The Utah Pride Center’s annual Genderevolution Conference faces a dark and threatening storm this year. Though many stepping stones have been placed in recent years, the transgender and nonbinary communities of Utah and the United States are once again egregiously under attack.
Earlier this year, President Trump reinstated a ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military, the one that former-president Obama overturned with proper haste. Additionally, while several state’s laws progressed with implementing gender-free public restrooms and more affordable and accessible gender-reassignment procedures, a seemingly firestorm of backlash over recent months has been discouraging at the least.
For instance, Ally Steinfeld, a transgender teen who was stabbed, mutilated and burned, was dating a woman allegedly involved in the gruesome crime. The Kansas City Star reported that “Briana Calderas, 24, began dating Steinfeld about a week before her death,” according to Amber Steinfeld, the slain girl’s mother.
One charged assailant, Andrew Vrba, 18, admitted that he tried to poison Steinfeld. When she didn’t drink the liquid, he stabbed her multiple times, gouging out her eyes and stabbing her genitals, according to court documents.
The KC Star reported that for the past three years, LGBT advocacy groups have tallied the killings of more than 20 transgender people in the United States. Yet state or federal hate crime laws are rarely used to prosecute the slayings. Now many LGBT-rights groups are questioning the effectiveness of the laws, saying they sometimes focus too tightly on individual acts without addressing underlying bias or wider violence. Steinfeld’s death thrust the volatile issue back into the spotlight.
Additionally, earlier this year the ACLU of Washington announced it’s representing Cheryl Enstad, the mother of a transgender son and social worker employed by PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. The Center refused to pay for Enstad’s son’s transition-related services, which the ACLU argues violates the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act.
More individualized, NBC News reported in October that seven students at a New Jersey high school were suspended following the assault of a 14-year-old transgender student. Kylie Perez was attacked by another student in a hallway at East Side High School in Newark. School officials said the student who beat Perez, and those who recorded it, were suspended pending disciplinary hearings.
In September, a South Glens Falls, New York bus driver asked students to sit on separate sides of the bus based on their gender, then kicked two transgender students off when they sat on the side aligned with their gender identity. It was at that point that 15-year-old Lilly Wolfe, a close friend of the transgender students, stood up and told the bus driver that he was discriminating against students based on their sexuality and gender identity, according to the Times Union. “I’m not moving the bus until I get what I want,” the driver is heard saying on a student’s recorded video.
The UPC Genderevolution Conference will be held November 11, and will present keynote speakers Logan and Laila Ireland, a married trans couple who Ellen DeGeneres recently had on her talk show.
QSaltLake asked Laila what the term genderevolution means to her and her husband, and their focus for the conference:
Genderevolution to us means being proud, standing up and speaking out to advocate and celebrate living authentically and freely. This year’s theme, “Rise Up,” embodies just that. Through our advocacy work surrounding the military and its policies and the government’s current state on issues regarding the LGBTQ+ community, we have become more motivated than ever to really encourage people around us to be just as motivated and driven to rise up and speak out for equality. This type of attitude and mindset transcends the mission for equality, it impacts our lives everyday in everything we do, the people we meet, and the places we go. This is why, being able to share our experiences and our stories are vitally important to the survival and success of our future. Because through our advocacy work, we have learned as individuals and as a couple, it is – if we have any power as a people, it is the power of being able to tell our own stories. We have learned that working hard and working together is the absolute key to success in this movement going forward. We have learned as individuals and as a couple that if we have any power as a people, it is the power of being able to tell our own stories. We have learned that working hard and working together is the absolute key to success in this movement going forward.