Transgender rights supporters walk down Congress Street on their way to Wednesday’s rally at Portland City Hall. Staff photo by Derek Davis

About 150 people demonstrated for the rights of transgender people Wednesday night in downtown Portland, a rally sparked by the rescinding of federal protections concerning public school bathroom use.

The Trump administration last month revoked federal guidelines that protected transgender students’ rights to use public school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The Feb. 22 decision, which rescinded guidelines enacted by the Obama administration, have generated more stress and fear in a community that was already feeling oppressed, said the rally’s organizers.

The Maine Transgender Network has received an average of 50 phone calls a day over the past week, said Quinn Gormley, the network’s president. She said she has spent a lot of time comforting transgender people frightened by the rule change.

“What Trump is doing is modeling for students, teachers and parents across the nation and world how to bully transgender kids,” Gormley said.

The rally began outside the Equality Community Center at 511 Congress St. The crowd then marched down Congress Street holding signs that said, “We stand on the side of love,” and “Love over Fear,” while chanting “trans lives matter.”

Emily and David Wedick of South Portland smile at each other while speaking to the crowd about their 5-year-old transgender daughter. Emily Wedick said that being transgender is not about choice. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Gormley said the rally was intended to protest what they said are Trump administration attacks on transgender children and youths.

“We need to rise up together and to show them that this is unacceptable, and to show the trans children and youth in our communities that we are here to support them, protect them and empower them,” the network said in a message posted on Facebook.

At the rally, a number of people from the transgender community spoke, including the mother of a transgender 5-year-old girl and a Scarborough High School senior who wrote a letter to Trump after the decision was announced.

Emily and David Wedick of South Portland have two daughters ages 3 and 5, but one, named Violet, was born a boy.

“We are the proud parents of a transgender 5-year-old girl,” Emily Wedick told the crowd at City Hall.

The crowd hears from Ev Norsworthy, student from Scarborough who identifies as gender queer. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Since the age of 2, all Violet ever wanted to do was wear dresses, Wedick said, adding that being transgender is not about choice. She said gender is built into an individual’s brain from the moment they are born.

“Being transgender is not about body parts and it’s not about bathrooms, it’s about making room for transgender people in our society,” Wedick said.

Ev Norsworthy, a senior at Scarborough High, read parts of the letter to Trump. Norsworthy identifies as gender queer.

Norsworthy has been pushed into lockers and harassed at school and told Trump that he “has set a precedent by allowing transgender people to be bullied and assaulted.”

Michelle Fournier of Falmouth, center, and Oliah Fahrenwald of Portland, left, listen to a speaker at the rally. Staff photo by Derek Davis

“I began to believe I was better off dead, but somehow I survived,” Gia Drew, program director for Equality Maine, told the crowd. For years, especially in high school, Drew said, she was tormented and bullied, and lived in fear for her life.

But Drew celebrated her 50th birthday on Wednesday and wished everyone a lifetime filled with happy birthdays.

“People will try to intimidate you and hurt you, but I hope you know that you are beautiful and that you don’t have to justify your existence to anyone,” Drew said.

Another transgender rights rally is planned in Monument Square on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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