DULUTH, MN — They are the faces of loved ones lost. Mothers, sons, co-workers — all who paid the ultimate price for living their truth out loud.
“I think it’s really important to say that we won’t be erased. We exist here, we should be allowed to exist here and we aren’t going anywhere.”
The snowy candlelight vigil is led by Sean Hayes, one of the founders of Trans Plus. It’s a local group striving to provide a safety net for members of an often misunderstood segment of society. The perfect candidate for CBS 3’s Northern Light Award.
Co-founder Sean Hayes says “So Trans Plus is an organization or a group in Duluth, and we span the entire twin ports area and beyond. Greater Minnesota, up on the iron range and anywhere between here and the twin cities.”
Hayes says he co-founded the group out of his own experience coming out as trans.
“So for me personally when I came out as trans at the end of 2014. That was the first thing I wanted to do was connect with my community, and how do you find them if no one’s gathering and no one’s meeting?”
Now, Trans Plus holds two meetings a month for transgender and non-binary people.
Group leader Abby Gannon says they use social media to get the word out, and to recruit allies.
“We can’t do it alone, not if we want to raise the visibility of what we’re doing. So the calls for help is mainly to let people know that we’re here and what we’re doing.
The group is acutely aware of the current political environment, that often leaves transgender people fighting for their civil rights, and their lives. As a new father Sean Hayes sees that challenge and its implications for future generations, as more motivation to keep going.
“It really had gotten me thinking more and more about the work that we’re doing now for my peers and younger, but then thinking beyond that to the next generations, and what sort of mark that we as Trans Plus are going to leave here for those kids who grow up here and be in safe, inclusive, welcoming communities.”