Residents of Hastings, Minn., have rallied in support of a transgender child who was outed as their mother ran for reelection to the school board.
Kit Waits, 8, has been identified by some sources as a trans girl and others as nonbinary. Their mother, Kelsey Waits, was called a child abuser by a political opponent because she affirms her child's identity.
"She should be locked up for child abuse," read an August post in a closed Facebook group for Concerned Parents of Hastings. "Her younger 'daughter' is actually a boy."
The group "at the time had some 500 members and was aligned with a slate of candidates opposing Waits and several incumbents," the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports. "It's unclear how widely the post, which later was deleted, was viewed," the paper continues. "But Waits said the damage was immense."
"I heard from hairdressers who said they were being told about it," Kelsey Waits told the Pioneer Press. "My husband was hearing about it from people at his work." Kit has since been misgendered by classmates and suffered much stress and anxiety, their mother noted.
Waits, who was first elected to the Hastings school board in 2017, lost her bid for reelection in November; another incumbent and a candidate endorsed by the teachers' union also lost. The victorious candidates do not appear "to have publicly used Kit's gender as a campaign issue," the paper reports. But still, it was clear there was hostility toward trans and nonbinary people.
However, many townspeople support the Waits family, as demonstrated in a rally Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of people from Hastings and nearby communities rallied for Kit and other trans, nonbinary, and LGBTQ+ kids, TV station KARE reports. Nonprofit leaders, trans adults, and others spoke at the hour-long event.
It was gratifying to the trans young people who attended. "What kind of spoke to me the most was just how many people are here," Kahea Sloan, 16-year-old trans boy, told the station. "It feels really good to know how many people care about me and my people."
Kelsey Waits was gratified too. "Seeing so many people rally behind a child is particularly meaningful. ... It meant a lot to them," she told NBC News Monday. "It was amazing. I would not have expected almost a thousand people to come out for my kid."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, tweeted his support.
But the Waits family is moving away from Hastings. They are moving "far enough away that we can go home and feel safe, but close enough that I can still do this work I'm committed to doing in this community," Kelsey Waits told the Pioneer Press.
To NBC News, she added, "If we moved away and didn't say anything, the bullies would have won. What does that teach? That teaches that they can do all of these things and that there are no repercussions and that no one is going to push back against them, and that just makes them bully harder for the next person."