BILLINGS — Despite the wave of anti-trans legislation that has been introduced in the Montana Legislature this session, more resources for trans and gender-diverse people are popping up in Billings, including a trans closet at the 406 Pride Resource inside the First Congregational United Church of Christ.
The clothes are free for anyone who needs gender-affirming pieces.
For Billings native Bailey Desper, finding her identity in Montana hasn’t been easy.
“It caused a lot of mental issues just trying to fit into the community as someone that was in a cocoon stage,” said Desper at 406 Pride on Tuesday.
Desper is transgender. She’s been on her transition journey for over five years and hopes to receive gender-affirming surgery soon.
“I came out in 2018 and in that time frame it was right before COVID, and there weren’t any resources here in Billings that was developed,” Desper said.
THE LGBTQ+ community has evolved since Desper first came out. The latest example is “Out of the Closet,” a partnership between Desper, 406 Pride, and Katie Harrison of SustainaBillings.
“We want to make sure everyone in Billings has access to someplace safe to access clothes that is so much a part of our identity,” said Harrison.
All the pieces are free for anyone who needs gender-affirming clothes. It’s something that Desper knows means a lot.
“Somebody that’s trans, that’s first starting out their journey, can actually come in and feel affirming. And being able to try clothes on for the first time is huge,” Desper said.
2023 has been a banner year for anti-trans legislation across the country, Montana included.
It’s why Desper and others took to the Yellowstone County courthouse lawn Tuesday to protest bills like Senate Bill 99, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte.
SB 99 is affecting Desper directly as she’s trying to receive gender-affirming surgery. The bill would limit certain medical treatments for minors seeking to transition genders.
"Bills like Senate Bill 99 are causing some complications 'cause they’re trying to relate me to a minor. I am not a minor, and that’s something I’m trying to make them understand. I do deserve to be able to feel authentic,” said Desper.
The protest on the courthouse lawn was planned by the Void Entertainment group and will continue through Tuesday night.
“I have friends and family who are transitioning and trans and to watch them be stripped of that would be really detrimental,” said Katie Conklin of Void Entertainment.
“We are here, and we refuse to be erased and there’s no reason for us to be eradicated with these unconstitutional House bills,” said Desper.