South Dakota Trans Youth Fight for Their Rights in These Powerful Photos

NewNowNext followed LGBTQ South Dakotans on the ground as they defeated a bellwether anti-trans measure.

On Monday, February 10, South Dakota’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to kill House Bill 1057, which would have barred transgender children from receiving gender-affirming medical care statewide. The vote came just hours after 16-year-old Elliot James approached Sen. Wayne Steinhauer and asked him to oppose the measure.

It was Steinhauer who ultimately motioned to kill HB 1057. The bill’s defeat marked a historic victory for transgender South Dakotans, and for LGBTQ advocates nationally. It was widely viewed as a bellwether in a string of anti-trans measures pending in state legislatures nationwide.

NewNowNext spent the days and hours leading up to the vote following LGBTQ South Dakotans as they fought the measure. Here are our favorite photos from the historic fight.

Kate Sosin
Rev. Dr. M. G. Martell Spagnolo at First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls is the only out gay pastor in South Dakota. He has been vocal against a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills in the state.

Kate Sosin

Kate Sosin
Congregants at the LGBTQ-affirming First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls sing on Sunday, February 9.

Kate Sosin
Democratic Rep. Linda Duba discusses her opposition to HB1057 while sifting through the mail in her Sioux Falls home. Duba has lived in South Dakota all her life and says many residents are frustrated that lawmakers are fighting over rolling back civil rights while state faces a shortage of affordable housing.

Kate Sosin
Damon Hainline, a field organizer with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), takes attendance on a bus of protesters bound for the capital of Pierre.

Kate Sosin
Elliot James, 16, waits to exit a bus of protesters at Pierre, the South Dakota capital.

Kate Sosin
Members of the Oglala Lakota Nation both rally and testify in support of transgender rights February 10.

Kate Sosin
Oliver Mikkelsen, 12, waits outside the Senate chambers in hopes of meeting with his senator to talk about HB 1057 and how it impacts him personally.

Kate Sosin

Kate Sosin
Young people sit through the committee hearing on HB 1057. During the hearing, some trans youth show frustration and one walks out, visibly shaken by the proceedings.

Kate Sosin
Angelica Mercado-Ford, 25, says she fears for her life as an LGBTQ South Dakotan. “People in South Dakota are more prone to defend their guns instead of defending basic human rights,” she tells NewNowNext.

Kate Sosin
Protesters gather outside the South Dakota capital building just before 7am in Pierre. Many left downtown Sioux Falls at 3am to make the trip by bus.

Kate Sosin
Eve Wieser, 22, made 80 calls against HB 1057. She says she is often the first trans person that people in Sioux Falls meet.

Kate Sosin
Oliver Mikkelsen, 12, practices what he will say to his senator when he asks him to vote no on HB 1057. Mikkelsen told his mom he was transgender a year ago.

Kate Sosin
Elliot James, 16, asks Senator Wayne Steinhauer to vote against HB 1057. “I have grown up with a lot of struggle in my gender,” James tells Steinhauer. “I definitely don’t think that this bill is acting in the best interest of the children of South Dakota.”

Kate Sosin
Quinncy Parke, 17, testifies before the South Dakota Senate’s Heath and Human Services Committee in favor of gender-affirming health care for trans youth.

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.
@shoeleatherkate