Given the choice, I would talk to you about many things before I would talk to you about bigotry. (Off the top of my head: Cheese, books, cross-stitching, dumb TV shows, times I fell down.) Alas, I must go where the news leads: Straight to the Land of Bigotry. It’s not where I’d prefer to spend my time (very chilly, the Land of Bigotry) — but I know it well, thanks to the many, many lawmakers who really, really like it there.
The Big Takeaway
Most of those bills probably won’t pass, which means nothing in terms of the danger they pose. Less than 10% of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced last year became law; so far this year, just 13 proposals have been enacted. But I can’t celebrate that, because the bills are still damaging, even when they fail. More than 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth said their mental health has been negatively impacted by the endless debate over anti-trans legislation, and nearly a third said they would no longer feel safe seeking medical help if they were sick or injured. All of that is awful, but none of it is surprising — it’s the expected, and intended, outcome of boatloads of bills that were designed to reinforce the idea that LGBTQ+ kids are unwelcome, inherently flawed, and deserving of ostracization.
"Regardless of whether these bills advance or not, they will have a detrimental effect — particularly on LGBTQ+ youth who are watching and feeling unwelcome and unsafe in the places they call home,” Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said last month, or about 120 bills ago.
Until last week, Ray Loux couldn’t imagine feeling unwelcome in his home state of Kentucky. He’d envisioned enrolling at the University of Kentucky to study neuroscience, and then to work as a researcher. Four years into his transition, finally comfortable with his body and happier than ever, those plans seemed possible. But after Senate Bill 150, that future looks different, Loux told the Kentucky Lantern.
The sweeping anti-trans bill, approved last week on a near party-line vote, bans all gender-affirming care for minors, gives teachers permission to misgender their students and requires schools to implement policies to prevent transgender kids from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identities, among (many) other things. Loux, 16, said the swath of broad restrictions left him feeling unsafe (“I don’t want to use the girls’ bathroom”), unwanted, and unheard.
“This is my home. I’ve connected more here than I have any other place I’ve lived,” he said, his voice cracking. “I feel like I finally belonged. And it really, really hurts that Kentucky doesn’t want me here.”
But it’s not Kentucky, exactly — it’s a few dozen lawmakers who pushed the bill through over the objections of pretty much everyone else. Scores of physicians, mental health professionals, parents and transgender people testified in opposition to the proposal. More than 70% of registered voters said they did not want lawmakers making decisions about transgender kids’ health care. State Sen. Karen Berg, a Louisville Democrat whose transgender son died by suicide in December, begged her fellow lawmakers to kill the legislation. Protesters called them murderers. They approved it anyway.
It’s all collateral damage for those lawmakers, because to them, the bill isn’t really about transgender kids at all — it’s about finding a new way to score political points now that the culture wars have moved on from abortion. Anti-LGBTQ+ measures, which garnered national headlines in other states, are simply the most obvious vehicle to accomplish that goal, according to Bob Heleringer, a Republican and former legislator.
“I think there’s a feeling among some of these people that, ‘We need to get on board with what they’re doing,’” he said, adding that it’s a stupid tactic that’s completely at odds with traditional Republican ideology. “All human life is sacred. I mean, if you don’t believe that, you’re not a Republican. And it’s paramount for us. And this is saying that, ‘Some lives are sacred … others? It’s open season.’ And it’s just wrong.”
Yet it continues unabated. Senate Republicans in Kansas on Wednesday shoved a punishment for physicians who administer gender-affirming care into an entirely unrelated bill and then advanced the whole package, the Kansas Reflector reported. A day earlier, a Senate panel in Indiana advanced a measure to prohibit the state Department of Corrections from paying for an inmate’s reassignment surgery, even if it’s medically recommended, per the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
Sure, Republicans acknowledged, the state Department of Corrections has literally never paid for an inmate’s reassignment surgery — but why risk it, you know?
“I think this is more of a policy of using taxpayer money for procedures that are not medically proven yet,” said state Rep. Peggy Mayfield, the Republican who sponsored the bill. “This bill would provide clear and consistent policy on this treatment.”
But gender confirmation surgery is medically proven, and doctors already have clear and consistent policy governing its administration. Every major medical association in the United States “recognizes the medical necessity of transition-related care for improving the physical and mental health of transgender people,” according to the American Medical Association, which asked states two years ago to stop interfering with people’s private health-care decisions. Multiple studies have linked gender-affirming surgery with positive mental health benefits, which is probably why doctors have testified against gender-affirming care bans in virtually every state.
Republicans almost certainly know all of this, if only because it’s difficult to ban gender-affirming care without learning at least a little about the reality of gender-affirming care. But they certainly don’t seem to care, even — maybe especially — when they’re professing how much they care. And with that, let’s turn to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who told reporters Tuesday that she empathizes with parents who are just trying to get their transgender children the care they want and need, per the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
It’s just so much empathy. She feels their pain, really. She’s still going to sign a bill banning gender-affirming care for those kids, you understand — but man, she’s sad about it.
“My heart goes out to them,” Reynolds said. “I’m a parent, I’m a grandmother, I know how difficult this is. This is an extremely uncomfortable position for me to be in. I don’t like it. But I have to do what I believe right now is in the best interest of the kids.”
I feel for you, please go away: Testifiers support new Alaska housing anti-discrimination bill, sharing personal stories … Georgia Legislature sends bill to limit transgender care for minors to governor … Threats shut down Eastern Kentucky drag show fundraiser … Commentary | Susan J. Demas: As other states attack LGBTQ+ kids, Michigan emerges as a safe haven … (Nevada) After failing in 2021, sponsor revives bill to protect transgender, gender nonconforming inmates … (Tennessee) House Speaker’s proposal to block TennCare contracts over trans health stopped in the Senate
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
Two men tunneled through the wall to escape jail in Virginia, only to be turned in hours later by patrons at a nearby IHOP. It’s unclear what they ordered, or if they were able to finish before being hauled back to jail.
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