Lisa Stuart, a transgender activist, has dedicated her entire life to increasing visibility for transgender Arkansans.
She said, "What many people don't know is that there are a lot more us in the community" than they realize. "There is a myth that trans people are rare in this community.
The nation finally paid attention to the trans community in the state last year. Stuart was disappointed.
Arkansas became the first state in the United States to prohibit gender-affirming care of transgender minors. This made Arkansas international news. The state's trans population was also highlighted by a law that the governor signed last March.
While trans Arkansans wait for the courts to decide whether the health care law will stand, Stuart spotlights the trans community in her own way. She helped to put together the Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week's opening show. It featured 13 trans models.
Stuart, one of 13 models who walked in the event, stated that "we really want to promote awareness and visibility that trans people are part of the community. That we are everywhere and that we are involved in every aspect society, any hobby. Any occupation." "The more people understand trans, the more they'll see the problems in these pieces of legislation."
All the clothes from the fashion show, which was hosted by the arts nonprofit Interform, were selected by The Transition Closet. This Arkansas-based non-profit offers clothing free of charge to the LGBTQ community. Also, the group received 10% of ticket sales proceeds.
The state passed legislation in June that Amare Roush created The Transition Closet. Roush, who uses gender-neutral pronouns in his speech, stated that they wanted to create a safe place for their community to shop for clothes and to enjoy fashion.
Roush stated that it is the first thing people see when they go to interview for a job. Roush stated, "I wanted my siblings to have that closet so that they could get those clothes so that they could be themselves."
"Thankfully, we are able to do what we can to make it less frightening for the community, since that's all we really need right now," they said, referring to the legislation.
Freedom for All Americans, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ protections across the nation, found that conservative state legislators in the United States have filed more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills over the past two years. The majority of these bills, at least 225, targeted trans Americans in particular, according to Freedom for All Americans.
Most of these measures are similar to Arkansas's new laws: bills that prohibit trans kids from participating in school sports teams that reflect their gender identity or restrict their access to care.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (a advocacy group) and the Human Rights Campaign, eleven states have passed such laws since the beginning of 2021. Arkansas and Tennessee are the only states where both types of legislation have been passed into law. Arkansas beat Tennessee by a hair.
Joel Manning, the president of Transgender Equality Network's board of directors in Arkansas, said that Arkansas made a loud statement with its policies and those it didn’t.
After the ACLU challenged the Arkansas law before it was implemented in court, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Arkansas July. This was in response to trans youths and their families. Manning stated that Arkansas clinics that offer gender-affirming services have closed or stopped offering them.
He said that the legality of the situation does not necessarily determine how people will respond to it. "We still get calls from people who are afraid and don't know what will happen. They feel that they should prepare for the worst.
He said, "It is very destabilizing and it's tragic to see people acting as if it's in fact just out of fear."
Phoenix May, 14 years old, is a patient at one of the Arkansan trans clinics. It is closing down in order to avoid any legal liability. His clinic, the Gender Spectrum Clinic of Little Rock, will close and his family will need to transport him to another state for transition-related care.
"All these positive things were happening simultaneously, and then all of a sudden, this legislation passed and it crashed down. He said, "Oh, this is just one more thing we must fight as well."
May stated that he hopes that by participating in Thursday's fashion show, he can inspire and unite trans children as they wait for the decision on the health-care bill.
He said, "It's great to be able be out there and prove to people that you're not alone." "We just need to find the bright spots and persevere."