For the first time, the blue-and-pink transgender pride flag was on display in the State House Friday, as Maryland Gov. Wes Moore led a celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Advocates crowded around the governor as he signed a proclamation, and they posed for pictures in front of the flag.
They celebrated significant progress this year — a new law will expand coverage for gender-affirming care for people with Medicaid insurance — but they noted that much more work is ahead in making the state safe and inclusive for trans Marylanders.
“I am honored that today is going to be the day that Maryland lifts up this community because it is long overdue,” said Moore, a Democrat.
Moore, who introduced himself by noting his pronouns (he/him), praised the advocates for their relentless work.
“This is a group who never stopped pushing for what’s right, who never stopped believing that our state can be better, but who also will never stop ensuring that our state must be better — and being loud about it,” Moore said.
Moore has promised to sign into law the Trans Health Equity Act, which expands the types of gender-affirming health care that are available to Marylanders with Medicaid insurance. While it’s expected to benefit only a few dozen Marylanders, getting the bill passed was a significant victory for LGBTQ advocates. It’s just a few procedural steps away from being sent to Moore’s desk.
And while the Trans Health Equity Act was celebrated on Friday morning, advocates said still more work lies ahead. They noted that they’ve had to endure frustrating political debates in which their livelihood and health is scrutinized.
Even celebrating trans visibility is both affirming and risky, some said. With visibility comes attention — often unwanted attention that turns into harassment.
“Every time that we are praising somebody for their visibility, we also need to understand what that visibility costs,” said Jamie Grace Alexander, policy coordinator for FreeState Justice. “Not just these interactions that we’re seeing live-streamed from the floor or a committee room, but walking around Annapolis getting catcalled and yelled at for being trans.”
Iya Dammons, founder of Baltimore Safe Haven, a trans-led drop-in wellness center, said having a day of visibility also underscores the fact that trans people are often invisible most of the time.
“I am visible with you today,” Dammons said. “I am invisible tomorrow.”
Lee Blinder, executive director of Trans Maryland, said they never imagined as a child that one day they’d be in a room with the governor and other leaders. They lauded advocates and organizations for pulling together needed lifelines for trans Marylanders and advocating for change on small to nonexistent budgets.
“This event here is a love letter to all of you for getting out of bed on the hard days. For those who have lost everything and everyone, who are taking the steps to be yourself,” Blinder said. “And for keeping close what our elders went through, so that we can have a chance at liberation.”
Several state lawmakers who are in the LGBTQ+ Caucus were acknowledged for their efforts.
“This is about not just the legislative victories this session, but the power of the trans community here in Maryland,” Del. Gabriel Acevero, a Montgomery County Democrat, said in an interview. “I am here in solidarity with my trans siblings, who — when we talk about the broader fight for LGBTQ+ rights — are often sidelined.”
Del. Bonnie Cullison served as floor leader during the extensive, at times heated, debate over the Trans Health Equity Act in the House. The success, the Montgomery County Democrat said, has emboldened her.
”This is a great victory for the trans community. But it’s one victory. So now we’re going to celebrate today, we’re going to take a victory lap and then we’re going to get back to work tomorrow,” she said.
Baltimore Banner reporter Callan Tansill-Suddath contributed to this article.