Local group Protect Our People held a rally in front of the Monroe County Courthouse Sunday in protest of Indiana House Bill 1608 and Senate Bill 480, which advanced through the state legislature in recent weeks.
HB 1608 would prohibit schools from teaching “human sexuality” to students in third grade or younger and require parental permission for a student to go by a different name or pronouns. SB 480, which passed the legislature last week and currently sits on Governor Holcomb’s desk, would ban gender-affirming care like puberty blockers, hormone-replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery.
A trans flag waved above the courthouse lawn as children painted rocks under a tent and attendees sat with their families and pets in the sun. Sunday’s event was meant to emphasize trans joy and celebration, evident in its name “End Hate! Elevate and Celebrate Trans Joy,” but this year’s state legislative session brought back bad memories for some.
Marcie Jo Moser, a 65-year-old transgender woman attending the rally, was born and raised in Bloomington. But after the passage of recent legislation, she feared she may have to move out of the state.
Moser began crying as she talked about her experience. She said she thought about committing suicide due to the conflict she felt within herself, particularly because she transitioned later in life, beginning hormone therapy in 2018.
Living with several brothers as a child, Moser said she felt she never fit in. She left Indiana to serve in the U.S. Army during the Cold War, a move she said began with a desire to escape from home. She served in active duty from 1975 to 1978.
Moser said fear held her back from figuring out who she was sooner.
“Had the LGBTQ community been more visible back in my day, I would have done this years ago,” Moser said.
She said trans youth deserve the right to not feel bullied and should have the right to choose to access healthcare like puberty blockers and therapy.
“I want children to feel supported in whatever their decision is,” she said.
As people gathered around the front of the courthouse, several public officials and activists from Bloomington and surrounding areas came to speak.
Dana Black, a professional public speaker, activist and gender non-conforming lesbian, emphasized the importance of encouraging LGBTQ youth to run for office.
“You don’t have to let policy happen to you – you can happen to policy,” Black said.
Black believes the legislators who voted for these bills don’t want people to be unified, and urged people to vote for people who support LGBTQ rights in 2024.
“If we come together in a unified block, we can beat their behinds at the ballot box,” Black said.
Black also wants to get more Democrats and pro-LGBTQ advocates in the state legislature and said people in Bloomington should help people running in other counties get elected since Bloomington is already represented by Democratic state senator Shelli Yoder, D-District 40.
“Until we get rid of that supermajority, they will continue to write policies that marginalize the already marginalized people,” Black said.
A legislative supermajority occurs when one party controls more than two-thirds of the seats. Republicans have held supermajorities in both legislative chambers in Indiana since 2012. Although a few Republicans have joined the Democrats to vote against HB 1608 and SB 480, votes in support of the bills have been exclusively from Republican legislators.
Yoder, Bloomington’s state senator, spoke at the event to denounce bills like HB 1608 and SB 480. Yoder said HB 1608 was spun by its proponents as a “bridge between parents and school” to help trans youth, but she pointed out that Indiana ranks last for mental health care in schools, with only one counselor for every 694 students in the state.
Instead, Yoder said, HB 1608 is about bullying children.
Yoder said SB 480 was also harmful, and that gender-affirming care saves lives. A study published in 2022 found gender-affirming care reduced the odds of suicidality in transgender youth by 73% after a year.,
Besides planned speakers, the rally allowed for LGBTQ people to come up and speak. Speeches included transgender people from multiple walks of life, including veterans, a former pastor and several students at local schools who would be directly affected by recent legislation.