HASTINGS, Minn. — Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at a rally to support non-binary and LGBTQ+ children in the community of Hastings. The rally was organized just days after CNN shared the story of a Hastings family whose transgender child was publicly outed in the throes of a school board election.
Kelsey Waits, a Hastings school board member, ran for re-election to the school board last month. A group of parents who didn't like her politics outed her 8-year-old transgender daughter, Kit, in a Facebook group.
Friday, Chris and Kelsey waits sat down with KARE 11's Jana Shortal.
"The other day, after this — the story — broke, [Kit] apologized to me and they said, 'I am sorry I am broken,'" Kelsey told Jana Shortal.
Saturday, more than 250 people from Hastings and surrounding communities showed up in direct support of the Waits family. The event, which lasted more than an hour, featured dozens of speakers, from nonprofit directors, to elected officials, to trans adults who seek to serve as role models for transgender youth who are struggling.
The messages share by the various speakers were meaningful to 16-year-old transgender teen Kahea Sloan.
"What kind of spoke to me the most was just how many people are here," Sloan said. "It feels really good to know how many people care about me and my people."
Ren Olive, a transgender 30-year-old, came with their parents.
"My message to Kit is to don’t give up," Olive said. "I hope that as I reach adulthood, that I’m able to be a mentor for kids like Kit. And that we’re here, we’re loud, we’re queer and we have your back."
Olive's mother, Lori Halverson-Wente, said she was excited to be at the rally, despite the situation that spurred the event.
"The circumstances, they are devastating, revealing, and at the same time provide an opportunity for growth," said Lori.
Ren's father, Mark, shared the same sentiment.
"It's just an unfortunate situation that must be dealt with, and dealt with with love. And that’s why we’re here," he said.
Lori is a member of Mama Bears, an organization that works to support, educate and empower parents of LGBTQ kids.
"Those parents and advocates are out there with open arms to answer questions with you and give you resources, and we just want people to know that," she said.
Gov. Tim Walz shared support for the Waits family, saying in part, "Everyone deserves to live in a state that values them for who they are – especially our kids."