“I’m afraid to send my child to school everyday,” says an anonymous parent of a trans teen, “because they are more likely to die from gun violence than from their parents loving and supporting them.”

On Sunday, May 20, local faith leaders, churchgoers, families and friends of transgender teenagers gathered outside Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was a sunny day in which all the workings of a joyous church picnic were provided. There were sing-alongs. There was storytelling. New friends were made.

This event, however, served the purpose of discussing a serious issue that has increased in intensity in the last few years: discriminatory bills being pushed against trans, nonbinary and intersex youth in schools.

“We had folks, who were raising concerns about family and friends who were trans or nonbinary, who were scared about the potential legislation coming forward,” says Susan Parker, a church member and organizer of the event. “So we put our heads together and said, ‘Well, we can’t find any organization that’s organizing anything now, so let’s host an event and show our support.’”

Families of trans youth in attendance were given the opportunity to share their stories. They lined up and, one by one, spoke over the loudspeaker. They expressed immense worry for their childrens’ future and talked through tears about how demoralizing it has been for their children to deal with the increasing climate of hatred. The crowd showed their support with applause, and chants of “Preach!” during particularly fiery moments.

“We Shall Overcome” rang out far and wide and an audience member sang a rendition of the song “Lead with Love.”

Speakers from various organizations were in attendance including activists from Human Rights Campaign, Hate out of Winston, Winston Pride and Red, Wine and Blue, along with local legislators, teachers and clergy.

An emphasis has been put on calling out the plethora of recent proposed laws in the NC State Legislature that could affect lives of trans kids in schools from healthcare to sports. One such bill, SB 579, would increase penalties on “disseminating obscenity,” stating a violation “committed knowingly in the presence of an individual under 18 years of age as a Class H felony.” The event attendees claimed it is an underhanded attempt to limit visibility of queer and trans youth by censoring representation of people the government deems as “obscene.” They fear it could open the door to such things as LGBTQ+ book bans.

SB 49 is a bill that would require school employees to “out” students to their parents as being queer or trans or questioning. HB 808 bans the use of gender affirming care to minors. Two bills, SB 631 and HB 574, would ban trans girls from playing with cisgender girls in sports.

Parker wants to reaffirm the support her church has for transgender youth along with local faith leaders from the community.

“Our congregation has long been open to LGBTQ+ people,” she says. “But right now, it’s just so obvious to us that trans people are being harmed, if not physically than mentally by all the talk that’s going on about how awful they are and that we need to somehow make them go away. We just can’t do that. Not as people of faith.”

Attendees were understandably hesitant at giving their names due to the current climate of hatred surrounding these issues. Triad City Beat takes precautions in protecting the identities of the families and others if they don’t want to be named or shown in pictures.

“As a member of Trinity Presbyterian, it is really important for us to be vocal about supporting trans and nonbinary people,” said an anonymous churchgoer. “So we knew that there were a lot of people in the community who also wanted to share support and be visible. We wanted to make an event where people could show up and be safe and to see one another and to see that we are a big group of people, who feel passionately about them. We want to continue to move forward together to love and protect trans and nonbinary people as Christians.”

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