Snohomish pair sets out on cross-country trip to raise awareness for anti-LGBTQ bills

Lawmakers' recent decisions, along with anti-LGBTQ+ bills surfacing across the country, are pushing two 24-year-old Snohomish residents to start a two-week trip across the country to raise awareness and learn from lawmakers. 

Drake Wilson and Lily Stephens Barnsby are making the trek through six states to pick lawmakers’ minds about their stance while digging deeper into several anti-LGBTQ bills in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Missouri, Tennessee and Florida.

"We just see how fragile these rights are and how and how slippery slope it can be and so we're really just trying to keep this conversation going," Wilson said.

Wilson is a gay man and Stephens Barnsby is a bisexual woman. Together, with The Society of Lucky Mothers, they’re looking for answers.

"We're really just trying to understand where this is coming from, why this is happening," Wilson said.  

They’re not only documenting what they call ‘The Queer Agenda: A Great American Road Trip,’ but interviewing lawmakers, advocates and queer people, like Ve’Ondre Mitchell, a trans woman.

"In full honesty, a lot of discrimination of just feeling ostracized as a kid for simply existing," Mitchell said during an interview with the duo.

Mitchell’s been fighting and standing up for LGBTQ+ rights for years, sharing her own experiences and taking a stand against the national bathroom bill.

"It just felt like a very empowering experience because I got to be celebrated for who I am as a person for the first time," Mitchell said.

Wilson and Stephens Barnsby made their first stop in Boise, Idaho where they’re looking at a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for young trans people.

"It's like repeated history. We're kind of circling back to lots of sentiments that were very, very present in years past and decades past," Wilson said.

Their next is stop Utah, where a recent bill was vetoed by Gov. Spencer Cox, but the legislature overrode his veto. That bill bans trans kids from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. 

"As a former athlete, I love competition, so I could care less who I was playing against," Ann Molitor with the Society of Lucky Moms said during an interview during their docuseries.


House lawmakers introduce Trans Bill of Rights

U.S. Representatives have introduced a resolution for a ‘Trans Bill of Rights,’ with the aim of codifying protections for transgender people into law.

Another state on the list is Tennessee, where House Bill 800 seeks to ban books and instructional materials that "promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender issues or lifestyle."

In response, Founder, Society of Lucky Moms, Joan Robinett Wilson said, "what the hell is a gay lifestyle or transgender lifestyle or transgender lifestyle? It's ridiculous."

"Banning books any books is just at the core wrong," Molitor said.

The two will end their journey in Florida for one particular reason: "We were both very shocked by the 'don't say gay bill' in Florida specifically," Stephens Barnsby said.

The bill, already signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, bans teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people.  

"In this climate, as these bills are on the rise, I'm scared for the children that it is making stay in the closet because the national temperature around these issues is just so hot," Wilson said.  

Their goal is to bridge the gap and highlight queer people and their stories.

"Overturning long-held rulings, like Lawrence v. Texas, for instance, would have an immense impact on real people, real relationships," Stephens Barnsby said. 

You can track their travels and findings on their docuseries, The Queer Agenda: A Great American Road Trip.