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WUWM's Teran Powell reports on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

Milwaukee County could become a sanctuary for transgender and non-binary people

If the Milwaukee County Board approves a resolution to make the county a 'sanctuary' for transgender and non-binary people, the county would join other counties, cities, and states in the U.S. that are protecting transgender and non-binary lives.
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If the Milwaukee County Board approves a resolution to make the county a 'sanctuary' for transgender and non-binary people, the county would join other counties, cities, and states in the U.S. that are protecting transgender and non-binary lives.

Milwaukee County may become a sanctuary community for transgender and non-binary people.

On Monday, a County Board committee voted 3-2 to declare the county a safe place for transgender children, adults and their families. The issue now moves to the full board.

The resolution acknowledges the nearly 500 anti-trans bills introduced across the country and acknowledges other sanctuaries like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, Missouri, that are taking steps to protect trans and non-binary people.

A couple dozen people testified Monday during a Milwaukee County Committee on Judiciary, Law Enforcement and General Services meeting.

The majority were in favor of a resolution to declare the county a sanctuary for transgender and non-binary people.

One of them was Yante Turner, a Black trans man, representing a local Black Trans-lead abolitionist collective called Sun Seekers MKE. He said Milwaukee County being a sanctuary has been a wish of the LGBTQ+ community in Milwaukee for longer than he’s been alive.

"Trans people will be here whether this is a sanctuary county or not. We will exist without the laws, without the restrictions, with the restrictions and with the laws," Turner said. "Our lives are being taken every second across the country. Making Milwaukee a county that is a sanctuary for trans and non-binary folks will save our lives."

Turner pointed to a Trans Needs assessment done by the nonprofit Diverse & Resilient that showed 86% of trans people in Milwaukee, majority of them Black, don’t feel safe leaving their homes.

Supporters of the resolution included folks who identify as transgender, or non-binary. Some represented local LGBTQ+ and social justice organizations. And some were parents of transgender or non-binary children.

Megan McDonald has a trans child. She is the executive director of Fair Wisconsin, an LGBTQ civil rights and advocacy organization.

While her organization supports the resolution, McDonald says, "We do want to be abundantly clear, right now Milwaukee is unfortunately not yet a true sanctuary, nor is Wisconsin. Not when Black trans women are still being murdered, not when there are hospitals in Wisconsin that refuse to provide gender-affirming care, and not when there are active, visible, vocal efforts by legislators to dehumanize and eradicate the transgender community.

McDonald referenced the Trevor Project 2023 Youth Mental Health survey, that shows a third of LGBTQ+ youth report their mental health is bad almost always, due to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

Some speakers opposed passing the sanctuary resolution, including Karen Schram. She said first and foremost Christians like herself want quote “all of these people to be loved.”

But she urged the committee to vote no on the resolution.

"God tells us in his word, there are only two genders, male and female. Genesis 127: 'So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created he/him; male and female created he/them.' Science and research proves this to be 100% true through analyzing our human DNA. Follow the science please," she said.

Danielle Kinziger opposed the resolution too. She also identified herself as Christian and repeated some of the same comments as Schram.

Kinziger is opposed to gender-affirming care for transgender children.

"And also in this resolution, I read, that I totally disagree with, that if there’s any future laws that would prohibit, say, Children’s Hospital for distributing or other clinics from distributing hormones, that they ask the sheriffs to make this lowest priority of enforcing such laws, that is lawless. And it is great evil," Kinziger said.

Testimony on the sanctuary resolution lasted two hours.

Committee members Supervisors Ryan Clancy, Willie Johnson, Jr., and Juan Miguel Martinez voted yes to adopt the resolution.

Deanna Alexander and Patti Logsdon voted no.

The resolution will now go to the full Milwaukee County Board for a vote later this month.


Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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