Kelsey and Chris Waits were the final speakers at a rally held in Hastings to show support for trans kids. The speech, which was about five minutes long, was interrupted numerous times with the crowd cheering for the family.Photo courtesy of the Hastings Community TV live stream.
Hastings rallies around Trans and LGBQ+ kids

By Bruce Karnick

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On a chilly and windy Saturday afternoon in the first week of December, hundreds of Hastings area residents gathered at the Rotary Pavilion on the banks of the Mississippi river to show their support for the LGBQT+ community. This rally was sparked by a recent CNN story surrounding the Kelsey Waits family and their trans daughter, Kit.

Lisa Hedin kicked off the rally as the MC stating that, “Today’s rally brings together a coalition of supporters to show transgender, non-binary and LGBTQ plus kids that the Hastings community has their back. We’re here today, in response to the hate directed at the family of Kelsey Waits, our school board chair, she was bullied and harassed throughout her recent bid for reelection. These attacks went well beyond the typical criticism and scrutiny that elected officials can sometimes face.”

Hedin, a 10-year school board official, gave a rundown on how to donate to help students affected, how to watch a playback of the events through HCTV and how the event would go. Hedin did a wonderful job as the host. She was very clear and concise as well as passionate and welcoming to those in attendance.

Each speaker spoke on their support of the Waits family, including standing with Kit and all trans children. The speakers were given an opportunity to speak about their organization and how they help those that are LGBTQ+ and their families.

Cheryl Green, Managing Director of Welcoming Schools took the mic. Welcoming Schools is an organization that focuses on bullying prevention in schools, especially around LGBTQ+ students.

Mara Glubka, Director of Transforming Families, echoed support. Transforming Families is a support organization that has been focusing on helping transgender youth and their families.

Reverend Michael Le Buhn Junior, a Hastings Chaplain, spoke on the atrocities that have plagued Christianity’s history, especially around the treatment of LGBTQ+ people. He spoke on each human life being sacred.

Hastings YMCA Director Brian Davis, who is also the school board treasurer, spoke on a position of welcoming that the YMCA is a safe place for all.

Council Members Jen Fox and Tina Folch joined fellow council member Lisa Leifeld as she spoke on hate and bigotry not being welcome in the Hastings Community. Leifeld spoke on how hate towards any group of residents has an affect on the entire town. It can affect taxes, school enrollment, new families and businesses decision on coming to Hastings. Leifeld encouraged people to get involved and make Hastings a safe place for all.

Kathy O’Keefe, President of Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council and former special education teacher in Hastings, spoke of being involved with marginalized students and the effects it has not only on the students but those around them and encouraged people to take the journey of learning with her. Learn how to be a better ally, a better supporter of those that are marginalized.

Erin Maye Quade, Advocacy Director at Gender Justice, changed the energy of the group. She stepped up and her positive excitement of being there to support the LGBTQ+ community was infectious. She worked the crowd into cheers in support of trans and non-binary kids before she began to speak. She spoke on Gender Justices role in fighting for the LGBTQ+ community primarily through legal/legislative means. They also offer support roles outside of the legal system.

Marta – Founder of IDEA – Hastings Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance, spoke on her experiences here in town as an adoptive parent of a trans child and how the birth mother treated the child upon coming out.

Senator Karla Bigham could not be at the event in person, but asked that a statement be read. —

What happened to the Waits family is unacceptable, disappointing and hurtful. It has exposed a dark side of our community that we must shine a bright light on to ensure that this never happens again to any child. As a community. We owe it to Kit, tthe Waits family and our state to do better.

See RALLY Page 3

We need to continue to work, to speak out on injustice and work together to implement change so that everyone feels welcome in every community, to our transgender, non-binary and LGBTQ plus children. We see you, we hear you, we love you, and we support you.

Kelsey and her family are simply amazing. I am so proud to call them friends. She will not back down from bringing the necessary changes to support trans kids. And as a community, we come together today to support them and join them in the fight for inclusion. Thank you, Kelsey, and family for your leadership, advocacy and friendship.

— Senator Erin Murphy from District 64 with several other senators and representatives came to show support and talked about how politics needs to be conducted with leaving children out of things.

Leigh Finke – ACLU Minnesota and Owner of Totally Gay Productions, a multi-media production company. As a trans woman, Finke spoke of growing up trans and the experience they had from the adults around them. She spoke of the failures of the system and the adults that were supposed to protect them. Finke finished by saying that being part of the LGBQT+ community is the best because they get to recreate themselves.

The final speaker was Kelsey Waits. Waits, accompanied by her husband Chris, gave an emotional speech thanking everyone for the support and vowing to not let the bullies win.

— Kelsey: Thank you. So, normally I like to come to these things with you know like speech prepared. And lots of fancy words and practice. And honestly, it’s been such an emotional roller coaster. I didn’t know if I’d get up here and be able to say any words. Or if I would just cry. I just, looking out here. This is amazing. And thank you. And so just before I really say anything, there’s been a mention of me and a mention of Chris and the mention of Kit. And I just want to do a special shout out to the best big sister, and best ally that Kit could have ever asked for. And that’s Abby.

Chris: We love you Abby. Kelsey: Making the decision to go public with our story, especially in such a national way was not easy. I can’t tell you the hours I spent crying over whether or not we would do this or not knowing that it would only draw more attention and potentially more danger to my family. But as a family we talked and this is about so much more than me, and Chris and Abby and Kit. And while the CNN story is our story, it’s also all of our stories. This is about the daily hate that we experienced, the fear that we experienced to be ourselves, to fight for what’s right. This is about putting a spotlight on the hate and saying, we are all done And the article said we are moving, and that is true. But that does not mean that the bullies win. Because let me be clear, I am not done with this fight I, since Kit came out, I have devoted everything in me to be working to make a better life for our trans and non-binary and LGBTQ kids. I have my master’s degree in policies to protect these kids. This is what I study, this is what I’m passionate about. This is what I’m working to make better everywhere. And that work will continue every single day. And when we go home, we’ll know we’re safe at home so that the next day I can get out and do this again. And keep up this fight because these bullies will not win.

Just thank you, you know, the last few months, we have been filled with so much fear. And there’s been so much hate thrown our way and seeing this is just, this is just amazing. Someone told me last night that this may be the largest gathering supporting trans people Minnesota has ever had. And it’s happening in Hastings, Minnesota. So, I can’t tell you that there’s no hate, and there’s no bigotry here. But what I can tell you is to just look around and see how many people are fighting to make this better, and we will make it better and we will make it safe and to all of our trans kids, especially my trans kid. Just know how much I love you. And I will always work to make the world a better place for you. Thank you so much.

Hedin closed the event thanking the supporters for coming to the event and for the sponsors of the event.

The hour-long event was recorded by Hastings Community Television and shared on their Facebook channel. We encourage you to go to our Facebook page, Hastings Journal where we shared the video to see it for yourself!

Several hundred supporters of the LGBQT+ community and the Waits Family gathered at the Rotary Pavilion on Saturday to show their support following a story from CNN highlighting the treatment of the Waits family during the Hastings School Board Election.Photo courtesy of Tina Folch.

December 8, 2021