‘Standing in unity’: Hundreds rally at Capitol on day dedicated to transgender rights and visibility

Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 9:48 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 10:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds came out to the state Capitol building on Friday to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility. Their message: Hawaii is a safe space for everyone.

The rally comes as dozens of new laws have been passed on the continental U.S. that restrict or even ban transgender rights. Many said they attended the rally to make sure that similar laws aren’t enacted in Hawaii.

“It’s amazing to see how much people are coming out because of that because they want to stand in unity with us,” said attendee Maddalyn Sesepasara, who is a Samoan transgender woman.

She’s also the project manager for the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center’s Kua’ana Project, a transgender services program.

At the rally, the pink and light blue trans flag was everywhere as trans persons and their supporters waved signs along South Beretania Street fronting the Capitol building.

With hundreds in attendance, it’s believed to be the largest transgender rally ever in Hawaii and the largest rally at the capitol so far this year.

“Look around,” said Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke. “This is a safe space for families and for kids to understand that this is a real issue, and we honor and respect everyone.”

“They are loved. They’re seen. And they have a place here in Hawaii, just like every single person out there,” said state Rep. Adrian Tam, a member of the legislature’s LGTBQ+ Equality Caucus.

Many at the rally wore pink shirts acknowledging mahu, the Native Hawaiian transgender culture.

But attendees also noted that Hawaii’s trans population — especially youths — are still suffering.

Sesepasara said many transgender and gay youth find themselves on the streets.

“When family doesn’t accept you and they’re throwing you out on the streets, a lot of them turn to drugs, a lot of them turn to other ways to survive, and it’s back on the streets,” she said.

Hawaii is touted as a safer space for transgendered people, especially when it comes to the law.

Last year, Gov. David Ige signed a bil that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for gender identity treatments.

But the political wind is blowing in a different direction in several other states.

“So far this year there’s been 428 bills targeted LGBT and trans individuals introduced in all the other states in the country,” said state Sen. Chris Lee, another member of the LGTBQ+ Equality Caucus.

The gathering included people of all ages and even political views, including a few Republican lawmakers.

“I’m about embracing all people and the transgender community, the mahu community,” said state Rep. Kanani Souza (R-Kapolei, Makakilo).

“We have a lot of extended ohana and friends who are part of this community.”

Organizers were surprised by the turnout and Sesepasara said even more people should come next year.

“I’m really blown away, I’m so amazed. And this is what we needed.”