Shy 6-year-old Skyler Rhodes-Courter stood on stage and whispered into her mother’s ear in front of more than 200 transgender people and their supporters who gathered at Williams Park.

With a smile, mom Ashley Rhodes-Courter relayed, "We will not be erased."

That phrase was chanted throughout Sunday’s St. Pete We Won’t Be Erased Transgender Support Rally, where signs displayed slogans such as "These colors don’t run" and attendees promised to make their voices heard in this week’s election.

But there was also a somber undertone at the event.

Such rallies should no longer be necessary, some said, since it wasn’t that long ago that it was believed civil rights for transgender people would soon be a settled issue.

"We shouldn’t have to be here, really," said Jim Nixon, LGBTQ liaison for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. "But this is an opportunity to show support for our family."

The rally was planned in reaction to news that the Trump administration is considering narrowing the definition of gender to male and female.

The move would roll back efforts by the Obama administration to broaden legal definitions of gender and sex to include an estimated 1.4 million transgender Americans.

"The last few weeks have been more challenging than the last 20 years of advocacy," said event emcee Nathan Bruemmer. "We had made such good progress."

A U.S. Health and Human Services Department proposal redefining gender identification would be the latest in a series of moves the transgender community sees as hostile.

The Trump administration has also sought to ban openly transgender people from serving in the military, reversed Obama-era guidance stating public schools should allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, and said the 1964 federal civil rights law does not protect transgender workers from employment discrimination.

"Your pencil is not big enough to erase us," Taylor TeMonet Burts told the crowd, reacting to the proposed policies. "People are people. We deserve respect."

Husband and wife John and Nancy Desmond, who founded the Tampa and St. Petersburg chapters of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG, lamented that this may be a confusing time for LGTBQ kids.

"This generation hasn’t known anything but progress," said Nancy Desmond, whose adult son is gay. "They can marry, adopt kids, serve in the military. We are moving backwards."

Jason Guagliardo, 17, attended the event with his mother, Debbie Guagliardo. He said that since Donald Trump was elected, "ugly people are coming out of the woodwork and posting things on social media that I did not expect from them. It is disappointing."

St. Petersburg City Council members Darden Rice, Gina Driscoll and Steve Kornell spoke at the rally to remind the crowd the city supports equal rights and to encourage them to vote.

Kornell pointed out the roughly 100,000 transgender people in Florida — along with their friends and family — constitute a voting bloc that can make a difference in a state where elections are historically won by a slim margin.

 Nearly 1,000 people gathered outside the State House on Saturday and spoke with one voice: We will not be erased.

The rally, organized by many community groups, was designed to defy the Trump administration’s efforts to define gender as determined by genitalia at birth. The Obama administration broadened the legal concept of gender, recognizing it largely as an individual’s choice.

Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive aid from the federal government.

At the State House, the crowd was a study in diversity, with parents supporting their transgender children; gay, cisgender men and women standing up for their transgender friends, and transgender individuals speaking on behalf of marginalized communities across the country.

The Rev. Donnie Anderson, a transgender woman who publicly transitioned this summer, drew some of the loudest cheers when she said, “I’m Donnie. I’m trans. I’m queer. And I’m going nowhere.”

Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said, “After 69 years of confusion, dysphoria and shame, no one is going to erase me.”

There are members of the faith community who love and support transgender people, she said.

“I understand your anger and your hurt,” Anderson said. “Don’t let it ruin your life. Love is always stronger than hate.”

Ryan Welsh, the 2018 Mr. Gay Rhode Island, said there is not only power, but safety, in numbers.


“It’s important that we show ourselves,” he said. “I’m here to show support for a community that is under attack.”

Speaker after speaker described how their rights are being undermined by the Trump presidency.

Ethan Huckel said, “I don’t feel lucky today. I feel weary and anxious and emotionally drained.” But Huckel said the Trump presidency has become a rallying cry in the struggle to survive, and that struggle unites queer and transgender individuals.

Nora Kaplan, another speaker, said fascism is the common thread that links the hatred against transgender individuals and the mass murders of Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh last week.

“A central tenet of Judaism is to repair the world,” Kaplan said. “You don’t have to finish the task. But you can’t give it up.”

Payton James, a member of Rhode Island Pride, led the crowd in a chant that embraced every marginalized group.

“We won’t be erased!” James said.


“Indigenous trans people will not be erased,” James continued. “Black trans people will not be erased. Disabled trans people will not be erased. And people of color will never be erased.”

Ending a year and a half of uncertainty, the Rochester Institute of Technology is offering hormone therapy to transgender students.

The school had fired a doctor for providing the therapy, which helps transgender people’s physical characteristics align more closely with their gender identities, last year.

At the beginning of this year’s fall academic term, RIT said it would “offer a wider spectrum of care” for transgender students, “most notably the addition of gender affirming hormone therapy.”

The university said the decision came “after months of carefully listening and talking to students and experts.”

The school’s student newspaper, the Reporter, and the Democrat and Chronicle both reported on the saga that unfolded between the doctor’s dismissal and the formal decision to offer the therapy she was dismissed for providing.

Rochester’s Out Alliance communications director Rowan Collins said the university made the right decision, even if it was delayed.

“There needs to be a commitment to understanding and respecting everyone around us,” said Collins. “When it comes to the transgender community at RIT at this very second, one of their biggest needs for respect and understanding was this access to medical care.”

Hormone replacement is not just a physiological treatment, Collins said. “It enables transgender people to feel more comfortable in their own skin. It has mental and emotional components beyond just the physical manifestations.”

Collins said the biggest problem for transgender students who had been receiving the treatment was the abruptness with which it stopped. “All of a sudden, these students were left with no medical practitioner who was trained or even familiar with how to help them when it came to their medical transition,” he said.

Yards upon yards of the transgender pride flag draped the stairs of one of the country's most famous national monuments. On Monday, transgender activists unfurled the flag at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate against the Trump administration's record on transgender rights.

Organized by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the group shared photos of the protest on Monday in a tweet that stated, "We #WontBeErased, and we won't be forgotten, and we won't be ignored. Today, we worked with local advocates and community members to unfurl a 150-foot trans flag on some of our nation's most visible real estate: the Lincoln Memorial. Bustle has reached out to the National Center for Transgender Equality for comment.

The protest came a week after The New York Times reported that it reviewed a draft memo from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to the newspaper, the department had proposed to restrict the definition of gender to pure biology, defined according to the genitalia they have at birth. The publication also noted that such a definition would "essentially eradicate federal recognition" for the transgender community in the United States.

The HHS' memo proposed pushing for a legal definition of sex to the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, according to The Times. The federal law forbids federally-funded educational programs and institutes from discriminating on the basis of sex.

Politicians have roundly criticized the potential redefinition of gender under Trump's presidency. Among them was Massachusett Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who spearheads the House LGBT Equality Caucus' Transgender Equality Task Force.

"This nation's darkest days have always come when our government deemed civil rights conditional," he said in a statement to The Hill. "The Trump administration’s ongoing assault on transgender Americans betrays not just that history and not just the progress for which millions have bravely sacrificed, but our most fundamental responsibility to treat and see each other as human."

This won't be the first time that protesters used the transgender pride flag to make themselves heard. On Sunday, just one day before the Lincoln Memorial protest, people at a World Series game between the Red Sox and the Dodgers unveiled a large transgender pride flag that read, "Trans People Deserve to Live."

Although the flag was not a hundred feet long, it was large enough to have delivered its message across the massive Dodger stadium in Los Angeles. Baseball columnist Jeff Passan for Yahoo! Sports tweeted a photo of the flag.

Mayor Marty Walsh held a rally at Boston City Hall Plaza on Sunday in support of transgender rights.

A group of people turned out to share their views on question three, a referendum that would repeal a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity.

Walsh said, “The fact that we are having this battle on the ballot is wrong. Love trumps hate.”

Proponents of the question hope to keep the existing law in place.

Opponents say state law is too vague when it comes to the definition of gender. They fear that criminals and sex offenders will be able to take advantage of these ambiguities and pose a safety risk to the public.

“This question is about equality in legislature,” Walsh said.

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