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Protest voices support for rights of queer, transgender youth

by Andrew Alonzo |

Friday, March 31 saw thousands of protests across the world, including in all 50 states and Washington D.C. — and nearby Pomona — in observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility. The annual event serves as both a celebration of the transgender community and a call for more protections and freedom from discrimination.

About 60 protestors showed up to the Pomona March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy, organized by the Pomona Pride Center and Queer Youth Assemble, including 55-year-old demonstrator Drakar Druella. The staff minister and chaplain at Claremont Center for Spiritual Living has been protesting since the 1990s.

“I’m a transgendered male — female to male. I transitioned in the early ‘90s and we didn’t have a lot of what we have now in place, support systems,” he said. “What I really enjoy right now about the younger generation … is that people have a sense of what their rights are in a way that I did not. It was also quite moving to see that there’s still a lot of fight and a lot of tenacity going on towards making sure that we do not lose our rights.”

Nyxi Triplett, a demonstrator at the March 31 March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in Pomona, holds a sign at Mission Boulevard and Garvey Avenue. Triplett was among about 60 demonstrators at the event in observance of the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Pomona’s rally began with sign making and an informational session on how to contact local officials. Demonstrators then rehearsed chants before setting out to the intersection of Mission Boulevard and Garvey Avenue.

Chants of “trans rights are human rights,” “hey, hey, ho, ho, transphobia’s got to go,” and more were heard along with supportive car horns. Some folks addressed their displeasure by flipping the bird at demonstrators, but St. Paul Episcopal Church administrator Bill Laws, 61, said the profane reactions among passersby were less frequent than he expected.

Suzanne Donnelly, a demonstrator at the March 31 March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in Pomona, chants alongside fellow protestors outside Pomona City Hall. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

The Courier asked Laws and Druella about religious groups and transgender rights.

“Jesus was all about the marginalized, and somehow that message gets lost on people,” Laws said. “I really feel like it’s my job right now to get that message across that it is about the marginalized. [Jesus] would be the one out here with us.”

“God created us the way that we are, period,” Druella added. “God would not create something that’s wrong.”

From the intersection, demonstrators made their way to Pomona City Hall to share their thoughts on the protest, the current fight for transgender rights, and personal stories. An hour later, a vigil for transgender people who had died took place. Many speakers struggled to hold back tears.

Organizers said the demonstration was held both to uplift the LGBTQ+ community and to push back against recent anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced around the country. In 2023 alone, nearly 600 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 45 states, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a “nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all,” based in Colorado.

Demonstrators take part in a candlelight vigil outside Pomona City Hall at the March 31 March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

After weeks of heightened debate, Kentucky’s state legislature voted 29-6 last week to override Governor Andy Beshear’s earlier veto of Senate Bill 150, a new state law meant to limit access to gender-affirming health care for minors, including puberty blockers and other hormone therapies. The bill would also bar school districts from using pronouns that “do not conform to a student’s biological sex as indicated on the student’s original, unedited birth certificate issued at the time of birth.”

The bill has received widespread criticism from LGBTQ+ supporters nationwide.

Additional MAP research indicates about 160 anti-LGBTQ school-specific bills were introduced in the U.S. within the first two months of this year.

Suzanne Donnelly, a demonstrator who marched for her 25-year-old nonbinary child living in Massachusetts, said the message was clear: “Trans rights are human rights.”

“The amount of hate and vitriol that has been spouted towards trans people over — this last week in particular it’s ramped up — but the past several months and couple of years it’s just really terrifying, [especially] if you’re the parent of a kid who belongs to a group that is more likely to be harmed or violently attacked almost more than any other minority group that exists,” she said. “I’m here visibly, proud and supportive of my kid.”

Edgar Jacuinde-Torres, a Pomona Pride Center harm reduction and outreach specialist, leads chants outside Pomona City Hall at the March 31 March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

In 2021, the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, found that transgender people ages 16 and up were “over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault.” Data was used from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics 2017 and 2018 national crime victimization survey.

“You have to speak up and stand up wherever you are,” Donnelly said.

If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please dial 988 for the nation’s confidential, free 24-hour suicide and crisis lifeline, or text “HOME” to 741741, the crisis text line. For more resources, visit


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