Risking disciplinary action and braving near-freezing temperatures, over 20 Mankato West High School students walked out of school on Mar. 31 around 12 noon to protest anti-LGBTQ legislation being passed around the United States.
For several hours on a portion of Riverfront Drive, outside of the school, members of the Mankato West Gender and Sexuality Alliance waved a variety of LGBTQ pride flags and carried signs in support of LGBTQ causes.
“There have been extremely homophobic and transphobic laws being passed around the United States such as ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that passed in Florida. There’s an extremely transphobic law that passed in Texas that any parent of transgender kids who respect their pronouns is going to [be] investigated by CPS,” said Lane Bungum, a Mankato West student who helped organize the walkout.
“All of us here are either in stance with the LGBTQ or part of it, so we don’t want our rights taken away,” said Bungum.
Mankato Wests’ GSA President Alex Glasser was at the event wearing an assortment of pro-LGBTQ buttons. Glasser also wore a hat with the non-binary pride flag colors and had a non-binary pride flag over their shoulders.
“I have friends all over the US and they’re not in as comfortable a place as I am. I am lucky to have a supportive family. Not everyone does and it’s going to get so much worse if we let these anti-trans and anti-gay bills to continue to exist,” said Glasser.
According to KEYC, Mankato West Principal Sherri Blasing supported the right of the students to engage in protest, but the school would still consider the walkout an unexcused absence.
During the walkout, one student stood on the Riverfront medium carrying a sign that said, “honk for the LGBTQ+”. Another student had a sign that read, “Here and queer”.
Plenty of cars honked as they passed the students.
As reported by NBC News, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in state legislatures this year. Half of the bills are specifically anti-transgender and represent an increase from 191 anti-LGBTQ bills in 2021.
The phrase “Don’t Say Gay Bill” is what LGBTQ activists use to refer to the “Parental Rights in Education Bill” recently signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron Desantis. The bill itself bans the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made attempts to criminalize gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth by declaring it a form of child abuse.
The walkout coincided with Transgender Day of Visibility, which was established to celebrate transgender identity and raise awareness of the discrimination and violence faced by transgender individuals.
Header Photo: Mankato West students standing on the sidewalk along Riverfront Dr. near Mankato West during the walkout. (Jeremy Redlien/The Reporter)
Write to Jeremy Redlien at Jeremy.Redlien@mnsu.edu