PITTSTON — The International Transgender Day of Visibility was recognized Thursday at the Pittston Memorial Library with a ceremony hosted by Pittston Mayor Jason Klush and Carl Halkyer, co-chair of the NEPA Rainbow Alliance Board.
Each year March 31 is set aside to mark the accomplishments of transgender people and help create an awareness of discrimination transgender people face worldwide.
To mark the occasion, in addition to the event in Pittston, there were four other sites in Pennsylvania noting the day in Erie, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The LGBT community is pushing for legislation in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 974/House Bill 1510, also known as the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, will update the state’s current Human Relations Act to include protections for gay and transgender Pennsylvanians from discrimination at work, in housing and business services.
The hope of leaders of the LGBT community is that events like International Transgender Day of Visibility will create awareness of discrimination issues in the state.
Klush spoke about the city’s commitment to the LGBT community.
“An equality ordinance was signed into law in 2013 where the vote was unanimous,” Klush said. “It’s been a great partnership with the LGTB community.”
According to Klush, the NEPA Rainbow Alliance has an office in downtown Pittston. The city hosts Pridefest, a celebration of the LGTB community formerly held at Kirby Park.
Halkyer commended Klush for the city’s progressive view toward the LGBT community.
The evening had several speakers including Allison VanKuiken, 35, deputy field director of PA Competes. VanKuiken, who is a transgendered person, works out of the Philadelphia area as an advocate transgender issues as well as all LGBT community issues.
“My work is largely advocacy and working with legislators to build familiarity with LGBT community. Many legislators are not aware of LGBT constituents,” VanKuiken said. “The International Transgender Day of Visibility is a day of raising our community’s voices where today more people believe in ghosts than transgender people. We are a wonderful community of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives that all we want is the chance to provide for our family.”
VanKuiken said the LGBT community hopes to see both Pennsylvania bills passed sometime this year.
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