Avery Brogan, a graduating senior at Long Beach High School, got a lot of love and support from his family and friends when he came out as transgender about four years ago.
Classmates wrote Brogan notes of encouragement. His parents researched what it meant to be transgender. But not every transgender person is greeted so warmly, Brogan said, citing "horror stories" he's heard.
Brogan, 17, who is a female-to-male transgender person and plans to attend St. John's University in Queens to study mathematics, was one of about 60 people who rallied Sunday in front of the Nassau County Legislature's headquarters in Mineola to advocate for an amendment adding "gender identity" to the county's Human Rights Law.
"We need trans rights because there's so many people, even standing here today, that don't get to be treated as basic human beings, on the account of the fact that their gender expression or identity doesn't coincide with the sex they were assigned at birth," Brogan told the crowd. "I am a trans person in Nassau County and I want to live my life without facing discrimination, and if something were to happen -- God forbid -- I would be protected under the law, just like every other person."
Nassau is the largest county in the state without specific protections in its anti-discrimination law for transgender people, setting it apart from Suffolk County and New York City, advocates say. Earlier this month, the Town of North Hempstead passed a bill to ban discrimination based on gender identity. Nassau County and its other two towns -- Hempstead and Oyster Bay -- have said those protections are already in place.
But advocates such as Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, who organized Sunday's rally, said the law in Nassau is "not sufficient" to protect transgender people.
"The world is changing," said Grey-Owens. "For Nassau County . . . to not have transgender rights and protections in its civil rights law, it's really sad."
Legis. Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury), Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) and Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont) appeared at the rally in support of the change. A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who has not brought the issue before the GOP-dominated legislature for a vote, could not be reached for comment.
Avery's mother, Brenda Brogan, 50, who attended the rally, said she just wants the same rights for her son that everyone else enjoys.
"They're amazing people, just like you, just like your family, just like everybody," she said.