On Thursday, April 14, a group of Southern Utah University students gathered in solidarity on the Gerald R. Sherratt Library plaza to protest the passage of HB0011, a bill that bans transgender students from participating in their gender-preferred sport that will take effect July 1.
The demonstrators marched throughout campus and held signs that called for others to protect the rights of trans youth and the LGBTQIA+ community. Once the students circled back to the plaza, the group held a moment of silence to pay homage to those who are affected by this bill.
The event created a safe space for students to voice their opinions and feelings. Several students took to the mic to come out for the first time or to honor trans friends who took their own lives in response to discrimination.
Sammy Bennett, who identifies as genderfluid and asexual, spoke out against HB0011 and other anti-LGBTQIA+ bills. Bennett believes that politicians deceptively argue that these bills are passed in order to protect women and that they use these bills to discriminate against trans people while insulting women.
“They say that women can’t beat men in sports, that women aren’t strong enough to beat men in sports and they hide it behind the veil that they are just trying to protect women,” Bennett said. “Women do not need your protection because women are strong, brave and beautiful and that goes especially for trans women.”
Aaron Larson wanted students to know that being trans and queer is a part of his identity but it is not his biggest trait. He feels that when our representation and others in the community see him only as a trans person, it takes away from his humanity.
“We deserve a voice and we deserve to be heard,” Larson said.
When Larson addressed the audience, he told them that when he came out to his martial arts studio he was allowed to compete against cisgendered men.
“I became 54–2 during my career,” Larson said. “I am a four-time national champion fighter so don’t tell me we can’t play.”
Dante Lambourne was also a student athlete during high school. He played varsity basketball at Dugway High School for the Lady Mustangs.
“There shouldn’t be a label that distinguishes a separation between male and female sports,” Lambourne said.
He told the audience that when he asked the principal of the school if he could practice with the boys team, he was denied because the principal and the school identified him as a woman.
“When you look wrong to others and can’t play the sport you love with the brothers you grow up with, it’s devastating,” Lambourne said. “I don’t want any other children to experience that heart wrench.”
Trans student Peter Humphrey drew the audience’s attention to who this bill directly affects since the legislation specifically targets trans female students who want to participate in a female-designated sport.
“There are four trans kids and there is one trans girl, so this law affects one person,” Humphrey said through tears. “I can’t stop thinking about her and I don’t know who she is but I can’t imagine being a kid and having your society hate you so much that they write a law about you.”
SUU students Mitch Zufelt and Julia Last told the audience that Iron County representative Rex Shipp was one of the proponents of HB0011. Zufelt claimed that when he told Shipp he has trans friends that this bill affects, the representative looked bewildered as if he himself did not know any trans people.
“I am asking all of you to vote him out so he won’t be able to spread his agenda anymore,” Last concluded.
To contact your local representative and voice your concerns and opposition to HB0011, visit the Utah house of Representatives website.
Article by Danielle Meuret
Photos by Mckayla Olsen