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Trans Alliance: The importance of community, solidarity and resources in Idaho

Photo courtesy of Elias Valverde II, The Dallas Morning News
This article was written by Merlin Macdonald, president of the Boise State Trans Alliance Club.

Idaho has always been a distant lover to me. We text each other sometimes — a late “goodnight” or the obligatory morning greeting.

I have lived here my whole life, and I still don’t think I would confidently introduce it to someone as my home. Currently, there is an epidemic of anti-transgender rhetoric that has been sweeping the state, as well as the country.  

Recently, House Bill (HB) 675 prohibiting gender reassignment surgery for minors passed the Idaho House of Representatives. Although it failed in the Idaho Senate, the fact that this bill got as far as it did represents the opinion of the public towards trans people in Idaho. 

This comes after Florida passed HB 1557 or the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill prohibits the discussion of “sexual orientation or gender identity” in school from kindergarten to third grade. 

Not only will this put young queer children at risk, but trans kids are now even more vulnerable. If Florida is able to get this far with a bill that restrictive, a bill that is simply a targeted censorship, then surely Idaho will not be far behind. 

These sorts of laws and hostile actions aren’t new. 

It was just in 2018 that it became legal in Idaho for trans people to change their name and sex on their birth certificate. It took the state two years to come to this decision after gay marriage was legalized. 

Marlon Peseke, left, Amber Witte, center, and Kenzie Ferguson, 13, right, carry signs during the "Trans Kids Cry For Help" rally outside the Texas Governor's Mansion in Austin, Texas, Sunday, March 13, 2022.
[Protestors carry signs during the “Trans Kids Cry For Help” rally outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas, Sunday, March 13, 2022.]
Photo courtesy of Elias Valverde II, The Dallas Morning News

Then, in 2020 Idaho attempted to overturn that decision. Luckily, the ruling made by Judge Candy Dale in 2018 stated that this infringed on the constitutional rights of trans people, and that it is their right to change their name in accordance with their wishes. 

After living in Idaho for so long, I expected it to become more progressive and accepting as time went on. Yet, it is in fact the opposite. 

Historically, Moscow and Boise have been the two most inclusive places for queer folks to live in Idaho. There used to be a number of resources in both places, ranging from social to medical in the early 2000s. But, even then, there was little help for transgender individuals. 

Over time the places available for queer people have been dwindling in both Moscow and Boise. Cut to 2022, people are not even able to get their basic needs met. 

When I left Boise in 2019, I was not out, and I had not even thought about transitioning. After being away for two years, I came back and was surprised at the state Idaho was in. 

So many other places were much more accepting and inclusive. I saw just how lacking Idaho is when it comes to resources for trans people. 

However, I was excited to see the opportunities that Boise State held, and how it could help me navigate the complex minefield of medical and social problems as a trans person. I was surprised to see that not only was there very little available but that the resources provided had been almost completely exhausted. 

Because of this realization, I decided after my first semester here that I wanted to become the president of the Transgender Alliance Club. 

It was my goal to make sure that people didn’t feel discouraged when thinking about the prospect of being trans in Idaho. At the very least, I wanted to give them some relief. I saw how places like California treated its queer population, and I wanted to get as close as I could to mimicking that. 

After talking with other student leaders and thinking about what would be plausible in a semester, I decided to create a supply locker that members of my club could access. It contains everything from medical supplies to hygiene products. After having my grant approved, I was able to use over $3,000 towards these resources. 

Not only was I able to set up enough products for the 40 members of my club to use, but I also extended this opportunity to other queer-led clubs at Boise State like Pride Alliance and QSTEM. I purchased over 400 items and prepared a system where people could safely and securely obtain these resources. 

The hygiene products span from deodorant to shaving cream, as well as perfumes and makeup. I also purchased medical supplies such as (but not limited to) OD kits, scar repair products, sharps containers and a whole lot of TransTape. I made sure that everyone would feel included and comfortable with the supplies available. 

For anyone who is interested in accessing these resources, I want to make it as simple as possible. But in order to keep it safe and secure for all members, I ask that people reach out to the Transgender Alliance directly, as well as follow the prompts that are sent. Our email as well as other contact information can be found on the Boise State Engage.

I don’t think this fixes Idaho, or solves the problems of trans and queer people. However, I hope that it gives people some temporary relief when it comes to hygiene and access to certain medical supplies. 

I established this locker because I would have liked that kind of support when I was first starting college. I know that Boise State says it will continue to make inclusive progress in the future, but for the students currently enrolled without many resources, this is just an empty promise. Trans students won’t be here forever before they’re sent out into the world with no substantial support. 

As someone who has been able to not only come out but also transition, I would like to help as many people feel comfortable as I can. 

I know that Idaho is not a place where that is easy (and I would say even possible) but, at the very least, someone should be able to get scar cream or deodorant without having to put themselves in danger. I want people in my community as well as in the Transgender Alliance to know that they are supported, and to feel encouraged to keep fighting.

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