by Belle Townsend
On March 17th, McKenzie Roller posted a Facebook status. In the post, they tagged a page they made called “Teen Frankfort Rally”, with the announcement that, “We will be protesting at the Frankfort Capitol March 29th on the final days of the legislative sessions.”
On Wednesday, March 29, teens rallied by the hundreds to protest the anti-LGBTQ+ attacks on their community. McKenzie and other student organizers had hoped for the government officials to “see our pleas and get rid of the bills.”
The legislators overturned Governor Beshear’s veto, despite the hundreds of people there who were screaming and pleading with them not to. McKenzie wants legislators to know that “the blood is on their hands if anything happens to the trans youth in our community.”
McKenzie Roller is a senior at a high school in Louisville, Kentucky, and they are a queer individual who has been out for about 5-6 years now. They use they/them pronouns, and they spoke with me about what having queer community in Kentucky has meant to them.
“Having a community has done so much for me as I struggle with mental health help and gender dysphoria, and for my community that I have gathered to suddenly be at stake… is a problem. If I hadn’t gained the support I have now, then I most likely wouldn’t be living today.”
As someone who uses gender non-conforming pronouns, McKenzie is affected by SB 150 because the bill regulates teachers using pronouns that do not match students’ birth certificates. This targets gender non-conforming, trans, and other queer students. Furthermore, McKenzie’s community will be affected by the newly inserted bathroom bill language, anti-trans healthcare language, and “don’t say gay/trans” language in SB 150. The bill is one of the many bills being tracked by the ACLU as an attack on LGBTQ+ communities.
Another student organizer, a trans male student who wishes to remain anonymous for his safety, said that, “sometimes, school is the only place students can be themselves.”
He shared with me about how he doesn’t know a lot about government or how it works, but that he hopes that “let us use our bathrooms unbothered and go to school and be who we want. I am hoping they recognize us as people, like them.”
On why he opposes these bills, he said, “I don’t want my life to have to be a debate topic. We are real humans with real emotions and we should not have to have our rights taken because of hate. Nobody should have their right to a bathroom stripped away. Schools say they care about children’s safety, but when it comes to LGBTQ+ students, they ignore us.”
On why he wants to stay in Kentucky and fight these bills, he said, “I want my home state to be better to represent, and I want it to be a safe place for other trans youth like me.” Both him and McKenzie shared with me about how they cannot leave for their safety even if they wanted to, given that both of them are high school students without the resources to do so.
This is the reality for many young queer Kentuckians. So, I also asked him whether or not he thinks queerness has a place in Kentucky, given the culture created by all of these bills. He responded, “That’s a stupid question.”
He continued, “Queerness is everywhere. We have been around since the beginning of mankind and we still stay here. Queerness is love and queerness is everywhere.”
With the sea of passionate, queer, and young people at the Kentucky Capitol today, one thing was for sure: it was a stupid question.
Teens and supporters from across Kentucky today came together to show that, despite the legislators overturning Governor Beshear’s veto of SB 150, queerness has a place here in Kentucky.
Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign, gave his statement in response to the veto of SB 150 being overturned.
“Attributed to Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman:
While we lost the battle in the legislature, our defeat is temporary. We will not lose in court. And we are winning in so many other ways. Thousands of Kentucky kids came to the Capitol today to make their voices heard against the worst anti-trans bill in the nation. They are our hope for a Kentucky future that is more fair, more just, and more beautifully diverse and accepting than ever before.
I applaud the brave protesters who stood their ground in the Kentucky House gallery today before being removed by Kentucky State Troopers. Their chants and pain were heard by all in the chamber and were a necessary show of the grief and harm Senate Bill 150 will cause. Transgender children and their families in Kentucky are scared, rightfully so. We will do all we can to ensure they can continue to access the life-saving medical care they deserve.”