This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.
For Acton Siebel, a small-engine mechanic who lives in Missoula and makes lamps and furniture on the side from reclaimed items, Montana is home.
“I get pretty romantic about it, I’m passionate about it—describing Montana. My community has always been supportive of me, even when I was struggling, even when I wasn’t the greatest person around. Even when it was hard for to find a job. Or I thought I’d lose my home. And that love that was given to me really inspires me to give that love back.”
The combination of community and outdoor opportunities ignite Acton. This summer, he kayaked through the Alberton Gorge. He called it “Exceptional. It almost feels like healing. It’s so beautiful. Have you ever seen something so beautiful, and it’s twenty minutes away from you? I consider that a complete luxury. After work, let’s just go to the river and chill out. That’s amazing.”
Rewind back to age 26, when Acton was living in Philadelphia and took time out for himself. He says, “I’d always felt like it wasn’t right. I really struggled with trying to fix myself and put myself into what I thought I was supposed to be. And it was really damaging. I hurt myself a lot just to make it through the day and maybe not feel like I was a total freak.” He moved back to Montana, began his transition, and now completely is the person he always was.
And now I-183 has surfaced. Acton reflects, “I spent a good chunk of my life worrying and living in fear about how people would perceive me as being a trans person. Living in fear that I might be hurt, that I might be raped, that I might be murdered, physically assaulted, degraded, verbally assaulted. You know there are worse things than someone calling you a nigger or a faggot. I want to point out that if I can’t live in my own community that means no one can. I’m so tired of feeling like people don’t have that option.”
And so the man who gets on fire talking about Montana is now alight to stand up for his humanity and rights in the face of I-183.
“ This is to out people who have no desire to be outed. This is to put people into harm’s way and literally force them back into—not back into the closet—but into dangerous places. This is not about people, this is about witch hunting kids. I-183 is going to out kids. You are going to make kids fear for their safety. You’re going to scare kids. That’s what this is about. You’re going to shame their parents, try and force them to reconsider, force them out of the state.”
And like all Montanans, Acton is passionate to defend his community and his home.
“The thought of someone trying to legislate my right to a public accommodation, makes me want to fight even more. First of all, I shouldn’t have to fight for my rights, my rights are granted to me as an American citizen and as a resident of the state. They want to try and legislate my physical rights away. And I won’t stand for it. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. That’s the constant theme whenever somebody tries to take away the rights from a group of people. It’s in every history book. This is my home and I’m going to fight for it, bottom line.”
Acton is 38 years old. (Preferred pronouns: he, his)