Savannah GA LGBTQ speaks out against Georgia’s ban on transgender grooming

Lawrence Appenzeller, director of Savannah’s First City Pride Center, recalled the moment after Georgia passed SB 140. The law, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law on March 23, will ban most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapy for transgender and non-binary people under the age of 18.

He spoke to the parents of an 11-year-old child who had plans to start puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. Having already been denied care once in South Carolina, Appellenzer recognized the reality that the child would have to go through the emotional process of denial again.

“Said straight to her mom, ‘I can never go to Texas now. I will not be welcome in Texas. And it’s just so incredibly heartbreaking that a child notices so much that it thinks it’s not welcome in certain federal states,” said Appenzeller.

For supporters of SB 140, it is a necessary measure to protect children from “unnecessary and irreversible medical treatment”. For opponents of the bill, it’s a ban on medical treatments that will do even more harm to trans youth.

Gender-affirming nursing is a nursing model and approach that supports a person’s gender identity through a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions. This may include counseling and changes in social expression versus medications such as hormone therapy.

Georgia is the latest in a string of states across the country to pass legislation or policies restricting gender-affirmative childcare, adding to the wave of legislation curtailing LGBTQ rights. The bill also states that doctors and healthcare providers who fail to comply could lose their license and face possible criminal or civil liability.

In response to the law, transgender youth and advocates are gathering in Savannah to speak out against the ban.

“We also had many parents come to the center honestly in tears just asking how they could help, what they could do. They want resources, they want information, they want support wherever they can.”

Michele Maclver, First City Pride Center youth group coordinator, is the mother of a transgender child. She said the most important thing parents can do now is to keep the communication channels open.

Hundreds of people descended on Forsyth Park on Friday, March 31 to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility with a rally and march.  Speakers and chants focus on SB 140, the recently passed state law prohibiting gender-affirming childcare in Georgia.

“You need a safe person. If they don’t feel comfortable going to their parents’ house, sometimes it can be a sibling, or an aunt or uncle, or maybe even a teacher at school, but the most important thing is don’t be afraid to ask questions about what happened,” Maclver said.

“In everything we’ve done, we’ve made informed decisions as a family. I hate that these kids have to go to the market to get hormone replacement therapy.”

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March for trans youth autonomy

Community support led to a rally for transgender youth autonomy on March 30, which drew nearly 300 people – the young, the old, the believers, the angry.

Hundreds of people descended on Forsyth Park on Friday, March 31 to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility with a rally and march.  Speakers and chants focus on SB 140, the recently passed state law prohibiting gender-affirming childcare in Georgia.

Organized by Pluto Shoop and Simon Von Winkle, the mass of people marched down Forsyth Park to the basketball court fields and raised pretest signs, many scrawled in the light pink, blue and white of the Trans Pride flag.

Shoop began the rally by reading the names of murdered trans youth.

His co-organizer stood on the bench they used as a platform, crowd squeezed between the hedges and the Forsyth Park fountain, and condemned legislative attacks on transgender health care and rights, including SB 140. The speaker, Simon von Winkle said the laws are life threatening.

“I don’t want to stare at another coffin and put another trans flag on it. I don’t want another young trans person kidnapped too soon. I want to speak to my beautiful mother and have her tell me what’s happening at Target, not that she was molested,” Von Winkle said.

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“I want to grow so my amazing friends can find their gender identity and not hide it so they won’t be attacked on the street. I want to look at my little cousin and listen to him tell me about bugs and snakes, not his classmates calling him a swear word.”

Raven Baker, a trans woman who attends Savannah College of Art and Design, participated on the fringes of the crowd, her cheers and chants drowning out the crowd. She was angry with the lawmakers elected to represent her and other trans Georgians.

Raven Baker was one of hundreds of people who descended on Forsyth Park on Friday, March 31 to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility with a rally and march.  Baker, a trans woman, denounced SB 140, the recently passed state law banning gender-affirming childcare in Georgia.

“There’s literally scientific evidence showing that denying people access to these things does more harm than has ever been shown to be harmed by having access to them,” she said of SB 140. “And The fact that our politicians can just so blatantly ignore this is frankly disgusting in my opinion. There is no oversight, no accountability, no way for anyone to actually vote against the trust, which I think a lot of people would like to do because it’s just not right.

Studies show that LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of suicide due to abuse and stigma in society. According to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth, 45% of LGBTQ youth are seriously considering attempting suicide in 2022. In her annual LGBTQ mental health survey, she found that nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide, and LGBTQ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers.

“It feels like we’re being targeted. Our community is being targeted,” said Appenzeller. “Even a child with a super supportive family who is comfortable with themselves in their personal life and their school life when they don’t have access to that care is so hard the amount of psychological distress and upset it causes. “

One speaker, a high school student who identified herself as Magnolia, called out Senator Ben Watson, a Republican who supported SB 140. “Ben Watson is a representative of Chatham, Liberty and Bryan counties,” she paused as the crowd booed. “How do you represent me if you’re afraid to speak to me?”

Hundreds of people descended on Forsyth Park on Friday, March 31 to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility with a rally and march.  Speakers and chants focus on SB 140, the recently passed state law prohibiting gender-affirming childcare in Georgia.

Sen. Watson (R-Savannah), a physician by training, chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. He emphasized that the focus of the law is to protect children in gender-affirming care, such as For example, ongoing mental health investigations continue while irreversible surgeries and hormone therapies are suspended.

Watson said research on the bill and gender-affirming care involved listening to parents, young people and healthcare professionals. In this research, they found that the irreversible nature of the hormones and surgery was also linked to depression and suicide.

“For the most part, you don’t see much opposition to the irreversible care of minors. Many parents, including those with transgender children and later adults, have thanked us for making such legislation,” Watson said. “They felt like they would have liked it if they had their kids in those kinds of situations, so from that perspective there really wasn’t much resistance. It has by no means made everyone happy.”

Medical professionals have noted that the clear evidence of long-term outcomes for the increasing number of people who received gender-based treatment as minors is weak. However, various studies have found that the statistic of those who have experienced regret is only 0.3% to 1%.

Ben Watson

Watson pointed to an article in the British Medical Journal that said more children and young people are identifying as transgender and being offered medical treatment, particularly in the US – but some providers and European authorities have cautioned about the lack of strong evidence Caution.

“If you look at the data and the compilation of the data, both issues related to depression anxiety and suicidal ideation, these before and after, are very soft,” Watson said. “They don’t play up the people who have regrets about these ongoing mental health issues that aren’t being addressed. I think that’s where we let people down.”


The First City Pride Center team is working on a resource directory for youth with regional and local resources. The center also hosts a youth group that gives transgender and non-binary youth a chance to socialize and find support from their peers. Within this group, parents also meet to define mutual support between parents.

“Please don’t give up hope,” Maclver urged. “A lot of people are fighting for these kinds of laws to be overturned and we can keep our fingers crossed for a court challenge soon. And we’ll see what happens.”

Laura Nwogu is a quality of life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact them at Twitter: @lauranwogu_