From: Alexandra Adelina Nita
June may mark the hottest days of summer in Winona, but it also has a greater significance; it ushers in Pride Month, a time for LGBTQ+ communities to celebrate their history by continuing to protest against police and state violence and discrimination —including the four bills targeting transgender children (HF1657, HF350, HF352, and SF96) currently under consideration by the Minnesota State Legislature.
This is not a letter arguing for the humanity of trans Minnesotans —because it is not up for debate. Trans people always have and always will exist and transphobia has never been universal.
This is also not a letter that attempts to explain the cruelty of attempting to criminalize an already vulnerable group of children for being themselves. Nor is it about how, according to Them magazine, the fiction presented by anti-trans sports bills of sports being infiltrated by “incorrect” bodies parallels and is intended to support racism against Black athletes. It is not even about how these bills violate both the 1993 amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (which made Minnesota the first state to ban discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity) and the Safe and Supportive Schools Act passed to combat bullying in 2014.
Instead, this is a letter encouraging fellow Winonans to oppose anti-trans legislation by not only contacting their representatives to condemn the bills and support the statewide banning of the dangerous practice of conversion therapy — a ban already in place in Winona as of last year but currently stalled in the Minnesota Senate — but also through advocating against our prison and police system.
The Stonewall Riots that led to the creation of modern Pride were a collective uprising against a police raid. Today LGBTQ+ people — particularly Black trans people — are disproportionately harmed by contact with the so-called criminal justice system. Winona is not exempt; page 11 of Engage’s Winona’s second April report documents one trans woman’s allegation of traumatizing sexual harassment by male officers.
The systems we have in place work exactly as intended; rather than wasting our time and resources debating the aesthetics of the cages chosen to keep our neighbors in, the county should commit to the goal of zero incarceration and help us create community resources that will replace the police and prisons we have now in order to actually fulfill our needs.
The limited and constantly threatened nature of Winona’s mental health, housing, and family services (and the non-existence of LGBTQ+ resources) should be of urgent concern to our local government. This is doubly true when considering their admission during Engage Winona’s April 29 meeting that Minnesota lags behind the entire country in terms of funding for children’s services (call it collateral damage from the commitment of Republicans like Senator Mike Goggin to helping the wealthiest Minnesotans avoid paying their fair share of taxes).
Is asking for a better future for ourselves and all the generations after us really asking for too much?