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San Antonio celebrates trans rights with downtown rally and march

Residents and activists will celebrate the transgender community in Texas and rally for their rights at the Bexar County Courthouse on Friday evening. A march will follow.

March 31 is Trans Day of Visibility.

In a statement, planners explained that "the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming Texans are under attack.The Texas legislature is attempting to eradicate transgender people from the state and force them to go back in the closet. Enough is Enough. This Trans Visibility Day, we are taking to the streets and celebrating our trans joy for all to see. We will not live in fear. We will be visible!"

The San Antonio Police Department and first aid certified activists will be present along the march. Water and snacks will be available.

The route for the march will extend from the courthouse at 100 Dolorosa to the Rainbow Crosswalk on North Main and Evergreen.

There will also be a resource fair from 8 to 10 p.m.

The event will include several speakers, including Rain Garcia with Unfiltered Wings, J Pan with The J Pan Project, Sofia Sepulveda with Equality Texas, Leo Anguiano with Trans Masc Folks Y Mas, Robert Salcido with Pride Center San Antonio, and Kimiya Factory with Black Freedom Factory.

Texas lawmakers have filed more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills, according to the statewide group Equality Texas. One of the measures, House Bill 1507, drew pushback from Democrats, students and educators Tuesday.

It is held in partnership with Equality Texas, Pride Center San Antonio, Planned Parenthood South Texas, Human Rights Campaign and Act 4 SA.

Similar events took place throughout the day across the state and the nation.

On Friday, President Joe Biden issued a statement of support. "On Transgender Day of Visibility, we celebrate the strength, joy, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I know," he wrote. "Transgender Americans deserve to be safe and supported in every community — but today, across our country, MAGA extremists are advancing hundreds of hateful and extreme state laws that target transgender kids and their families. No one should have to be brave just to be themselves."

The event comes during a state legislative session that saw the emergence of new bills from both the Texas House and Senate that threaten LGBTQ+ rights on all fronts.

KUT reported that Equality Texas, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, counted 140 bills targeting LGBTQ+ people. Texas is not unique. Many other states are seeing similar bills.

Some bills ban medical transition care for minors and changes to gender markers on their birth certificates. At least two bills would prohibit transgender athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identity.

Similar debates on hot-button social issues — from gender-affirming care to drag performances to DEI programs — are playing out in statehouses nationwide.

The Texas Newsroom (TTN) and KUT explained that other proposals outlaw drag performances or classify venues that host drag performances as sexually oriented businesses. The reclassification would require the payment of additional taxes.

Some legislation seeks to end pride events in charter and public schools. Schools could be fined and teachers could lose their permits. One Senate bill bans schools from providing instruction or guidance on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But activists and community leaders are fighting back.

A rally at the Texas Capitol on March 20 condemned the legislation targeting transgender youth and drag performers.

Ana Andrea Molina, the director of Organización Latina de Trans en Texas, spoke to TTN. She set a determined tone and vowed to fight. “They have brutalized us,” Molina said in Spanish. “But they have forgotten that we are seeds, and we will grow.”

Paige Hendrick, a software engineer from Austin and a transgender woman, was also determined. “We have a right to exist," she said, "and we aren’t going anywhere.”

The crowd gathered in Austin on Monday, waving pride flags and signs of support. The rally served as a platform to protest a slew of bills under consideration in the Texas Legislature affecting transgender youth and drag performers.

In San Antonio, officials criticized two bills focused on drag performances, including the one that categorizes them as sexually oriented performances.

Sally Basurto, the city’s government affairs director, said that bill is a slippery slope. “There is a possibility that this would impact events in San Antonio that we have during Fiesta. The examples I gave were Cornyation, and then during the pride parade events.”

Fiesta, the citywide 10-day party, begins on April 20.

The city also opposes a Senate bill that would stop state funding to libraries that have events like drag queen story time.

March also saw San Antonio officials consider amending a 2013 non-discrimination ordinance to include new definitions of protected status like sexual orientation and gender identity.

San Antonio’s civil rights manager Samantha Smith said some of the changes proposed would alter language and definitions — like "gender expression" instead of "identity."

“We’ve proposed reflecting that as an internal deeply held sense of gender, and then added a definition for 'gender expression,' " she explained, "and that’s going to be those outward characteristics, mannerisms.”

Other proposals included protecting cultural hairstyles from discrimination and the appointment of a human rights commission that could review city policies.

Camille Phillips, Joey Palacios, the Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martínez-Beltrán and Aurora Berry, and KUT's Becky Fogel contributed to this report.

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