By Reid Nakamura
Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr attended Trans Pride LA’s inaugural Trans Town Hall on Friday, June 16 for a live interview with host Raquel Willis, shedding light on her journey to becoming the first out transgender woman elected to the Montana legislature and reflecting on the legislative attacks on transgender rights in her home state.
Zephyr was in the news earlier this year when she was retaliated against by her colleagues for speaking out against legislation barring gender-affirming care for minors.
“I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” she told her colleagues. She was barred from attending or speaking on the House floor.
Zephyr said she chose the language she used purposefully, to draw attention to the issue of suicidality among trans youth. “We’re not just talking about a statistic, we’re talking about real people that I’m hearing from families in my communities,” she said.
She warned that transgender youth aren’t the only ones being targeted by right-wing backlash. People with disabilities, public education, and LGBTQ+ rights writ large are all being targeted and have come together in opposition to this movement, she said. “I’ve never felt more solidarity with the communities around me who are fighting parallel to us.”
After seven people were arrested at the Montana State Capitol while protesting Zephyr’s silencing by the House, the representative and the ACLU met them upon their release. The group went out to dinner, where they sang the union anthem “Solidarity Forever,” Zephyr said. “We knew that we were standing together now.
Despite the censure by her colleagues, Zephyr said she continues to show up to work on behalf of her constituents. “I had thousands of conversations when I was campaigning, and I go to work every day to represent what they want,” she said. “It’s a job where I get to go in every day and work to make my home a better place, and that’s a blessing.”
“So much of the legislation we see is designed to instill fear and hopelessness, really trying to make the community feel small and vulnerable,” she said. “But I know from traveling the country and being in my community that we are anything but small, and we are anything but vulnerable. If we peel back all the layers of stuff going on with the trans community, at the very center of it is love. And you cannot take that away from us.”