April 5, 2023 — When I read Isabella Thoulouis’ brave and introspective article, “Out of a Box” — in which she talks about a fear of being wrongly labelled by fellow classmates and the intolerance that comes with that, I was reminded of how other students may have a different set of fears around intolerance.
A couple weeks ago, I sat in a middle school classroom with a dozen LGBTQ+–identifying young humans and an educator. After talking about what it means to live authentically, and how our mantras (phrases we repeat to ourselves daily) can either be positive or negative, I asked, “So what’s on your minds these days?”
A young woman to my left, a seventh grader, didn’t hesitate. She answered, “Florida,”
I asked, “Why Florida?”
Her response: “Because of what they’re doing to queer kids down there. I’m worried that it could happen here.”
I thought to myself, Wow, the fear is that pervasive.
You might wonder whether it’s reasonable for a Minnesota seventh grader who identifies as LGBTQ+ to be concerned about what Ron DeSantis is doing in faraway Florida. You may even think that she was over-reacting, as many teens are apt to do.
I believe that seventh grader had every right to be concerned, as did each of the other students in that classroom.
It helps to understand the current LGBTQ+ landscape in America. Since the beginning of 2023, there has been a deluge of newly introduced anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country. At last count, more than 400 bills were introduced into 44 state legislatures — including seven such proposed bills at the Minnesota state house.
Many of those draft laws — particularly those aimed at transgender kids and their families — have succeeded. As of this week, nine states (and counting) have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for persons younger than 18, creating a Hobson’s choice for families with transgender youth. They will either need to uproot and move to a more accepting state to obtain that care or the trans youth will have to involuntarily de-transition.
This discrimination seems to have no end. For example, 19 states now ban transgender children and youth (mainly transgender girls) from participating in public education sports, from kindergarten through senior-year state university. Three states — Idaho, Arkansas, and Iowa — have now made it illegal for transgender students to use school restrooms that align with their gender identity.
Added to this are conservative commentators, many of whom have large followings, who have called for the eradication of “transgenderism” from public life. While they’ve attempted to thread a needle by saying they’re not advocating for the actual killings of transgender humans, but instead seek to root out the evils of gender identity, I’m hard put to understand the difference.
I wonder to whether those with guns and ill intent will understand the difference, too.
In Florida, the state that concerned our seventh grader, the legislature is getting set to expand its “Don’t Say Gay” law to include not only elementary school students, but all students from K-12. The law would mean that a gay or lesbian public-school student would be prohibited from talking about their families at school. That’s in addition to the state systematically removing LGTBTQ+ themed books (as well as books and movies about America’s disparate treatment of non-white humans) from school and classroom libraries.
Moreover, DeSantis’ comments about Florida being the place “where wokeism comes to die,” directly signals that LGBTQ+ youth don’t matter to him or his administration.
What if a queer kid doesn’t have a trusted adult to talk to? Should that kid’s parents, regardless of their intolerance, be the sole decision-makers about their child’s life course?
Young queer people in Minnesota understand this messaging loud and clear. They see what’s happening in Florida and the rest of the country and justifiably wonder when the blatant intolerance for being “different than me,” and legalized discrimination, will seep into our state.
They’re not so young or naïve to not understand that their destiny — as well as that of any other queer Minnesotan (including me) — hinges on whether hateful people are elected to lead the state.
Nope. Our “rights” are as predictable as Minnesota’s winters.
One of the core commonalities that all humans share, regardless of age, is the desire to be free from physical and emotional violence. We don’t want violence inflicted on ourselves or those whom we love, and most people don’t want it inflicted on anyone at all. Certainly, we don’t want that violence propagated by our own governments.
Yet, this is what’s happening in America.
This requires decent, tolerant, non-judgmental people to stand up and say, “Enough! Leave everyone alone to live their lives!”
Are you one of those decent people? I hope so. We desperately need you.
MinnPost: Therapists in Minnesota have seen an uptake in LGBTQ+ youth clients experiencing anxiety about what’s happening in other states.
Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+-youth focused suicide prevention nonprofit, published a study finding that 86 percent of transgender/nonbinary youth in America were experiencing mental health challenges because of anti-trans legislation.
Newsweek: “Forced genital inspections. Of CHILDREN,” Mallory McMorrow, Michigan’s Democratic state Senate Majority Whip, reacted on Wednesday. “The Republicans who claim to care about protecting children voted for forced genital inspections of children because they’re afraid a trans kid might want to play on a team with their friends.”
The Guardian: “Three trans girls playing sports is an emergency for Kansas Republicans.” In 2021 the Associated Press contacted two dozen state lawmakers sponsoring bills that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. In almost every case the sponsors couldn’t cite any examples in their state where trans participation in sport had caused a problem.
March 24, 2023 — The Minnesota House of Representatives passed HF146, the Trans Refuge bill, with a 68-62 vote. The bill, authored by Representative Leigh Finke (DFL–Saint Paul), prevents out-of-state laws from interfering in the practice of gender-affirming health care.
“In the staggering rise of anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQIA2S+ legislation by extremist Republicans, Minnesota is a beacon of hope for trans and gender-expansive children and their families,” said Finke, as quoted in a House news release. “The passing of the Trans Refuge bill will send a strong message to the trans community that they are loved, supported, and protected here in our state. The trans community has been a part of human history for centuries and we refuse to stand by and watch Republican extremists deteriorate and eradicate us from society. I want every young trans person to know they are valued, their lives matter, and they are exceptional for who they are and who they will become.”
Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, chief education officer, and medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota spoke in support of the legislation.
“Gender-affirming care is health care. It is specialized health care provided by teams with training and expertise in evidence-based care just like any other pediatric specialty,” said Dr. Goepferd.
Legislation in many states designed to restrict or outright prohibit trans youth from receiving gender-affirming care tends to be focused on puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, voice therapy, and surgical interventions. Governors in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, and South Dakota to date had signed restrictions into law.
Gender-affirming care is recognized as safe, evidence-based, and medically necessary by a variety of institutions, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
According to the House news release, “research indicates that withholding or delaying gender-affirming care can have dramatic impacts on the mental health of individuals who need it. Trans and gender expansive people who lack access to this care face higher rates of depression, suicide, and substance abuse, while those who receive care have dramatically improved health outcomes.”
“All people deserve to be loved, accepted, and valued for who they are. We want to be clear that we stand with our trans community, that we support them, and we will protect them in Minnesota. Gender-affirming care is life-affirming care,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman.
You can watch the presentation and testimony of the House bill here.