ASHLAND Zo Hayes has seen his share of difficulties because he is a transgender teen.
In fact, he said his life isn’t as important to Kentucky lawmakers as other lives are.
“If I committed suicide, it would be the equivalent to an animal dying,” he told a crowd on Saturday during a rally against state anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. “America is about freedom, but I’m not feeling very free right now.”
His mother, Heather Hayes, said Zo is bullied by other students on a daily basis and school staff have refused to use his preferred name.
“We were told to have his name changed legally,” Hayes said. “Under the new law, he wouldn’t be allowed to change his name.”
The rally’s purpose was to protest bills before the General Assembly that discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, in particular, HB470 which would deny gender-affirming care to trans youth 17 and younger. That bill also denies trans youth the right to make a gender-affirming name change, as was suggested to Zo Hayes.
“I felt like I was drowning,” Zo said of hearing the bill passed the house.
Heather Hayes said the bill prohibits her from making decisions about her own child’s health and life.
River Fazekas, media advisor for Ashland Pride, which partnered with Kentucky People’s Union to host the event, said the group also opposes Senate Bill 150, which prevents teachers from creating a safe, inclusive classroom for LGBTQ+ students.
“These bills are confusing at best and predatory at worst,” Fazekas said.
The peaceful protest at Broadway Square drew about 50, including Andrew Potter of South Point, who said he attended because he wanted to be informed and supportive.
“The House bill is going to affect a lot of people in the community and I want to show support,” he said.
Elliot Frederick, a member of Ashland Pride and the Kentucky People’s Union, said many who oppose care to trans teens need more information.
“Less than 1% change their mind,” he said of trans teens. “They’re not doing anything that’s irreversible before they’re 18.
“A lot of people in the area aren’t aware of the impact this bill will have, and they’re not aware of how many trans people are in the area,” he said.
Sean Farrington, who emceed the rally, said he expects more pop-up rallies like Saturday’s event in light of the legislation, which also includes Senate Bill 115, which opposes drag shows.
Explaining he is a Christian, he said he opposes Christian nationalism and quoted several Bible verses, including Isaiah 1:17, which states, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
“Jesus would hang his head in shame knowing they are doing this in His name,” Farrington said.
Boyd County Justice of the Peace Suzanne Barker-Griffith was on hand to stress the importance of voting and offer attendees the chance to register to vote.
“I’m a big champion of peace, environment, human rights, justice, democracy and equality,” Barker-Griffith said. “Voting. That’s how you make change.”