Inspiring Advances for LGBTQ Equality in Montanaon March 7th, 2016 at 12:24 pm
Trans* 101 Training in Red Lodge
In January, Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS) in Red Lodge, Montana presented “Transgender Issues in Montana” as part of their monthly Provocative Issues Forum. The forums are designed to give Red Lodge residents an opportunity to better understand and discuss important issues in Montana. Shawn Francis, one of our Montana Leadership Action Team members, shared his experiences transitioning and working with the transgender community in Montana.
“The community of Red Lodge is amazing. They continually strive to better themselves in their understanding of marginalized populations. Their focus is on being an informed and welcoming community to everyone,” said Francis. “With all of the anti-LGBT+ legislation being introduced across the country and the increased visibility of the trans* community, it is especially important to talk about real transgender experiences. Everyone wants to be treated with dignity, and the easiest way to begin the process is through education and honest conversations.”
Approximately 50 people attended and participated in the discussion. Red Lodge community organizer Dick Nolan shared, “Historically I’ve judged the impact of a forum by how many days after members continued to discuss a forum. By that measure, Shawn’s discussion of transgender issues clearly affected a lot of people.”
Governor Bullock Signs Executive Order Expanding Protections for LGBTQ State Employees
On January 18th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Governor Steve Bullock signed into law an Executive Order extending a previous order by former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The order as it was previously written provided protections for employees of the State of Montana based on sexual orientation. The new order signed by Governor Bullock adds protections based on gender identity and gender expression. These protections also extend to public contracts with the state, which means that state employees, employees of organizations that have the State of Montana contracts, and all Montana residents utilizing services from the State of Montana will benefit from these protections.
Montana State University Queer-Straight Alliance Demands Institutional Changes
Following Governor Bullock’s Executive Order, the Queer Straight Alliance at Montana State University (MSU), led by Alex Paterson, sent a letter to MSU President Waded Cruzado asserting that the university is not a safe and affirming place for LGBTQ students.
As of February 18, the Associated Students of Montana State University (ASMSU) passed a resolution in support of the efforts to demand positive institutional progress for LGBTQ students.
Alex reflected on the group’s efforts: “Living on a campus that is too often intolerant, the Queer Straight Alliance at MSU sent our university administration a list of five demands for institutional change. We immediately faced push-back from both students and faculty. However, we’ve met with university officials who have committed to work on each of our demands for institutional change. Together, we are working to create a campus where students are free to be themselves in the dorms, have equal access to bathrooms, and can identify with the gender they live as every day. The LGBTQIA and allied community at MSU continue to fight for a campus where students aren’t just surviving, but thriving.”
Kim Leighton is the Regional Development Organizer in Montana. Email Kim.