A crowd gathered in Declaration Park at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls Saturday morning. It was a rally in support of transgender civil rights organized by the We Exist Coalition of the Finger Lakes.
New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson led the crowd in a chant at the conclusion of over an hour of speakers sharing their own stories. They included transgender individuals of a variety of backgrounds and ages as well as the parent of a transgender child.
The We Exist Coalition of the Finger Lakes is a new organization. Its executive director Shauna Marie O’Toole noted that there are no federal protections for the transgender and gender-expansive.
“Here in New York State, we’re protected by regulations. Regulations that have been written in by executive order, but what can be written in, can be struck out just as quickly. And, we’re seeing this happen in Washington now, where the EEOC regulations that protected us, a few protections, have now been struck down.”
The New York State Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) was once again defeated in Senate committee this session after being passed by the Assembly. Assemblyman Bronson is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
“Last year, I had a number of my colleagues who opposed the measure say, ‘You know what? I’m not going to be debating today. I’m just going to cast my vote. Because the debates have been very difficult in the past. So, that debate last year, there were only a handful of people who stood up and asked questions and a few that explained their vote, but it was very civil, it was very respectful. This year when we passed it yet again in the assembly, we reverted back to the hysteria, the fear-mongering, and those approaches. So, indeed I do believe that folks have been emboldened by the federal election.”
The We Exist Coalition of the Finger Lakes is working to make Seneca Falls its permanent headquarters. The organization has additional events planned through the rest of 2017.
This story was edited to reflect current preferred terminology for transgender people.