The demonstrators stood, huddled in groups of four or five, at the intersection of Walnut and Jackson streets in downtown Muncie, clutching their bright blue, purple and pink signs against the freezing wind.
“Ah! The wind is transphobic!” shouted one of the attendees over the wind.
About 20 members of the LGBT community and a handful of allies stood in frigid temperatures and winds for an hour in downtown Muncie on Sunday afternoon to hold a demonstration celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility.
Vivian Edwards, an organizer with the East Central Indiana Trans Alliance, said she was surprised the turnout was as good as it was given the unexpectedly harsh weather, and she was glad to see so many protesters fighting for transgender rights.
“What we're hoping this shows is that we're people too, that we're part of this community and that we're not some boogeyman that the media or that politicians are using for fear-mongering,” Edwards said. “It's not just some nebulous, trans people, these are physical people in the community.”
Edwards said this was the first Transgender Day of Visibility celebration in Muncie that she knew of. The East Central Indiana Trans Alliance was established last year.
In addition to the more celebratory aspect of the event, the attendees were also demonstrating against the potential passage of SB 182 — a bill that would eliminate a rule in the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles regulations allowing the change of gender markers on an individual’s license with the note of a physician.
One demonstrator, Ren Halter-Rainey, said the passage of SB 182 would make transgender people lead their lives “more fearfully” due to the repercussions of not having their identities validated in legal documents.
“Being able to have your identity validated on your official documents is something that’s really important, and kind of in a symbolic way,” Halter-Rainey said. “It's also really important when it comes to how we interact on a day to day basis.”
While SB 182 has not been voted on yet, the implications of the bill were a large focus of the demonstrators, who drew cheers and car honks of passers-by as the group of took pictures together and waved their signs.
Demonstrator and future Ball State student Brooklynn Richardson said though Muncie has made strides over the last few years toward being a more accepting community for transgender people, it still has a long way to go.
“There are still a lot of businesses around here that discriminate against us,” Richardson said. “Just basically, if you come out, you've lost your job. Hopefully, with more visibility, that can bring more allied business coming forward.”
Edwards echoed the sentiment, citing attempts by the Indiana legislature to pass SB 182 or other pieces of legislation that would define gender only as male or female and complaints against Burris Laboratory School over transgender discrimination, but also praising the progress in acceptance of the transgender community in Muncie.
“It makes it more difficult to do just about anything to have an ID that doesn't look like you [and] doesn't have information that matches who you are,” Edwards said. “It's also a psychological thing, because it comes down to denial of your lived reality and your brand.”
Contact John Lynch with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @WritesLynch.