Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Ezerae Coates

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.

Picture of Ezerae CoatesBorn and raised in Butte, Ezerae knew at a young age that she was transgender. With strong support from her mother and a Butte High School counselor, she began identifying as a girl at 13. As is the case with many children who are marked as ‘different,’ Ezerae was bullied.

After the judgements, critiques, and difficulty of the teen years, life shifted and became easier for Ezerae.

“As I got into my 20s and I really started to get comfortable with who I am I realized, it was okay [to be myself]. If someone has an issue with who I am, it’s society’s problem, it’s not my problem. I’ve become a lot more free and open. Now I educate and really talk very openly about the trans community and how being transgender is not something we woke up and decided. It’s genetic, it’s real, and it’s deep. It’s much more than a lot of us can comprehend. It’s hard to fathom being the wrong gender if you weren’t born the gender you are.”

Today, Ezerae is employed as an HIV early intervention specialist for the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department. “I love my job, absolutely. I’ve never loved a job so much in my life. Everyone I work with is amazing, and I feel like I’m making a difference in my community.” For her work, Ezerae also works with county sex educators to meet with students to talk about sex education and support LGBT youth.

She is part of a group Butte AIDS Support Services and Trinity Community Center that is working to open up a community center for LGBT youth that incorporates all of the Butte community. Ezerae also volunteers with the local Kiwanis and has helped rebuild park playgrounds and at the bike rodeo to help make sure all Butte youth have bike helmets.

In each facet of her life, Ezerae strives to serve as a community resource by providing support, compassionate listening, and doing so without judgment. When deciding to be a plaintiff against I-183, the same thread of commitment to community shaped Ezerae’s decision.

“In our media right now, we have a lot of trans people who are singers or athletes. They are not someone all our community can relate to. We need more real people to identify with that, to see different sides of transition, because there are many ways to do it and there’s no right way. Plus, life is already hard enough growing up. Our youth don’t need the pressure of society pushing them to be a certain way when that’s not who they are.”

If passed, I-183 would directly threaten Ezerae’s safety. “There’s never been misconduct by a trans person in a bathroom. There’s a lot of data that shows it’s not needed, it’s not necessary. In fact, it’s just isolating a group and targeting us worse. Being a survivor of sexual assault, I cannot fathom using a men’s room. I could barely use the boys’ locker-room in high school, which was exceptionally hard.”

Ezerae is 28 years old. (Preferred pronouns: she, her)