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Chants of “Our existence is resistance” and “Trans rights are human rights” could be heard coming from the crowd gathered at the corner of Main Street and Broadway in downtown Santa Maria during the inaugural Santa Maria International Transgender Day of Visibility Rally.

“We want to make sure that we give visibility to celebrating folks that are transgender identifying or gender variant and nonconforming,” event organizer Jessie Funes said.

Transgender Day of Visibility rallies are usually held March 31 across the country, but the local group decided to host Santa Maria’s rally Friday in Perlman Park.

Funes recently founded the group House of Pride & Equality (HOPE)/Casa de Orgullo & Igualdad (ESPERANZA) to support Santa Maria’s LGBTQ community.

Funes' group partnered with the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and the North County Coalition to organize the event.

During the rally, supporters held signs and waved to passers-by who honked their horns in support of the rally.

David Dennis' sign had a quote from Abraham Lincoln that read “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

He attended, he said, “to support all the rest of the humans that are here.”

Jane Baxter held a sign that read “Honk for gender equality.”

“I think the message needs to be heard that Santa Maria is for gender equality,” Baxter said. ”I have good friends who have a transgender child. It has been both challenging for both my friends and the child, but having community support has made it a lot easier.”

“The folks that are here are supporting visibility; standing up for transgender rights and to stand up for the rights of trans kids,” Funes said. “Sexual orientation is who you fall in love with. You fall in love with whomever you want. Gender and sexual orientation are two different things.”

Funes added, “People’s rights are under attack. We are very lucky that we live in California because we have people that lobby for our rights. In other states, like what’s happening in Texas, what’s happening in South Carolina, people are being discriminated against.”

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Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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City Government Reporter