Photos: 100s rally in Downtown Tucson for Transgender Day of Visibility
Annual demonstration comes as GOP targets transgender residents with political attacks
Hundreds of Tucsonans gathered at El Presidio Plaza in front of City Hall and marched through Downtown Tucson on Friday as part of this year's nationwide Transgender Day of Visibility.
Carrying signs and waving flags, many blocked traffic on West Congress Street as part of a demonstration against a wave of legislation targeting transgender people, including limiting gender-affirming medical care, restricting their participation in sports, and requiring teachers to inform parents if their child asks to change their pronouns or wants information about gender identities.
"There has been a nationally coordinated attack against transgender and gender non-conforming people, led by conservative politicians, pundits and interest groups," wrote organizers. Among their demands was a push to make Tucson a "sanctuary city" for trans and gender non-conforming people as "cities and states around us push to eliminate our legal protections and legislate away our rights."
"We cannot be legislated out of existence," they wrote.
Tucson has a city ordinance barring discrimination against LGBT residents, and was one of the first cities in the nation to institute such a law.
Organizers at the rally handed out signs, including some calling for the recall of Sen. Justine Wadsack, an Arizona Republican state lawmaker who become infamous for her dead-on-arrival bills, including one that targeted drag queens and another seeking to ban books that "promote" gender fluidity or alternative pronouns.
After several speeches decrying state bills that attempt to block health care and access to services or schools, the group marched from El Presidio Plaza to the Evo A. DeConcini Courthouse on West Congress Street and South Granada Avenue, blocking traffic and halting the street car. Then, they marched east along West Broadway before swinging back to Congress and marching back to City Hall.
Along the way, diners at Downtown restaurants cheered and waved as the crowd pushed through the concrete canyons waving pink and blue flags.
The Human Rights Campaign estimates there are over 1.6 million trans youth and adults in the U.S. and said while there has been "significant progress in recent years" people who are transgender or non-binary "are still fighting for basic human rights for the community"
"Today we are experiencing significant political attacks by extremists legislating hate in the states and in Congress," HRC wrote. "We also face an ongoing epidemic of fatal violence, especially against Black and Brown trans women. Today and every day, we must celebrate all trans and non-binary people everywhere and combat disinformation, discrimination and hate impacting our community."
In 2021, Tucson earned a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. Tucson's non-discrimination ordinance, City Code Chapter 17, was first passed in 1977 and makes it unlawful to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity along with race, color, religion, sex and other backgrounds.
Currently, there are 435 bills targeting LGBTQ rights in state legislatures, including 11 in Arizona, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers moved Senate Bill 1040, which requires schools to provide separate bathroom, shower, and locker rooms accommodations for trans students or risk lawsuits from uncomfortable classmates. The bill's author, Sen. John Kavanaugh argued his legislation is about modesty, however, opponents argued the bill attempts to solve a nonexistent problem and will foist an impossible requirement on teachers.
The House Education Committee voted 6-4 to move the bill forward on a party-line vote. However, the bill faces a veto by Ariz. Gov. Katie Hobbs, who has slapped down more than a dozen Republican bills in her first few months in office.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that 144,500 transgender adults and youth could lose access to gender-affirming care because of state-level restrictions, including people in Arizona.
On Friday, the White House announced a proclamation by President Joe Biden marking March 31 as Transgender Day of Visibility.
"Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the joy, strength, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I know — people who have too often had to put their jobs, relationships, and lives on the line just to be their true selves," wrote Biden. "Today, we show millions of transgender and nonbinary Americans that we see them, they belong, and they should be treated with dignity and respect. Their courage has given countless others strength, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves. Every American deserves that freedom."
During his first days in the White House, Biden signed an executive order directing federal officials to "root out" discrimination against LGBTQI+ people and last June he sought to blunt "discriminatory legislative attacks against LGBTQI+ children and families."
This includes a requirement for Health and Human Services to protect federal health care access to transgender people, as well as moving to limit or block so-called "conversion therapies," and moving to expand access to gender-affirming care.
Tucson was among the first cities in the nation to pass a law barring discrimination — including in employment — against gays and lesbians. That ordinance was passed unanimously by the City Council in the wake of the beating death of Richard Heakin, who was murdered leaving the Stonewall Tavern just north of Downtown in 1976. When his attackers were given a slap on the wrist in court, the local Tucson Pride chapter was formed, leading to the city ordinance.
Tucson was also one of the first cities to make it illegal to discriminate against transgender people, adding a provision about gender identity to the ordinance in 1999. The law covers discrimination in employment, housing and accommodation by businesses within the city.
An 11-member appointed Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues advises the mayor and members of the Council.