"I want the CNMI's youth to have the things that I didn't have growing up, to have hope and most importantly, for them to know that their government recognizes them as human beings." - Tyra Sablan
By Eric Rosario
Tyra Lyn Sablan moved back home to Saipan after spending 20 years in the mainland United States. She read an article in the Saipan Tribune about the CNMI ranking among the lowest in the country in legal protections afforded to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ).
"[The article] inspired me to start a grassroots movement to advance awareness through education and legislation for the protection of LGBT people in the CNMI," Ms. Sablan said.
Ms. Sablan says this will be the first time she will be doing anything like this. "I just feel like this is something we need," she said.
According to a June 13, 2019 article in the Saipan Tribune titled CNMI ranks low in report on review of LGBT laws, policies in territories.
"Of the five territories, Puerto Rico has the highest overall LGBT policy tally (21.75 out of a potential 40.5) as well as the highest sexual orientation policy tally (11.5/20) and gender identity policy tally (10.25/20.5). Based on its LGBT-related laws and policies, Puerto Rico has a similar overall LGBT policy tally as Delaware and Maine.
"The Northern Mariana Islands is ranked with Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa as having a “low” LGBT policy tally. American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands fall between North Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina (0.5/40.5), while the U.S. Virgin Islands (5.5/40.5) falls between Arizona and Kentucky. Guam (7/40.5) falls between Kentucky and Indiana."
Ms. Sablan already has started her mission, and hopes others will join with her. She met recently with House Minority Leader Rep. Tina Sablan on the possibility of the next Commonwealth Legislature taking up legal reforms such as equal employment opportunity for LGBTQ people, a hate crimes statute, transgender health access, and the inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation in sex discrimination laws.
"All of [these] are already the standard on a federal level but it is our objective to bring this locally," Tyra Sablan said.
Tyra, who is a transgendered daughter of the Marianas, said she's going to start a non-profit group to help organize this movement and hopes other leaders in the CNMI take these issues seriously. She plans to name the group T-Project.
"T- Project's main objective is to provide services in helping with name change, getting identification, providing sources of information on transition related topics such as health and even a place for parents of transgender youth to be able to come to us so we may direct them to credible and reliable sources within the vast network of LGBT advocates and providers, amongst many other services." - Tyra Sablan
Why is she doing all this?
"I want the CNMI's youth to have the things that I didn't have growing up, to have hope and most importantly, for them to know that their government recognizes them as human beings," she said.