BILLINGS — Around two dozen students and community members participated in a walkout and protest at Billings Skyview High School Tuesday afternoon for youth trans rights. They hoped to send a message to others in the Billings community.
It might be the first walkout Skyview sophomore Stormy Baker has organized, but it won’t be the last.
“I want to be the kind of person to help make a change,” Baker said.
Students were joined by members of the community as they chanted, held signs, and spoke out against the wave of anti-trans legislation that the state has seen this year.
“Everyone that you see here is here to support trans youth. Not only that, but also because of the unfortunate events that happened to Montana’s only trans representative, Zooey Zephyr,” said Baker.
Allies and trans folks protested Senate Bills 99 and 458, which outlawed gender-affirming care and defined sex in Montana law to exclude transgender people, as well as House Bill 359, which banned minors from attending drag shows.
“That’s inspirational because the youth are taking incentive to fight for their rights. And it’s wonderful to see happen,” said Bailey Desper, a Billings transgender woman and advocate.
Desper is worried that SB 99 has created a roadblock for many.
Montana is one of at least 11 states that passed similar laws this year. Supporters argue it will protect kids from making decisions they may later regret, but those gathered at Skyview feel differently.
It’s part of the reason why Jay Liudahl took time out of his day to protest.
“We want to be visible. We’re fighting for equality and certainly equity in everyday life,” Liudahl, a former Skyview student, said.
Liudahl graduated 10 years ago. Back then, there was a Gay Straight Alliance Club at the school, something that doesn’t exist anymore.
“It’s really concerning that has not continued to be a tradition here at Skyview,” said Liudahl.
It’s partly why Baker organized the walkout, hoping to advocate for trans youth and the rights of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.
“Know that we won’t stop fighting for our rights, for our rights to exist as a person. As people,” Baker said.