Holding signs that read “Trans is beautiful” and “Be bold for love,” roughly two dozen people gathered in Perlman Park on Saturday for the second Santa Maria International Transgender Day of Visibility Rally.
"We want to make sure we don't forget about our history and community," said Jessie Funes, one of the event's organizers. "We want to make sure that trans community members are visible ... and let them know they have support and allies. "
Typically held March 31 across the country, Transgender Day of Visibility rallies provide members of the queer, transgender and gender nonconforming community a space to celebrate their existence and stand in solidarity with others across the country.
"A lot of visibility [for the LGBTQ community] comes out of violence," said Funes, explaining that House of Pride and Equality (HOPE)/Casa de Orgullo and Igualdad (ESPERANZA), the Latino LGBTQ support organization she helped co-found, was done so in wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.
"For us, the visibility today — just like Cesar Chavez Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day — is to recognize our trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming community," she said. "We do this so people don't feel isolated or alone — there's a big LGBTQ community in Santa Maria. Anyone that feels they don't fit has a place at our home."
Speaking at the start of Saturday morning's demonstration, Santa Maria native and local activist Annabelle Bourdons thanked the crowd for its support.
"Growing up, I never thought this would be possible," she said. "I've lived here my whole life and there have been times where I've wanted nothing more than to move away. The community has been pretty accepting and very nice."
As the day continued, supporters trickled in and took to the streets to hold signs and wave to drivers and onlookers. Many honked their horns in support of the message, while others stopped to read closely or listen in.
"Santa Maria has had people in the LGBTQ community be visible for a long time," Funes said. "Everyone has been respectful and we've never met any resistance. It shows that the community is here and ready to come out."