Hey, South Dakota! Thomas Lewis here.

You may remember me as the transgender teen who challenged the “bathroom bill” in the 2016 legislative session, but in case you don’t remember, let me jog your memory. On January 29th, 2016, I spoke along with other members of the community at a press conference. We banded together to speak out against bills targeting members of the LGBT+ community in South Dakota. I spoke out that day against HB 1008, a bill targeting transgender students in the public school system. At the time, I did not understand why the legislature thought it necessary to do these things. After all, I just wanted to use the men’s room at school.

I dealt with a flurry of press for the next month, reaching outlets like CNN and The New York Times, even in news sites outside the US, over a piece of legislation that attacked trans children. I met with the governor to tell him my story, to tell him that transgender students deserve to be using the bathroom they would like to use. I am pleased to say that Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed HB 1008 on March 1st, 2016.

In everything single interview I did, I was asked one question. “Why are you doing this? What is your motivation?” And I had one answer. I was speaking for those who could not speak for themselves. Maybe they had not come out as transgender yet, maybe they had come out and were not accepted by family members, and maybe they didn’t feel safe with all the media attention. That being said, I took on a mantle of inclusivity for the state of South Dakota, saying that equality is a South Dakota value, to show lawmakers in Pierre that transgender people and their allies will fight for the transgender youth of this state to ensure their safety.

With the introduction of SB 115 this year in the South Dakota legislature, we must continue to fight for the rights of our transgender youth because they deserve to go to school on equal terms with their peers and go about their days without any trouble. Tell your legislators to vote no on SB 115. Being a teenager is hard enough. We don’t need lawmakers to make it even harder. I urge you to fight alongside with me this year against the politicians targeting my transgender brothers and sisters who are still in high school. Let’s show these legislators that we are still here and we will continue to fight for these rights! Send a message today and tell lawmakers to reject discrimination and vote NO on SB 115.

*UPDATE: SB 115 was withdrawn by its sponsors! It’s gone!