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'We've always been here': transgender Oklahomans and their allies march in Tulsa, OKC

Angelica (left) Santos and their mom Megan Flores at the rally for International Transgender Day of Visibility in Tulsa.
Allison Herrera
Angelica (left) Santos and their mom Megan Flores at the rally for International Transgender Day of Visibility in Tulsa.

About 500 people waved the light blue and pink and rainbow flags on Denver Avenue in front of Tulsa County Library on Friday to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Supporters passed by, honking horns as those in the crowd cheered and clapped. There were a few hecklers nearby, but were drowned about by speeches and singing.

Members of the transgender and 2SLGBTQ+ community marched to the Equality Center and called for better protections and an end to what they say are discriminatory practices and harmful language from the state legislature.

International Transgender Day of Visibility day was started in 2009 by Rachel Randall Crocker as a Facebook post that encouraged people to organize festivities in their hometown. Before that, any day that marked transgender awareness surrounded a tragedy.

In Oklahoma, the day was a celebration, but it also had a sense of urgency. Nationwide and here in Oklahoma, lawmakers are attempting to pass measures that would ban gender-affirming care for people under the age of 18 and make it more difficult for adults to get the care they need, too.

Osage citizen Marca Cassity, who also goes by Marx, performed a song with their hand drum and encouraged others in the crowd to join in on the chorus.

"Two Spirit sacred returning," the crowd chanted. Two-Spirit is the term Indigenous people use to talk about those who identify as non-binary and LGBTQ.

Marca Cassity who performs under the name Marx gets ready to sing for the crowd at the Equality Center.
Allison Herrera
Marca Cassity who performs under the name Marx gets ready to sing for the crowd at the Equality Center.

When Cassity lived in Oklahoma in 1997, they said it was harder to be transgender and to be out as LGBTQ. But, things have changed.

"I left and traveled around, and I healed myself, and now I'm back. Thank you to the community for your support." Cassity said. "I, and we here today, are calling for the decolonization of sexuality and gender here in Indian Country and around the world."

Some Oklahomans also rallied around transgender people in Oklahoma City, like at the Mix-Tape immersive art experience at Factory Obscura.

Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, addressed the crowd there.

“The hope is that you’re not just sitting back and watching us put our necks and our bodies on the line day after day to survive a state like Oklahoma,” they said. “But you’re actually saying, ‘how do I put my neck, my body on the line for the community that I care about?’”

Last month, Tulsa City Council passed a measure 9-0 declaring Tulsa a safe and inclusive space for all people - including 12-year-old Santos Flores.

"I go to school to learn," they said. "Not to get bullied-and not just by students-the subs, the principal, who tell us we're not normal," said Flores as their mother and some in the crowd held back tears. "We're normal and we're here. This isn't a trend. We've been here for years, we've been here forever."

In the last month, the Oklahoma legislature has moved on bills targeting transgender health care and one that would limit drag performances.

House Bill 2177 is making its way through the statehouse. It purports to ban gender-affirming care for children and teens in Oklahoma. Supporters say children and teens aren’t equipped to make life-altering health decisions for themselves. A companion Senate bill takes similar action.

But critics take issue with the idea that gender dysphoria is something a person simply grows out of, as well as parts of the bill that get less attention.

Those bills have passed through their chambers of origin and are now making their way through the opposite chambers. If passed, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Sitt is expected to sign them.

Allison Herrera covered Indigenous Affairs for KOSU from April 2020 to November 2023.
Hannah France is a reporter and producer for KGOU.
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