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Advocates, Baltimore mayor rally on International Transgender Day of Visibility to discuss LGBTQ issues

More than two dozen people gathered with local advocates and Mayor Brandon Scott outside Baltimore’s City Hall on Wednesday to promote International Transgender Day of Visibility.

The event was organized by Baltimore Safe Haven, a local LGBTQ rights group that called on politicians including Scott to follow through on campaign promises and start taking real action for the trans community to “show that they matter.”

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“We’re supposed to be visible today but I have to tell you, I feel mostly invisible in Baltimore City, a place I call home,” Iya Dammons, director and founder of Baltimore Safe Haven, said.

Scott, a Democrat, issued a mayoral proclamation for Transgender Day of Visibility and condemned lawmakers promoting anti-trans legislation, including the Arkansas Senate, which passed a bill Tuesday that would bar access to trans health care for minors. He also vowed to continue pushing for reforms in the Maryland legislature and to talk with trans community members about what resources they need and act on those requests.

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“It is my duty as the mayor of this city to stand up and ensure the health and well-being of all Baltimoreans,” Scott said. “And that includes our trans community. I want everybody in Baltimore to hear you.”

Dammons quickly responded: “I’m going to fight like hell and hold you accountable.”

Kaycee Voorhees, founder of Safe Haven Baltimore Cares and a youth ambassador of Baltimore Safe Haven, spoke about the importance of lifting youth voices and protecting them.

The 18-year-old spoke about his struggles of not feeling accepted, loved or protected, and said he dropped out of high school after being diagnosed as HIV-positive at 17. He said he couldn’t take being stereotyped more than he already was in school as an “openly gay, flamboyant, Black queer.”

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“I once was a lost child and I’m still finding my way,” Voorhees said. “And as I’m finding my way, it’s my job to protect the youth because nobody was there to protect me. We have to build the youth up because when we’re gone, nobody else will be here to tell our story.”

Melissa Deveraux, the chief of staff at Baltimore Safe Haven, said she recently lost two children, one of whom was her 23-year-old transgender daughter. She spoke of the need to support those in the LGBTQ community and how it’s imperative to hold elected officials accountable.

“So many of our children are dying,” Deveraux said. “Don’t let your child or your loved one be the next one because you’re not listening or letting them be an individual.”

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