LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The fallout from an omnibus anti-trans bill likely to become law in Kentucky is being felt across Louisville, particularly by the city's youth.
On Monday, dozens of transgender teenagers and allies gathered in Central Park to rally in opposition to Senate Bill 150 -- days after state GOP lawmakers fast-tracked an amended version of the bill to Gov. Andy Beshear's desk.
"At this point, it's no longer really safe for us," said one 16-year-old transgender girl, speaking about the state of Kentucky. She is a student at duPont Manual High, but didn't want to be named for safety reasons.
She told WHAS11 she's been on hormone therapy for about a month and wondered where she and so many other teenagers go from here. She said the fears are real.
"When these pieces of legislation get passed, I fear that far too many seats at graduation ceremonies across the state will be filled -- not with our friends, but [with] their photographs. And that is unacceptable," she said.
During the rally, high school students said this is an issue of life or death, saying SB 150 violates their human rights. They worry depression and suicide rates will go up as a result of the bill, which looks likely to become law by the end of the month.
Parents and teachers were there too in support of the transgender community, and speaking out against lawmakers who they say have ignored how the "majority of Kentuckians feel" on this issue.
Students told WHAS11 there's a misconception on the message they're trying to send.
PHOTOS | Protest at Kentucky capitol in support of trans community
"We aren't groomers. We are not trying to turn every kid trans or gay or bisexual," said the 16-year-old Manual student. "We want our trans children, gay children and asexual children -- so on and so forth -- to be safe. We want them to be alive."
Even a pastor came out to support the protest. Reverend Rachel Small Stokes told WHAS11 a member of her congregation asked her to come. She described how the process of understanding a trans person's point of view was difficult for her, but it was also important.
"If this is not your personal experience, of being someone whose body does not fit what you understand to be yourself, it is hard to understand that," Small Stokes said. "But, I have gotten to know many trans people. And, when they are able to express who they are as who they feel inside... the joy on their face tells all I need to know."
SB 150 has passed through both chambers of the Kentucky legislature, and the Republican supermajority can override a likely veto by Beshear.
In response to SB 150 making major changes for students in schools, Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass called it harmful.
In a statement, he said the Kentucky legislature has real education challenges to address, but instead of doing that, he said this legislation is "interfering with decisions between doctors, patients and families, and puts Kentucky at the front of a series of similar hateful, ignorant and shameful efforts around the country."
But State Rep. David Meade (R-80), one of the lawmakers who helped push the new version of SB 150 through, said it's not lawmakers politicizing Kentucky classrooms.
In a statement, Meade said "we are pushing back at an administration bent on shutting parents out of important conversations about their children."
PHOTOS | Protect Queer Youth rally in downtown Louisville
Senate Bill 150 started as a bill related to school, requiring teachers to use the pronouns matching each student's biological sex -- regardless of their gender identity.
But it was amended to be an all-encompassing, anti-trans bill, banning all gender-affirming care before the age of 18 -- both surgical and non-surgical treatments like puberty blockers and mental healthcare.
If you or someone you know needs help or support at this time, please contact the Trevor Project's trained crisis counselors, available 24/7, at 1-866-488-7386. You can also connect with the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.
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