Kelsey and Chris Waits

Kelsey Waits stands beside her husband Chris as she speaks to the crowd at Saturday's rally.

After a contentious school board election this year that resulted in a transgender child being outed on social media, the Hastings community came together to rally for LGBTQ rights.

Former Hastings School Board Chair Kelsey Waits was up for reelection in this year’s school board election on Nov. 2 but started receiving discriminatory comments on Facebook in August from groups of Hastings parents who didn’t agree with her politics.

A post in the “Concerned Parents of Hastings” Facebook group was made in August outing Waits’ transgender child Kit. Several comments were made across Facebook outing and misgendering her child throughout and after the election.

The discrimination happened outside of Facebook, too, and Waits said the comments showed up at her husband Chris’s work and people began misgendering her child when Waits was at school board events.

“People began misgendering Kit, and they were people who had never known Kit as anything other than my daughter,” Waits told the Star Gazette.

As a member of the school board who ran for reelection this fall, Waits knew parents in the community didn’t agree with her politics, but she never imagined they would start harassing her child. 

“As far as I know there were at least four instances where this group brought up my child, including after the election when I had already lost,” she said.

When the discrimination continued after Waits lost reelection, she said it became clear that the harassment would continue whether or not she was on the board and that her family would need to move to a safer community.

The Waits family then told their story to CNN of how a group of Hastings parents who didn't like Hastings School Board Chair Kelsey Waits’ politics, outed her 8-year-old transgender child during her bid for re-election to the board.

Following the release of the story, many Hastings residents have rallied support for Waits and Kit and hundreds of people from around the area come to show their support for transgender kids and other LGBTQ youth at Hastings’ Rally for Trans Kids on Dec. 4.

Activists, parents of transgender kids, LGBTQ allies and concerned residents gathered in the park in Levee Park to celebrate transgender youth and condemn the discrimination they face.

The rally was organized by Afton Indivisible, Hastings Progressives, RECLAIM, ACLU of Minnesota and other local organizations. 

Waits told the crowd that the reason her family came forward with the harassment they received was to bring light to the bullying transgender kids experience. 

“While this CNN story is our story, it’s also all of our stories,” she said at the rally. “This is about the daily hate that we experience, the fear that we experience to be ourselves, to fight for what’s right. This is about putting a spotlight on the hate and saying ‘we are all done.’”

 

Written By

Reporter

Sophia Voight is a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette. She is from Oshkosh, WI and graduated from the UW Oshkosh with a bachelor's degree in Multimedia Journalism in 2021. She can be reached with any news tips at svoight@orourkemediagroup.com

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