Danny Miguel, right, dances with other protesters at the rally. Students who organized the event wanted to show support for friends and community members who they say could be hurt by several bills being debated in Cheyenne.
Underpinning the signs and music, cars honking, people cheering and chanting was the weight of serious concern Saturday as more than 100 people gathered on the Town Square to rally for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We are such a small community, and our voices really need to be heard,” Sophie Nielsen, a high school student at Mountain Academy, said at the rally. “Every person matters, and we hope this will make a difference by showing our community that there are safe places.”
Nielsen was with two other high school friends who said they showed up in support of the middle school students who organized it. The event drew a diverse crowd of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, students, mental health counselors and the young and old.
And a few dogs, one of which wore the sign “Tally rallys for trans rights.”
A handful of middle schoolers who organized the event said they wanted to show support for their friends and community members who they say could be hurt by several bills being debated in Cheyenne.
“I hope this protest will bring awareness to these bills and maybe change some minds, said Victoria Morin, one of the middle school students who organized the rally.
At the rally, information was pasted to poster boards about various bills making their way through the Wyoming Legislature, including Senate Files 117, 111, 144 and 133. Those bills would govern the way educators are able to teach gender identity and sex orientation, address whether transgender girls can participate in interscholastic sports, prevent minors from obtaining gender-affirming care and make it illegal for physicians to provide gender-affirming care for someone under the age of 18.
As the crowd grew, so did the excitement of the afternoon despite the winter chill. Folks drank hot coffee and passed around cookies while draping themselves in rainbow and pink and blue flags, symbols of the LGBTQ+ and trans communities, respectively.
“Equal rights, equal rights, equal rights,” students chanted in front of the elk antler arch on the southwest corner of the square. People held homemade signs that read, “Howdy Stranger. Yonder is Wyoming. The state that protects trans youth” and “Keep hate out of healthcare.”
Cars honked in support as passengers waved and clapped.
“I’m distressed at what the Legislature is trying to do,” Marge McNaughton said.
She was visiting family who also attended Saturday’s event.
“I come every year at this time to be with family,” McNaughton said. “This is a matter close to home, and I wouldn’t have missed this.”
Kjera Griffith, a second grade teacher at Munger Mountain Elementary School, was holding an umbrella open. She had different terms hanging from the ribs of the umbrella and said that these many terms for the LGBTQ+ community hold space under that single umbrella of community.
“I’m just so proud of these kids using their voices,” Griffith said.
Some people who attended had wondered if a counter-rally was planned. Laura Cuddie was at the rally to support her daughter and said she’d been afraid before she arrived at the square, not knowing what to expect. She became emotional talking about her daughter and people who supported these students.
Two men, one in a Bible College sweatshirt, walked on the outside of the rally talking to rallygoers. The men handed out religious tracts printed by an organization that considers being gay to be a choice and can be equated to making bad life choices. Folks at the rally asked the men to move along.
On one of the tables sat preaddressed postcards that rallygoers filled out to send to state senators and representatives navigating a variety of bills at the statehouse.
Cheyenne Syvertson said that the postcards were the efforts of statewide volunteers, including her. So far 350 of those postcards will be heading to the Capitol.
“I’m so uplifted to see these students create a student-led demonstration,” said Syvertson, a community advocate and mental health therapist who also worked to support the students’ efforts at Saturday’s rally.
Jack was one of the middle school students who helped organize the event and who did not want his last name used in this story for fear of social media backlash. News&Guide editors agreed to the use of just his first name.
The rally “went amazing," he said in a follow-up call. "It was honestly breathtaking,”
“I was expecting maybe 20 people to show up. The amount of people that showed up was insane, and it gave me a lot of faith in the Jackson community. I think this community is a lot more supportive than I thought.”
Jeannette has worked as an editor and journalist in the Greater Yellowstone Region for more than 20 years. She finds excitement and joy in watching her children explore wild places with her husband, Brad, and their red heeler, Rosie.
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