you are,” Luttig said.