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Mineola marchers press fight for transgender rights, laws

Kayla McGlone of Bellmore speaks Sunday in Mineola

Kayla McGlone of Bellmore speaks Sunday in Mineola in support of state legislation to protect rights of transgender people. Credit: Raychel Brightman

Dozens of activists marched Sunday in Mineola to fight for transgender civil rights and to help build awareness on Long Island and throughout the country.

The fifth annual march, organized by the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, attracted demonstrators who lofted signs into the air with messages such as “Nassau, Give Us Our Rights” and “Trans Lives Matter.”

Juli Grey-Owens, a transgender activist and executive director of the coalition, said the march was also about continuing to fight for Nassau County officials to recognize transgender and gender-nonconforming people in its human rights law. That would protect the community from discrimination in employment, housing and public access, she said.

“Most New Yorkers and Long Islanders are not even aware that there is an issue,” said Grey-Owens, 64, of Huntington. “All we’re really asking for are the same rights and protections gays and lesbians received in 2003. . . . We are not looking for special rights. We are not asking for anything more than what we deserve as Long Islanders and as New Yorkers.”

Grey-Owens added that Nassau is the largest county in New York State without anti-discrimination and civil rights laws safeguarding the transgender community. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, which would implement these protections, has been passed by the Assembly for 11 consecutive years, but has never been brought to the State Senate floor for a vote.

Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said he’d keep fighting for GENDA to be passed and for equality for trans people to become the “law of the land.”

After the half-mile march through Mineola that culminated in a demonstration at the Nassau County Legislature building, a handful of participants, including young activists, spoke about their experiences.

Kayla McGlone, 18, said they identified as gender nonconforming and that much had happened since last year, when they sneaked out of the house to attend last year’s march. They said that in coming out to their parents, they prepared a nearly 20-page slideshow presentation.

“I’m always hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” said McGlone, of Bellmore. “I don’t want to have to hide a part of myself.”

Ryan Leavens, 29, of Medford, said that as a transgender person, he had experienced discrimination, such as being terminated from a job because of his identity. Passing GENDA would mean vital protection for more aspects of trans life, he said.

“We are all human beings here,” Leavens said. “People are uneducated about us.”

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