The systemic oppression of the trans, nonbinary, and two-spirit communities reared its ugly head in Montana recently. The weapon of choice was I-183, a ballot initiative designed to define gender as immutable and fixed at birth and use that as the basis for access to restrooms and other facilities in government buildings. Zuri Moreno saw the injustice of the proposed law and knew it was time to act.
“My life and my passion focus on racial equity and access in the community,” the 32-year-old, who is queer, nonbinary, multiracial, and Latinx, told The Advocate when they were chosen as one of our 2019 Champions of Pride.
As one of eight ballot committee members managing the Free and Fair Montana campaign, Moreno led the fight that kept the measure from making it to the ballot. Moreno served as the campaign’s spokesperson, and also worked on field and communications strategy. Constantly seeking new ways to engage and give voice to traditionally underrepresented communities using modern means of communication, the group partnered with local filmmakers to create a series of short films that were then shared via social media. These films featured trans and nonbinary people from across Montana. Moreno made storytelling a major part of the strategy, and the effort paid off. I-183 failed to garner enough signatures to make the ballot.
Plenty of work remains to be done in their state, though. Old beliefs can take a while to change and die out. There are plenty of safe places in the more urban areas that encourage the LGBTQ community to live freely and openly. Montana is a rugged and individualistic state, with many isolated rural and mountainous areas where services and support are not available. Because of this, there are few nondiscrimination ordinances.
“Montana still does not have an explicit sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination law,” observed Moreno, who continues the fight as a policy associate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. “Although a handful of municipalities have passed local nondiscrimination ordinances, at the state level progress is hindered by transphobia, disinterest from non-LGBTQ people, and a lack of political will. There is still a lot of work to do around bringing awareness and dispelling misinformation about trans, nonbinary, and two-spirit identities.”