Mayor proclaims November as Transgender Awareness Month

Samantha Ye

Rachel Esters gives a speech
Retired Lieutenant Rachel Esters gives a short speech for the proclamation declaring November 20th, 2018 as Transgender Day of Remembrance in Fort Collins and November Transgender Awareness Month.

In a historic first, for the City of Fort Collins has proclaimed November as Transgender Awareness Month. As federal protections for the transgender community vanish, however, community members and supporters want to see the City’s inclusivity extend beyond statements.

Mayor Wade Troxell delivered the proclamation Nov. 20, which officially recognized November as Transgender Awareness Month and memorialized the day as Transgender Day of Remembrance.

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TDoR is observed annually in honor of the lives of trans individuals who were killed for their identity. At Colorado State University, students and the Pride Center honored the event Nov. 15 with speakers and a candlelight vigil.

“(This) month is an opportunity to inspire, educate, and inform our community of the contributions of and challenges faced by the transgender and non-binary community,” Troxell read from the proclamation.

Rachel Esters, a transgender woman and a retired lieutenant from the Larimer Sheriff’s Office, accepted the mayor’s proclamation. Esters now works in criminal justice consulting with a focus on diversity, cultural and gender issues.

As individuals, we may feel helpless to address the resurgence of bigotry and hate in our communities”-Rachel Esters, retired lieutenant

“As individuals, we may feel helpless to address the resurgence of bigotry and hate in our communities,” Esters said in her acceptance speech. “But, if we’re willing to speak up and publicly state that hate and intolerance will not find a place in our government, our community, our schools or our homes, what seems like a small step will help to create an atmosphere which will include understanding and acceptance.”

Esters recalled her father’s advice that “rather than curse darkness, to light a candle.” To her, the City’s proclamation is lighting a candle.

In October, the New York Times reported on what became a controversial memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department argued for defining sex as “male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” essentially eradicating federal recognition for those who identify as a gender other than the one they were born into.

Although the City’s proclamation was planned months in advance of the memo’s reveal, other events compounded the significance of the matter, said Kimberly Chambers, owner of NoCo SafeSpace and member of the City’s LGBTQ+ committee which instigated the proclamation.

Over the past year, the current administration under President Donald Trump has rolled back broader gender identity protections from schools, prisons, and an attempted blanket ban on accepting transgender persons for the military has left many potential recruits in limbo, according to the NYT.

“When you’re looking at the (proclamation) approval process, I think it did register as more important, that there is some federal threat about protections going away,” Chambers said.

Chambers called the proclamation “late, but good” and a big step for the City.

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At the City Council meeting after the proclamation, Chambers asked Council to make it matter to the community by putting real money and time behind the sentiment.

Chambers requested the City fund inclusivity training for all City staff and the police department, create more ordinances to protect the LGBTQ+ community in case federal protections are removed, and limit religious exemptions as a reason to discriminate.

She also asked Fort Collins amend their building and fire code to make all single-occupancy restrooms be labeled all-gender or gender-neutral similar to what Denver did in 2016. CSU accomplished this in 2017 by updating signage on restrooms across campus, according to SOURCE.

Chambers’ requests were echoed by residents Ace Noland and Alex Tankersley who spoke of their own experiences as transgender men, from fearing discrimination in the workplace, in healthcare or even when entering bathrooms.

I want to do the same thing everybody else wants to do, and because it doesn’t look the same as everybody else, it’s discriminated against, and I’m confused why this continues to be an issue”-Alex Tankersley, resident

“I want to do the same thing everybody else wants to do, and because it doesn’t look the same as everybody else, it’s discriminated against, and I’m confused why this continues to be an issue,” Tankersley said. “Please put money, time and initiative behind (this proclamation).”

Councilmember Kristin Stephens responded to the requests, asking for a staff memo to show the type of LGBTQ+ training City staff and police receive and for more information on labeling single-occupancy restrooms as gender-inclusive.

“Our City really does care about us,” Chambers said. “It’s just a matter of proving it.”

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.