13 trans models strut their stuff against Arkansas’ anti-trans laws

For the past decade, transgender activist Lisa Stuart has dedicated her life to increasing the visibility of transgender and non-binary Arkansans.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are a lot more of us in the community than you might think,” she said. “There’s kind of a narrative that you’ll never find a trans person here, that it’s so rare.”

Last year, the state’s trans community finally caught the nation’s attention. But that was not what Stuart had hoped for.

In April, Arkansas made international headlines after becoming the first of two US states to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors. In addition to the health care law — which was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in July — a law signed by the governor last March that limits trans participation in school sports has also drawn attention to the trans population of the state.

Lisa Stuart attends Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week.Meredith Mashburn / INTERFORM / Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week

As trans Arkansans wait to see if the courts will let the health care law stand, Stuart shines a light on the trans community on its own terms. To open Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week on Thursday, she helped organize a fashion show, which she described as a “vehicle of change,” featuring 13 trans models.

“We really want to promote this awareness and visibility that trans people are part of the community, that we are everywhere and that we are in all aspects of society, all hobbies, all occupations,” Stuart said. , who was one of 13 models walking in the event. “The more people start to understand what trans is, the more they’ll start to see the problems with these laws.”

The clothes for the fashion show – organized by the arts association Interform – were all selected by The Transition Closet, an Arkansas-based nonprofit that provides free clothing to the LGBTQ community. The group also received 10% of the proceeds from ticket sales.

Amare Roush launched The Transition Closet in June in response to legislation passed in the state. Roush, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said they wanted to give their community a “safe place” to find clothes and enjoy fashion.

“It’s the first thing people see in a job interview; it’s the first thing people see on a first date,” Roush said. “I wanted my brothers and sisters in the community to be able to have that closet there so they could get those clothes, so they could put that first foot forward and be able to be authentic themselves.

“Thankfully we are able to do our part to make the situation a little less scary for the community, because that is what we really need right now,” they added, referring to the legislation.

13 trans models opened Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week with clothes curated by Arkansas advocacy group, the Transition Closet.
13 trans models opened Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week with clothes curated by Arkansas advocacy group The Transition Closet.Meredith Mashburn / INTERFORM / Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week

Across the country, conservative state lawmakers have introduced more than 330 anti-LGBTQ bills in the past two years, according to Freedom for All Americans, a nonprofit group that advocates for non-discrimination protections. LGBTQ nationwide. And the majority of those bills — at least 225 of them — specifically targeted trans-Americans, the group found.

The majority of the measures include legislation similar to new Arkansas laws: bills that prevent trans children from participating in school sports teams that match their gender identity and those that restrict their access to gender-affirming care. gender.

As of the start of 2021, 11 states have adopted such measures, according to counts by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group. Yet it was only in Tennessee and Arkansas that both types of legislation were enacted, with Arkansas beating Tennessee to the punch.

“It felt like Arkansas made a really strong statement with the policies they tried to get through and the policies they didn’t get through,” said board chairman Joel Manning. of the Arkansas-based trans rights group. Network for Transgender Equality.

13 trans models opened Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week with clothes curated by Arkansas advocacy group, the Transition Closet.
Trans models draped in various gay Pride flags walk the runway during Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week.Meredith Mashburn / INTERFORM / Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week

A federal judge temporarily blocked the Arkansas law in July after the ACLU challenged it in court on behalf of trans youth and their families. But Manning said regardless, clinics in Arkansas that provide gender-affirming care have either begun closing or no longer offer those services.

“The legality of the situation doesn’t necessarily dictate how people react to it,” he said. “We always get calls from people who are scared, who don’t know what’s going to happen, and who feel they need to prepare ahead of time if things don’t go as planned.”

He added: “It’s very unsettling, and it’s sad to see people already essentially acting like it’s just out of fear.”

Phoenix May, 14, is a patient at one of those Arkansan trans clinics that is closing to protect herself from possible legal liability. Once his clinic — the Gender Spectrum Clinic in Little Rock — closes, he said his family will have to take him out of state for transition-related care.

“All of these good things were happening at the same time, and then all of a sudden this legislation was passed and it just fell apart. It was like, ‘Oh, that’s just another thing that we have to fight too,'” he said.

May said he hoped that by taking part in the fashion show on Thursday night, he could unite and inspire other trans children as they wait for a decision on the health care bill.

“It’s nice to be able to be out there and show people that ‘you’re not alone’. We’re modeling and having fun and we can do that too,” he said. We just have to find bright spots and be able to pass.”

To follow NBC Release on Twitter, Facebook & instagram

Comments are closed.