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Activists took over the Oklahoma Capitol to protest anti-trans legislation

Activists took over the Oklahoma Capitol to protest anti-trans legislation
Trans rights advocates at the Oklahoma State Capitol building. Photo: Screenshot

On Monday, activists gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol building in Oklahoma City to protest two bills that would dramatically restrict access to gender-affirming care in the state.

Around 150 protesters gathered outside the Capitol, according to OU Daily, before entering the building, chanting “trans lives matter” and holding signs that read “Save Trans Lives” and “Stop Healthcare Bans on Trans.”

The protest took place the same day as the start of the legislative session and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R-OK) State of the State address. At issue were two bills introduced by Republican state senators: Senate Bill 129 would ban gender-affirming care for Oklahomans under 26, and Senate Bill 252 would restrict access to gender-affirming care for minors.

One protester who identified herself as Laine told OU Daily she wanted lawmakers to base legislation on interactions with actual trans people rather than anti-trans misinformation. “It would really help if these people got to know us, and weren’t just living off of these unfounded claims,” she said.

“Working to ban HRT and other trans healthcare is active genocide. People will not survive to 26 to get that,” Benjamin Patterson, a trans man, said of S.B. 129. “For a lot of us, it is one of the only things that can help us feel at home in our body.” 

The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health survey found that 22 percent of young trans men, 12 percent of young trans women, and 19 percent of nonbinary youth attempted suicide in the past year. Meanwhile, a recent study from The New England Journal of Medicine pointed to growing evidence that access to gender-affirming hormone therapy improves the mental health of transgender youth.

State Rep. Mauree Turner (D), Oklahoma’s only out trans legislator, spoke to demonstrators in the Capitol. “I live and I work in a body where I could come to work on a Monday morning and get a death threat just for showing up as Black, trans, Muslim and gender diverse in Oklahoma,” said Turner. “That is the reality, right? That’s the reality that so many of the people in the rotunda face.”

During his address on Monday, Stitts encouraged the state’s lawmakers to pass S.B 252. “We shouldn’t let a minor get a permanent gender altering surgery in Oklahoma,” he said. “That’s why I’m calling for the legislature to send me a bill that bans all gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors in the state of Oklahoma.” Stitts had previously called for such a ban last October and signed into law a bill that bans the Children’s Hospital at Oklahoma University Hospital from using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for gender-affirming care for minors.

Following reports of Monday’s protest, which was peaceful and took place without incident or police involvement, some on right-wing social media began comparing it to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Trans Lives Matter stormed and occupied the Oklahoma capital today,” tweeted alt-right activist Jack Posobiec, along with video captured by KFOR reporter Nick Camper.

“Oklahoma came under attack today by a group of insurrectionists,” anti-trans activist Chaya Raichik tweeted via her Libs of TikTok account. “I’m sure the FBI is already on it and will use every available resource to identify all these domestic terrorists.”

But as Newsweek notes, protesters at the Oklahoma Capitol gathered peacefully, did not clash with police, and reportedly caused no damage.

“No glass was broken, no bear spray deployed, no police injured or killed, they didn’t bring zip ties or a noose,” one user commented. “They came and clapped. Learn the difference.”

“No beatings of police officers with American flags. No bear spray. No broken windows,” another tweeted in response to Posobiec. “I think stormed is not the appropriate adjective. They likely walked in peacefully into a public building and petitioned their govt for a redress of their grievances.”

“It was quite peaceful,” another user tweeted. “No one built a scaffold or demanded that certain leaders be brought out for hanging. No one broke windows. No one chased anyone. Boring basic citizen redress just as the constitution intended.”

“They are not trying to overturn an election, they are not armed, they are not breaking stuff, attacking and killing police officers,”  This is not an insurrection. It’s freedom of assembly.”

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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