London

London, Ont., high school students rally to support trans youth in the U.S.

More than a hundred high school students at HB Beal Secondary School in London, Ont., walked out of class on Thursday, in protest of anti-LGBTQ laws in the U.S.

The students oppose anti-LGBTQ laws in Florida and Texas

Will Rollo,16, stands on the steps of HB Beal Secondary School's King Street entrance before leading a rally against anti-LGBTQ laws and discrimination in the United States. (Angela McInnes)

More than a hundred high school students at HB Beal Secondary School in London, Ont., walked out of class on Thursday to protest anti-LGBTQ laws in the United States. 

A new law in Texas calls to investigate parents and doctors who provide transgender children with gender-affirming care. The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Twitter it has filed a lawsuit to block the directive. 

Meanwhile in Florida, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, according to a Thursday report from NBC. The bill censors LGBTQ education in classrooms. Critics call it the "Don't Say Gay" bill. 

Moments after the noon bell rang in London, students rallied across from the school, on King Street, expressing opposition and sharing accounts of their own lived experiences with anti-trans discrimination.

Ireland Burleigh,17, says they have personally experienced hatred and bigotry for being trans. (Angela McInnes)

"It's so important when in a situation where there are people in faraway places being oppressed and being discriminated against like this, it is so vital for global communities, not just states or countries, to rally around these youths and let them know that we are here for them," said walkout organizer and grade 11 student Will Rollo, age 16. 

"We will not let them be mistreated. We are a united front that will not be bullied into letting these oppressive laws and systems be pushed upon us." 

Many of the students waved flags representing the LGBTQ communities. Ireland Burleigh, 17, held a sign that read, "We see you trans Texas." 

"I am a trans person," said Burleigh. "I've personally experienced hatred and bigotry simply because of who I am and the things that are happening in Texas right now are not OK. These are children and they are harming them. And if I can do something to help them, I will." 

William Walls, 14, said that politics in the U.S. have an impact in Canada. 

William Walls, 14, waves an LGBTQ pride flag. (Angela McInnes)

"There isn't much we can do from here," they said, "but we can help to normalize this behaviour of protesting for our rights." 

Participants willing to tell their stories took turns speaking through a white megaphone. The others cheered, hugged and held hands as they listened. 

By the time the allotted half hour for the rally had passed, a handful of students were still in line to speak.

More than a hundred students participated in the walkout. (Angela McInnes)

Rollo called the turnout "encouraging." 

"We will not stop doing demonstrations like this and walking out until no trans kid has to worry about whether or not they will have a safe place to sleep at night, or whether or not they can present authentically," he said.

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