Outside of Ben Franklin High School, hundreds of students gathered Friday (March 31) to commemorate International Transgender Day of Visibility and to condemn anti-LGBTQ legislation the Louisiana Legislature will consider during its regular session that begins in one week. 

As the students spoke, hundreds of last-minute bills were pre-filed just ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline. 

One particularly up-to-date student took the mic, decrying a bill that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors. The next student was moved to tears, as it was the first he had heard of the bill. 

“I don’t know what this is going to mean for me, and I don’t know what this is going to mean for other trans people,” Vincent Jarand told the crowd. “We are in danger!” Students at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans cheer for Camille Sejud, front, while she spoke Friday, March 31, 2023, during a student walkout for Transgender Day of Visibility. (Photo by Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

More than 400 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation have been filed in statehouses across the nation, many of them model bills written by national interest groups. 

In Louisiana, legislators are allowed just five non-fiscal for the 2023 regular session because a provision in state law requires them to focus on financial matters in odd-numbered years. Still, a handful of legislators have used their limited number of bills to prioritize legislation that affects the LGBTQ community. 

Speakers Friday raised concerns about a bill from Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, to limit the discussion of gender and sexuality in classrooms, a proposal from Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City to require school employees to use the names and pronouns that correlate to students’ birth certificates unless they have parental consent, and a ban Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, wants on gender affirming healthcare for minors. 

“Watching the number of bills rise around the country and Louisiana and federally has been terrifying,” Franklin student Griffling Bingham said. “States with pro-trans laws are now being called trans refugee states. It’s gotten bad enough that we need refuge states. There are so many trans kids – and even adults – living  in increasingly unsafe conditions because legislators can’t see that we’re just people.”

Later in the evening, several students joined the Real Name Campaign, a New Orleans-based transgender-rights advocacy group, for a march through the French Quarter. 

Several hundred protestors, many wearing transgender Pride flags or carrying signs painted in its iconic blue, pink and white stripes, called for justice as they moved peacefully through the streets. 

While their ire lay mostly with the Republicans sponsoring the legislation, the group did not shy away from criticizing Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was described as “wishy-washy” and a lukewarm ally. 

“John Bel, can’t you tell, we’re about to give you hell!” the crowd chanted as they marched. 

Edwards was sharply criticized after the 2022 legislative session when he announced he would not veto a bill that would require athletes to compete on teams in accordance with their sex assigned at birth. Instead, he allowed the bill to pass into law without signing it. Edwards defended the move by arguing that his veto likely would have been overridden by Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature. 

“I hope we can all get to a point soon where we realize that these young people are doing the very best that they can to survive,” Edwards said at the time. 

Edwards’ veto is one of the few levers liberals and progressives look to to influence the political process in Louisiana. While the legislation faces an uphill battle due to its controversial nature, the uncertainty of what would happen if an anti-transgender bill lands on the governor’s desk is causing anxiety in the LGBTQ community. 

A spokesperson for Edwards declined to comment on this story.

This article first appeared on Louisiana Illuminator and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor...