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LGBTQ-plus supporters rally against anti-transgender panel at Cal Poly 

Cheers, music, and chants from more than 300 people echoed outside Cal Poly's Fisher Science Building and Baker Science Building on the evening of Dec. 5.

The group gathered for more than four hours at back-to-back rallies to make their voices heard as Turning Point USA's Cal Poly chapter hosted what it called a "de-transitioning panel."

"I have never seen anything like this," third-year Cal Poly student Will Toles told New Times at the rally. "To have a critical mass of people who show up and showcase why something like this isn't right is so incredibly important."

click to enlarge SPEAKING OUT More than 300 people showed up to Cal Poly on Dec. 5 to support transgender people during a de-transitioning panel, which they called "anti-trans." - COURTESY PHOTO BY ADDISON LECLAIRE
  • Courtesy Photo By Addison Leclaire
  • SPEAKING OUT More than 300 people showed up to Cal Poly on Dec. 5 to support transgender people during a de-transitioning panel, which they called "anti-trans."

The first rally featured drag performances and dance music. The second was a concert featuring local student acts Carpool, Suburban Dropout, and Paper Boats.

"I won't lie, the event was terrifying to put together but ended up being amazing, and I found the support I never really thought I would hear," said transgender Cal Poly student Mackenzie Miranda, who plays in Paper Boats and organized the second rally with her boyfriend, Jamie Larkin, and their friends.

Chris Elston—aka "Billboard Chris"—and Chloe Cole spoke on the panel, which claimed to be "a dad and a de-transitioner's take on the transgender movement."

Elston rose to prominence around the U.S. and his native Canada by traveling and talking to people, usually while wearing a billboard, about what he believed to be a dangerous rise in transgender youth and the use of puberty blockers.

Cole serves as Elston's example as the pair travels the country, sharing her perspective on what she considered to be her forced transition starting when she was 13 years old and a negative experience with puberty blockers. She de-transitioned back when she was 16.

"Transgenderism is about the denial of reality, it's about upending everything we know that's normal and good, it's about destroying the nuclear family, it's about taking everything perverse in society and making it normalized," Elston said during the panel. "This is child abuse, and we are going to stop it."

He called out the rallies outside the panel, claiming that the groups didn't know what they were protesting and were simply looking for an excuse to party.

"They think we are against LGBTQ people, [but] I've got news for you, there's no such thing as an LGBTQ person!" Elston said. "Those are just a bunch of letters, letters intended to silence you if you dare say anything about the ghoulish business of trying to change a child's body and stop development."

New Times reached out to Cal Poly for comment on the panel and subsequent rallies.

"We understand why some people are upset about particular guest speakers at Cal Poly, but it is not the university's role to decide who can and cannot express their viewpoints on campus," university spokesman Matt Lazier said in a statement. "With that in mind, we need to make the distinction that the event is not being presented by the university, it is being put on by a student club ... which is utilizing university facilities."

In the statement, Lazier said that the university didn't necessarily agree with the content being expressed at the event.

"All trans students, employees, and visitors are valued members of our community, and the university does not support language or ideas intended to divide," the statement said. "Cal Poly embraces diversity and champions inclusion within its community, both as a moral imperative and as a key element in our efforts to educate our students."

That inclusion and diversity on display at the rallies was something that Miranda said will stick with her for a long time.

"It's just incredible, I feel amazing, and I'm so happy with how everything worked out," she said with a laugh.

She hopes that with the community making its voice heard, transgender people like herself will know that there is support for them.

"From all the bands and attendees of both rallies to University Police who worked with us to sanction the events and keep people safe to the dean of students who supported me—I am so thankful," she said. "I thought I didn't have support, but when I looked for it, I found it easily. It's there, and I am so happy I was able to experience it firsthand." Δ

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