There is power in being acknowledged and — even more so — to have the ability to be unapologetically oneself.

This sentiment was echoed by the Vancouver City Council Monday when they presented a proclamation recognizing March 31 as the international transgender day of visibility.

“We want everyone to know we see you and we care for you,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said.

McEnerny-Ogle read a portion of the proclamation, citing the need to celebrate transgender and nonconforming individuals for building beautiful, thriving communities in the face of discrimination and violence.

“We are immensely proud,” she said.

Jessica Cole, president of PFLAG of Southwest Washington and parent of transgender children, said the proclamation brings the city one step closer to being a better place for its transgender community. She continued to highlight the high rate in which violence is disproportionately inflicted upon transwomen of color nationwide every year.

In the same breath, Cole paid respect to Nikki Kuhnhausen of Vancouver, a transgender teen who was murdered in 2019. The crime led to Gov. Jay Inslee signing House Bill 1687 into law, which blocks a criminal defense based on a discovery of a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Community members called in during the council meeting to provide their support of the proclamation. Some pointed to everyone’s fundamental right to be respected and loved, as others addressed proposed legislation negatively affecting LGBTQ rights.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1557, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by its opponents, Monday. The legislation prohibits school staff from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. Parents can sue a school if the policy is flouted.

Texas governor Greg Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services in late February to view gender-affirming healthcare for youth as “child abuse.” The agency opened investigations into parents and guardians of transgender children, which have been halted due to a pending trial. The move superseded a deluge of proposed legislations in 2021, as transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas were targeted by more than 40 anti-LGBTQ bills.

Washington has established protections for transgender people who wish to receive gender-affirming care. There is even legislation, Senate Bill 5313, requiring health insurance to cover gender-affirming care, including surgery, therapy, hormone treatment and medicine.

However, there are state lawmakers that continue to propose legislation that restrict transgender people from accessing care or participating in sports, including Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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