Trans rights activists organized and led dozens of protesters in a march through downtown Madison on Friday to protest GOP-led anti-trans bills in state legislatures across the country.

Protesters gathered on West Dayton Street in downtown Madison and marched up State Street to the steps of the State Capitol, where speakers of all ages shared their stories and feelings toward the legislation.

Organizers referred to the march as the Trans Liberation March. There was a police presence at the rally.

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The Wisconsin legislation in question is the Protect Women in Sports Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc. The GOP package would prohibit trans athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams at the K-12 and collegiate levels.

Similar bills barring transgender athletes from equal participation on athletic teams are circling state legislatures in 25 other states as of early March, according to the ACLU. The protest comes as Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed the first anti-trans legislation of 2021 into law Thursday.

In an interview with The Badger Herald, University of Wisconsin graduate student and activist Jack Phillips said their main takeaway from the march was a sense of community and the feeling that the marchers were “all out here together.”

“The more noise we make now about this, then the harder it’s going to be in the future to attack us — to take away our rights,” Phillips said.

In what they called the collective struggle for liberation among LGBTQ+ people, Phillips said the recent package of bills is an especially harmful attack since the legislation targets youth who are not old enough to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

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In addition to other activists, Phillips said the UW BIPOC Coalition had a role in organizing the march.

While Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will likely veto the legislation, activists remain concerned about the message the bill sends to transgender youth in Wisconsin and nationwide.

“All of these [bills] are an attempt to stamp out differences that make life worth living,” Phillips said.

Katie Hardie/The Badger Herald